Getting around in DC is pretty easy. Be sure to check out GoDcGo—it has some great tips about getting from place to place, especially if you’re on a budget.
**Helpful Hint**: Sign up for DC Metro Alerts to find out about delays or cancellations in travel ahead of time! **
The Metro: The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (The Metro) is one of the best public transportation systems in the country, with many metro stations all around the city, and trains which are quick and punctual (most of the time…). There are only five color-coded rail lines to navigate, and maps posted all around the stations and inside trains. For more information about the metro visit the WMATA Website.
Buy a SmarTrip Card to pay for your travel. Then simply load your card with money at the vending machines posted around the station, and tap it against the entrance gate. They are reusable and efficient—in short, a lifesaver.
Register your SmarTrip Card—it will be useful if it gets lost or stolen, or if you need to keep track of your travel expenses for reimbursement.
On Foot: Sure, it’s primitive, but DC is actually one of the best and easiest cities for hoofing it. With its beautiful scenery, generally great weather, and wide sidewalks, depending upon where you live in DC, walking to and from work or other destiations may be a viable option for you. Be sure to keep a map handy!
Biking: Biking is another great and popular way to get around DC. Check out the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and BikeWashington.Org—both websites have maps, trail routes, rules for using bikes with mass transit, and other tips for DC cyclists. Are you planning on being in DC long-term? You may want to consider joining Capital Bikeshare. At $75 per year, you can use their stock of 1500 bikes around the city for up to 3 days at a time and return them at your convenience.
Car: If you’re coming to DC with a car, which is not recommended, be prepared to deal with pretty heavy traffic and expensive and hard-to-find parking. A car can be nice, however, if you’re planning on getting out of the city on weekends. In that case, look for apartments where parking is available—but be prepared to pay the extra fee. Dupont Circle is notorious for its expensive parking fees, while Street Heights/Brightwood has more manageable prices. Use Parking Panda to get access to local parking spaces and reserve your parking spot early. To avoid dealing with long-term parking entirely, consider joining Zipcar—though you’ll still have to deal with DC traffic.
The Beltway: Known as Interstate 495, 1-495, the Capital Beltway, or more simply “The Beltway,” this interstate highway forms a sixty-four mile ring encircling the DC Metro area. If you’re planning on living in DC with a car and making frequent trips outside of the city, you’ll get to know this highway very well. Check out TheCapitol.Net for a map of the Beltway and specific directions depending on your exit and entry point. Traffic on the Beltway is notoriously bad, so be sure to avoid rush hour and check the traffic reports before you go.
Airports: There are three main airports that will fly you into DC – Reagan National Airport (DCA), Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore Washington International (BWI). While the most convenient airport to DC is DCA, all airports offer easy transportation in and out of the Capitol. Taxis are always available, with taxi stands outside of each arrival hall. Additionally, DCA is served by the Metro Blue and Yellow lines, while BWI is served by the MARC trains to and from Union Station. Each airport is served by SuperShuttle—a shared shuttle van service that drops off at predetermined destinations for a lower price than a taxi.
Train: If you are commuting from Baltimore or somewhere outside of the DC Metro area, you may need to take a train into work each day. You have a few options. The Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC train) operates DC-bound lines beginning from four different locations—Baltimore, MD; Perryville, MD; Frederick, MD; and Martinsburg, WV. You can purchase your ticket at the station or on the train, with cash.