About Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. does not really feel like a typical city. There are no high-rise buildings, little industry, the city is very green and leafy (almost 20 percent of D.C. is park land), and the streets—at least in the tourist areas—are clean and tidy. It is sometimes hard to believe that you are living in the capital of the biggest country of the developed world.

Things To Do

There are plenty of sights for visitors, such as museums and monuments, and guests will probably find that a week is not enough. An open-top sightseeing bus tour like Big Bus Tours is an efficient way to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Particularly highly recommended is a night tour of the monuments and memorials. 

DC is also home to the Smithsonian Institution, consisting of 17 free museums, galleries and the National Zoo in the Washington, DC area. Among the most popular are the National Air & Space Museum, the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of African American History and Culture. The International Spy Museum is another one of DC’s most popular attractions and one of DC’s most interactive museums.

There are numerous areas of DC that are good for dining, in particular 14th Street/U Street, Adams Morgan, Eastern Market/Barrack’s Row, 7th Street (also called Gallery Place) and Cleveland Park. Visit Eater DC for restaurant reviews and news (in particular, its map of The 38 Essential D.C. Restaurants), and the Washington Post‘s Going Out Guide

The area experiences the full beauty of the four seasons, and as such has a number of parks and gardens to enjoy. It also is home to professional sports teams for hockey, basketball, baseball, football, and American football. Tickets are often less expensive through apps like StubHub and Vivid Seats. If your evening schedule is flexible, consider taking dinner close to one of the stadiums and refreshing the page. Prices on tickets drop quickly as the event gets closer to beginning.   

Public libraries are very good and are free to join as soon as you have an address. Many libraries also offer excellent activities and reading programmes. Washington is home to several nice theatres which have much on offer throughout the year, such as Arena Stage, The Folger, Shakespeare Theatre, and the Kennedy Center. 

It is common practice across the US to tip any service provider. As a general rule, the amount of tip in a restaurant should be between 15 – 20% before tax. Porters expect $1 for each piece of luggage carried. In a bar you should tip $1 a drink to the barman, if drinks are brought to you. Taxi drivers expect 10-15% of the fare and hairdressers 15-20% of the bill. 
Many BDSUS staff live in suburbs just outside D.C. that also have a lot to offer. Each residential area generally has its own shopping facilities, although these can be some distance and not always easily accessible on foot or by public transport. In part, this is why many families living outside the city find two cars necessary. The surrounding countryside in Virginia and Maryland is readily accessible and very attractive with a number of state and national parks within easy driving distance.

Getting Around

To say that traffic is very congested in Washington, D.C. is an understatement. To get around the city, you must have patience and a good sense of direction. Street parking is hard to find and most garages charge $5 an hour or $20 per day. 

For the newcomer, finding your way around can be very confusing. 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 which 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. 

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) runs Washington’s Metrorail and Metrobus system which connects some areas of suburban Maryland, Washington DC and areas of Northern Virginia. The trains are clean, safe and efficient. They open at 5am Mon-Fri and 7am Sat/Sun, and close at midnight Sun to Thurs and 3am Fri/Sat. There are five colour coded lines, and the system is easy to navigate. Metrorail and Metrobus are the most convenient ways to get around DC, with Metrobus providing connections for locations not serviced by Metrorail.

The DC Circulator also gets rave reviews from residents and visitors alike. The bus ride is $1 and free for children under 5 and travels along six specific routes designed for easy-on, easy-off access at points of interest throughout the District. Explore neighborhoods such as Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Woodley Park, U Street and Capitol Hill with the Circulator. The bus even offers a dedicated National Mall route for easy access to DC’s much talked about monuments and memorials.

Taxis are readily available, and comparable to London if not cheaper. Uber and Lyft are also reliable and cost-effective means of transport. 

Those who prefer to explore on two wheels, Unlimited Biking has a wide variety of bike rentals to choose from, including kids’ bikes and attachments. With each rental, helmets, locks and a map are included, and the friendly staff will help you plan your route to explore the city. Additionally, Capital Bikeshare has over 350 stations across DC, Virginia and Maryland.

Walking or public transportation is the easiest and most cost-effective way to get around Washington, DC.

Embassy Life

BDSUS makes up approximately 150 people, providing strategic advice and liaison with the US, as well as supporting the wider MOD presence of almost 850 across the US. BDSUS is jointly led at the 2* level by the military Defence Attaché and the civilian Minister Counsellor Defence. Working in the Embassy offers a unique experience to get involved in a wide variety of opportunities, both personally and professionally. As well as the Defence Staff, the Embassy consists of staff from the FCO, DIT, Scottish and Welsh Offices, and numerous others.

The Embassy is situated in a compound that is home to both the ambassador’s residence and the old and new chanceries. The residence was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens to resemble an English country manor.

Social contact—with colleagues inside the Embassy, or Americans outside—is very much up to you. A large number of British nationals live within the Washington area, but there is not always a readily available British community. There is an Embassy bar, which currently opens monthly and also a gym available to staff working in the Embassy.

Last Updated: May 27, 2021 @ 5:39 pm

Scroll to Top