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Metro tickets for tourists

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Sydney
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78 posts
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Metro tickets for tourists

Our family of 7 (5 adults & 2 children) from Australia are visiting DC for 4 nights in June. We will be staying in Crystal City and planning to use the metro to visit museums, memorials, & capitol hill. For the 3.5 days that we have, we will probably catch the metro into town in the morning & return to the hotel in the evening. Most of our trips will be reasonably short & during the off peak.

I've had a look at the metro website & can't decide which type of ticket is suitable for us.The smart trip tickets seem expensive (@ $5 each) as we will certainly have no use for them after 4 days. The metro website suggests that there's a $1 surcharge per trip for paper tickets which I don't quite understand. I would be grateful if you could point out to me the most economical ticketing option for our trip. Alternatively, should I hire a car?

Maryland
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1. Re: Metro tickets for tourists

So, the Dollar surcharge is for each one-way trip if you use a paper farecard. Since it looks like you are going to be making at least six trips, you would actually be a bit better off purchasing a smartrip card for each person, since they cost $5 each.

If you don't want to deal with calculating fare each time, you could purchase a 7-day short trip pass for each member of your party. Yes, this will last longer than you need it to, but costs $35 per person and will cover all non-peak travel, and if you travel during rush hour you're fare up to $3.50 is covered. Checking the metro website, the longest trip I could reasonably expect you to take (up to Cleveland Park for the zoo) is $3.25, so essentially, all of your travel is covered with this pass.

If you rent a car, you'd be looking at hotel parking fees (35-40 dollars per day) plus parking downtown (at least 20), and dealing with traffic, which can make things less enjoyable.

Washington DC...
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2. Re: Metro tickets for tourists

For a family of 7, using Metro can be more expensive than paying for parking. But you do have to deal with the traffic and parking. And in your case, renting a car big enough for 7. A difficult choice and one that would probably take an accountant to figure out.

Metro is trying to discourage the use of paper farecards, so the $1 per trip surcharge is their way of doing it. If you decide to use Metro, buying each person a SmarTrip Card is probably your cheapest option. It only takes 5 trips to come out ahead on the cost of a SmarTrip card vs. a regular farecard. And you probably won't ride enough to make a 7-day Short Trip Pass a cheaper option, though it does offer more convenience.

Washington DC...
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3. Re: Metro tickets for tourists

Another problem with renting a car is that there's no guarantee you'll be able to park at all close to everything you want to see. For example, you might find a good parking rate at Union Station, which is close to the Capitol Building and many of the museums, but pretty far from, say, the Lincoln Memorial. You'd probably have to take a taxi or the Metro to get to or from your car and various points of interest.

So while on paper the parking costs might seem cheaper than Metro fares for 7 people, when you factor in that at some point you will probably have to take taxis or the Metro regardless, it might be more expensive than if you had just forgotten about the car and only relied on public transportation to begin with.

Sydney
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4. Re: Metro tickets for tourists

Thanks for your advice.

It looks like the SmartTrip 7 day ticket at $57.50 is too much, but the 7-day Short Trip at $35 seems more reasonable.

Does the 7-day Short Trip ticket allow unlimited travel (for up to $3.50 per trip during peak) everyday for the 7 day period? During the day, can I take the metro from Crystal City to Smithsonian, then from Smithsonian to Foggy Bottom, then Foggy Bottom to Federal Triangle? Finally, from somewhere back to Crystal City?

Or does it deduct the cost of each trip from the $35 every time I use the metro?

midwest
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5. Re: Metro tickets for tourists

Yes, every trip is a certain fare. From some of the places you mentioned, off peak is $1.7 and peak is $2.10, roughly....

Sydney
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6. Re: Metro tickets for tourists

If all my trips are $1.70, the $35 ticket will get me roughly 20 trips. Is that right?

Washington DC...
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7. Re: Metro tickets for tourists

No, really, that is not correct. The 7-day Pass will get you unlimited trips. And as long as you stay under $3.50 during peak period trips, you will not have to pay anything extra. Even 2000 trips in that 7 day period would cost nothing extra. It does not deduct a cost each time you use it. It just gives you as many trips as you want for 7 consecutive days.

Toronto, Canada
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8. Re: Metro tickets for tourists

Ladybug, thank you for your help, we are also having a great deal of difficulty figuring out how this transit system works. Strangest system I've ever encountered in my travels (outside of Europe of course!) Unlike Boston or Chicago, or places where you can buy an easy to use four or sevenday unlimited pass....this is bizarre (going out of the ring, etc...hard to figure out!).

But along comes someone who explains it more readily than the Metroo website...you! So I'm hoping you can tell me.....the 7 day "short trip pass", does that include both the bus and the train? Can it be purchased at IAD? If not, can it be purchased at any Metro stop? Thank you SO MUCH!!!

Sydney
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9. Re: Metro tickets for tourists

Thanks Darrell. Looks like the 7 day short trip ticket is the right one for me. It will save us time walking from 1 attraction to another.

Washington DC...
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10. Re: Metro tickets for tourists

For some strange reason, Metro does not sell any sort of pass that works on both buses and trains. The SmarTrip Card with cash value works on both but only when the cost of the trip is deducted each time. (You do understand the difference between a pass and just paying for each trip?) A pass gives you unlimited trips.

I do not know of anywhere to buy Metro passes or SmarTrip cards at Dulles (IAD). But maybe someone else knows the definite answer for that. But they can both be purchased at any Metro station.