When it comes to getting around Richmond, Virginia, cars tend to be the preferred mode of transportation, but they’re not the only way to navigate the city. 

Richmond proper is fairly compact, making it possible to traverse most of the city on foot, by bicycle or via public transportation. And while the metro area sprawls for miles in each direction, the outlying areas are a breeze to reach by car or bus thanks to efficient highway systems and typically minimal traffic. Whether you’re sticking to the city center or spreading out your explorations, here’s what you need to know about getting around Richmond, Virginia.

Colorful townhouses in Richmond, Virginia
Getting around Richmond is easiest if you have access to a car © traveler1116 / Getty Images

Car

You don’t have to have a car to get around Richmond, but it certainly makes life easier. As a mid-sized city with rolling terrain, Richmond and its neighborhoods are spread out enough to make them challenging to navigate without four wheels. You can get just about anywhere in the city in 15 minutes or less, and to the suburbs in under 30 minutes. Parking is usually free or cheap, and unless there’s a major event, you won’t have any trouble finding a parking spot, even in the heart of the city.

If you’re planning to head outside the city, a car is pretty much a necessity. Interstates 95 and 64 travel right through the center of town, making it easy to hop on the highway and get to your destination quickly. Traffic is rarely an issue, even at rush hour. Don’t own a car? Car rental agencies are located at the airport and throughout Richmond.

Uber, Lyft and taxis

If you prefer riding in a car to driving one, taxis and ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, are widely available throughout Richmond and the surrounding areas. Don’t expect to hail a cab on the street: you will likely need to call a taxi or use your preferred app to arrange a ride. Keep in mind that depending on where you are and what time of day (or night) it is, drivers might not arrive as quickly as you expect in a major city.

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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond
Buses will get you to major sights around Richmond © Steve Heap / Getty Images

Bus

The Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) was founded in 1860 and has operated continuously for more than 150 years. The system serves the city along with portions of Chesterfield and Henrico counties and has committed to remaining fare-free through the summer of 2022 in response to the pandemic.

The GRTC operates daily from 5am to 1am in many areas, with a fleet of 150 transit vehicles including buses and vans. The service boasts one of the newest fleets in the transit industry, and the average age of their vehicles is less than five years old. The entire fleet is equipped with wheelchair lifts and low-floor entry, and operators are trained to help passengers who may need extra assistance. All GRTC buses are also equipped with front-mounted bicycle racks.

Within the city, Richmond’s Pulse Bus Rapid Transit is the spine of the GRTC system. The 7.6-mile route extends from Rockett’s Landing on the city’s east side to Willow Lawn shopping center in the west. Pulse’s high-frequency buses stop every 15 minutes or less between 6am and 11:30pm, and every 30 minutes between 11:30pm and 1am. The 14 stops along Pulse’s route include the Science Museum of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Greater Richmond Convention Center, Main Street Station and Shockoe Bottom

RVA Bike Share bicycles in their rack at a station
RVA Bike Share has 20 stations and more than 200 bikes around Richmond © Seth Michael / Shutterstock

Bicycle

Richmond is a decidedly car-centric city, but it’s making slow and steady progress toward becoming more bicycle-friendly. Plans are in place that include the construction of bike lanes throughout the city. It’s an ongoing process that’s hit some roadblocks as drivers have struggled to share the road. That said, parts of the city center are easy and enjoyable to navigate by bike.

RVA Bikeshare, which launched in 2017, is a network of 20 stations with more than 200 bikes scattered around Richmond. Riders can register for annual, monthly or Go passes using the RVA Bikeshare app. 

If you’re more interested in biking for leisure than transportation, there are hundreds of miles of trails you can ride both within the city and in outlying areas. From Belle Isle and Forest Hill Park to Pocahontas State Park, recreational bikers will find no shortage of biking trails for all skill levels.

Beyond the city, the Virginia Capital Trail extends from downtown Richmond all the way to Williamsburg. The trail spans more than 50 miles and is fully paved and well maintained. Attractions along the trail include Richmond National Battlefield Park, Dorey Park and Upper Shirley Vineyards

Electric scooter

Like most cities, Richmond has not escaped the electric scooter trend, as evidenced by e-scooters left abandoned throughout the city. Local e-scooter operators include Bird, Bolt, Lime and Helbiz. E-scooters may not be ridden or parked on the sidewalk, although many riders unfortunately ignore these rules.

Accessible transportation in Richmond

The GRTC’s entire fleet is equipped with wheelchair lifts and low-floor entry. For travelers who need a bit of extra transportation assistance, the GRTC’s Community Assisted Ride Enterprise (CARE) program provides origin-to-destination service under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This usually means curb-to-curb service, but it might also include assistance beyond the curb for those who need it.

Although the service is designed for locals with disabilities who are not able to use the GRTC’s fixed-route bus service, it is also available to paratransit visitors to the Richmond area for up to 21 days in a 12-month period. Visitors who are interested in the service can get more information by calling 804-358-3871, extension 434.

Click here to download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide.

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Top 11 things to do for a memorable visit to Richmond, Virginia
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