Automobile

Driving to DC

Washington, DC is easily reached via interstate highways from every part of the country. Four major arteries lead to the “Beltway” (I-495) that circles the city. You can either continue to the center of the city or circle the city on the Beltway to your desired position. It may sound complicated, but by looking on a map you will see that it all makes perfect sense.

Coming from the north or south I-95 will bring you to a point on the Beltway. From the east, you would arrive via Maryland Route 50 and from the west Route 66 would be the logical choice.

It really is all about your destination

Travel Tips from the Virginia Department of Transportation for the Tourist and Business Traveler

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) knows how important your business and vacation plans are. That's why VDOT wants to make your visit to Northern Virginia less about the journey and more about enjoying your destination.
VDOT is working on major construction activities along the region's highways: Capital Beltway (I-495), Interstate 95 and Dulles Toll Road (Route 267). These “Megaprojects” are designed to bring more choices to Virginia's travelers. They'll improve and connect multiple modes of transportation, like highway, rail, transit and ridesharing. They'll also provide a new highway network called High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, which are free to buses and cars with three or more people.
Once the Virginia Megaprojects are complete, travelers will have more choices. In a few years, deciding how to get around Northern Virginia will require some thoughtful consideration. And that's a good thing.

Know When to Drive

While VDOT's goal is to keep traffic moving during all this construction, motorists need to be prepared for delays due to lane closures. All lane closures generally occur during off-peak hours during the day from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and at night from 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. To avoid delays, go to the “Lane Closures” page at VAmegaprojects.com.

Know When to Relax

How about letting someone else drive? Check out rail or public transit alternatives. Metro operates a rail network that stretches from Vienna west of D.C. and from Franconia-Springfield south of D.C. Northern Virginia's comprehensive bus system provides service in the suburbs and the District. Metro's Web site, wmata.com has a helpful new user guide and printable maps. Parking at Metro-operated lots is free on weekends.

Another rail alternative is Virginia Railway Express, a commuter train with two lines destined for Union Station in D.C. The Manassas line runs through Fairfax to Broad Run and the Fredericksburg line runs along the I-95 corridor. Visit vre.org for schedules and station details. Metro's Trip Planner can also be used to plan VRE trips. Parking is free at most stations.

For more projects and a list of additional public transit providers, visit VAmegaprojects.com or call 877-9595-222.

Some approximate driving times to DC
from around the country:

Atlanta – 10 hours
Boston – 13 hours
Buffalo – 7 hours
Chicago – 10.5 hours
Cleveland – 6 hours
Denver – 24.5 hours
Houston – 20.5 hours
Jacksonville – 10.5 hours
Las Vegas – 36 hours
Los Angeles – 38 hours
Memphis – 13 hours
Miami – 15.5 hours
Montreal – 9 hours
New York – 4 hours
Norfolk – 3 hours
Philadelphia – 2.5 hours
St. Louis – 12 hours
Santa Fe – 27.5 hours
Seattle – 41 hours

Timing is everything when arriving in the metropolitan area. During morning or afternoon “rush hour” you should plan on extra time arriving at your destination. Washington, DC is an “early” city- morning rush hour starts well before 7 am and traffic volume is still strong at 9:30 am. Afternoon-into-evening rush hour is drawn out, too. Rush hour ends between 7 and 7:30 pm.

Construction of “Hot Lanes” on the Virginia side of the Beltway may also slow your travels so be alert for traffic advisories.

If your final destination is “outside” the “Beltway” your travels should be relatively easy, with easy parking and routes that are easy to follow. If time is an issue, you should check one of the many traffic advisory sites or listen to WTOP-FM (103.5 FM) for up to date traffic delays. From Virginia, there are only a few bridges that cross the Potomac into the city and often backup during rush hour. Also be aware of heavy “Hot Lane” construction on the Virginia side of the Beltway.

Driving in DC

If you are going “inside” the Beltway or headed within the Washington, DC city limits then you will probably need to be a little more patient and alert.

With many traffic circles, one-way streets, and security-blocked streets, caution is the primary rule of the road in Washington. When it comes to round-abouts or street circles, vehicles in the circle have the right of way.

The city is divided into quadrants — Northeast (NE), Northwest (NW), Southeast (SE) and Southwest (SW). These sections of town come together around the U. S. Capitol, which marks the center of the city. Addresses in Washington, DC include a direction, which tells you the quadrant of the city the address is located in. You need to be careful because the same street name and number may exist in, for example, NE as well as NW.

Street parking is hard to find, and most garages charge $5 an hour or $20 per day.

Careful planning and staying alert help in navigating the streets of the city. Even though public transportation is very convenient and easy to use in Washington, DC, there are times and circumstances where driving is necessary or the most logical transportation method.

Automobile Rentals

Renting a car is one of the easiest ways to get from point A to point B while visiting Washington, DC, especially if you plan visits to points outside of the downtown or historical part of the city. Determining the type of car rental you'll require is the first step in the process. Smaller cars are often classified as compact or economy; these cars are the ones that are going to have the best gas mileage. Saving money on gas could make a huge dent in your overall travel expenses, so if you can manage in a car that seats a couple people and a couple bags, a compact or economy car could be the right choice for you.

All of the major companies have airport pickup locations and other major points throughout the city.

Average Daily Washington DC Rental Rates

  • Compact Car: $49.41
  • Economy Car: $48.31
  • Full-Size Car: $59.29
  • Luxury Car: $87.67
  • Mid-Size Car: $52.75
  • Mini Van: $104.19
  • Premium Car: $76.75
  • Standard Car: $57.16
  • Standard SUV: $88.73

Rental companies with airport locations. Check individual companies for other various locations around the city.

Luxury Car Rentals