How to Travel in Washington, DC

How to Travel in Washington, DC
Washington D.C.'s metrorail system goes by the name Metro and is the city's rapid transit system. Its close to 90 stations and five lines encompass the city of Washington and the surrounding Virginia and Maryland suburbs. With a well-regarded reputation for being safe, clean and reliable, the Metro is a convenient and stress-free way to see the sights without the hassles of traffic and parking and the expense and use of gas.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1
Get a map of the Metro. Available in 11 languages, the downloadable Metro Pocket Guide is produced by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. It details in full color each of the stations and its train lines. Hours of operation and fares are also listed. Consider getting a Metro Visitor's kit to help you use the Metro to its full potential. The kit includes brochures and publications about the D.C. area and includes a reprint of the Metro Pocket Guide.
Step 2
Plan out your day so that you don't have to spend it crisscrossing town by determining the Metro route that makes the most sense. Most guidebooks can help you with this by listing which Metro stop is closest to your destination. For instance, most of the Smithsonian museums are located around one stop, while the White House is a different stop on a different line. Maximize your time by spending one day at the museums and another near the White House, rather than going from museum to White House and back to a museum on the same day. The Metro Pocket Guide also lists the stops convenient to major D.C. attractions.
Step 3
Buy a fare ticket. Everyone older than 5 must have their own farecard to ride the Metro. Farecards hold between $1.35 and $45 and can can be purchased online or at fare vending machines located in all Metro stations. If you are planning on spending more than a day or two in Washington and doing some sightseeing, it's a good idea to purchase a ticket at the start of your week either online or at the station with a set amount on it ($20 will last you a few days). If you run out of fare, you can go to any "Add Fare" machine and add more to your ticket using cash or a credit card. Metro's website offers several online fare options. If you need to travel to just a few destinations, Metro's online trip planner available on the site's home page at wmata.com will tell you how much your trip will cost and even give you walking directions.
Step 4
Time your Metro travel. Stations open at 5 a.m. and close at midnight during the week, and operate from 7 a.m. through 3 a.m. on weekends. Peak travel hours are Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. through 9:30 a.m., and again in the afternoon and evenings from 3 p.m. through 7 p.m. Fares cost more when you travel at peak times, and stations and trains are more crowded during these times, although during nonpeak hours trains run a bit farther apart.
Step 5
Bring your bike. Washington, D.C., has miles of multiuse and multiterrain trails and routes to let you explore the city. Sites like bikewashington.org and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association at waba.org provide maps and details about D.C.'s trails and bike routes. Many Metro stations have facilities for bicycle storage so you can ride your bicycle to a station and leave it safely locked up when you need to jump on the train.

Tips & Warnings

 
Traveling during nonpeak times can relieve a lot of the stress in using Metro with young children. Nonpeak travel is your best bet to make sure your little one has a seat and does not get overwhelmed by the crowds that enter and exit the trains during the hectic commuter rush hour.
 
Traveling during nonpeak times can relieve a lot of the stress in using Metro with young children. Nonpeak travel is your best bet to make sure your little one has a seat and does not get overwhelmed by the crowds that enter and exit the trains during the hectic commuter rush hour.
 
Be careful not to miss the last train. All metro stations post signs clearly stating the time for the night's last train. If you plan on staying out late, check your station's signs to see exactly when the last train stops running, because some end before the required closing time.
 
Be careful not to miss the last train. All metro stations post signs clearly stating the time for the night's last train. If you plan on staying out late, check your station's signs to see exactly when the last train stops running, because some end before the required closing time.

Article Written By Virginia Franco

Based in Charlotte, N.C., Virginia Franco has more than 15 years experience freelance writing. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the education magazine "My School Rocks" and Work.com. Franco has a master's degree in social work with an emphasis in health care from the University of Maryland and a journalism degree from the University of Richmond.

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