More than half of all visitors to the District arrive by car. Rental cars in Washington DC are plentiful, with all the major companies represented, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty. Luxury rental cars in Washington DC are also popular and can often be arranged through these companies, too. It is easy to navigate, since DC was a planned city, sensibly ordered on a grid. There are some driving challenges unique to Washington DC travel.
Washington DC Travel
Washington DC consistently makes the top five list of cities with awful traffic, often "bested" only by LA and New York, with rush hour being particularly heinous and gridlock common. Washington is a town driven by people who enjoy power, and Washingtonians are at their rudest when behind the wheel! Then there is parking to consider. Whereas parking is easy at most Metrorail stations carrying you downtown, one need only recall the events of September 11 to understand why parking (a.k.a. "abandoning your vehicle") is nightmarishly difficult around major DC tourist attractions that are American icons. Private vehicles are kept away from many federal buildings, and often the Metro stops are much closer than any parking you may find. In many cases, vehicular traffic has been restricted on entire streets, particularly around the White House. For downtown Washington DC travel, you are better off with the subway, Washington DC buses or taxis.
Metrorail and Metrobus, working together, provide the safest, cleanest and most efficient way of getting around the Washington metropolitan area. Five rail lines (named for colors) and an extensive bus system connects the District with the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Brown oblong station markers with the letter "M" at the top easily identify metro stops. DC train lines available at each stop are marked with colored stripes on the station markers.
Route maps are posted at each DC train station and inside each subway and at www.wmata.com. Fares range from $1.35 to over $5, depending on the length of your trip and whether you travel at peak rush hour times. Up to two children under the age of 4 may travel free with any paying passenger. It is advisable for most tourists to purchase "One-Day Rail Passes" for approximately $6, which allows you unlimited access after 9:30 a.m. If there is not a Metro stop near your destination (for example if you are going to Georgetown), the Washington DC buses should be able to get you there. Simply take a bus transfer at the Metro station from which your trip originates; it will save you all but a small portion of your bus fare.
It"s generally easy to hail a taxi. DC taxi fares are determined by a zoning system, posted inside the cab. For each zone you travel in, your fare goes up, making taxis from $5 to $10 one way, generally. These rates are based on the assumption that you are hailing a cab. If you telephone for a cab, you will be charged an additional $2. During rush hour, you pay more surcharges, as you do for extra passengers. It is best to confirm the price of your journey before going very far in the cab.
Once you cross the state line of Virginia or Maryland, the zoning no longer applies, and you are instead charged by mileage. This can get expensive fast. Whereas taxis are easy to use in town and save you parking fees and time, if you will be outside the district itself, you may do better financially to rent a car or rely on Metro. The pricey transportation costs, even for those who choose luxury rental cars in Washington DC, are fortunately offset by the number of tourist attractions that are free! Enjoy the journey.