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Me and my family are spending the next few days vacationing in Washington DC and are planning to use the metro and other public transit as our main form of transportation.

We took the metro rail and a metro bus from the airport to our air BNB, but we're confused as to how to actually pay on the metro bus.

We got cards at the airport and swiped our cards when we entered and exited the metro rail but didn't see a similar thing when we were on the metro bus. We didn't see other people swipe anything or get change out either.

How do you actually pay for the metro bus in Washington DC?

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It sounds like you got plastic SmarTrip cards https://www.wmata.com/fares/smartrip/index.cfm . Just tap the cards (one per passenger) on the reader on the farebox on the bus as you get on. You don't need to tap when you get off. I just googles and found a video showing how: https://youtu.be/MwR97tOolFk?t=109

Edit: the video shows the "old" farebox. The "new" farebox has the SmarTrip reader separated, as seen here https://wmata.com/initiatives/plans/fare-modernization/upload/Farebox_Cust_FactSheet_v2.pdf

However I suggest you get the MobilePay app on your phone https://www.wmata.com/fares/MobilePay/ and tap with your phone instead.

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  • Thanks! Just a note in case anyone else is visiting DC. A TON of people just don't even attempt to tap their SmarTrip cards on Metro Bus readers. There was also this weird time period where ours (4 different cards) gave us a failure beep even though we had balance on the cards. Every time the driver just waived us through.
    – Calvin
    Aug 11, 2023 at 5:05

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