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Getting Around Los Angeles

The best way to get around Los Angeles is by car. Los Angeles is spread out over about 500 square miles, and while there is a public transportation system, it's severely lacking compared to those found in other major cities. You can rent a car from one of the approximately 40 rental agencies at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) — located about 20 miles southwest of the downtown area — or at any of the rental agencies located around the city. You can also take a taxi from the airport into the city, but that can be expensive: Rates average about $60 one-way. The light rail and bus systems also serve the airport, but be prepared for a slow ride.

Car

Because of the sheer size of the city, a car is necessary for getting around. That said, driving in L.A. isn't always easy; planning and patience will go a long way. Several major freeways criss-cross the region but are often prone to congestion during rush hours, so it's best to avoid driving during the morning or early evening. Also, you're going to want a map or a GPS system to help you get around. However, if you do decide to rent a car, keep in mind that that parking near major attractions (especially the beaches) can be trying. You can rent a car at the Los Angeles International Airport or once you get into the city.

Metro

Compared to transportation in other major cities like New York and Chicago, the bus and rail lines in L.A. leave much to be desired. The Los Angeles County Metro Rail runs six color-coded lines through the county, though not too many rail routes pass by major tourist sites. Trains typically operate from around 4 a.m. to midnight or 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, with extended hours until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Single rides cost $1.50 and can be paid using exact change or a reloadable TAP card, which you can purchase for $1 at a Metro Customer Center (there are several located around the city). You can also opt for a day pass that offers unlimited rides for $5, or a seven-day pass for $20.

Bus

More than 150 bus lines run through the city as well, though schedules and routes can be confusing to navigate for those unfamiliar with the city. Most buses start running around 5 a.m., but ending times range from about 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.; hours vary significantly by route and there are modified timetables on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. For more information, consult the schedules on the Metro website. Like on the Metro, you can pay with exact change each time or use a TAP card. Bus fares are the same as Metro fares: Single rides cost $1.50, day passes for unlimited rides cost $5 and seven-day passes cost $20.

If you're staying in the Santa Monica area, the Big Blue Bus operates several efficient routes from Santa Monica into downtown L.A. and to other oceanfront neighborhoods. Big Blue Bus tickets cost between $1 and $2 per ride, with discounts for seniors, students and children available. Day passes are also available for $4.

Taxi Traveling by taxi is also an option, but your bank account will resent it. Steep fares (starting at almost $3 with an additional $2.70 or so per mile) will definitely set you back, especially since Los Angeles is so spread out. Plus, most taxis will not pull over when hailed; rather you must reserve them in advance.

Next Steps: Los Angeles

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