The Metro rail system in Washington, DC is one of the safest, cleanest, and easiest to use subways in the world. Here are 5 tips to make your journey a breeze!
Getting around on the Metro is easy if you know how to read the handy system maps on display at every station and on every train.
The first thing you need to know is the name of your destination station, for example, "Smithsonian." Once you know WHERE you are going, find out what line your station is on. There are 5 different lines, designated by color: red, blue, orange, green or yellow.
Now you know your exit station name, and which colored line you will be riding. Now you need to be sure you get on the right specific train going in the correct direction. This is easy once you know the secret! And the secret is pretty straightfoward: Each train's "name" is determined by the COLOR of the line added to the name of the FINAL STATION the train is going to.
For example, to get from KING STREET (boarding station) to SMITHSONIAN, you'll want to get on the BLUE LINE LARGO TOWN CENTER train. The reason this is the right train is because the train that will take you from KING STREET to SMITHSONIAN keeps going until it terminates at LARGO TOWN CENTER. Get it? One good look at the Metro map and it will all make sense!
Note - you may need to transfer if your exit station is on a different colored line than the line you are initially getting on. Metro stations that offer transfer between lines are clearly designated on the system map.
No matter what station you are in or where you are going, the key is to remember that the train you want is 1: the color of the line where your exit station is and 2: the name of the last station on that line in the direction you are traveling.
The next step is to buy a farecard. Cards are sold from vending machines just inside the entrance to the station.
It's easy to determine how much fare you need to put on your card! Find the map of the system on display near the farecard machines. Below the map is a list of fares, based on where you are and where you want to get off. Find the fare that is listed for the station you plan to exit from, taking care to note whether you are traveling during "peak" or "off-peak" times. The amount listed on the chart is the amount you need to put on your farecard. Double it if you are traveling round-trip!
Go to the farecard machine and use the white "up or down" buttons to tell the machine how much fare you want to buy. Once you have the fare programmed in, insert your cash or debit/credit card and follow the simple steps listed on the machine to print your farecard.
Be sure your card has enough fare for your destination, or the automated turn-styles at your exit station won't let you out! If that happens, you can always go to one of the "Exit Fare" machines and add fare to your card to get out. You'll also have to do this if you lose your farecard en route to your destination.
You're ready to ride! Watch a few locals go through the automated turn-style and copy what they do. You simply feed your farecard into the slot at the front of the turn-style, and it pops out on top of the other end. You have to be fluid in your movement here and once you feed that card in, walk forward and through the plastic "jaws" that will open. Then grab your card back (very important) and you are in! Next, head to the platform and wait for your train!
As you relax on your super smooth Metro ride, it is simple to keep track of where you are and when it is time to get off. The conductor makes an announcement at each stop with the name of this station, and the name of the next station. Each station also has a sign on the platform that you can usually see through the window of the train. There are also maps on each subway car, so you can track your journey and prepare yourself for hopping off when the time comes!
The simplest trick here is, follow everyone else! The exception would be stations with more than one exit. In this case, you can always check out the map on display in each station showing the local neighborhood and what is outside each exit.
Remember, you'll need your farecard to get out! The exit turn-styles work the same way as the entry ones. If you've lost your card or didn't put enough fare on it, you can go to the "Exit Fare" machine and buy another card that will bring you freedom!
Be sure to visit the Metro website if you plan on utilizing the system regularly. There are numerous discount fare cards you can buy that will save you some dollars! Fares are also cheaper for all travelers during "off-peak" travel times, which are essentially any time except the daily commuter rush hour times. Happy travels and happy savings!
Now that you are an expert Metro traveler, Washington, DC is at your fingertips. There are many wonders to discover, so ride the rails and enjoy this beautiful city!
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