The Washington Post

Visitation Rites: Tips For the D.C. Tourist

Come here often? Of course not. I can tell by your FBI shirt and the trouble you’re having with that map. Welcome to the nation’s capital! You’ll certainly want to travel via public transportation during your stay, lest you waste an entire vacation spinning repeatedly around Dupont Circle.

But there are a few tricks you need to learn to make Metro less of a pain and to ensure that you see the sights instead of dirty looks. Here’s my tourist transportation guide.

Perhaps you’ve heard we stand to the right and walk on the left on all escalators. We take this piece of etiquette very seriously, particularly on the lengthy escalators in our Metro system. Standing to the right but holding your child’s hand so the wee one is blocking the way doesn’t make it better. The kid’s gotta move.

I don’t know who came up with these two classic tourist tips, but they’re always worth repeating. One, bus routes 32 and 36 will take you on a sightseeing safari for just $1.70. The trip winds by the Capitol, the Mall, Georgetown and the National Cathedral. Two, if you’re visiting the zoo, get off the train at Cleveland Park so you can walk downhill to the entrance. When you’ve had your fill of panda sightings, continue on down the slope to the Woodley Park-Zoo station. You’ll save up energy to walk more later.

Speaking of which, don’t be afraid to hoof it downtown. Most of the stops are clustered, and it can be much quicker just to get off the train than to switch lines to get a block or two closer to your destination.

Want to save cash? Don’t take Metro during rush hour. You probably stared at that fare chart and couldn’t decipher it — sorry about that — but the upshot is that trips during popular commuting times cost more. And when we’re heading to the office or coming home after a long day, we locals aren’t particularly friendly. So stay at the National Portrait Gallery until closing time, or linger over a drink and you can avoid nastiness and surcharges.

Another way to mollify the masses: Step aside and let them pass through the fare gates before you. Most of us have SmarTrip cards that let us fly though the system (sorta like E-ZPass on the highway). You probably don’t, and getting an entire family with paper fare cards through Metro’s gates can take an eternity. So while you’re waiting for Junior to figure out how to join you on the inside, take some photos. Then you’ll have proof to show your pals back home that you’ve conquered D.C.’s subway system.

Photo courtesy

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.



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Stephen M. Deusner · July 6, 2011