A lot of Cities in the US are actually not as big as you would first think. Due to the layouts and excellent transport, there is often absolutely no need to have a car to get around. Los Angeles, however, is a completely different prospect. It’s a HUGE City. Even the Tourist hotspots are largely spread out. Having a Care or Hire Car is strongly recommended by us. However, not everyone for one reason or another has access to a car. So here is our guide on How to Get Around Los Angeles without a car.
Getting Around Los Angeles Without a Car can prove problematic. Due to the large distances Taxi’s can be expensive, and Due to the, at times, horrendous traffic, buses can be long boring treks. Walking, for the most part, is certainly out, so let’s take a detailed view of your options:
Los Angeles Metro Rail system is one option for getting around without a car. It’s relatively cheap, safe, fast, and will get you to most places you want to go to. On the face of it a great option. The problem? It never really seems to go where we want it to. Well not directly anyway. Most destinations will require at least one change. the exception? Downtown. And that’s the problem.
The System is designed to move people in and out of the downtown business district at very busy times really quickly, and it does this brilliantly. While this is great for the City, and after all that’s why it was built, it doesn’t always help the tourist. for example, getting from the airport will require a trip into downtown first then a transfer to another line out to your destination. It’s hardly ideal just after landing. Beverly Hills is not served at all (I guess the residents of here are unfussed about metro travel ?). Santa Monica and Hollywood also require a transfer should you wish to travel between. Of course, if you are heading downtown it’s pretty perfect.
Despite this it is still a valid option, it just doesn’t beat a car. However, it is the only option (helicopter aside) for beating the traffic. It’s just you might have to go so far out your way it may still take longer anyway.
www.metro.net is the Systems home page and routes can be easily planned on there along with its full interactive Map.
As for pricing well we mentioned it’s cheap, well actually it’s REALLY cheap! a one-way trip is a mere $1.75 including free transfers up to two hours. You can also purchase a $7 one-day pass or a $25 seven-day pass. But with the base fare being so cheap you would need to use the passes quite a bit to see good value. 4 trips on the one-day pass and 14 on the seven.
You need to purchase a Tap card then add money on to the card to ride the Metro, Vending machines at all stations will sell you a card and let you pre-load money on them or buy one of the available passes. A card will cost you $1 but you can keep it as a souvenir.
Of course, we mentioned that Beverly Hills is not covered by the metro so what do you do if your destination isn’t covered? Well, the Metro rail system is integrated into the Bus network.
There is an extensive bus network integrated into the Metro rail system to cover almost all of the city. So if your destination is not within easy walking distance of a Metro Rail station you can normally get a connection on a bus. And transfers from Rail to the bus (and Vice Versa) are included in the $1.75 one-way fare. Simply tap your card as you board and if you are within the two-hour time window you won’t be charged. Alternatively, if you are only using the bus you can pay in cash for your trip ($1.75). The Main Metro Website will include any required bus connections in its route planner.
Buses are not brilliant for long journeys as they have to follow their routes rather than the fastest direct route. This can take an awfully long time in heavy traffic, but at least you will see a bit of the city. But really if you are not using a hire car and don’t want to stump up for taxis it really is your only option for a lot of destinations.
The combined Metro System is far from ideal for tourist use. But it is a perfectly valid option. In a lot of US (and Non-US) Cities, we actually prefer using public transport, it’s often not only cheaper but quicker and more convenient. But in LA It’s really just not geared up for tourist use. If you require something a bit quicker and more convenient, well you will need to pay a little more.
Taxies are readily available and a convenient way of exploring the city. However, the downside is the cost. Sure Taxies are comparatively cheap in LA but due to the vast expanses of the city the fares soon rack up and if used as your only means of exploration will soon lead to a very expensive trip. Below are some example prices these could be considerably more in heavy traffic.
- Hollywood Walk of Fame – Rodeo Drive: $26.00
- Santa Monica – Rodeo Drive: $40.00
- Hollywood Walk of Fame – Universal Studios: $22.00
Considering the distances you are traveling we think the fares are pretty reasonable but clearly, they will add up over the course of a trip.
LA has a big Uber/Lyft presence and their prices can often undercut Taxi prices, although maybe by less than you would expect. If you are experienced with the App based Ride sharing services then you will have no issue using it in LA but we tend to feel a new city is not the best place to begin experimenting with these sorts of services. Try it out somewhere you are more comfortable with before.
However while our preferred method of getting around LA is hire-car, when alcohol is involved we often reach for the Uber App.
Considering the distances involved Uber / Lyft is very cheap in L.A. Per mile it is one of the cheapest cities to use the ride-sharing service. This is because it really has to be. Short journeys in L.A. do not exist so if the Per Mile fee were similar to New York the expense would be simply prohibitive. Some Examples of Uber Journeys from the Uber Estimate App with an UberX:
- Hollywood Walk of Fame – Rodeo Drive: $26.00
- Santa Monica – Rodeo Drive: $15
- Hollywood Walk of Fame – Universal Studios: $9
As you can see these prices have the Taxis licked! However, expect more when surge charging is in effect!
There are quite a few hop on hop off sightseeing buses available in Los Angeles. However, while these can be great fun they are often not the best way of getting around. They are Crowded, infrequent, and take very indirect routes (to pack in the sights).
We really enjoy the tours and would not discourage you from going on one. However, It would be for the experience itself rather than as a mode of transportation. After all, they are pretty pricey for a bus when the Metro buses cost $1.75.
Should you choose to go on a tour and that tour passes one or two places of interest then feel free to jump off and tick that one off the list. If you are considering an Attractions pass the Go Los Angeles Pass includes a Hop on Hop Off Bus tour.
Almost every City we talk about walking is the number 1 method of getting about. Seeing the City from street level at a walking pace really gets you under the skin of the City. Unfortunately, in LA this really isn’t an option. A quick example would be if you are staying in Hollywood and fancy a quick look around rodeo drive….it’s a 9mile return trip! You would have to REALLY want to walk it to consider that as an option. Hollywood to Santa Monica pier? 28miles return! how about a quick trip up to see the sign? a mere 7-mile round trip.
Ok, you get the point. LA is BIG. Walking is always going to be a big part of your trip but save it for exploring locations. If you think you can walk between them you will have a rude awakening. Of course, there is also the 30+ DegC heat to consider too.
We know this is about getting around without a car but we really can’t stress enough how useful it is to have a Car in LA. In some US City’s having a car is more of a hindrance than an advantage. LA, however, really is a city built around cars.
Hire prices are very cheap in LA and for anyone from outside the US fuel prices are ridiculously cheap! The City is crisscrossed with HUGE highways and people in the City just get around by car 95% of the time. Parking is abundant but can vary from expensive to eyewatering. You will even likely have to pay to park at your hotel!
So if you use the above article as a reason to justify not having a hire car don’t. Unless a Hire car is just not an option, which we understand is the case for some people, we really suggest you do get a hire car. If you are umming and erring about it, stop! get a hire car. It is perfectly possible to get around LA without but it’s not a particularly pleasant experience and isn’t really convenient. A hire car is cheap, convenient, and easy. The only downside is LA’s traffic problems but as discussed most other options suffer the same issues. And then there is Parking!
Hollywood Parking is expensive there a multiple parking lots but the best is at the Hollywood Highland. While it is expensive if you spend in the Highland Mall you can get 2 hours of parking for $3.
Downtown has the most horrendous parking of all neighborhoods. The best advice is the Metro, but if that is not possible hunt around and find the cheapest parking lot. Some charge over $60 a day, but much cheaper lots can be found.
Venice has excellent parking options with some lots as little as $9 a day.
Again Santa Monica has pretty reasonable parking charges and even Pier beach parking is only $15 a day with cheaper lots available if you hunt around.
This is one of our pet hates but after spending $100’s on Park tickets they want you to cough up for parking too! You have little choice but to pay or arrive by other means!
Again hotels have an annoying habit of charging parking on top of hotel rates! Especially in the coastal areas and Downtown. While you may find cheaper parking in local lots, however, these are charged per exit and as such if you are coming and going, which is likely on a vacation, it can easily cost more and is quite a hassle. Factor the Parking charge into the hotel price and just pay it. Convenience is essential!
Getting to and From the Airport – LAX
LAX is a fair way out for most places. And Apart from Downtown the Metro Rail system will require a change and will take a good while. Obviously, we would normally just pick up our hire car here. But if we were without then normally we just use taxis or Uber and stomach the cost. After a long flight, we really don’t need the hassle. Uber runs at about $38 to Hollywood from the Airport and $25 to Santa Monica
The Metro does have an Airport stop but the line really only runs into downtown. there are buses available to get you to most other locations.
Another Alternative is one of the Shuttle operators. for a pretty reasonable fare ($17.00pp to Hollywood for example) they will take you almost directly to your hotel. We say almost as they will only take a van full so if there are only 2 of you, you will need to wait until the van is full then endure multiple drop-offs until you get to your hotel, but they will normally group Shuttles to similar areas so the drop off should be fairly close. And you never know you might be first!
We don’t tend to be big fans of the shuttle services in most city’s but in LA with limited options, they do work quite well. But remember the $17.00 is Per Person and the $38 UberX will seat 4 for the same price!
Have Your Say
Have you been to Los Angeles? Do you agree with our assessment that a Hire car is the way forward or have you had a positive experience using one of the other modes of transport we mentioned? Did you find it better than a hire car? Let us know in the comments below? Or if you have any questions about getting around? Maybe you need to know how to get somewhere? Drop us a comment and we will try our best to help.