Get Acquainted with Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC Transportation
Navigating a new area can be confusing and stressful. To help you prepare, we invite you to look through our Washington, DC transportation guide, offering information on local and regional railways, rental cars, taxi services and public transportation.
Metrorail is the most heavily used Washington, DC transportation service. Operating five different lines throughout the city and into the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, Metro is extremely easy to use. Each traveler is required to possess his or her own fare card, which are available for purchase at all Metro stations. One-day Metro passes are also available and allow unlimited journeys with no time restrictions until the Metro closes.
Throughout the Capital Region’s urban centres, taxis are a convenient, popular form of USA transportation. Taxis can generally be hailed on the street, although it is a good idea to bring along the number of a local taxi company if visiting a more remote neighborhood. Tipping taxi drivers is customary throughout the country and highly appreciated.
Although often unnecessary in urban areas like Washington or Baltimore, rental cars are an ideal way to explore the outlying region, which is spanned by major interstate highways and beautiful scenic byways. Cars with built-in GPS systems are available from many rental agencies for an additional charge. For car rental details and companies, visit airport web sites and look for ground transportation links.
Rail service is available throughout the Capital Region and beyond on the nationwide Amtrak system. With its hub at Washington, DC’s Union Station, Amtrak’s high speed Acela service provides multiple daily connections to Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Within the Capital Region itself, Amtrak offers “The Carolinian,” which serves Baltimore, BWI Airport, Washington, DC and the cities of Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Richmond and Petersburg in Virginia; “The Crescent,” which offers transportation between Baltimore, Washington, DC and the cities of Alexandria, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville, Lynchburg and Danville in Virginia; and the “Northeast Regional,” offering service to Baltimore, BWI Airport, Washington, DC, Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Richmond and Williamsburg, terminating in Newport News, Virginia. New lines now offer service terminating in Lynchburg and Norfolk, Virginia.
Virginia Railway Express provides commuter rail service weekdays between Fredericksburg and Manassas Virginia and downtown Washington, DC. The MARC (Maryland Area Regional Commuter) Train Service operates three lines throughout Maryland and downtown Washington, DC.
Two major international airports serve the Capital Region: Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), 26 miles west of downtown Washington, DC in northern Virginia, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) in Maryland, located 29 miles northeast of Washington and 10 miles south of Baltimore. There are a number of ground transportation options available from both Dulles and BWI.
Individuals arriving in the Washington area from other USA travel destinations may also use Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), conveniently located just across the Potomac River from downtown Washington in northern Virginia. Ronald Reagan is accessible by Metrorail, the greater Washington region’s rapid-transit system.
For airport and air service information, please visit each airport’s website.
Many smaller airports with good flight connections serve other cities in the region, including Richmond, Williamsburg, Norfolk, Roanoke, Lynchburg and Charlottesville.
Passport & Visa Information
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less, when they meet all requirements. Travelers must be eligible to use the VWP and have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel.
ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Authorization via ESTA does not determine whether a traveler is admissible to the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers determine admissibility upon travelers’ arrival. The ESTA application collects biographic information and answers to VWP eligibility questions. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, though it is recommended that travelers apply as soon as they begin preparing travel plans or prior to purchasing airline tickets.
If you are not a citizen of a participating VWP country, you must apply for a visa. There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. embassy or consulate where you apply. Details about obtaining a visa and visa application forms can be found here.