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A Beginner’s Guide to Washington DC Public Transportation

Washington DC Public Transportation

Washington DC Public Transportation


When you visit Washington DC, you want to spend time planning your adventures—not how to get to them. Washington DC public transportation is a fantastic, affordable way to get around the DC metropolitan area. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but we’re here to help.

Using the Metro, you can explore the city and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs without worrying about traffic and parking or the expense of gas.

Where to Begin

Start with your desired itinerary. Once you know which landmarks, museums, and sites you want to see, you can access Metro’s Trip Planner. This handy feature lets you plan routes between destinations. Suggested trip itineraries also include the fare, the estimated travel time, and any walking directions.

Make Your Trip SmarT

Consider buying a SmarTrip® card to save money. Metrorail fares vary by time of day and the distance between stations; using a SmarTrip will get you a $1 per trip lower fare than paper farecard fares.

Bonus: up to two children under age five may travel for free with each fare-paying adult.

SmarTrip® cards are sold online and from vending machines at Metrorail stations.

How to Use the Metro

The Metro Visitor’s Kit is the definitive guide to helping you use Metro to get around the greater Washington DC area. The Metro Pocket Guide is probably the most helpful item for you to download, since it provides you with the Metrorail system map, points of interest near Metrorail stations, and information on system hours, fares, and passes. If you’re not the type to plan a detailed itinerary, this guide can take the guesswork out of your plan-as-you-go trip.

The Metro and Nationals Park

If you plan on going to a ballgame—and why wouldn’t you!—using Washington DC public transportation is a fantastic option for coming and going. Simply start at your nearest Metro Park and Ride lot for a quick and easy trip to Nationals Park.

When you arrive at the Navy Yard-Ballpark Metrorail station on the Green Line, you’ll have only a short block walk to the ballpark. (See the Washington Nationals site for schedule information.)

Note: A SmarTrip® card is required to exit most of Metro’s Park and Ride lots. The lots don’t accept cash or farecards as payment. SmarTrip® cards are sold online and from vending machines at Metrorail stations.

Bonus: On weekends and federal holidays parking is free at Metro Park and Ride lots. For more information on the cost of parking on regular weekdays, visit individual station pages.

The Metrobus

Metrobus is the sixth busiest bus agency in the United States, with a fleet of more than 1,500 buses operating on 325 routes in DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Combined with the rail system, these two key parts of the Washington DC public transportation system can get you anywhere you want to go.

To get a rail-to-bus or bus-to-rail discount or to transfer free from bus to bus, you must, you guessed it…use a SmarTrip® card.


The Metro Greenbelt line is one of the most convenient to Ellicott City.  From there, you can enjoy the best of both DC and our historic small town. Stay with us at The Wayside Inn to round out your patriotic trip. And don’t forget to download our free area vacation guide to help plan your stay!