I’ve lived in the National Capitol Region for over 5 years, and I take the metro or metro bus every day. And recently when talking to a couple of friends who also live here, I learned they find public transportation intimidating and don’t use it often. And for out-of-town travelers I am sure that is also the case. But really it is one of the easiest in the world and worth taking time to figure it out.
There are occasional schedule changes and train delays. WMATA.com is the metro website for the latest updates. Here you can find information on delays, a trip planner, real time updates, and prices.
The train schedule varies based on weekdays, weekends and holidays. Trains start running at 5 am on weekdays and 7 or 8 on weekends/holidays. Trains stop running between 11 pm and 1 am.
Check out the website to buy daily, weekly and monthly unlimited passes. Passes are good for both the bus and metro. You definitely don’t want to buy single tickets each time you ride. There can be lines (really more like gaggles) of tourists and for the bus you need exact change. Even if you might lose money, I would still buy a pass. And a multi-day pass is much more affordable than a single day. When looking at prices, know that commute times are considered “peak” hours and will be more expensive and busier (but not crazy like pre-pandemic). Also, it is worth noting any special events that might make the metro busier. The most notable is a baseball game at Navy Yard.
Downtown DC, L’Enfant is your most central location and versatile train station. Next up would be Metro Center and Gallery Place. The red line is the least convenient. If looking for lodgings convenient to the metro, look along the orange/grey/blue line inside the city. If nearby in Virginia you can also look on the yellow/blue line.
Unlike many transportation systems, you will scan your card entering and leaving the station. Make sure to have it ready, DC natives are on the move and don’t stop at the turnstiles.
For the bus, you pay or tap your card when you get on, but not when you get off. Like most bus systems in the world, you need to pull the cord before the stop you want to get off on. If you are not sure, you can follow along on a map or ask someone on the bus.
You can take the metro from all 3 area airports. Regan National is the most obvious and convenient. The metro stop is connected to the airport. After years of waiting, the metro now also goes out to Dulles Airport. It is farther than Regan but still an easy ride. For BWI you will need to take a bus to the metro. From BWI take the #30 bus to the end of the green line.