Washington, DC: Surviving the Around the World Embassy Tour

I am almost ashamed to admit this, since I have been a DC resident for almost 12 years.  Yesterday was my first time attending one of the Passport DC events.

For those not in DC or just unfamiliar, the Around the World Embassy Tour occurs in May and boast up to 50 participating embassies.  The embassies aim to give visitors a taste of their culture through art, food, music, and entertainment.
I was excited to *finally* attend this event–until I started the day.  Lines were long.  Some of the experiences were…less than optimal.  When it was all said and done, I had only visited three embassies in a three hour time span.  This averages to about one embassy per hour.  However, about 30-40 minutes of each hour was spent waiting in some sort of line.  A line to get in the building.  A line for food.  A line for the sake of a line.  As you can imagine, it became very frustrating.  Personally, I think I will skip the sister event (European Union Embassies’ Open House), but in case you are thinking of attending, you may want to heed these tips.
  1. Avoid, like the plague, any embassy singled out in the Washington Post as a “must go to” place.  The Post has wonderful intentions in highlighting which embassies will have food and alcoholic beverages.  But everyone reads the Post.  Guatemala, one of the embassies noted in the Post this year, did have a local beer available to sample.  The line wrapped around the block.
  2. Go early.  I made the mistake of going at noon.  The crowds seemed to die down  by about 2:00 p.m. (but make no mistake, there were still a ton of people there).  Also, many of the embassies run out of goodies or run out of food later in the day.
  3. Decide which embassies you want to visit and wait it out.  It became evident very early on that going to the 10 embassies I wanted to go to was not realistic.  So I then decided to go to Indonesia (because I have a trip planned there later in the year), Guatemala (to taste the beer of course) and then Sri Lanka (because someone told me there was no line to get in).
  4. Dress appropriately. You will do a LOT of walking.  Comfortable shoes is a requirement.  You should probably also carry sunblock as well as a bottle of water.
  5. Set low expectations.  After waiting in line to go to the Guatemalan Embassy and getting my free sample of beer, the embassy experience it self was very under whelming.   Take this event as what it is–a chance to visit an embassy for free.  Don’t expect a life changing experience.
  6. Consider paying for a more meaningful experience.  Part of the reason I think I was underwhelmed was because I have been to some pretty fantastic embassy events.  The group Things To Do DC (www.thingstododc.com) organizes embassy events that usually include native food, open bar (featuring drinks local to the country), entertainment, and sometimes even a visit from the Ambassador of the embassy.  The events can be a bit on the pricey side (usually starting at about $50 per person), but this is a great option if you are looking for a more in depth and meaningful embassy experience.
Overall, this is one of the more interesting free events in Washington, D.C.  It is a free event and can be a great day to spend a Saturday afternoon as long as you are prepared.
Happy Travels!
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