As the United States Capital, Washington DC is full of attractions including lots of museums, monuments, and historical locations but it can be very expensive especially if you are planning to spend a few days there. With some pre-planning and research, you can easily enjoy the city without destroying your travel budget. Here are some easy ways to save money in Washington DC.
Opt For Less Fancy Accommodation
Accommodation in Washington DC is generally very expensive especially if you want to be in the city centre. So you should expect to pay a lot for a hotel here, especially for nicer chain and boutique hotels.
For ease, and to maximize your time in the Capital I recommend opting for a less fancy hotel that is in the city center over a nicer hotel further out. Once you’re in DC you’ll be glad that you chose a basic hotel good location close to everything.
Enjoy All The Free Attractions
Most of the museums, places of interest, and attractions are all free in Washington DC so if you are on a tight budget you can easily save a lot of money by just doing everything that’s free without really missing out on anything.
The only things I paid for were the trolley tour for Arlington Cemetery, a bus tour to see the memorials at night, and the Spy Museum during my time in DC.
Walk Around The City
Washington DC is a very walkable city, especially if you stay somewhere in the downtown area close to all of the main attractions so pack some comfortable shoes.
Get A Smartrip Card
You can get a Smartrip card and top it up as needed at any Metro subway station. Look for the big M signs and black exterior lifts dotted around the city. They are generally easy to spot. Having a Smartrip card is essential for the subway, and it will just make it easier on the bus. You will also save money on bus journeys from using a Smartrip card including a free ride if a machine isn’t working.
Use Public Transport
Providing you don’t stay too far out of the downtown area, you can basically get to all key places, and the different areas of DC via public transit. The bus network and the subway are pretty easy to navigate, very cheap, and run frequently. I only put $14 on my Smartrip card which was basically the lowest amount I could load, and because most of the time the bus was free or only a dollar, I had money left on the card after a few days. So, you will save so much money versus getting an Uber or a hire car.
Although eating out can be pricey in Washington D.C., you can easily eat cheaply. There are lots of low-cost eateries all over the city, and food trucks with varied offerings around the National Mall. Just avoid eating in places like the museum cafes which tend to be expensive and over-crowded. There are lots of restaurants and eateries in the vicinity of the museums to eat at instead.
Another easy way to save money, but still enjoy the food scene in the city is to eat during happy hours.
Set A Daily budget
One of my hacks for every trip I go on is to set a daily budget. I research the minimum I will likely need per day for food and attractions and just add some buffer money on top. Day-to-day spending fluctuates depending on what I’m doing, and if I overspend one day then I will cut back a little on other days. In DC I was able to eat well and do everything I wanted to do for around $20-$40 a day.
I hope these tips are helpful! Basically, if you are willing to pre-plan a little and make some easy compromises, you’ll find that you can enjoy all that Washington DC has to offer without spending a small fortune. If you have any other money-saving tips for DC, please share them in the comments.
Gemma Lawrence is the creator of This Brits Life. Born and raised in England, she has been living in British Columbia, Canada as a permanent resident since 2016. A solo traveler for the past 9 years, she hopes to inspire and help others to enjoy solo adventures too. As someone who has always struggled with her self-confidence and mental health, she also shares tips and inspirational stories relating to self-love, self-care, and mental health.