Getting Around in Washington DC

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Washington DC is home to one of the USA’s most active populations, with many of the capital’s residents choosing to walk or cycle to work if they live close to the city centre. The city does, however, have a solid public transport network to assist commuters and includes various train and bus services.

Expats will find that most places in the city centre are located close to one another and so the quickest option when getting around in Washington DC is sometimes walking rather than driving or taking public transport.

Public transport in Washington DC

Washington DC’s public transport network consists of trains and various bus services. The public transport network is operated on an integrated ticketing system, which covers all modes of public transport.

SmarTrip card

Expats who plan on travelling frequently in and around Washington DC should consider buying a SmarTrip card. The card can be used on the Metrorail as well as on Metrobus, the DC Circulator and a number of other suburban bus services. It is possible to load flat-rate passes onto the card which give commuters an unlimited number of trips within a certain period of time. SmarTrip cards can be purchased and topped up online, at any Metro station and at selected stores in the city.


The Metrorail lies at the heart of Washington DC’s public transport network. This system consists of six colour-coded lines which run primarily underground to serve the district and overground to some of Washington’s surrounding suburbs.

While Washington DC’s Metrorail is clean, safe and user-friendly, commuters often complain about the irregularity of services caused primarily by track maintenance and periodic breakdowns.

DC Circulator

Washington DC’s bus system is useful for commuters as it allows people to reach destinations not covered by the city’s Metro system.

The DC Circulator buses are shuttle services which operate on a fixed route and schedule. These shuttles primarily connect the main areas in the city centre with some of the popular residential neighbourhoods.

The DC Circulator routes run approximately every 10 or 15 minutes.


Washington DC’s Metrobus service consists of hundreds of routes that cover the greater Washington DC area, and serves areas that commuters cannot reach using the Metrorail or DC Circulator services.

Taxis in Washington DC

There are a huge number of cab companies to choose from in Washington DC, and taxis can be paid either by cash or card.

Drivers are required to take passengers anywhere within the Metropolitan area of Washington DC. However, most drivers are reluctant to travel out to Maryland and Virginia.

Cycling in Washington DC

The residents of Washington love to cycle and expats will soon find that cycling is a great way to get around the city.

Washington DC has an excellent bike-sharing system. The Capital Bikeshare network consists of over 3,000 bicycles that can be picked up and dropped off at any one of over 300 docking stations across the city. 

The government has taken steps to make Washington DC more cyclist-friendly by increasing the number of dedicated cycle lanes and the amount of safe bicycle storage facilities.

Driving in Washington DC

Driving in Washington DC is something that expats should avoid, if possible. With the many excellent alternatives available, the majority of the capital’s residents opt to use public transport rather than driving, especially in the city centre.

Expats who decide to drive in Washington DC will find that parking is often expensive and hard to find. Traffic is routinely congested and navigation is made complex by frequently changing street directions.

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