To know about Los Angeles is to dread the 405 freeway. Stretching from the valley area to down south in Orange county, it is considered one-if not THE worst traffic jammer of southern California (The 101 and 91 can contend for the title also). Though I have heard countless nightmare stories and seen on local TV of the major stress associated with the long 405 cummute (I don't live close to and travel often on the 405), I am always amazed how people, especially those taking it solo put up with it , especially in the always busy pockets of West LA and down south in the Irvine-Costa Mesa/O.C. area.
Well, there will be continued congestion on the 405 just like donuts and coffee devoured in the morning. At least, there is some hope for the drive (unlike your stomach will have after numerous donuts and coffee consumed every day). There is on-going carpool construction (projected to be finished mid 2010s) in the West L.A.-valley area. Check on the MTA website for updates before beginning to tackle the 405, especially in L.A.!
I've used Hotwire and Priceline before when renting a car in LA, the obvious downside is that you can't cancel your reservation without losing your money. This time I encountered another downside, Budget had apparently rented out so many cars that they ran out of them, I had to wait in a 50 person line to get to the counter and then wait for another 1/2 hour to get a car. I had rented a full size car because I needed four doors and often with smaller cars they will not guarantee 4 doors. I ended up with a Ford Taurus, a bigger car than I am used to driving and I assume with not very good gas mileage.
I got a great rate, $11.95 per day, but I'm not sure that the savings was worth the hassle. I'm tempted to look into one of the major car companies programs where you get dropped off as a fast track booth and a car is sitting there waiting for you, then maybe I will end up with the exact car that I want!
But sometimes Hotwire works just fine, in October 2008 I got the exact car I would have asked for for $13.95 per day plus we got a GPS for no additional fee, it certainly came in handy!
I heard this somewhere: People say that 'Nobody walks in L.A.' but it's more accurate to say you're a nobody if you walk in L.A. or you're a nobody if you don't have a car.
Again, I'm only relaying what I heard; although I would agree with the fact that you need a car in L.A., commentaries aside.
LA is a car city. Everything is so spread out which makes a car a necessity. So is intestinal fortitude if you're planning on getting on a freeway, which is also required if you're going anywhere.
LA traffic is one of the worst in the nation. To compensate for this, anytime the freeways are not congested, Californians drive at a rapid and aggressive pace, weaving in and out of traffic and moving as fast as their car's RPM's will allow. After all, you never know when traffic will come to a screeching halt. This usually occurs when you're driving at a mere 70 mph while all other cars are weaving around you when suddenly brake lights come on in mass and everyone is stopped.
So, in a nutshell, a car is a necessity. Unless you're very wealthy and can afford a driver of your own.
You've heard this before, I know, but I'll say it again . . . you need to get a car! Renting a car in LA is actually not that expensive (but I think you'll find that you do need to be over 25 for most of the major companies). Car culture is big in LA not because we particularly like them, but because it's very hard to enjoy (or work in) the city without one. (By the way, people that maintain that 'in LA you are what you drive' are usually people who are trying to convince themselves that spending more for their fancy car than their (less fancy) home really makes sense.)
If a car is really not an option, try to stay in Santa Monica and use the 'Big Blue Bus' line. This is a good idea as (1) you'll be in Santa Monica/Venice area for your base, which means you are at the consistently most vibrant beach area in town and (2) you will have easy, clean access to a bunch of other places. That said, a car will add to your pleasure a great deal.
Lastly, driving the LA freeways will probably feel daunting at first. Try to know where you are going before you get on as the road signs are not always are good as you would hope. For Brits especially, the fact that you are on a six or seven lane highway where everyone can overtake everyone else in any lane can be scary.
CAR CAR CAR .... You have to have a car to get around L.A since it is such a big city. They have some sort of public transportation look at my tips. BUT it's basically just around Hollywood and Santa Monica. They have busses everywhere but it will take a very long time to get where you want to go.
You can fly, drive, bike, or boat into LA. There are other methods, sure, but the best way to get to LA is by plane. Driving across the desert from Arizona or Nevada will be an adventure, but bring lots of water.
You really must have a car. I got a good deal from Alamo when I first visited LA in 1998, but you should shop around for special rates before arriving. If you're adventurous, you can travel by bus and subway, but you've got to be a good planner and have lots of free time and patience. You must also get along well in crowded situations. Buses run until 1 or 2am and start again by 5am. The drivers went on strike last year, so hopefully that won't happen again for a while. The best bet is to stick with an automobile, if you've got the budget, so that you have the freedom to drive all around the city or drive to the mountains and beaches.
(Photo: The old control tower, LAX International Airport - June 2001)
Fly, drive, levitate. Just get here!
Convertible, for sure. Or if you know how, ride a Harley, be VERY careful though as traffic might be a bit more intense than in other countries. You can check rentals out at: http://www.route66riders.com/
From a long distance flying is the best. Otherwise, driving in can be pretty and fun. Especially coming from northern California, Nevada or Arizona
Driving is really the best way to get anywhere. The freeways are crowded and parking is basically non-existent, but without a car it will take awhile to get around to everywhere there is to go here. The underground is not extensive at all, and the bus system just isn't great.
LAX airport is the best bet when getting to Los Angeles. The location is very good and in a safe location. Take the bus or train and you and Los Angeles will not get off to the best start!
By car of course. Los Angeles is HUGE , in fact you will never know it to see it but Beverly hills is twenty minutes from the beach and LA itself 45 minutes. However if you REALLY don't know where you are going take a taxi or a tour before you get into the drive mode here. LA driver are the worst drivers in the WORLD!
There is no doubt that traffic is a nightmare in LA. The best way to beat it is to just not be out on the road between 7am-10am and 3pm-7pm. It's horrible.
LA does have a subway, but it's not as well known or popular or practical as in other cities.
You'll need to drive and schedule things appropriately.
You definitley need a CAR to get around L.A. Places are too far away to go by taxi or bus, and you will spend a fortune. L.A. is a big place and expect LOTS of TRAFFIC! The freeways are always packed out here and you can expect to be stuck in it for quite a while during rush hour times.
Pick your favorite way to get here. If you fly into LAX, however, I don't suggest you attempt to drive directly from the airport. Try to get a shuttle out to a rental agency. Even locals avoid the airport traffic at all cost.
You need a car. As the wise say, nobody walks in L.A.
You must have a car to get around in L.A. There's absolutely no other way. It's just too big and spread out. Plus, one of the best parts of being in L.A. is just driving around and checking things out, whether it's driving thru Malibu and gawking at the monstrous houses or driving along Melrose and looking at all the pretty people, a car is a must.
LA has TRIED so hard to promote public transportation but it will be a long while before people jump out of their cars and into metro and buses. Besides, LA is vast so it's much easier to access places by cars.