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driving in Washington DC

Sydney, Australia
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driving in Washington DC

Hi, we will be in Washington DC for a few days in June and we don't really want to use public transport because there's 6 of us. Can anyone please advise how easy it is to get around DC with a car. We come from Sydney so used to heavy traffic, but just not sure about driving and parking issues in DC.

Thanks v much

Elizabeth

Springfield, VA
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for Fairfax
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1. Re: driving in Washington DC

I think that almost everyone who posts here regularly would strongly encourage you to consider using the Metro subway system to get around. Rush hour traffic is horrible. Street parking is limited, especially near the tourist attractions, and the garages can be expensive. Even tourists who drive into town tend to park in the morning and then use the subway to get around until it's time to pick up the car and go home. I grew up here, so I'm used to it, but DC also has a fair number of traffic circles that can be intimidating to people from out of town (my former college roommate was terrified by them when she brought her family to visit).

Washington DC...
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2. Re: driving in Washington DC

Having driven in Sydney too, if you say you are comfortable, then DC shouldn't be bad. There are a lot of one way streets, but if you understand the setup of the north-south numbers and east-west letters it isn't hard to make your way around.

But finding parking is a huge challenge. Be prepared for expensive garages. You definitely dont want to be on the streets at rush hour on weekdays which will start around 3:00 in the afternoon and get very bad by 5:00. Be prepared for lots of walking if you plan on parking and walking between sites.

Assume you are used to traffic circles-I remember lots in Oz, especially in Canberra.

Washington DC...
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3. Re: driving in Washington DC

I will say that on weekends, unless there is something unusual going on, driving in downtown DC can be quite easy. Finding parking is easier, but can still be a challenge. Mostly free parking on Sunday, but Saturday is just like any other day at the parking meters. If you decide to try it, pay VERY close attention to the signs and what is written on the meters. If you don't understand them, then don't park there.

Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: driving in Washington DC

thanks so much for your advice, much appreciated. I might try to find some accom closer in to the city, parking does sound tricky.

liz

Washington DC...
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5. Re: driving in Washington DC

Especially if you park in multiple garages, you can spend $30 a day just sightseeing.

La Plata, Maryland
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6. Re: driving in Washington DC

Also keep in mind, that most suburban Metrorail car parks (American term is "parking lots") fill up completely with cars, rather early on Mon through Fri mornings (except for the short-term spaces).

Teaneck, NJ
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for New Jersey
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7. Re: driving in Washington DC

Last July (peak season) we stayed in Virginia for a week and drove in most days because of the lack of parking at the Metro stations. We had no trouble finding lots to leave the car all day for a reasonable price, just sse http://washingtondc.bestparking.com/index.php to find and price parking sites and print out discount coupons. Also, keep your eyes open when you get into the city, we sometimes found better deals on the way to a lot that we found with the above web site. Driving two cars in was less costly and more convenient than taking the metro in for our party of 7 - 10 people.

Coming from Mount Vernon, Virginia, we had no trouble driving in or out, either, as long as we left after 9:00 AM. From the time we left to the time we parked was under 1 hour, very comparable to what we would have spent on the Metro (but Mount Vernon is a way out). Coming back took a bit longer as we left the city between 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM and traffic out of the city was tough.

It's my understanding that other outlying locations may not be such an easy commute.

By and large, we would not even consider using the car once in the city, it makes no sense. Most attractions are walkable from each other (ie, most attractions are on the National Mall -- here's a map to give you an idea www.mnh.si.edu/visit/images/MallmapWeb.pdf )

Edited: 20 May 2011, 15:26
8. Re: driving in Washington DC

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