Car Travel: Driving in D.C. can be a headache. Traffic is usually congested, and the road layout is designed for frustration, with one-way streets popping up at just the wrong moment. Once you've reached your destination, the real challenge begins: D.C. must be among the most difficult cities in America in which to find parking. All of this means that you'd be wise to use public transit whenever possible.
Metro and Bus Travel: The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority operates a network of subway lines (known locally as the Metro) and bus routes throughout D.C. Most popular tourist attractions are near Metro stops, though certain areas are accessible only by bus, most notably Georgetown and Adams Morgan in Northwest and the Atlas District in Northeast.
Metro fares depend on the distance traveled and the type of pass used. Holders of popular SmarTrip cards get steep discounts, with rides ranging from $2.15 to $5.90 during "peak" hours—which include the morning and evening commutes and the after-midnight hours of weekends—and from $1.75 to $3.60 at all other times. Those using paper fare cards will pay $1 more for each leg of the trip at all hours, providing travelers a real incentive to get SmarTrip cards if they plan to use Metro trains even just a few times during their stay. The rechargeable cards can be purchased for $5 online or at any Metrorail station. One-day passes for unlimited Metro travel are also available for $14.50, while weekly passes cost $59.25 and monthly cards run $237.
Bus fares are $1.75 (exact change only) for regular routes, regardless if you use cash or a SmarTrip card. A special bus, the 5A, runs from D.C. to Dulles airport for $6. SmarTrip cards will grant users free transfers between buses and $0.50 discounts on transfers between buses and the Metro.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (202/637–7000. www.wmata.com.)
Taxi Travel: Taxis in D.C. charge a $3.25 minimum base rate, which covers the first eighth of a mile, plus $0.27 for every additional eighth of a mile ($2.16 per mile). Riders stuck in traffic will pay more, as wait fees cost $25 per hour. Large bags stowed in the trunk cost $0.50, but smaller bags and groceries are exempt. A $2 charge applies to cabs hailed by phone.
District of Columbia Taxicab Commission (855/484-4966. www.dctaxi.dc.gov.)