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Washington DC Guide, Using Metro

Updated on June 10, 2013

Union Station Washington DC

A look inside Washington DC's Union Station
A look inside Washington DC's Union Station | Source

What to Visit in DC

The variety of things to do in Washington DC is pretty impressive. If you are a history fan the varieties of museums will keep you busy for days. Military veterans can find a memorial for many major conflicts over the years and also receive the much deserved appreciation from a grateful nation.

After spending a week there with my family I was impressed with everything we saw and were able to do. I also need to give some credit to the area because they have successfully geared many things to accommodate the volume of tourists our nation’s capital attracts.

As with any busy and popular area, Washington DC’s traffic can be problematic. Our vacation agenda has us bouncing all over the region and we felt the best way for us to travel was utilizing their public transportation system, primarily the Metro.

Train Commuter

Inside a standard Metro train car
Inside a standard Metro train car | Source

DC area Metro

The Metro system is a train based public transportation option that is strategically laid out to give riders access to all facets of the greater DC area. Metro trains take fans to the professional sports stadiums as well as the memorials, museums, etc. all around the great mall stretch. The Metro currently only services Reagan Airport but a line is being built to Dulles and buses will connect riders to Dulles and Baltimore Airports for a fee.

The biggest drawback to the system only servicing one airport is the limitations for travelers. If they don't fly in or out of Reagan they are forced to explore other options for getting around town.

The system is not all underground so you don’t feel like you are stuck commuting in a dark cavern which is a plus because who wants to see darkness when they are on vacation?

We live in Northern California so we are familiar with trains as transportation options because the bay area has BART. I know every public transportation option has its flaws but the Metro in Washington DC is a great option to assist you getting around. Unlike our BART the Metro is incredibly clean and inviting, we didn’t even see anyone living in a train!

In all seriousness driving a car in DC can be time consuming and challenging with the way the streets are identified. The street grid starts at the US Capital building and branches out, east and west, numerically. The problems pop up when you discover that the streets are further classified with NW, SW, NE and SE depending on which way you go from the capital building. For example there are two 7th streets so double check to see if you are looking for one on the west side of town (NW and SW) or on the east.

Washington DC Metro Train

4 stars for Washington DC Metro System

Metro Washington DC

Every Metro station has a map that you will want to grab and will never want to lose; ours was pretty worn out after our five days in town. The map will tell you what stations to use to see each of the big sights as well as the fares needed to go from station A to station B. One bit of advice, pay close attention to the fares because they change during the morning and evening rush hours. If you don’t have the proper fare covered the gates will not allow you to exit the station so keeping some dollar bills and loose change is a good idea.

Even with the fare variation I would highly recommend utilizing the Washington DC Metro system. It is incredibly clean and trains run constantly during the day, usually less than every ten minutes. The few dollars spent on fares is cheaper than driving and paying for parking (if you can even find parking).

I would have gladly given them five starts but the fare system isn't very user friendly with the amounts varying by what time you enter a station. After trying to get clarification from some of the employees at a couple of different stations, and them providing conflicting information, I feel comfortable in saying that they have a hard time figuring the fare system out as well.

DC Metro Planner

Washington DC Metro Map

Metro routes around Washington DC
Metro routes around Washington DC | Source


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    • profile image

      D B Anderson 

      5 years ago

      Great article. Just FYI, the new Silver Line will be opening in 2014. That will go out to Reston and get you much closer to Dulles Airport.

    • adjkp25 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Idaho

      YogaKat - I can't imagine trying to drive around DC, the traffic was crazy. I appreciated the cleanliness of the stations and the trains so it was a great experience for us.

    • YogaKat profile image


      6 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

      I love the DC metro. It is a tremendous service for residents and tourists. I remember the horrible traffic jams. It is still horrible , but the metro helps a lot. Great video

    • adjkp25 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Idaho

      Nettlemere - We found out the hard way about the exit fares, I'm glad I found someone who had change for a $10 bill or we still might be there.

    • Nettlemere profile image


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Handy to have the advance warning about fare differences depending on time of day, which could easily catch the unwary visitor out.


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