The best way to get around Los Angeles is by car. Hire cars are easily available from LAX airport and at most major hotels.
Public transport is also an inexpensive and good way to get around LA. Bicycles and taxis are useful to get around individual neighbourhoods.
Despite the distances and often congested traffic, LA is pretty easy to get around by car. Just plan your journey in advance and get a map of the major freeways or hire a car with GPS navigation.
Freeways are well marked, but jammed during rush hours (7am to 9am and 3:30pm to 6:30pm).
Note: On the freeways, drivers rarely use turn signals so stay alert. Traffic drives on the right.
Car hire: All the major car hire companies have offices in the LA area, including Avis (www.avis.com), Budget (www.budget.com) and Enterprise (www.enterprise.com).
Typically, drivers must be at least 25 years of age, depending on company policy. Los Angeles Rent-A-Car (www.la-rentacar.com) hires to drivers aged 21 to 25.
Optional CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) insurance is recommended if not already covered by the driver's own policy.
Parking at motels and cheaper hotels is usually free, while upmarket hotels charge anywhere from US$8 to around US$45. Valet parking at refined restaurants and hotels is commonplace, with rates ranging from $3.50 to $10.
For on-street meter parking, read all signs carefully as there is a complicated system of days or hours when parking is not allowed. Illegally parked cars are ticketed and may be towed. Meters are usually free after 6pm.
Bicycle: Away from the freeways, Los Angeles is cycle friendly, with designated cycle lanes criss-crossing the city and running along the beachfront.
LA has a several bike-sharing programs, including Metro Bike Share (bikeshare.metro.net), Breeze Bike Share (www.santamonicabikeshare.com) and Perry’s Café & Rentals (perryscafe.com).
Metro Bike Share has more than 60 self-serve bike kiosks in the Downtown area, including Chinatown, Little Tokyo and the Arts District. Bikes are available on a pay-as-you-go basis or with a membership.
Pay using your debit or credit card ($3.50 per 30 minutes) or with your TAP card, though you will first need to register it on the Metro Bike Share website. Metro Bike Share smartphone app offers real-time bike and rack availability.
Breeze Bike Share offers self-serve kiosks all over Santa Monica, Venice and Marina del Rey. You can sign up online, download the Social Bicycles app, or pay on the spot. Rental rates are US$7 per hour, or you can opt for a long-term memberships that includes up to 90 minutes' daily ride time. The monthly student rate (US$7) is the best deal in LA.
Topanga Creek Outpost (www.topangacreekbicycles.com) hires out mountain bikes and offers direction to some great trails in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Perry's Beach Cafe (www.perryscafe.com) has bikes, tricycles and skates for hire and offers easy access to the bike paths on either side of Santa Monica Pier.
Taxi: Taxis are readily available, but you can't usually hail them on the street. There are taxi ranks at major hotels, airports, train stations and bus stations. Taxis are best booked over the phone or though a smartphone app.
Given LA’s size and often congested traffic, getting around by taxi is expensive and often impractical for cross-town journeys, but they are useful for night journeys within one area. Tipping at 15-20% is expected.
Fares are metered and vary by company: in the city, taxi rates are US$2.85 at flag fall plus US$2.70 per mile. Cabs leaving from LAX charge a US$4 airport fee. For details, check www.taxicabsla.org.
Only use taxis that display the official Los Angeles Taxicab Seal before getting in, as those without it have no legal authorisation to operate, and you may be scammed.
Recommended taxi companies include Beverly Hills Cab Company (www.beverlyhillscabco.com), with good rates to the airport and a wide service area, and Taxi Taxi (www.santamonicataxi.com), that offers a professional fleet and will drive you anywhere, but can only pick up in Santa Monica.
Both Uber and Lyft smartphone apps are popular for cheaper rides in LA.
Bus: Given the size of the city, bus journeys can be time-consuming and may involve changing, but the subway offers a good alternative.
Metro (www.metro.net) operates around 200 bus routes and six rail lines, including subway and light rail in Los Angeles. Its website provides maps, schedules and assistance in trip-planning.
You can pay with a token or in cash on the bus (exact change is required). A reusable TAP smartcard is also available from TAP vending machines at Metro stations. Day, weekly and monthly passes are available. Many hotels, convenience and grocery stores as well as Metro Customer Centers sell Metro passes and tokens.
TAP cards are also accepted on DASH and municipal bus services and can be reloaded at vending machines or online on the TAP website (www.taptogo.net).
The card allows you to add a pre-set cash value or day passes. The regular fare is US$1.75 per boarding, or US$7/25 for a day/week pass with unlimited rides.
Both single-trip tickets and TAP cards loaded with a day pass are available on Metro buses (ensure you have the exact change). When using a TAP card, tap the card against the sensor at station entrances and aboard buses.
Metro offers three types of bus services: Metro Local buses (painted orange) make frequent stops along major thoroughfares throughout the city.
Metro Rapid buses (painted red) stop less frequently and have special sensors that keep traffic lights green when a bus approaches.
Commuter-oriented Metro Express buses (painted blue) connect communities with Downtown LA and other business districts and usually travel via the city’s freeways.
Most buses have bike racks, and bikes ride for free, although you must securely load and unload them yourself. Remember to remove all loose items not attached to your bike – including helmets, bags and lights – and take them on the bus with you.
When disembarking, always advise the driver that you need to unload your bike and exit through the front door. Folding bikes with wheels no larger than 20 inches can be taken on board, folded. Bicycles are also allowed on Metro Rail trains at all times.
Downtown Los Angeles also has its own bus system called DASH, operated by the LA Department of Transportation (LADOT) (www.ladottransit.com).
These small, shuttle buses operate along 33 routes serving local communities (50¢ per boarding, 0.25¢ for seniors and passengers with disabilities), until around 6:30pm to 7pm and with limited services on weekends. Many lines connect with other DASH routes; check the website for details.
The most useful DASH bus routes, include the Beachwood Canyon Route (Monday to Saturday), which runs from Hollywood Blvd and Vine St up Beachwood Dr. and is useful for close-ups of the Hollywood Sign.
The Fairfax Route (Monday to Saturday) takes a loop past the Beverly Center mall, the Pacific Design Center, western Melrose Ave, the Farmers Market/Grove and Museum Row.
The Hollywood Route (daily) covers Hollywood east of Highland Ave and links with the short Los Feliz Route (daily) at Franklin Ave and Vermont Ave.
Downtown LA include five separate routes: Route A runs from Little Tokyo to City West, Route B connects Chinatown to the Financial District, Route D travels between Union Station and South Park, Route E connects City West to the Fashion District, and Route F connects the Financial District to Exposition Park and USC. Routes A, B and D do not run on weekends.
Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus serves much of western LA, including Santa Monica, Venice, Westwood and LAX (US$1.25). Its express bus no. 10 runs from Santa Monica to Downtown (US$2.50, one hour).
The Culver City Bus runs services throughout Culver City and the Westside. This includes a service to Aviation/LAX station on the metro Green Line (US$1), from where a free shuttle connects to LAX.
Long Beach Transit serves Long Beach and the surrounding communities.
All three municipal bus companies accept payment by TAP card.
Rail: The Metro Rail network consists of two subway lines, four light-rail lines and two express bus lines. Six lines converge in Downtown.
Most lines operate a frequent service from around 4:30am to 1am Sunday to Thursday, and until 2:30am on Friday and Saturday nights. Schedules for all lines are available at www.metro.net.
Red Line is the most useful for visitors. A subway linking Downtown’s Union Station to North Hollywood (San Fernando Valley) via central Hollywood and Universal City connects with the Blue and Expo Lines at the 7th St/Metro Center station in Downtown and the Metro Orange Line express bus at North Hollywood.
Purple Line is the subway line between Downtown LA, Westlake and Koreatown, and shares six stations with the Red Line.
Expo Line is a light-rail line linking USC and Exposition Park with Culver City and Santa Monica to the west and Downtown LA to the northeast, where it connects with the Red Line at 7th St/Metro Center station.
Blue Line is also a light-rail line running from Downtown to Long Beach, and connects with the Red and Expo Lines at 7th St/Metro Center station and the Green Line at Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station.
The Gold Line light-rail line running from East LA to Little Tokyo/Arts District, Chinatown and Pasadena via Union Station, Mt Washington and Highland Park connects with the Red Line at Union Station.
The Green Line light-rail service between Norwalk and Redondo Beach connects with the Blue Line at Willowbrook/Rosa Parks.
The Orange Line express bus links the west San Fernando Valley to North Hollywood, from where the Red Line subway runs south to Hollywood and Downtown LA.
The Silver Line express bus connects the El Monte regional bus station to the Harbor Gateway Transit Center in Gardena via Downtown LA. Some services continue to San Pedro.
Latest update: How to get around Los Angeles: 12 May, 2022