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Washington DC Guide

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world.

Washington D.C. runs on Eastern Time (EST.) D.C. is 3 hours ahead of Los Angeles, 1 hour ahead of Chicago. 5 hours behind London, and 12 hours behind Hong Kong.

The United States offers a Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) that allows visitors from certain countries to stay for up to 90-days. Click here to apply for the ESTA Visa. The process takes 10 minutes and is a good option for those seeking to work or study in the U.S.

For tourism, all countries are allowed entry into the United States except for the following:

  • Eritrea
  • Iran
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Libya
  • Myanmar
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Somalia 
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tanzania
  • Yemen 

For visits that are less than 90-days, there are options for leisure and work. 

The B-1 Business Visa is specifically for coming to the States for meetings and/or conferences that are not for immediate employment in the U.S for a U.S company. 

The B-S Tourism Visa is for leisure tourism for a stay of less than 90-days. 

The DS-160 form must be completed to apply for these visas, and an interview with the U.S Embassy or consulate must be done. After the documents are submitted, and the interview is reviewed, the embassy or consulate will notify the submitter of whether or not their visa was accepted. 

Non-U.S. citizen, non-U.S. immigrants must show proof of being fully vaccinated before boarding a flight to the U.S.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

There are three major airports:

  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
  • Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
  • Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport:

National airport offers an Uber, Lyft, and Taxi pick-up area after baggage claim. 

The cheapest and fastest way to get into D.C. from here is to take the metro. National airport has its own station on the Yellow and Blue line. You have to purchase a Smart trip card before you get on the train which you can do at the airport station.

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD):

Dulles Airport offers an Uber, Lyft, and Taxi pick-up area after baggage claim. 

Unfortunately, Dulles’s metro station is still being constructed, so the best way to get downtown is to take a taxi/Uber/Lyft. There is a shuttle that will take you to the Silver line, however, since this airport is located farther out in Virginia, it will still require more time to reach downtown.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI):

BWI is about an hour away from downtown D.C. by car. If you are in the Maryland/DC area this could be the best airport for you.

There is also a taxi, Uber, and Lyft available at this airport. There are trains in Baltimore proper that can take you to Union Station in downtown D.C. with a one-way ticket costing around $8. Otherwise, a taxi or Uber/Lyft might be your best bet.

The D.C. Metro reaches across state lines, including: Virginia, Maryland, and the District. There are 6 lines and 91 stations and it was the busiest ever during Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. The bus system is also very convenient and is connected with the train system.

In order to ride the Metro, you will need to purchase a SmartTrip Card and load money onto it. Fare varies depending on your distance. For example, if you are going from Maryland to Virginia it will be a lot more expensive than the National Mall to Adams Morgan.

Click here to plan your trip, so that you can see the fare and route.

Washington D.C. is a safe place to travel to for solo traveling if you stay alert and remember your street smarts.

Remember to be cautious about your surroundings. Be cautious about your drink at a bar, try not to “flash” your money around, and do not engage in other people’s business. If you follow these simple rules, you will be totally safe in D.C.

As a point of reference, the safest neighborhoods in D.C. are: Georgetown, Adams Morgan (NW), Dupont Circle, Downtown (National Mall), just to name a few. Try to avoid walking alone at night and take an Uber/taxi from place to place. The D.C. metro is also fairly safe at night.

Washington D.C. gives you a good taste of each season. While there are some extremes (100+ degrees Fahrenheit in August,) the weather is fairly manageable and predictable.

The best time to visit D.C. is in April/May when the Cherry Blossoms are in full bloom. This is also the busiest time, so if you want to visit the museums and monuments without a crowd, come any time other than April/May.

English is the most popular language spoken in Washington D.C., so I would recommend knowing a bit of the language. There is a lot of language diversity in the city. 1 in 4 D.C. residents speak another language other than English at home.

Since Washington D.C. is so culturally vast, you will likely meet someone who speaks your native language, so don’t be worried if you don’t speak English fluently! 

Washington D.C. is a busy and professional place, however, they are very used to tourists from all over. Be mindful of oncoming pedestrian traffic and be aware of your space/how much you take up. When you are on the Metro, stay out of people’s way whenever possible. Do not block the train doors and stand to the right of the escalator unless you are going to walk up to it. 

Be kind to service workers! Those working in retail, or the food-service industry will show you respect as long as you do the same. When eating at a restaurant, do not snap, yell, or obnoxiously wave at your waiter/waitress. A simple hand raise and smile will get their attention. Always tip well. 

The United States currency is the US Dollar ($ USD,) nothing else is accepted in D.C. businesses. Luckily, currency conversion is available in multiple locations within the city. From banks to private currency exchange businesses, it will not be difficult for you to find somewhere to convert to USD. 

Tipping. Is. Essential! If you do not leave at least a 10% tip after your meal, it would be seen as a lack of respect towards the waitstaff. It is considered improper to not tip when eating out and try to tip at least 20%. Also, it is customary to tip your taxi/Uber/Lyft driver when taking one.

D.C.’s standard voltage is 120 volts, with a two or three-pronged plug. For those traveling internationally, you should be prepared to bring an adapter. Here is what yours should look like:

Travel Adaptor for USA | Electrical Safety First

Washington D.C’s tap water is safe to drink. U.S. cities can still be fairly unpredictable with their level of contaminants, so if you are worried I would recommend using a filtered reusable water bottle or filtering your water whenever possible. Avoid buying plastic water bottles.

There is free Wi-Fi nearly everywhere in the city. Most cafés, hotels, and restaurants have free, reliable Wi-Fi. The museums also provide free Wi-Fi. If you have a smartphone you should be all set!

Taxis exist but are harder to find outside of major tourist areas. Uber and Lyft are the most popular ride-share services in the city. Remember to tip the same amount you would for a taxi!

Washington D.C. is a very LGBTQ+-friendly city. Many of the gay-owned businesses and clubs are in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. In June, Dupont Circle is full of pride events and this is definitely a great time to visit the city.

One of the largest LGBTQ+ rights marches in the country took place in downtown D.C. in 1993. To read more about the history of civil rights marches in Washington D.C., check out this article.

Some general eco-friendly tips while traveling in D.C. are, to take public transportation (the metro trains and buses are fantastic,) use a reusable water bottle, and a reusable coffee mug!


A great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to avoid buying from fast-fashion businesses. D.C. has a plethora of different thrift/second-hand stores. From high-end consignment to the salvation army, these stores allow you to find loved, unique pieces and rehome them. U Street is home to some wonderful thrift stores, including: Crossroads Exchange and Martha’s Table. 

Parks & Hiking

Rock Creek Park is the Central Park of Washington D.C.. Here you can find an abundance of hiking trails in the middle of the city. Another destination is Shenandoah National Park in Virginia which is just an hour away from the city. This National Park is gorgeous and has some of the best hiking trails in the country, for instance: the Appalachian Trail. 


There are protests happening every day in D.C., many of them are related to environmental justice. Check out local D.C. organizations, including: Zero Hour and Sunrise to see if there are any events happening near you!

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If the weather permits, definitely do night tours of memorials and monuments. There are less crowds and the ambiance is beautiful.

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