We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

Which Washington DC hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Washington DC...
posts: 195
reviews: 90
Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

I saw a British fellow approach a kiosk attendant in Metro and ask if he could buy a ticket. (Answer: a very loud NO.) I keep thinking about the fellow. So here are some tips:

1. You buy a ticket from a machine, not a person.

2. It costs extra to use a paper ticket -- about $1.

3. SmarTrip® cards are the D.C. equivalent of London's Oyster Card or Travelcard. You buy it and add funds. You can buy them from machines -- in stations and at CVS stores -- and through the mail. You can register them for a deposit. When replaced, the replacement value is added, minus the registration fee.

4. Tickets and SmarTrip® cards are needed for both ENTRY and EXIT to/from stations. Don't lose yours.

5. Metro attendants open and close stations, provide station security, and may (!) offer assistance, but they are not solely there as customer service personnel. They can be grumpy and disinterested.

6. Tracks post train arrival times on signs. During rush hour, you can expect a train in 3-5 minutes (barring problems). On weekends, during the dreaded "single tracking" [from repairs], there may only be 3-4 trains an hour. Make sure your children use the restroom before entering during those times. You may be waiting for a bit. They allow bathroom access only if inclined and/or during an emergency.

7. Fares are stepped according to distance and times traveled. Rush hour (M-F) costs extra.

8. One day passes for touring are available, but please understand that they have time restrictions. Don't show up at 8 a.m. thinking you can use your one-day pass.

9. The Metro system is currently plagued by repairs ( "single tracking"), frequent downed escalators, and downed elevators, some of which are quite steep. Replacement bus service is provided when stations are closed. You may find an elevator is out, an escalator is out, and a station is closed Look at the WMATA site for information about service updates, and you can also subscribe to their Twitter feed. Stay flexible in your planning. If you have limited mobility, allow for greater travel time and consult the WMATA site for critical information.

10. D.C. bus service is excellent and generally reliable. See the WMATA Metrobus site for information. I recommend the 42 bus, "S" buses, 30 buses, L buses. You can also use the Circulator [tourist] bus service to get around major areas around town. Both MetroBus and the Circulator buses take SmarTrip® cards. The Circulator is a non-Metro service but stops are side-by-side. Drivers can be grumpy and disinterested.

11. Taxis are uneven in quality but are ubiquitous. Lines at the airports and Union station are very long - don't be in a hurry if you end up in one. Drivers can be grumpy and disinterested.

12. There is also the Uber on-demand limo service - you use a Smartphone app to hail one using an account you set up.

13. Train announcements can be hard-to-hear and the audio system is not-so-great. operators can be grumpy and disinterested. They have little system maps available at station kiosks. It's a pretty easy system to get around. If you get on the wrong train (hard to do), get off and simply go over to the other platform.

texas
posts: 2,410
reviews: 24
1. Re: Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

May I add one more that we encountered in March when tracks were down to one? The train that you need will not have the name,it will say special or something like that. We passed on getting on about 3 before we finally asked someone getting on and they said yes, get on them. They just dont have colors because they are special and not going the full way. We wish we had known because it was freezing out there and we were at Alexandria where tracks were outside and we have 6 year old.

Washington DC...
posts: 195
reviews: 90
2. Re: Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

That's called a Welcome -- DC- style.

Sorry you had that experience, and I'm sure it will help others here. Also calls up another tip, the merits of avoiding outdoor stations and hotels near them. Especially in winter (and summer months).

Arlington National Cemetary, Old Town Alexandria -- both outdoors.

Washington DC...
posts: 195
reviews: 90
3. Re: Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

That's called a Welcome -- DC- style.

Sorry you had that experience, and I'm sure it will help others here. Also calls up another tip, the merits of avoiding outdoor stations and hotels near them. Especially in winter (and summer months).

Arlington National Cemetary, Old Town Alexandria -- both outdoors.

washington dc
posts: 2,688
reviews: 1
4. Re: Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

Everbody just relax. Worst case scenario if you don't figure in optimal savings - you might loose $20.00. That's like - one pizza in your regular life. This is a big city - moving people around requires some smarts.

Virginia
posts: 1,785
reviews: 8
5. Re: Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

Interesting to hear from the visitor's perspective. Thanks. It should be helpful for other tourists.

I am curious about tips #13. Why do you say the train operators can be grumpy and disinterested? I have never had the need or occasion to talk to a train operator. Were you trying to ask for direction from a train operator?

Washington DC...
posts: 195
reviews: 90
6. Re: Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

Should've been a reference to the station staff and bus drivers.

Fond du Lac...
posts: 12
reviews: 7
7. Re: Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

Do they sell 5 day passes in those kiosks? I thought I saw something like that. Staying near Reagan 5d/4nts and going to 2 ball games, sightseeing. Looking for best affordable option

Massachussets
posts: 255
reviews: 8
8. Re: Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

I'll be traveling with my 3 kids. Is there a minimum age that doesn't require payment? Also, can I buy 1 card for all of us to use or do we need individual cards for each passenger?

Thanks so much!

Washington DC...
posts: 195
reviews: 90
9. Re: Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

You need individual cards for each rider. I am not sure about the age -- it may have to do with height, too, odd as it sounds. Take a look at WMATA and if you need to, send a note to their customer service box, which usually gets you an answer within a day or two.

Washington DC...
posts: 195
reviews: 90
10. Re: Washington D.C. transportation - how to ride (tips)

Your hotel will be of help. L'Enfant is the transfer point between Blue/Yellow and Green lines -- the ball park is a Green line location. National Airport (Reagan) is on the Blue Line. Take a look at a Metro system map.

The Circulator page is here - one line services the ballpark. Generally Metro and the Circulator run extended service during long games though this is a topic of budget fights in DC.

dccirculator.com/Home/BusRoutesandSchedules.…