As a local, you definitely need a car to see most of LA. If renting a car is not an option, book a tour to see all the touristy spots. LA is so spread out that public transportation is not the most viable option.
From my perspective...obviously you'd fly. United, Qantas and Air New Zealand fly Sydney - LA direct.
More obvious. In LA you drive...sometimes very slowly on the freeway. And I don't think they shoot each other as often anymore..nahh just joking, but a little caution never hurt anyone.
YOU MUST HAVE A CAR IN LOS ANGELES!!!!!!!!! YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING WITHOUT IT. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IS PATHETIC AND VIRTUALLY NOT EXISTANT. DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT TRYING TO GET AROUND LA ON BUSES OR A TRAIN. RENT A CAR OR DON'T BOTHER COMING!!!! A CONVERTIBLE IS A REALLY NICE CHOICE EVEN IN WINTER ON A SUNNY DAY IT'S MAGIC.
A car is almost a must !!! they have a new metro system but very limited and buses stop at 20-30 minute intervals on the average. taxis are a rarity and would cost a fortune as places are quite spread out. With a car, the freeway system is amazing though.
Transportation here SUX a fat one!!! You HAVE to hire a car to get about and if you are from New Zealand (like me) that causes some problems - these crazy yanks drive on the other side of the road!!
CAR - Here is me and my californian car!!!!
As I told allready, try to rent an electric car! Battery Range is from 50 to 80 Miles per charging, but there are a lot of charging stations all over the town, and if your Goal ist out of this range, plan a break of an hour ore two to recharge, while taking coffe or meals.
I forget to tell, you can rent an EV from BUDGET at LA Airport. The have the new Honda, some Ford Pickup's and the 2seatet sports car EV1 from GM. Prices are a little bit higher than for fuel powered cars, but the expirience and the great feeling in this machines will pay it back!
(about 45$/day for the EV1)
Take the public transportation. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. *laughing uncontrollably* The car makers of America united in the 30's to buy the Red Line street car system and dismantle it, forcing Angelinos to drive. And drive they do. All over their little nation-state. And you will too, if you want to get anywhere. Be sure to add an hour for traffic. You will hit it.
Don't be nervous about driving in LA if you are a tourist. I landed at LAX on my first ever visit to US and drove straight from LAX to West Hollywood. Also this was my first time driving on the right side of the road. The roads (boulevards) are very wide and the Interstate is super wide. Maybe on your first day driving you could avoid the Interstate until you are comfortable only because many people from Europe or Australia are not used to 5/6/7 lanes in each direction. Driving in LA is much easier than London, Paris, Sydney or virtually any other large city because LA was designed for cars. Parking is easy even around Hollywood/Sunset strip as there are many parking lots and they are not expensive. Virtually all accommodation will provide parking or a street permit. Also with the Interstate you can cover large distances quickly so day trips to Disneyland, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and even San Diego are not a problem. I never saw a traffic jam on the Interstate but just try and avoid them during the rush hours.
unfortunately, you can't really get around LA without a car. you can take a bus, but count on not finding the most direct route and waiting for over an hour for the bus to arrive, in addition to getting to your destination. you will be lugging your bags for blocks to find a bus station. i'm talking over ten blocks. LA is a car town. this is not san francisco.
that being said, LA is one of the easiest places i have ever driven, if you can get past the fact that everyone drives over 80mps+. really, it's simple. if you get a good map, you will find your way around with little preparation.
if you really don't want to drive, stay in hollywood and take a cab to your hotel from LAX and take a cab to the walk of fame (or whatever) and bev. hills to see the sights. then take a cab back. from your place in hollywood, DON'T TAKE A CAB TO SAN PEDRO. it's gonna cost you an arm and a leg. just rent a car and drive. then you can actually see other things, like driving on PCH, go the LACMA museum, do other stuff. . . santa monica pier . . . whatever you want!
i would really only spend money on cabs to get around areas that are concentrated with attractions. as far as commuting from city to city within LA, you are best just biting the bullet and renting a car. really, it's not that scary.
A lot of people say that driving in LA is a nightmare and I have spent a fair amount of time stuck on the 405 cursing at the traffic gods. Always give yourself a cushion if you have to be somewhere at a specific time, like any major urban area, traffic backups can occur at any time of the day, not just rush hour.
I didn't have a GPS on my most recent trip and I didn't even really have a map except for the tiny one that the car rental place gave me so I printed out directions from Bing every morning before I left my hotel. The routing was much different than what I would have picked from looking at a map, I imagine that it is adjusted for known traffic backups and the route was more interesting than sticking to the freeways.
If you are traveling LA's freeways with more than one person in your car (artificial people don't count, they must be breathing), you can take advantage of the car pool lanes that show up on many of the freeways. Look to the very left lane, if it's a car pool lane it is very clearly marked with signs saying that it's a car pool lane, there are diamond markings on the pavement and yellow double parallel lines that mean that you should not cross in or out of them. You should enter and exit at the marked spots which means that you usually have to wait for a bit after you merge onto the highway. I did see people traveling over the double yellow lines, I believe that you could get a ticket for that. Watch the signs that say what exits are covered at the next exit spot to make sure you can get out legally.
Motorcycles can also use the carpool lanes unless otherwise marked
Los Angeles is a very large spread out city. With the public transportation not being very well designed, it is recommended that you rent a car to get from place to place. If you don’t know the city well, make sure you have a map or better yet a GPS. The freeways can be quite daunting for those who are not used to driving in big cities and be prepared for traffic.
This is just a warning.... It is ALWAYS rush hour in LA. I have been stuck in traffic at all hours of the day, 8 am, noon, 5 pm, and 3 in the morning. Try to avoid driving during the week day high times such as 8-10 am and 4-7 pm. As a general rule Friday rush hour starts earlier - around 2 or 3.
There is no exception for weekends. Traffic starts back up again around 10 am as people flee the city to go down to San Diego or up to Santa Barbara. Either leave before 9 am or wait until after 7 pm to make any long distance drives. You'll arrive at the same time.
Traffic can also be bad at 2 in the morning. Since this is often the only time the freeway can be closed for repairs it is not uncommon for 4 lane freeways to be down to one lane which slows traffic down considerably.
Check online traffic reports before making any drives and plan accordingly.
When driving on the LA freeways, don't use your signal to change lanes until a couple seconds before you find an opening in traffic. If you signal too early you will be on the receiving end of a blocking maueuver. Even if traffic is light the drivers in this town are so rude and aggressive they still won't let you in.
You really do need a car to get around LA-there's no other way around it. LA's got a bus and train system, but it's just too spread out to navigate without driving.
I found the freeways a little intimidating at first-hey, I heard all the stories. I did acclimate myself to them rather quickly though. One piece of advice: don't rent a small economy car-you simply need a faster car in LA.