The Metro, which opened in 1976, is clean and safe and provides a convenient way to get around the city—if you're staying near a Metro stop. Visit Metro’s website and click on Metrorail maps to locate the station nearest your hotel. The Metro operates from 5 am weekdays and from 7 am weekends, until midnight on Sunday through Thursday nights and until 3 am Friday and Saturday. Don't get to the station at the last minute, as trains from the ends of the lines depart before the official closing time. During the weekday peak periods (5–9:30 am and 3–7 pm), trains come along every three to six minutes. At other times and on weekends and holidays, trains run about every 12–15 minutes. Lighted displays at the platforms show estimated arrival and departure times of trains, as well as the number of cars available. Eating, drinking, smoking, and littering in stations and on the trains are strictly prohibited.
The Metro's base fare is $2.15; the actual price you pay depends on the time of day, the distance traveled, and how you pay, which means you might end up paying close to $7 if you're traveling to a distant station at rush hour. Your best bet is to use a SmarTrip card, a rechargeable fare card that can be used throughout the Metro, bus, and parking system, to avoid a $1 paper-fare-card surcharge each way. Up to two children under age four ride free when accompanied by a paying passenger.
Payment and Passes
Buy your ticket at the SmarTrip or fare-card machines; they accept coins and crisp $1, $5, or $10 bills. If the machine spits your money out, try folding and unfolding it lengthwise before asking someone for help. Many machines also accept credit and debit cards. You can buy one-day passes for $14.50 and seven-day passes for $59.25. To enter the Metro platform, insert your fare card into the slot on the turnstile and take it out again at the back—you'll need it to exit at your destination. With your SmarTrip card, just touch your card to the SmarTrip logo on the turnstile. Passes and SmarTrip cards can be purchased online or at any Metrorail station.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. 12th and F Sts. NW, sales center, Downtown, Washington, District of Columbia, 20005. 202/637–7000; 202/638–3780; 202/962–1195; www.wmata.com.