Should I rent a car, should I hire an Uber Driver? Should I take the Metro? Those are common questions travelers ask themselves before visiting a place such as Washington DC. There are no wrong answers, it really depends on what you are comfortable with.
When my wife and I were planning our trip to DC, we studied all options and we decided to primarily travel by Washington DC Metro, which consists of underground subways, above ground trains, and buses. We are comfortable with traveling by the metro, because we did it in New York City and in Europe. It saves money, and in most cases it saves a lot of time. There are advantages and disadvantages of taking the train versus renting a car. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Using the Metro
- You can arrive at your destination faster, especially during rush hour
- You have little to no chance of getting into an accident
- It’s less expensive than renting a car
- Avoid a high-pressure sales presentation to by rental damage waiver
- No having to deal with rude drivers that Washington DC has been known for
- There are multiple stops near multiple hotels, even inside some hotels such as Embassy Suites and Chevy Chase Pavilion
- Metro stops near pretty much every sight such as the White House, Capital, and all the museum
- You are at the mercy of the metro schedule, less control
- Metro sometimes gets backed up and you wait a long time for your train
- Criminals take the metro (yes they drive cars too)
- Some trains can be old and dirty
- Some trains smell bad and people have been known to get nauseous
- Pick pocketing can occur, especially when train is super crowded
- Trains can get insanely crowded and you may be stuck having to stand
Renting a Car
- You have complete control on where you drive and when you drive
- Rental cars are generally clean when rent them
- You will not be sitting next to complete strangers in your car
- Some far away destinations such as Mount Vernon, VA will faster to get to than taking the Metro
- Very expensive
- You have to go through a high pressure sales presentation for car upgrades and Collision Damage Waiver
- If you refuse the above Damage Waiver and you crash your car, or if someone crashes into you, you are held liable
- You will likely have to pay high parking fees everywhere you go and park your car
- Chance of car being vandalized while parked in the city at night
- You must deal with rude drivers who can care less that it’s your first time in DC and you don’t know where you are going, drivers in DC honk….A LOT!
- Your Hotel may charge a high daily fee to park your car
- You have a chance of getting lost while driving, especially if it’s your first time driving in DC
I am not going to list the advantages and disadvantages of Uber, because it’s way too obvious that you’re going to spend an arm and a leg if you use Uber to get everywhere. Uber should only be used for transportation to and from the airport, or if you’re wasted drunk and need an easy and fast way back to your hotel.
My wife and I flew into Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). This airport is about 20 miles away from Washington DC city center. Although the metro does go out there, would would have had to take the train from Dulles to downtown DC, and then switch to another train to get to our hotel. It was estimated that it would take about and hour and a half. So we hired an Uber driver and it only took about 25 minutes.
Uber is not the cheapest way to go, but it can save you time and energy, because let’s face it. Flying is exhausting.
If you fly into Ronald Reagan Airport, it’s a lot closer to downtown, and taking the Metro from there would make sense.
These are like Uber, except you experience crappy customer service and you pay a whole lot more so that the taxi company can pay for its overpriced taxi medallion…. We don’t take taxis unless it’s our only option, such as in some European cities where Uber is illegal.
Don’t go running for the hills on this option. Walking by foot in combination with taking the metro is ideal. Face it, when you go on vacation anywhere, you are likely going to eat lots of food. Every city offers a culinary adventure of some sort and if you are a true traveler, you are going to indulge on some of these foods. What better way to burn off that extra layer of fat you’re adding to your abdomen than by walking it off between the sights and across the Great Mall of America. Do you ever wonder why people in big cities seem to be in much better shape than those from smaller towns? It’s because in smaller towns, everybody drives everywhere they need to go. In big cities, people walk and take the metro where ever they need to go.
There are many ways to get around any city. When there are public transportation opportunities, it’s always best to most heavily consider that option, because it almost always saves you money and time. Not all metro systems are created equal. Washington DC’s metro system is decent, but there are cities where it’s done way better, such as New York City, London, Paris, Barcelona, and even Moscow, Russia. When you depend on public transportation, such as the Washington DC Metro, you are also forcing yourself to walk more, which helps prevent you from gaining weight on your vacation.
Some people are uncomfortable on metro trains, some get motion sick. So those people would be far better off renting a car and driving. Even if they don’t know the area, the price is very much worth it for them. Do you own research and do what is most comfortable for you. It’s your vacation, it suppose to be fun and relaxing.