How to Get Around DC Without a Costly Uber Ride

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 Washington DC has a population of over 700,000 and each year nearly 22 million tourists flood into the city. So it’s hardly surprising that getting around the city can take some time. 

If you’ve moved to DC, getting around the city can feel overwhelming but there’s no need to waste your money on Uber. There are loads of options when it comes to Washington DC transportation, you just need to know where to look.

In that case, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together this handy guide on how to travel in DC so you can get around whether you’re there for five days or five years. Read on to find out more.

Neighborhoods in Washington DC

In order to understand how to get around Washington DC, it’s probably a good idea to know where everything is. Washington DC’s neighborhoods are split up into eight different wards.

Most people don’t use the wards as reference points when giving directions. However, knowing about them is useful for getting an idea of the general direction of things. For example, it’s handy to know that Fort Totten is north and Glover Park is west.

This can also give you a good idea of how long it will take to get from one place to another. That’s why we’ve created an outline of where each ward is and what’s in them. Let’s take a look.

Central Washington DC

Ward one is the most central ward of Washington. Although it’s a small area, it has a population of over 74,000, which is high compared to the rest of the city. In this ward you’ll find:

  • Adams Morgan neighborhood
  • Howard University
  • Columbia Heights neighborhood
  • Kalorama
  • LeDroit Park
  • Pleasant Plains neighborhood
  • Mount Pleasant
  • Park View neighborhood
  • Shaw neighborhood
  • U Street Corridor

Ward Six is the other central ward in Washington DC. It is further south and slightly east of ward one. This is where you’ll find: 

  • Barney Circle
  • Capitol Hill
  • Mount Vernon Triangle 
  • Judiciary Square
  • Kingman Park 
  • Navy Yard
  • NoMA (North of Massachusetts Avenue)
  • Near Northeast neighborhood 
  • Southwest Waterfront
  • Sursum Corda

The Shaw neighborhood also extends into Ward Six. This is where Swampoodle existed between 1850 and 1910. Nowadays this neighborhood is split between Near Northeast and NoMA.

Western Washington DC

Wards two and three make up most of the west of Washington DC.

Ward two is much bigger in comparison towards one and six and is located south-west of ward one. It makes up most of the western border of the city. This is where you’ll find: 

  • Downtown
  • Chinatown
  • Burleith
  • Dupont Circle
  • Georgetown 
  • Federal Triangle
  • Logan Circle
  • Foggy Bottom
  • Mount Vernon Square
  • Penn Quarter
  • Sheridan Kalorama
  • Southwest Federal Center
  • West End

Some parts of the Shaw neighborhood and the U Street Corridor also extend into ward two. You’ll find ward three, north of ward two. This is home to: 

  • Van Ness (commonly known as Forest Hills)
  • American University Park 
  • Cathedral Heights
  • Cleveland Park 
  • Berkley
  • Friendship Heights
  • Massachusetts Heights
  • Wakefield 
  • Spring Valley
  • Kent 
  • Glover Park 
  • Observatory Circle 
  • Colony Hill
  • Foxhall
  • McLean Gardens
  • Chevy Chase

Together these two wards have a collective population of over 150,000.

Northern Washington DC

Ward Four with a population of 75,773 makes up the northern tip of Washington DC. Here you’ll find: 

  • Barnaby Woods
  • Brightwood and Brightwood Park
  • Chevy Chase
  • Fort Totten
  • Crestwood
  • Hawthorne
  • Manor Park
  • Lamond Riggs (otherwise known as Riggs Park) 
  • Colonial Village
  • Petworth
  • Shepherd Park
  • Takoma
  • Sixteenth Street Heights

Chevy Chase also crosses into ward four as well.

Eastern Washington DC 

Wards five and seven can be found in the east of Washington DC, with ward five north of ward seven. Ward five is home to: 

  • Woodbridge
  • Carver Langston 
  • Arboretum 
  • Brookland
  • Bloomingdale
  • Truxton Circle
  • Trinidad
  • Brentwood
  • Eckington
  • Fort Lincoln
  • Edgewood
  • Fort Totten
  • Gateway
  • Langdon
  • Michigan Park and North Michigan Park
  • Ivy Cit
  • Pleasant Hill
  • Stronghold
  • Pleasant Hill

Some parts of Lamond Riggs or Riggs Park also cross into ward five as well. In Ward Seven you’ll find: 

  • Benning, Benning Ridge, and Benning Heights
  • Burville
  • Capitol View
  • Twinning
  • Skyland
  • River Terrace
  • Civic Betterment
  • Dupont Park 
  • the East Corner
  • Deanwood
  • East River Heights
  • Fort Davis
  • Fort Dupont
  • Mayfair
  • Lincoln Heights
  • Marshall Heights 
  • Kingman Park
  • Naylor Gardens

Ward Seven borders with Wards Five, Six, and Eight.

Southern Washington DC 

Last but not least, we have Ward Eight. Here you’ll find: 

  • Barry Farm
  • Woodland
  • Bellevue
  • Buena Vista
  • Washington Highlands
  • Knox Hill
  • Anacostia
  • Congress Heights
  • Fairlawn
  • Shipley Terrace
  • Douglass
  • Garfield Heights

This ward covers one of the largest areas in Washington.

Knowing where everything is the city will only get you so far though. Now that you have an idea of where everything is, let’s take a look at how to travel in DC.

Driving in Washington DC

Like most cities and states across America, driving is always an option for getting around Washington.

The city is equipped for drivers, which means there is usually somewhere to park. However, a lot of people advise against driving in the city if you can avoid it. There are several reasons for this. 

The traffic in DC can get very congested, especially at peak times of the day. This is why driving isn’t a great option if you’re looking to commute from Van Ness. Bad traffic could extend your day’s travel by hours in both directions.

DC also gets a lot of tourists and this means that there are a lot of people on the road who aren’t familiar with the traffic routes. As a result, traffic tends to move more slowly and the chances of getting in a crash are higher in the city.

The signage around the city can also be tough to understand if you aren’t used to it. This is because a lot of the city has a complicated one-way system. If you miss a sign you could find yourself right back where you started.

Luckily, there are many alternative transportation options that you can use to get around Washington DC. Let’s take a look at some of these.

Walking in Washington 

Depending on where you’re going to and from, walking through the city is always a possibility. It’s definitely worth checking out if you want to save money and be eco-friendly. 

For example, if you’re commuting from Columbia Heights to Mount Pleasant, you could save yourself money by walking. But if you’re going further or the weather is bad, then you’ll probably need to use public transportation in DC. There are a couple of options when it comes to public transport.

Riding the Metro in Washington DC

The Metro in Washington first opened back in 1967 and is still running today. It has six different lines and ninety-one stations serving most major suburbs throughout the city.

The metro opens at 5 am Monday to Friday and at 7 am on Saturday and Sunday. Most days it runs until midnight although it stays open later on Friday and Saturday nights. These days the Metro will be open until 3 am. 

Rides start at around $2 for each journey. If you have a SmarTrip card, this has a cut off of $5.90 a day. So if you use the Metro more than this, the rest of your trips will be free.

SmarTrip cards cost $10 to buy and come with $8 on them to use on your journeys. You can then refill them as needed. 

You can buy SmarTrip cards online, at Metro stations or at some grocery stores and pharmacies. These also entitle you to a $1 discount on your rides and can make bus journeys cheaper as well.

If you are going to get the Metro, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for things that could slow you down. Work on Metro tracks often takes place on the weekends so these are prime times for closures or delays.

If you have any mobility requirements you should also check which stations you can use. Most stations in the city have escalators, but these are sometimes closed.

The Metro’s twitter (@wmata) posts live updates about delays, closures, and incidents on the lines. You should definitely follow them if you’re going to use the Metro regularly. This, along with Metro apps, will also let you know in advance about any planned changes to fares throughout the city.

Bus Routes in Washington DC

Washington DC busses offer you more travel options than the Metro with 325 different routes around the city.

These cost $2 for a regular route trip, although you get a discount with a SmarTrip card if you transfer from the Metro. Discounts are available for disabled, elderly, or younger riders.

Buses run fairly regularly, although they are subject to traffic delays, unlike the Metro.

You can use a service called NextBus in order to check on when your next bus is coming. To do this you’ll need the ID number of your bus stop, which is clearly marked at each stop. Then simply call 202-637-7000 and it will let you know how long you need to wait for the next bus.

Buses run even more regularly on the five DC Circulator lines. These run between popular tourist destinations, like Union Station or Georgetown. Busses should arrive every ten minutes and buses on this route only cost $1.

Any DC Circulator line bus stops are easily marked out to avoid confusion.

Cab Options in Washington DC

If you’re in a hurry or fancy driving, getting a cab in Washington could save you a lot of hassle. This is usually a better option if you’re not traveling in DC at peak times. That way you avoid getting stuck in traffic. 

Cab fares will vary depending on where you’re traveling. A trip within the city usually costs between $10 and $20, although obviously a longer trip will cost you more. Most cabs now take credit card payments, in case you don’t have any cash on you.

However, if you’re planning to get a cab you could save some money by using Uber. Most cab companies in Washington will charge more for a journey than this app. Flagging down a cab on the street will always be more expensive than booking one in advance on a fixed rate.

Renting a Bike in Washington DC

When the weather’s nice, Washington is a lovely place to cycle around. In fact, more and more areas of the city are supporting this eco-friendly mode of transport.

A new initiative called Capital Bikeshare has been set up throughout the city. This means there are over 350 docking stations to borrow an eye-catching red bike from across the city.

These cost $2 for the first 30 minutes – simply remove a bike from a dock and lock it up in a dock at your destination. This resets with each bike. So if you’re running out of time on your journey stop along with the way and swap bikes. 

After 30 minutes it costs $4 an hour to use a bike. If you’re planning to use these bikes a lot, you can get a day pass to save money. For 24-hours a pass will cost you $7 or a 3-day pass will cost you $15.

It’s always worth double-checking the usage fees at a docking station. These are usually $2 but may be higher or lower in some areas. You’ll need to go online or on the app to pay for your bike.

Make the Most of Washington DC Transportation Today

With so many Washington DC transportation options available, there’s no need to wait around. Whether you’re traveling around Van Ness or going all the way to Lincoln Heights, this transport will help get you from A to B.

If you’ve just arrived in the city, make sure you hit some of the must-see sites. For a little inspiration, check out these five embassies that everyone will enjoy visiting.

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