Our Washington DC Travel Essentials lays out the essential information you need to help planning your trip to the capital city of the USA. No matter how frequently you travel, some questions will always need answers: What’s the weather like? How can I get from the airport to my hotel? What currency and type of plug do I need? We have all these answers plus other basic info about the best time to go, getting there, getting around, and a few useful travel tips.

It’s all compiled in this Washington Travel Essentials. After reading this short and easy-to-read guide, you will be a little more prepared to start your trip in Washington DC.

  • When is the best time to travel to Washington DC?

    When is the best time to travel to Washington DC?

    Washington has a humid subtropical climate, with average temperatures ranging from 36ºF in winter to 80ºF in summer.

    • Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year, with an average of 8-11 rainy days per month.
    • Snowfall can be expected between December and March.
    • June to August is peak tourist season, with hotel and flight prices rising accordingly.
    • March-May and September-November are great times to visit, the weather is pleasant, you’ll avoid the peak season’s throngs, and flight and hotel prices are more affordable.
  • Washington DC basics

    Washington DC basics
    • Primary Languages:  English
    • Plug types: A and B
    • Electricity: 120 V
    • Currency: United States Dollar (US$)
    • International dialling codes: +1 202
    • Emergency telephone number: 911
  • How to get to my hotel in Washington DC?

    How to get to my hotel in Washington DC?

    Ronald Reagan National Airport

    Ronald Reagan National Airport is the primary airport in the capital city of the USA. It sits roughly 5 miles south of Downtown Washington DC. It features 3 passenger terminals which host a great range of dining and shopping options as well as facilities including banking and currency exchange services. There are several transfer options to reach central Washington:

    • A taxi to Downtown Washington takes around 20-30 minutes. Taxi ranks can be found outside each terminal.
    • You can also use ride hailing apps like Uber and Lyft at Ronald Reagan National Airport.
    • The Metrorail features 2 lines – Yellow and Blue – that link the airport to the city centre. The journey takes around 20-30 minutes. The Metrorail station can be reached by shuttle bus from all terminals or on foot from terminals B and C.
    • Shared-shuttle services are at hand to get to the city centre. They take around 20-30 minutes. You’ll find them just outside the terminals.
    • Car rental companies’ counters can be found on the 1st floor of Terminal A. You can also take the Parking/Car Rental shuttle bus to the Terminal Garage A, Rental Car stop.

    Dulles International Airport

    Dulles International Airport is the secondary airport in Washington DC. It’s located roughly 26 miles west of the city centre. It features 1 main terminal and 2 midfield terminal buildings. The main terminal is home to the main arrivals area, it features restaurants, shops, newsstands and facilities such as banking and currency exchange services. There are several transfer options to reach central Washington DC:

    • A taxi to the city centre takes around 50-60 minutes. The taxi rank can be found on the lower level of the main terminal.
    • You can also use Uber and Lyft apps which are usually slightly cheaper than a standard taxi.
    • The Silver Line Express Bus then the Metrorail can take you downtown in around 1 hour and half. The bus stop is located on the Arrivals level, door 4.
    • Shared-shuttle services can take you to Downtown Washington in around 50-60 minutes. You’ll find them just outside the arrivals hall.
    • If you want to hire a car, take the free shuttle bus at hand in the main terminal to get to the rental lot.

    Washington DC Union Station

    Union Station is the primary railway station in Washington, DC. Opened in 1907, this splendid train station sits just east of Downtown Washington, 1.6 miles of the White House. You’ll find a food court, shops, newsstands and convenience stores in the station. The transfer options at hand in Union Station include taxis, subway, buses and rental cars.

    photo by Don DeBold (CC BY 2.0) modified

  • How to get around Washington DC?

    Travel tips

    How to get around Washington DC?

    Walking is the best way to explore Washington DC city centre. You’ll find many landmarks and attractions such as the White House, the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in a 2-sq-mile area. The city centre also hosts a lively dining and shopping scene. For longer journeys, Washington DC has a good choice of public and private transport services available. 

  • Metrorail and Metrobus

    Metrorail and Metrobus
    • Metro is the name of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. They run Metrorail and Metrobus which use the same ticketing system.
    • The DC Metrorail features 6 colour-coded lines that cover the entire city and the suburbs. It’s the most popular way to travel around the city.
    • Note that it’s very busy at rush hours.
    • Most Metrorail stations have free Wi-Fi.
    • Fares are rated depending on the number of stations you travel through.
    • You should get a rechargeable SmarTrip Card available at any Metrorail station, Metro sales offices and online.

    photo by Elvert Barnes (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

  • DC Circulator Bus

    DC Circulator Bus
    • The DC Circulator Bus network features 6 routes not well served by Metro.
    • You can use a SmarTrip Card to pay the fare.
    • It can help you to connect to Metro stations.
    • National Mall is one of the most popular routes for visitors.

    photo by Elvert Barnes (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

  • Taxi

    • There are various taxi companies that operate in Washington DC.
    • Washington DC taxis must accept the payment of the fare by credit card, but it’s better to ask the driver before you get in.
    • It’s common to give a 15% tip to the taxi driver.
    • Uber, Lyft and local apps such as DC Taxi Rider can be used to hail a taxi in Washington DC.

    photo by Eric Fischer (CC BY 2.0) modified

  • Cycling in Washington DC

    Cycling in Washington DC
    • At least 4 bike-sharing schemes are available in Washington DC: Mobike, LimeBike, Spin, Jump DC and Capital Bikeshare.
    • Capital Bikeshare is run by Metro and is the only 1 of the 4 schemes that features docking stations.
    • You just need to download an app or register at a station.

    photo by Elvert Barnes (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

  • What are the main annual events in Washington DC?

    What are the main annual events in Washington DC?

    The National Cherry Blossom Festival 

    • What: The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a celebration of springtime through art exhibitions, concerts, kite competition, parades and more.
    • When: March-April
    • Where: Tidal Basin

    White House Easter Egg Roll

    • What: As implied by its name, the White House Easter Egg Roll is a fun competition held on the south lawn of the White House. Children, up to 13 years old, push an egg through the grass with a long-handled spoon.
    • When: April
    • Where: On the White House Lawn

    The Smithsonian Folklife Festival

    • What: Held annually since 1967, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is an international exhibition of living cultural heritage. Expect to learn about different cultures through music, dance, crafts and cooking demonstrations.
    • When: June-July
    • Where: National Mall

    photo by Stephanie Chasez (CC0 1.0) modified