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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > Washington, DC

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Local time Washington, DC

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Getting around Washington, DC

Public transport

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (tel: +1 202 637 7000; www.wmata.com) operates the city's Metro. Six subway lines (red, orange, blue, green, yellow and silver), known as the Metrorail, cover the city, extending into Maryland and Virginia.

The fare system is complicated with different prices worked out depending on the time of day, distance and date. The easiest way to pay is with a reloadable SmarTrip smartcard, which works on the Metrorail and Metrobus. You can pay as you go or load one up with a one-day or seven-day pass.

The DC Circulator bus (tel: +1 202 567 3040; www.dccirculator.com) is a particularly good option for tourists.

Taxis

Taxis in Washington, DC are metered. There is a small surcharge for each additional passenger and for luggage carried in the boot. One of the main taxi companies is Yellow Cab Company (tel: +1 202 544 1212).

Driving

Washington DC's streets are laid out in a basic grid pattern, divided into four quadrants. Streets running north to south in the centre are numbered, while letters designate streets running east to west.

Parking restrictions apply during rush hour and some weekend hours. Street parking is available for two hours only. Free all-day parking is available along Madison and Jefferson drives in front of the Smithsonian museums, as well as south of the Jefferson Memorial in East Potomac Park, though spaces tend to go quickly. If you miss out on place, private car parks offer an alternative but can be expensive.

Car hire

Insurance is compulsory when hiring a car. The minimum rental age is generally 25 but, for a costly surcharge, some companies will hire cars to drivers aged between 21 and 24. You must be in possession of a valid driver's licence.

Most car hire companies have offices in the city, including Alamo (tel: +1 888 826 6893; www.alamo.com), Avis (tel: +1 202 467 6582; www.avis.com) and Hertz (tel: +1 202 289 6084; www.hertz.com).

Bicycle hire

Cycling is becoming an increasingly popular part of life in DC, with dedicated bike lanes in place along many of the most iconic stretches of road. Bike parking is found on most street corners and costs nothing to use.

Capital BikeShare (tel: +1 877 430 2453; www.capitalbikeshare.com) is Washington DC's bikeshare scheme and has more than 350 stations. A flat daily fee applies, which is payable at automated kiosks located next to the bike stands. Usage fees vary but the first 30 minutes are free.

Featured Hotels

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Hotel Tabard Inn

Located on a tree-lined side street in the Dupont Circle neighbourhood, this is the small hotel that residents recommend to their friends. As it was constructed from three Federal-style row houses, no two rooms are exactly the same, but each is filled with unique antiques and has Wi-Fi access throughout. Some rooms have a shared bathroom. Victorian sitting areas in the lounge are quite cosy and feature live jazz on Sunday night. The hotel's downstairs dining room, a popular lunch spot for both guests and non-guests, features American cuisine. The restaurant's brick-walled garden is one of the most pleasant places to pass an afternoon in Washington, DC. Price includes continental breakfast.

Hotel Helix

If funk is your thing, you'll love this Kimpton boutique hotel where pop art meets Hollywood. The guestrooms are decorated in eye-popping patterns, bright red, green and blue colours, and underscored with rounded mirrors and large pillows. Twelve of the rooms are themed including the cool Zone rooms, fun family Bunk rooms and Italian-inspired Eats rooms. The lighting system changes from blue to gold in the hotel's bar/café, Helix Lounge, and the outdoor patio is popular with locals. Located in the Logan Circle neighbourhood, Hotel Helix is more appealing to young hipsters rather than sedate business people.

The William Lewis House

A home from home, this welcoming bed and breakfast has all the trinkets and touches of grandma's place with patterned rugs, plump sofas and candles and doilies above the fireplace. Actually taking up two Edwardian townhouses, The William Lewis House has 10 individually decorated rooms, scattered with antiques and family heirlooms, plus free Wi-Fi. What's more, the owners host happy hours with wine and hot chocolate. Gay friendly.

Washington Plaza Hotel

Under the watchful eye of architect Morris Lapidus, the Washington Plaza sprung up in 1962, placing a resort-like hotel in the middle of a city. Right next to the Smithsonian museums, the location is superb, while its glorious swimming pool, 340 well turned out rooms and recently renovated fitness suite are all as good as any modern contemporaries.

Normandy Hotel

Located on an elegant street with embassies as neighbours, and within walking distance of bars, restaurants, shops and the Dupont Circle Metro, this small hotel is a real find. Extensively renovated in 2009, the 75 rooms are decorated in black and white highlighted with fabrics in warm colours. The lobby and rooms have complimentary Wi-Fi internet access and although there is no restaurant, afternoon tea and coffee is served to guests and there is a free wine and cheese reception some evenings.

Mandarin Oriental Washington, DC

The award-winning Oriental is one of the most popular hotels in Washington, DC. Touches of Feng Shui have made its huge guest rooms calming - in fact, you may not want to leave them. All have Chinese marble bathrooms, silk bed tapestries, flatscreen TVs, high-speed internet access and smashing views of city monuments or the Potomac Tidal Basin. The hotel also has a state-of-the-art spa plus two restaurants - the Asian-inspired, award-winning Cafe MoZU and the Sou'Wester, serving regional American cuisine. For lighter fare or cocktails try the Empress Lounge.