Upon moving to the area I was told by some local friends about there annoyances with tourists. Not all tourists, mind you, the locals appreciate the tourists and the business they bring. It’s wonderful that so many people spend time at the home of the United States Capitol. However, there are always some local “rules” that non-locals don’t know about and I have yet to see published anywhere than in the tips section on FourSquare. So take these tips to heart because I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard locals go, “Why can’t there just be signs to tell the tourists this?” Enjoy!
(Subject to being updated as I learn more)
- Stand on the right, walk on the left. When riding an escalator that seems to be the general rule and locals get angry – especially when in a hurry – if you are standing on the left side of the escalator and essentially blocking them. Sometimes the escalators get packed when a train lets off or something and there is basically no room to move but in general, try to stand on the right if you intend on riding the escalator straight to the top.
- When the red lights flash along the platform at the metro station it means a train is coming – simple as that.
- When you get on a train move to the center of the car. Do not linger by the doors, this causes congestion and annoyance when people are trying to get on and off the car.
- Do not lean on the doors of a train (they’ve been known to open before while moving… which is a bad thing) and do not think they are like an automatic door – they will close and stay closed and not open for you if you are trying to squeeze in.
- Don’t gather around multiple card readers at the metro station. Slide your pass through the reader, wait for the little doors to open, then move through. Also don’t put the card near anything with magnets on it. (wallets or whatever). The SmartTrip Fast Lane is for people with commuter cards for the metro, stay away so the grumpy locals can go through (unless, of course) that’s all that’s being offered for entry and exit).
- There seems to be construction on trains all the time during the weekend. And there are often problems during the week as well. It’s annoying and many times leads to delays or partially closed lines. Just listen to instructions and stay calm and when in doubt, just look for locals and see how they’re reacting to the situation and follow their lead. (seriously, at one time the lights went out on my cart and when I saw some locals not even react I figured it wasn’t anything to worry about – which it wasn’t!)
- There are a slew of free museums in DC! It’s very easy to spend a day there seeing different things without having to pay a dime (unless you get food or travel or what have you). And even when it comes to food you can get a lot but pay little. Food trucks are popular and don’t be frightened of them – they have some great food to pick from!
- If you drive into DC – read the signs before you park. I can’t tell you how many times while I’m waiting for my bus after work that I see tourists park their cars in this stretch where there apparently isn’t any parking after a certain hour. And I can’t tell you how many times those very same cars get towed away.
- If you’re walking slowly and sight seeing – that’s okay – but don’t take up the entire sidewalk and try to get out of the way! A lot of people are moving around, trying to get to trains, buses, or locations quickly. If you take up the sidewalk you aren’t just blocking locals from their destinations but tourists too and it’s not fun!
- A tip I received from friends: Try not to go to South East or North East DC. Apparently it’s not the best of neighborhoods but the city is working on making it better and giving it a budding economy with shops.
- Don’t forget Virginia! Arlington has a lot of shops and tourist stops. You can see the Pentagon, Air Force Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, and about an hour from DC (in Virginia) is another Air and Space Museum which is pretty huge and impressive.
- Don’t get a plastic bag unless it’s necessary because there is a tax on baggies! Also, try and keep cash handy. That’s pretty much a rule when traveling anywhere but a lot of cabs in DC do not accept credit cards (which is really weird)