September 9, 2021
Travel Tips for Touring Washington, DC
by Korrea Johnston
Planning a trip to visit the District? Get the true DC experience by learning about the available transportation options to navigate the city with ease. Our Program Director, Danelle Carey, planned a weeklong stay in the District with a goal to have a car-free experience. During her stay, she was able to get to meetings, events, and visit iconic sites using bikeshare, scooters, and public transit. However, she discovered some details that can help visitors like you avoid the hassles and inconveniences that she experienced. To help you happily explore DC, we’ve outlined some travel tips below.
Available 24/7, Capital Bikeshare is the metro DC area’s shareable bike system with over 6,000 bikes and 600 stations located throughout the area. Hop on one of the staple red bikes to really travel like a DC local!
You must be 16 years of age or older to ride. So, if you’re traveling with family, minors (16-17 years old) can ride Capital Bikeshare with their parent or legal guardian.
How to Rent
Find your nearest station and unlock one of the red bikes by downloading the Capital Bikeshare app. If you are a user of the Lyft app, you can also unlock a bike and pay for a single trip. You can use the system map or mobile app to find real-time bike availability. Take a single trip for just $1 to unlock and $0.05/min on a classic bike or $0.15/min on an ebike or purchase a 24-hour pass for $8 per day for unlimited 45 min rides on classic bikes and discounted rate on ebikes. Rides over 45 minutes will incur usage fees. One credit card can be used for up to two bikes.
How to Return
Classic bike: Once finished with your trip, return the bike to a station or corral. If the nearest station is full and there are no remaining docks, go to another station to dock the bike. Push your bike firmly into an empty dock and wait for the green light to make sure it’s locked.
Ebike: Dock ebikes at any Capital Bikeshare station for free or use the cable to lock to any public bike rack within the service area for an extra $2.
When push notifications are enabled on the mobile app, Capital Bikeshare will let you know when you’ve successfully docked your bike and ended a ride, so you never have to worry about walking away with the clock still ticking! A bike that has not been docked in 24 hours will be considered stolen, and your card will be charged.
Due to their popularity, it’s best to reserve electric bikes and scooters ahead of time. If you plan to take a trip on two wheels, you can reserve it directly in the provider’s app. Currently, there are several private dockless companies permitted to operate in the District. E-bike operators include Lime, Spin, and Veo, and electric scooter operators include Lime, Lyft, Spin, and Veo. Prices vary by operator.
Before you tour by scooter, make sure you check the life (miles available) so you can get to your final destination. Danelle was going 11 miles one-way and didn’t check the miles on her scooter. As a result, when she got about 8 miles into her scooter trip, the device started to slow down and eventually had no power. Pre-check the mileage or battery life to avoid having to find and rent another device and pay another unlocking fee.
When finished with your ride, properly park the scooter in a designated scooter corral located in the street, or lock at a bike rack, parking signpost, or stop sign. The District requires all scooters to lock to city infrastructure when parked throughout DC. Please be advised there is restricted riding and parking of scooters in areas of downtown and near the National Mall and other memorials. These areas are geofenced “no ride” areas where scooters will automatically shut down if those areas are entered. You can ride scooters on sidewalks and roads outside of the memorials. View the map for details.
Pro Tip: We strongly advise you to carry hand sanitizer or wipes to clean handle bars. Danelle discovered that adjusting the seat on a bike caused her hands to get extremely dirty on several occasions. Learn more scooter rules and safety tips.
Electric mopeds must be driven and parked on the street, but can be parked more easily than cars. Revel and Lime are currently operating moped-sharing services in the District. However, in order to ride, you must have a valid driver’s license and complete several requirements depending on the provider you choose. Even if you already have the Lime app downloaded, you can’t unlock a moped unless you meet the requirements.
In order to ride on a moped, you must:
- Be at least 21 years of age or older.
- Watch a “how-to” video tutorial(s) to become oriented with the proper use of mopeds.
- Revel may also require a lesson with an employee as a prerequisite to membership.
- Take a quiz. (Lime only)
- Upload your driver’s license.
- Revel may also require a driving record that meets or exceeds their proprietary requirements.
- Lime requires you to also take a photo of yourself to ensure it matches the driver’s license photo. Riders will be unable to access a moped if the photo does not match the driver’s license.
- Wear a helmet.
- Revel provides two helmets with each rental.
- Lime riders must also take a photo of themselves wearing a helmet, which must be worn for the duration of rides.
If you are in a rush, this isn’t the fastest option until you have all of the above completed.
Travel smarter, not harder with a SmarTrip® card — an easy-to-use, rechargeable card used to pay Metrorail and local bus system fares.
How to Purchase a SmarTrip Card
You can plan ahead and buy a SmarTrip® card online with any major debit or credit card. Or, you can purchase a card at any Metrorail station or select sales location for $2. If you want a contactless way to pay, download the SmarTrip® app for iPhone/Apple Watch or Android to tap-and-go when using DC public transit systems.
How to Load/Add Value
You can add value to your SmarTrip® card and check your balance at any Metrorail station. Or, you can create an account to manage your card online. Fares vary. We strongly advise you to load your card in a Metro station or via Apple/Google pay so the funds are available instantly. When you load your card online, there is a 2-3 day delay in the funds being available.
How to Swipe
If riding the Metrorail, tap your card on the target at the fare gate upon entry and exiting. If riding the Metrobus, tap your card on the farebox only as you enter. For a safer way to pay, go “touch-free” by using the SmarTrip® mobile app.