Washington D.C. is a city that is full of history and culture. If you’re looking to visit this amazing city but don’t want to break the bank, you’re in luck!

In this article, we will give you some tips on how to travel to Washington D.C. on a budget. From free attractions to affordable accommodation, we have got you covered!

How to Get Around Washington, D.C. on a Budget

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1. The WMATA Metrorail

The WMATA Metrorail is Washington, D.C.’s regional subway system that provides transit across the city. Six color-coded lines meet at various places within the metropolitan region, allowing passengers to change trains and travel anywhere on the system. 

WMATA Metrorail SmarTrip Card

To pay tickets on Metrorail and Metrobus, you’ll need a SmarTrip card, which you can get online or at a vending machine at a Metro station. 

WMATA Metrorail Fare Rates

The cost of a Metro journey varies depending on your destination and the time of day you enter the system. Peak rates are available during rush hour, which runs from 6:00 am to 9:30 am on weekdays. and then from 3:00 to 7:00 pm.

Look at the WMATA Trip Planner or the prices at the station to get your precise cost. The fare will be computed and deducted immediately if you load money on your plastic SmarTrip cards.

WMATA Metrorail Operating Hours 

Trains start running at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday, 7:00 am on Saturday and 8:00 am on Sunday. Keep in mind that the train runs until 11:00 pm daily. 

During rush hour, trains normally come every 5 to 15 minutes (with waits around 10 or 15 minutes between trains during non-peak hours).

2. Commuter Trains in DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV)

Commuters from Maryland and Virginia use two train routes to travel into Washington.  You may use one of two commuter trains to go from the city to the suburbs: 

MARC Train Service

MARC is a commuter train that provides three lines to Union Station in Washington, D.C., with stops in Brunswick, Penn, and Camden as starting locations. MARC service trains operate Monday through Friday, with minimal service on weekends. 

Virginia Railway Express (VRE)

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is a commuter train that travels Monday through Friday between Fredericksburg and Broad Run Airport in Bristow, Virginia, and Union Station in Washington, D.C.

3. Public Bus in DC

DC Circulator

The DC Circulator offers free, regular service around the National Mall, as well as between Union Station and Georgetown between the Convention Center and the National Mall. 

Metrobus in DC

This is the region’s regional bus service, which links to all Metrorail stations and feeds into various local bus networks. Metrobus serves 11,500 bus stops in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

5 Budget-Friendly Restaurants to Visit in Washington, D.C.

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1. Ben’s Chili Bowl

Ben’s Chili Bowl is a D.C. institution, and for good reason! This restaurant has been serving up delicious chili dogs since 1958 and is beloved by both locals and tourists alike. The best part? A chili dog at Ben’s only costs around $7.69!

2. Pizza Paradiso

If you’re in the mood for some delicious pizza, look no further than Pizza Paradiso. This restaurant has two locations in D.C. and offers a wide variety of pizzas, as well as calzones, salads, and pasta dishes. Plus, most items on the menu are under $20.

3. Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill is a historic restaurant located near the White House. The restaurant has been serving American cuisine since 1856 and is a great place to enjoy a meal if you’re on a budget. Some of their most popular dishes include crab cakes, buffalo chicken wrap, and the Old Ebbitt burger. Prices for starters start at $7.99.

4. Nando’s Peri-Peri

If you’re in the mood for some delicious Portuguese-style chicken, Nando’s is the place to go! This restaurant has many locations throughout D.C., and most dishes on the menu are under $20. Plus, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can order one of their famous “flamed” chicken dishes.

5. Matchbox

Matchbox is a popular chain of pizza restaurants that originated in the District of Columbia. The restaurant has a casual atmosphere and serves American comfort food such as burgers, salads, and, of course, pizza.

Where To Stay in Washington, D.C. on a Budget

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Not only are there plenty of budget-friendly restaurants in D.C., but there are also a number of affordable hotels where you can stay during your trip. Here are five of our favorites:

1. HI Washington, D.C. – City Center

This hotel is located in the heart of D.C., just a short walk from many popular attractions like the National Mall and the Smithsonian Museums. Hi – Washington, D.C. Hostel offers a variety of room types, from dorm-style rooms to private suites, and rates start at just $49 per night!

2. Days Inn Washington, D.C./White House

This hotel is located just two blocks from the White House and offers guests free continental breakfast each morning as well as free WiFi. Rates start at just $99 per night.

3. Red Roof PLUS+ Washington, D.C. – Convention Center

This hotel is located close to the Convention Center and offers guests a number of amenities like a free breakfast buffet, free WiFi, and an on-site fitness center. Rates start at just $119 per night.

4. The Embassy Row Hotel

This hotel is located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of D.C. and offers guests a number of amenities like free WiFi, an on-site fitness center, and complimentary morning tea and coffee service. Rates start at $149 per night.

5. Kimpton Mason & Rook Hotel

This hotel is located in the trendy Shaw neighborhood of D.C. and offers guests a number of amenities like free WiFi, an on-site fitness center, and complimentary morning tea and coffee service. Rates start at $169 per night.

Sightseeing Tips in Washington, D.C. on a Budget

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In addition to budget-friendly hotels and restaurants, there are also a number of ways to save money on sightseeing in D.C. Here are a few tips:

  • Many of the Smithsonian Museums are free to enter – be sure to check out the Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Museum of Natural History.
  • The National Zoo is also free to enter and is a great place to spend an afternoon if you’re traveling with kids.
  • Free Tours by Foot offers a number of different tour options, and you can also tip your guide at the end of the tour if you enjoyed it. If you want to see the monuments and memorials without spending a lot of money, consider taking a free walking tour.
  • The Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour is a great way to see the city and offers a number of different ticket options depending on how long you want to ride. Tickets start at just $45 for one day.

With so many great options for budget-friendly travel, there’s no excuse not to visit our nation’s capital. Whether you’re looking for affordable hotels, restaurants, or sightseeing activities, D.C. has something for everyone. 

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!