Last year I visited 6 countries in 1 day without a passport and without spending a dime.
That, mes amies, is the magic of living in our Nation’s Capitol!
Each spring the embassies of Washington, DC open their doors for Passport DC, aka embassy Open House days. One Saturday is dedicated to the European Union (EU) nations, and another is titled “Around the World,” encompassing, well, everything that’s not EU.
On these days we set out on foot to join the parade of tourists and to get ourselves little cultural exposure. Its free, its fun, and it gets us outdoors in the sunshine.
In the past two years of partaking in this DC springtime tradition I also ended up discovering little gems – like the Spanish Steps – hidden around the city.
But, it can be a long day, and potentially disappointing if you don’t know what to expect. So today I’m sharing a little “how to guide,” Amye’s Advice for taking a worldwide tour on foot. Bon Voyage!
Map it out. Embassy Row is an obvious choice, and there are a lot of great destinations along that route. But some embassies are a bit further off the beaten track and much less crowded as a result.
The Passport DC website has tons of information so you can see which embassies are participating and map out your ideal trip from start to finish. I also find this site extremely helpful for planning – and for visuals to remember where I’ve been afterward!
And while I do highly recommend mapping out your day, especially if you are seeking certain highlights, it is also important to be flexible. Some embassies might have too-long of lines – skip! Or you might hear music around the corner and be curious to know more. Let the day surprise you!
Pack a bag. (As an FYI, this is DC – security may ask to see your bag in certain places, but I’ve never had any trouble.) I recommend throwing in sunglasses, a little cash, and definitely a water bottle.
The water bottle is absolutely essential – think of this like an outdoor hike. You don’t want to be stuck trying to find water when you could be exploring!
Plus, a bag lets you hold onto all of the info and maps the embassies are offering along the way.
Cross-cultural Exploration. While some embassies simply welcome you inside to take a look around, others are showcasing exhibits, artifacts, demonstrations, etc.
Above, you can see an example of a bedouin tent at the Saudi Arabian embassy. I’ve also witnessed traditional dances, arts & crafts, and all-out parties!
Some of the more memorable sites were many of those pictured here – Saudi Arabia, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica. I’d also add the Swedish, British and Italian embassies to that list. And there are plenty more I still have yet to see – maybe this year!
Worldwide cuisine. I mentioned bringing some cash, which will be really handy when you start getting hungry. Some (not all) of the embassies feature some culturally-inspired bites for reasonable prices. However, portion size and availability are not guaranteed, so don’t bank on eating your way around the world – this isn’t Epcot!
What makes it a true party, though, is that some places offer the spirits of their country. There was beer in Costa Rice (pictured), and we happened upon quite a party outside the Dominican Republic where they were pouring shots of rum!
Overall, this is a fun day to be outside, and to see inside a different part of DC. Its a rare opportunity, and a DC tradition that I hope will continue.
Mes Amies, will you mark your calendars for Passport DC? Have you visited any of the DC embassies, or are looking to visit one in particular?