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Know Before You Go
- 19 museums within the Smithsonian Institution offer free entry. Take advantage and visit the American History Museum, the Natural History Museum, and more without making a dent in your budget.
- If you don't have much time in D.C. and want to see the best of the city, sign up for the Old Town Trolley Tour. It stops at more than 100 points of interest with live narration, and you can hop off and hop on at any point.
- If you want to escape the crowds and site see when it's cooler, explore Washington's famous monuments at night. Popular attractions like the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial is open 24 hours a day.
- Avoid staying in the centre of Washington, D.C. if you are on a budget. The average rates for hotels are around USD 150 per night plus parking won't be cheap. Instead, stay in a hotel in the surrounding area. Most hotels offer shuttles into D.C., or you can use the city's affordable public transportation system.
Getting Around Washington, D.C.
The best way to get around Washington, D.C. is with its public transport system. If you plan on using the city's metro and bus lines often, buy the SmarTrip card. It costs USD 10 and will save you money on each trip.
- The metro has six lines that run through the city. Fares range between USD 2.15 to USD 5.90 during rush hour and USD 1.75 to USD 3.60 during other times. The metro stops at most of the major attractions and last train leaves around midnight each day.
- The buses cover an extensive route throughout the city. They run every 10 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to midnight and accept cash or SmarTrip cards. Fares are USD 1.75 for a single journey.
- Once you are in a neighbourhood, ditch the public transport and explore it by foot. Washington, D.C. is one of the most walkable cities in the United States. Most of the city's sights are close together, and there's plenty of free walking tours to choose from as well.
- If you want to catch a taxi, you won't have trouble hailing one down from the curb. Meters start at USD 3.25 and go up by USD 0.27 for every additional 1/8 mile travelled. The city also has ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.
- For those that want to drive around Washington, D.C., prepare yourself for heavy congestion, expensive parking and a confusing street layout. Rental agencies can be found at the area's three airports or in the city with prices around USD 30 to USD 50 per day.
When is The Best Time to Visit Washington, D.C.?
September to November is autumn in Washington, D.C. and a great time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds. Temperatures are also cooler making exploring the city on foot more comfortable. However, while tourism is lower during these months, hotel deals will still be hard to find. Many business travellers visit the city during this period and keep prices high.
If you are on a budget, visit the city during its winter months. From December to February, hotel rates will take a plunge along with the temperatures. Just make sure you pack a lot of warm layers, as temperatures average between -6°C to 4°C.
Another great time to visit is during Washington's spring months. From March to May temperatures start to rise, averaging around 21°C. The city also celebrates its annual National Cherry Blossom Festival and the summer crowds have yet to arrive.
June to August is the city's peak tourism months. It's also the hottest time of year to visit with temperatures ranging in the high 20s. But if you can handle the heat, crowds and high hotel rates, you won't be disappointed. Many of the attractions have air conditioning, and there's plenty of free things to do to keep you entertained.
Airports in Washington, D.C.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Ronald Reagan is the closest of Washington, D.C.'s three major airports to the capital. It's 5 km from downtown Washington and is a hub for American Airlines.
Washington Dulles International Airport
Dulles is located 42 km from the capital and serves around 60,000 passengers each day. The airport operates flights to more than 125 destinations around the world and is a hub for United Airlines.
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
Baltimore is the farthest airport from Washington, D.C. It's located 52 km from the capital and is the busiest of three airports. It's a focus city for Southwest Airlines and a hub for Southern Airways Express.
Getting To and From Washington, D.C.'s Airports
Reagan National Airport is accessible via the Blue and Yellow Metro lines. Tickets are USD 6 for a one-way trip using the SmarTrip card. To catch a taxi go to the official stand outside of baggage claim. A ride to downtown D.C. should cost about USD 15 to USD 20.
The cheapest way to get from Dulles Airport is with the Silver Metro line. It will take about 15 minutes to get to the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station and costs USD 5 one way. Taxi stands are outside of the main terminal at Door 2 and 6. Fares average around USD 60 to USD 80 for a trip to downtown D.C. Alternatively, other options include the Washington Flyer Silver Line Express Bus, local buses #981 and #983, and Metrobus Route 5A.
Baltimore Washington International is connected via the Amtrak train route. The train stops at D.C.'s Union Station, and a seat will cost you USD 15 to 30 one way. Taxis are outside the baggage claim area on the Lower Level near doors 5 and 13. A trip to downtown D.C. should cost you around USD 55 to USD 72.
All three airports also have a variety of car rental desks and shuttle bus services.