Destination guide: Los Angeles, United States
The city of Los Angeles is on the south coast of California in the United States and attracts thousands of fans of both movies and glamour. Among its main attractions are Hollywood, Disneyland, the Universal, Warner Brothers and Paramount studios, Griffith Park and the famous beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu and Laguna Beach.
From Los Angeles, you can visit other fabulous destinations such as Las Vegas, the California coast, Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. Don’t put it off any longer and fly to the United States sooner that you expected.
Los Angeles- Transportation
Bringing up traffic in a travel context may be akin to discussing E coli at a backyard barbecue, but if your burger’s half-cooked, someone’s gonna be unhappy down the road. Likewise, if you drive in LA, you can avoid unhappiness with the right knowledge and preparation.
First, check www.sigalert.com for traffic updates. A sigalert is any traffic problem expected to tie up two or more freeway lanes for two or more hours. Avoid driving east on the I-10 after 4pm. Unless you have a full gas tank and several spare hours, don’t do it. If you have tickets for the Walt Disney Concert Hall, you’ll probably be late. Plan to leave Westside early in the afternoon then wander the Fashion District, Chinatown or MOCA until showtime.
Other points? The I-405 (San Diego Fwy) and the I-101 (Hollywood Fwy) can become sluggish almost instantly, even in the middle of the day. Also know that there are stoplights on many freeway entrance ramps to regulate traffic flow. Obey them. Sunset Strip on weekend nights is a cruising nightmare. Finally, most stoplights don’t have left-hand turn signals so drivers have to turn left on a red light. Two is the acceptable (but maybe not legal) number of cars that can turn left on red. Oncoming traffic knows to wait. Now you do too.
A network of bus routes spans the metropolis, with most operated by Metro Transit Authority (MTA; [tel] 800-266-6883, TTD 800-252-9040; www.metro.net). Its one-way fare is $1.25 and up to $2.45 for freeway routes. Most routes operate 5am to 2am daily. Individual tickets and day passes (exact fare required) can be purchased from the bus driver.
Fast, frequent Metro Rapid buses (numbered in the 700s) make limited stops. Bus 720 travels downtown from Santa Monica via Westwood, Beverly Hills and Mid-City’s Miracle Mile along Wilshire in about 45 to 90 minutes depending on departure time.
For quick hops, DASH minibuses ([tel] 213-808-2273; www.ladottransit.com) cost just $0.25. Six downtown DASH routes, A to F, run every five to 20 minutes from 6am or 6:30am to 6:30pm or 7pm weekdays with limited service weekends. Other key routes for visitors include Fairfax, Hollywood, and Hollywood/West Hollywood.
Big Blue Bus
Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus ([tel] 310-451-5444; www.bigbluebus.com) rumbles through much of western LA including Beverly Hills, Culver City, Westwood/UCLA and Venice. One-way fares are $0.75 and transfers to a different bus or bus system are $0.50. The freeway express to downtown LA costs $1.75 (from another bus, transfer is $1). Big Blue Bus routes are abbreviated ‘BBB’ in this book’s reviews. The ‘Mini-Blue’ Tide Shuttle ($0.50) departs Santa Monica Pl at Third St Promenade for Venice Beach via Ocean Ave, returning north via Main St every 15 minutes from noon to 8pm (to 10pm Friday and Saturday).
Car & Motorcycle
If you’re planning to visit several neighborhoods, it may be wise to rent a car. Because of LA’s sprawl, public transportation can be cumbersome and time-consuming, while taxis can be prohibitively expensive. Embracing LA’s carcentric mentality will be easier on your patience if not your conscience.
LA’s freeways are variously referred to by number or by name. To add to the fun, the same freeway may have a different name in a different region. Here are the biggies:
I-5 Golden State/Santa Ana Fwy
I-10 Santa Monica/San Bernadino Fwy
I-110 Pasadena/Harbor Fwy
I-405 San Diego Fwy
I-710 Long Beach Fwy
US 101 Hollywood/Ventura Fwy
Hwy 1 Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH)
Freeways should be avoided during rush hour (5am to 9am and 3pm to 7pm), although traffic jams can occur at any time. Beachfront highways get jammed on weekend mornings, and Sunset Strip is slow going on weekend nights.
On-street parking can be tight. If you find a spot, it may be metered or restricted, so obey posted signs to avoid a ticket. Private lots and parking garages cost at least $5 a day and can be much more expensive downtown. Valet parking can cost as much as $30 a day. Municipal lots near Rodeo Dr in Beverly Hills and bordering Third St Promenade in Santa Monica are free for a certain time.
Visitors can legally drive in California with a valid driver’s license issued in their home country. If you’re from overseas, an International Driving Permit is not compulsory but may give you better credibility with traffic police. It may also help the car-rental process, especially if your license isn’t in English or doesn’t have a photograph. To obtain an IDP, stop by your local automobile association with a passport photo and home license. Be sure to carry both while driving.
The Metro Transit Authority ([tel] 800-266-6883, TTY 800-252-9040; www.metro.net) operates about 200 bus lines as well as five Metro Rail lines. Introduced in 2009, a plastic, rechargeable Transit Access Pass (TAP; www.tapgo.net) can be used throughout the county in addition to cash. Currently, the MTA sells day ($5) and weekly ($17) passes, valid on both bus and rail lines. Tickets and passes are sold at more than 400 retail outlets around town, and at MTA customer centers including Union Station ([hrs] 6am-6:30pm Mon-Fri) and Mid-City (5301 Wilshire Blvd; [hrs] 9am-5pm Mon-Fri).
Most companies charge a $2.85 base fee then $2.70 per mile. Don’t expect to hail a cab from the sidewalk; you need to call ahead.Try Bell Cab ([tel] 888-235-5222), Checker Cab ([tel] 800-300-5007) or Yellow Cab ([tel] 877-733-3305). Costs can add up quickly in traffic-snarled LA. Surcharges for airport drop-offs, pick-ups and extra passengers and luggage may also apply.
Operated by MTA, Metro Rail light-rail trains connect downtown with Hollywood and Universal City (Red Line), Pasadena (Gold Line) LAX (Green Line), Long Beach (Blue Line) and Los Feliz (Purple Line). One-way fares are $1.25. Trains run approximately 5am to midnight.