Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the US, and its sprawling landscape is sometimes overwhelming and unfamiliar to visitors.
It's a misconception that the entirety of the city can be seen within one day – even with a car (the most convenient mode of transport), this is just not possible.
Traveling around Los Angeles requires some strategic planning. While some neighborhoods welcome leisurely strolls, others will require a car or rideshare service, or at minimum, public transportation. For instance, driving is ideal in Malibu, the Metro is a great choice for Hollywood and Universal Studios, while biking and walking are encouraged around Santa Monica and Venice.
The good news is there's a multitude of options for everyone. Whether you require wheelchair access, space for a large group or are traveling solo, there's almost always a way to get to where you need to go.
A car will give you maximum convenience
I won’t beat around the bush – the best and most convenient way to explore Los Angeles is with a car. Many first-time visitors aren't prepared for the sheer size of the city combined with somewhat lackluster transport services. Unlike New York City, there isn’t a subway that can take you to all parts of town or even many areas popular with travelers.
However, there is a downside – driving in LA may not be for everyone. As someone who learned to drive in Australia, driving in The City of Angels for the first time was eye-opening, to say the least. The overall style is more aggressive and less defensive than in other places. This is mainly because taking a freeway or main road is necessary to get anywhere. When you add in the bumper-to-bumper traffic, merging or getting across requires you to be very confident and intentional.
Los Angeles is notorious for traffic congestion, especially during rush hours – it's not unusual to take 30 minutes to travel one mile. If you choose to drive, do it during off-peak times where possible.
Convenience meets comfort with the help of rideshares
If I’ve scared you off driving, perhaps a rideshare option like Uber, Lyft or Alto may be more your style. They're a popular option and wait times are rarely long.
If sustainability is important to you, most rideshare companies have environmental options that make your time on the road a little more green. Car seats for kids, wheelchair access, special assistance and pet-friendly vehicles are also available.
Another upside to rideshares is you don't have to worry about parking. Los Angeles is known for having very strict and confusing parking rules with sometimes limited options in popular areas. Even as a local, I often opt for a rideshare when going to places like West Hollywood.
However, recent years have seen prices rise significantly, so if you’re planning on exploring the entire city in one trip, the cost can quickly add up.
Local tip: The price of a trip is constantly changing and varies between apps – always compare your journey before booking. Just the other day, one app quoted me $27, while another proposed $120 for the same journey.
The bus is the most affordable way to travel
The bus service in Los Angeles is extensive and can take you almost anywhere; it's just a little slower. The schedules and routes can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the city, but real-time information is available with the Metro app.
Using public transport in LA is the most affordable way to explore the city. Adults and kids aged six and older pay $1.75 one-way, seniors pay $0.75 and kids under six ride for free. Drivers can't provide change for cash payments, so either carry the exact amount or purchase a TAP card for $1 and store funds on it. Alternatively, add a TAP card to your Apple Wallet for free and add funds there.
Recently, the city unveiled a simpler fare model that caps fares at $5 per day and $18 per week. This makes the bus an affordable and easily accessible option for exploring popular areas of the city.
Another new addition is the Metro Micro – a mix between a minibus and rideshare. For $1, you can order a ride via the app, but it only runs within specific suburban areas.
Beat the traffic and use the Metro
The train system in Los Angeles is referred to as the Metro and unfortunately is nowhere near as extensive as it is in other major cities like New York and Chicago. Many popular areas like West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Malibu don’t have access to the Metro, but the Red Line is great for those visiting Downtown, Hollywood or Universal City. Santa Monica also has a station via the E Line.
If the Metro is an option for your destination, it's a great way to avoid congested traffic. Trains generally operate every 10 to 15 minutes and it also uses the TAP system.
Explore Los Angeles on a bike
Biking is another sustainable and popular method of getting around Los Angeles, particularly on the Westside and Downtown. In 2016, Los Angeles launched the Metro Bike Share program with over 1500 bikes and 150 stations scattered around Downtown, Central LA, North Hollywood, Culver City, Santa Monica and Venice.
The service is available for those 16 and up with a registered TAP account. Download the Metro Bike app, locate a bike and start riding. Your first 30 minutes is $1.75, while $5 will give you access for 24 hours. There are also 30-day and 365-day passes available.
Scoot your way around scenic routes
When looking for a fun way to explore specific neighborhoods, attractions and scenic routes, e-scooters are a great choice. Various companies operate e-scooter rentals and in high-traffic areas, they’re easy to find.
Once again, they work through smartphone apps and the process is a simple and sustainable way to explore LA.
Walk your way around Downtown
Los Angeles is less walkable compared to other urban cities, but this depends on the neighborhood you’re in. Downtown is one of the most walkable parts of the city, with a mix of cultural attractions, restaurants and shops, all within a relatively compact area. From there, use the Metro Red Line to get into Hollywood – another easy place to add to your step count. Coastal Westside areas like Santa Monica and Venice can also be explored on foot.