Getting Around Los Angeles
The best way to get around Los Angeles is by car. Los Angeles is spread out across about 500 square miles, and while there is a public transportation system, its routes are limited compared to those found in other major cities. You can rent a car from one of the dozen or so rental agencies at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) – located about 15 miles southwest of the downtown area – or at any of the rental agencies found around the city. The Metro and bus systems also serve the airport, but be prepared for a slow ride. You can also take a taxi from the airport into the city, but that can be expensive: Flat rates between the airport and downtown are nearly $50 one-way. Lyft and Uber also operate at the airport. You'll meet your taxi, Lyft or Uber at LAX-it (pronounced "LA exit"), a recently-introduced pickup area for taxi and ride-share passengers. Travelers have the option to walk to LAX-it or hop aboard the dedicated shuttle from their terminal. For more information, visit the LAX website.
Because of the sheer size of the city, a car is necessary for getting around. That said, driving in LA isn't always easy; planning and patience will go a long way. Several major freeways crisscross 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. If you do decide to rent a car, keep in mind that parking near major attractions (especially the beaches) can be trying. You can rent a car at Los Angeles International Airport or once you get into the city for about $40 to $60 per day.
Compared to transportation in other major cities like New York and Chicago, the rail lines in LA leave much to be desired. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority runs six color-coded Metro lines through the county, though not too many rail routes pass by major tourist sites. Some stations that may be useful include the Red Line's Universal City/Studio City station (which is within walking distance of Universal Studios Hollywood) and the light blue Expo Line's Downtown Santa Monica station (located by the Third Street Promenade and the Santa Monica Pier). Trains typically operate from around 4 to 1:30 or 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, with extended hours until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Single rides cost $1.75 and can only be paid using a reloadable TAP card, which you can purchase for $1 at stations' TAP vending machines or for $2 at various vendors throughout the city. You can also opt for a day pass that offers unlimited rides for $7 or a seven-day pass for $25.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority also operates about 170 bus lines through the city, though schedules and routes can be confusing to navigate for those unfamiliar with the city. Most buses start running between 4 and 5 a.m., and ending times range from about 7:30 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 provided on the system's Maps & Timetables page. Like on the Metro, you can purchase a one- or seven-day pass for $7 or $25 each or pay the $1.75 one-way fare with a TAP card; exact change is accepted on board buses as well.
If you're staying in the Santa Monica area, the Big Blue Bus operates several efficient routes from Santa Monica into downtown LA and to other oceanfront neighborhoods. Big Blue Bus tickets cost $1.25 per ride, with discounts for seniors, students and children available. TAP cards can also be used to pay for fares, and one- and seven- day passes are available for $4 or $14 each. Big Blue Bus routes make stops daily between approximately 5:30 and 12:30 a.m., though exact times vary by day and bus. Rides can be organized via information provided on Big Blue Bus' Trip Planning page.
Traveling by taxi is another option for getting around the city, 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, so plan on reserving them in advance. Flat rates for one-way trips between the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and downtown are offered for $46.50 per group, but an additional $4 surcharge applies for all rides that start at the airport. Traveling between LAX and destinations outside the city center will set you back at least $15. You can also hail an Uber or Lyft via the companies' mobile apps.
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