Driving, Los Angeles
Like everybody says, you have to have a car in LA. The seocnd time I went to LA i didn't have a car cause i wasn't old ebough to rent one so I had to use the great public transportation. I waited for a bus for more than an hour.....so just be smart and rent a car. Still, you will be sitting in traffic more than once that's for sure.
Traffic in La is horrendous and rush hour times are from around 8am to 9:30am and from 4pm to 7pm (it actually depends on the freeway). The worse freeways are the 10 and the 405, the 210 is pretty bad too.
The best thing is to understand that you will lose time in traffic and that no matter which freeway you choose, it will be packed with cars, so just take it easy, find a good radio station and enjoy the trip!!
When cruising up Pacific Coast Hwy from Santa Monica to and past Malibu, the posted speed limit is 45 MPH in some areas and 50 in others. However, the traffic tends to travel 5 to 10 MPH higher than the posted speed limit. The police will ticket anyone going 10 MPH over the speed limit. If you just drive the speed limit be sure to stay in the right lane.
I included the unrelated picture of the warning sign down near San Diego where illegal immigrants race across the freeway just because it is funny. But people do try to run across PCH, so you have to be careful.
If you get a chance to be in LA or around LA like I've had, get a car... Preferably a convertible because the weather is great around here most of the time.
The costs are relatively low, I rented a Ford Mustang Convertible for around $150 a week with unlimited miles. The roads are quite good, parking is never a problem, the only thing to avoid is rush hour. You don't want to stand in a traffic jam for hours just because you and 2 million others want to go to the beach at the same time.
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.
If you wanna visit LA, bear in mind you really do need a car. In fact, due to the long distances from one place to the other, it is impossible to reach a spot just on foot!
I was the only person walking there!
Without a doubt, traffic in LA sucks! And that is putting it mildly. I can proudly call quite knowledgeable about LA traffic as I am literally a professional commuter and am always willing to share my words of advice. If possible, try to avoid driving during "rush hour" traffic. Rush hour times are Monday to Fridays from 6am to 9am and from 3.30pm to 7pm. Also, plan to have some really good music, to help deal with the driving rage and snail pace crawl. And remember, BREATHE!
Six years ago (in 1997) I was in LA too, and found driving really easy.
Before my visit of this year (2003) I checked the transportation tips here and to my big surprise almost everyone said that driving was tough, but the only way to go.
My tip: just avoid the busy hours: travel between 9am and 4.30 pm and from on 7pm again.
Driving in Sta Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Venice is easy. The roads are not too crowdy and I think most local drivers have good road-manners.
The reason there are sooo many great cars in LA is that they are completely ncessary. you will be trapped without one, Public transportation sucks and taxis are too expensive. you can enjoy a week somewhere but would be best to have car,but be ready for traffic like you've never seen
This isn't my tip, I found this bumper sticker on a California-registered vehicle on the freeway system in the greater Los Angeles area. "Road Rage" was probably a term coined in California, where in the 1980's people actually shot people who wouldn't get out of their way. Don't worry, I was the passenger when I took this picture. After seeing this I wasn't about to drive erratically!
There must be more Volkswagon Bugs per capita than anywhere else I've ever been. Of course, this picture was taken prior to the new VW Bugs were created. I liked this car's vanity license plates though, so I snapped a picture.
The growth inducement potential of the highways greatly exceeded that of the streecar network because of the expanded scale of the highway system and the accelerating metropolitian growth which coincident with the begining of the automobile period.
Los Angeles is full of cars and has essentially no useful subway system (although that may be changing). Anyway, avoid driving between 7:45 - 9:30 AM and between 3:30 - 6:45 PM. Rush hour is not fun for anyone and people drive like pricks. If you must drive during rush hour, don't bother using your turn signal to merge, because is seems that people will intentionally not let you over. Best method is to signal AS you are getting over, not before. If you are not driving at rush hour, drive at least the speed limit (which on most freeways is 65 - the exception being parts of the 110), but preferably faster. And don't bother with the carpool lane unless you plan to go 80 mph.
One thing that i like about the freeways in LA is the graffiti - especially the big pieces under the bridges - that you can see from your car. Many of you will probably find that odd or just simply disagree, but such is life.
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.
Especially for out-of-towners, it can be an issue driving here in L.A. on the freeway because of the unawareness of special toll/carpool lanes. This is the frustrating case near downtown L.A. in parts of south and east L.A. with the 110 and 10 Express Lanes. Only vehicles with a "Fast Trak" transponder can ride on these special carpool lanes. You may get a violation ticket if caught riding in these lanes. You may likely get out of paying a fine using an "out-of-town ignorance" excuse but that would have be argued out eventually. If local, you may get out of a violation by immediately signing up for getting a transponder. Note: Motorcycles do NOT need a transponder to be in the lanes.
A transponder requires a $40 deposit and cost $1/month for maintenance fee (which I imagine will likely go up in the future). The initial $40 is deducted in increments each time the vehicle uses the toll lanes.
The 110 stretches from Adams Blvd to the Harbor Transitway on HOT(High Occupancy Toll) lanes. The 10 stretches from Alameda St to the 605 freeway.
Check map for the visuals:
Locals get a transponder to ride on these lanes. The transponder has a switch which drivers use to indicate how many passengers are in the vehicle.
**On the 110, all vehicles with 2, 3 or more than 3 people can ride the lanes for FREE at ALL times. Solo drivers an a toll which varies.
** On the 10, vehicles with 3 or more people can ride for FREE at all times. Vehicles with fewer people have to pay during high traffic peak times (5 AM- 9 AM; 4 PM- 7PM). Otherwise, they ride toll-free in non-peak hours..
Basically, for TOURISTS and unaware locals: heads up! Be extra aware of the traffic lanes designated for the FasTrakers. For me and many other locals, these express lanes as extortion and don't truly crack down on the traffic! What ever happened to freeways being free? Hmmm...in name only!
For more info, click the link and try to make sense of this.
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.