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Washington, D.C. Travel Guide

How to Get Around Washington, D.C., by Metro, Bus, Bike, and More

What's the best way to get around Washington, D.C.? Here's everything you need to know about transportation in the U.S. capital.

With atrocious traffic and even worse parking options, Washington, D.C., is not a place to take driving a car lightly. Thankfully, it’s a highly walkable city, and your best bet, if you’re able, is to use your own two feet to get around. But if you need to travel across town or are in a rush (or want to avoid stormy or humid weather), there are good public transportation options, including the Metro, bus, water taxi, taxis, and ride shares. For the intrepid, bikes and scooters are possibilities too. Here’s how to negotiate the city’s public transportation system.


The Washington, D.C., Metro, operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), is an efficient subway system. There are six color-coded lines (Red, Orange, Silver, Blue, Yellow, and Green) and 98 stations that service most of the city, plus the Virginia and Maryland suburbs. The system layout ensures you can travel between any two stations without more than one transfer; many stops are serviced by more than one color. The best news: At long last, the Silver Line now connects Dulles International Airport with downtown.

Hours of Operation: The Metro operates seven days a week, opening at 5 a.m. during the week and 7 a.m. on weekends, and runs until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and midnight on all other days.

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Fare Rates: Rides range between $2 and $6 with the SmartTrip card, depending on distance and time of day.

Note that it’s $1 to $3 cheaper to use a SmartTrip card on every trip, but you’ll need to purchase one for $10 (it comes with $8 worth of fare). You can buy them online at, at all Metro stations, and at some grocery stores and drugstores around town.

Sightseeing stops: Popular stops include the Smithsonian (Orange, Silver, and Blue), Woodley Park–Zoo/Adams Morgan (Red), and Gallery Park–Chinatown (Red, Green, and Yellow Lines).

Trip Information: Find the next arriving train at Next Arrivals, plan your trip using the Metro’s Trip Planner, or find out more on the general information page.

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Buses are an efficient way to get around town (at least outside of rush hour!). WMATA operates approximately 1,500 buses in Washington, D.C., and its neighboring suburbs, running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Fare Rates: Fares are $2 ($4.25 for express routes) using SmartTrip or cash; exact change is required. There are senior and student discounts.

Free bus-to-bus transfers are available within a two-hour period. If you transfer from the Metrorail system, you receive a 50-cent discount with your SmarTrip card.

Trip Information: Find the next arriving bus on WMATA’s Next Arrivals page or plan your route with the Trip Planner.

DC Circulator

The DC Circulator may be one of the city’s best-kept secrets. This small fleet of bright-red buses, which operates along six fixed routes at 10-minute intervals, connects some of D.C.’s most popular neighborhoods and sights. Fare costs only $1.

Routes: There are six routes in total, but the most interesting route for visitors is the National Mall Route, a 15-stop loop from Union Station that takes in most of the major attractions on or near the Mall, including the Lincoln, Jefferson, and FDR Memorials.

Other routes include Georgetown–Union Station; Woodley Park–Adams Morgan–McPherson Square Metro; Rosslyn–Georgetown–Dupont; Eastern Market–L’Enfant Plaza; and Congress Heights–Union Station via Barracks Row.



Taxis are abundant in commercial districts. If you don’t see any, walk to a busier street or find a hotel. If you call, make sure you have an address and not just an intersection; you may have to wait a while.

Reliable companies include GoGreen Cabs, DC Taxi Service, and Yellow Cab Co. of DC.

Rates: The base rate is $3 for the first one-sixth mile, with each additional one-sixth mile costing $0.25. Among extra charges are $1.50 for each additional passenger, $2 for a telephone dispatch, and $0.50 for each bag in excess of 1 handled by the driver. If it’s snowing, expect to pay an additional 25% of the base fare.


Both Uber and Lyft operate in Washington, D.C. They may or may not be less expensive than a taxi, depending on the time of day and the distance traveled. Note that Uber has recently partnered with the DC taxi industry, so a taxi may pull up when you call Uber (at the Uber price).

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Water Taxi

A relatively new addition to the public transportation arsenal is the Potomac Water Taxi, connecting The District Wharf, Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria, and National Harbor in Maryland. These smooth-running ferries, which run every 30 minutes to one hour depending on the day of the week, operate from March through April. The rates vary depending on the day, starting at $18 one way; schedules change depending on the day.

Accessibility: The ferries are ADA-compliant, but the Georgetown Dock is not.


If you want to explore the National Mall and its monuments, biking is a great way to go. The Mall features wide gravelly paths that are perfect for two wheels. You can also follow wide sidewalks to the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial, and even cross the Potomac River to the Mount Vernon Trail, which offers fabulous views of the monuments reflected in the water. In addition, Washington, D.C., has made a lot of improvements for bikers, including adding bike lanes on major thoroughfares. That said, drivers aren’t necessarily biker-friendly, so be wary.

Capital Bikeshare: Capital Bikeshare has over 350 stations across D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, with a fleet of more than 3,000 bicycles and e-bikes. Bikes are accessible 24 hours a day, and there are a variety of plans, including single rides, day passes, and annual passes. Fees vary, depending on time and type of bike (a day pass for a classic bike costs $8, with the first 45 minutes free, then $.05 a minute). Download the app and away you go! One downside is that no helmets are provided.

Rental Bikes: You can also rent bikes (including hybrid, e-bikes, and road bikes) at a variety of bike shops around town. Unlimited Biking is reliable and convenient. Rentals start at $20 for two hours.


Washingtonians love to hop on a rental electric scooter to get to their next meeting or coffee date. Similar to the Capital Bikeshare program, you check them out on a phone app, pay per minute, and drop them off when you’re done. The big difference is that scooters are dockless, so upon returning them, be sure not to block sidewalks or cycle paths. Prices vary but average about $0.24 per minute; some apps offer a daily pass. Helmets aren’t required but are recommended for city use. Companies include Lyft, Lime, and Spin.