While parts of downtown LA and Hollywood are lovely to see on foot, you’ll need to hop on the Metro to access more scattered attractions and neighborhoods. Plan your itinerary in advance, because some off-the-grid points may be better-accessed by car.
Public transportation in Los Angeles
Sometimes public transportation in LA gets a bad rap. Less than one-twelfth of residents use it on a daily basis — a stark contrast to NYC, where a quarter of the population takes public transit every day. LA locals may shy away because rail stations can be inconvenient to get to without hopping on the bus first.
To make things more convenient, look for places to stay near key metro lines.
In LA, the subway and light rail are both referred to as Metro Rail lines. Locals use both to get where they need to be.
A single-ride fare with the LA Metro is just $1.75, though you can buy a day pass for $7 or a weekly pass for $25 — cheaper than the cost of renting a car. You’ll load fares onto a Metro TAP card (these cost $2 plus fare) and swipe for entry at most stations.
The Metro Rail includes two subway routes: the Red Line and Purple Line. Red runs from North Hollywood to Union Station downtown, and Purple spans between Union Station and Koreatown.
Four light rail routes, part of the Metro Rail network, run above ground: Blue, Green, Gold and Expo. These connect downtown LA to other areas like Santa Monica and Long Beach.
Catch a ride around town via three different bus services:
Metro Rail buses. LA’s public transportation options include Metro Local buses that stop frequently along major routes, Metro Rapid buses that stop less frequently and Metro Express buses for commuters that connect freeways.
Municipal buses. Two express bus lines, Orange and Blue, connect major subway stops.
DASH buses. Clean-fuel shuttles make stops along 33 routes. Note service stops between 6:30 and 7 p.m. on most lines, with limited service on weekends. It costs just 50 cents to board — 25 cents for seniors and folks with disabilities.
Pro tip: Download the LA Mobile app, which lets you buy, store and use tickets with LADOT Transit.
How to plot your routes:
Instead of poring over a map, use these tools to help you get there seamlessly:
Go Metro Los Angeles. This mobile app recommends routes and indicates how long each trip will take.
Metro Trip Planner. An efficient way to plan longer trips around the LA area.
Taxis, rideshares and tours
There’s no shortage of wheels for rent or hire to take you directly to your destination.
More than 2,300 taxis cruise through Los Angeles. Before climbing in, make sure the cab features an official City of Los Angeles Taxicab Seal:
It’s a good idea to book or call a taxi in advance, since hailing one from the side of the road is extremely difficult and even illegal in some areas, including downtown.
Uber and Lyft reign supreme in Los Angeles and tend to be cheaper than cabs overall. Both offer transport from LAX.
Cruise around on a Metro Bike. Visitors can pay per ride ($1.75 per 30 minutes) or purchase a 24-hour pass for just $5. Locals pay $17 for a 30-day pass or $150 for year-long access.
You can also rent a bicycle from a local shop, though prices might be higher than sticking with Metro Bike.
Hop on one of the many available tours, whether you’re hoping to get a behind-the-scenes look at Universal Studios or are more interested in a historical retrospective of old-town LA.
Renting a car from Enterprise in Los Angeles costs an average of $44 per day, according to data from Kayak.com.
Price data obtained July 2019. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.
Driving in Los Angeles
Heed these insider tips for a smooth ride when you get behind the wheel:
Avoid commuter hours at all costs. Tourists hoping to maximize sightseeing time will want to avoid highways from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m on weekdays. These are gridlock times.
Pedestrians have the right-of-way — always. At every intersection, even if there’s not a crosswalk, be sure to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross the road. It’s the law.
Avoid the 405. Locals agree: The north-south 405 freeway is bedlam. Swap it out for Coldwater or Laurel Canyons.
Try Waze. If you must traverse LA during peak hours, use the Waze GPS app to avoid major thoroughfares. Out-of-towners may benefit from taking less hectic back roads.
Wear sunglasses. The only thing worse than sitting in traffic is squinting through traffic. In a state that’s sunny 284 days a year, chances are high you’ll want eye protection.
Centrally located options for touching down in LA include:
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Perched on the edge of the Pacific, LAX is the largest airport in California and hosts domestic and worldwide flights. It’s about 40 minutes to one hour southwest of downtown LA.
Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR). Domestic and international flights land north and slightly west of downtown LA, near Long Beach, Disneyland and major entertainment studios.
Long Beach Airport (LGB). Directly south of downtown LA, LGB is known for shorter lines and excellent food options. Note it only services domestic flights.
If you’re not renting a car, consider booking a shuttle from the airport to your final destination. Viator and Jayride both offer quick, cheap transport.
Public transportation in Los Angeles is well-suited for visitors hopping between popular sites, but travelers planning off-the-beaten track excursions might be better-suited renting a car. Once you plan your itinerary in the City of Angels, find places to eat and drink.
Frequently asked questions
The purple subway line has eight stops between downtown LA, Westlake and Koreatown. Hop on at Wilshire/Western and get off at Union Station.
Los Angeles is about two hours from San Diego, depending on traffic — though it could be closer to three on congested roads.
The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner will take you from LA to San Diego in just under three hours for around $37 one-way. Wi-Fi included, nap optional.
Union Station at 800 North Alameda St. is Los Angeles’s major transportation hub, and Amtrak’s fifth-largest station nationwide.
Catch the Pacific Surfliner to traverse the southern California coast or the Texas Eagle to end in Chicago or San Antonio, among other routes.
Yes. Pets are allowed on Metro buses and rail lines as long as they’re secured in a hand carrier. Service animals are welcome aboard outside of carriers, but emotional support and therapy animals must be in enclosed carriers.
Stephanie Yip is the travel editor at Finder and has been writing about travel and lifestyle for over a decade. She has written for a range of travel publications including Thomas Cook Magazine and Showpo. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, and has visited over 50 countries (and counting). She has a passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge of travel and helping consumers stretch their travel cash while on holiday.
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