How to Get Around LA Without a Car + Where to Stay
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Welcome to Los Angeles, home of the film industry, incredible weather, beautiful mountains, popular beaches, and famous amusement parks. You can’t visit California without spending a few days in LA. And the good news for those of you traveling through, you don’t need a car to get around Los Angeles.
After spending a week exploring Los Angeles, I found it differs greatly from New York City and Chicago; it’s far more spread out rather than built up putting popular attractions farther away from each other. However, you can save money and avoid insane traffic by opting to not rent a car during your trip here.
Getting around Los Angeles without a car might not be a common practice, but it is possible and I’ll share how. For starters, there is so much to see and experience in this city, it would be impossible to do it all no matter how fast you drive if you rent a car. So let’s explore how to get around Los Angeles without a car.
How to Get Around LA Without a Car
Many popular attractions in Los Angeles are far apart as this city is very spread out. But they’re not impossible to see without a car. Plus, you can save a lot of money by not renting a car for your trip. Gas is insanely expensive here, and parking will cost you a pretty penny everywhere you go.
There are many free museums and attractions in LA, but most of them charge for parking; so in reality they're not free with a car. It’s often cheaper to take an Uber than to park, and it’s definitely cheaper to use public transportation. Here are the best tips for getting around LA without a car.
1. Download Uber and Lyft
2. Avoid rush hour | 7-10 am and 4-7 pm
3. Use public transportation
4. Download the Tap app for metro and bus tickets
5. Plan your journey with Google Maps
6. Leave extra time to get places
7. Stay in Koreatown/Downtown
Public Transportation in Los Angeles for Tourists
It can take a little bit longer to get between activities if you’re getting around Los Angeles without a car, but if you factor in traffic and having to stop for gas, it isn’t by much. There are trains and buses dotted around the city that can take you nearly everywhere making it a convenient option.
Before you use LA public transportation, download the Tap app and create an account. You can purchase all your tickets on this app, find stops near you, and see train and bus schedules. Download Google Maps as well as it gives you the clearest public transportation directions.
Purchase your tickets in advance, before you head out for the day, if you know where you’re going. You can add various money increments to your Tap account. Each train and bus ride will cost you about $1.75. If you’re in LA for a few days, I suggest adding about $10 to start out with. You can always add more later.
Just scan your phone when you’re getting on a bus or going through the ticket gates at a train station. If you have Apple wallet (or the equivalent), save your Tap card from the Tap app to your wallet. You don’t even need to have your phone on, it will automatically charge your Tap card when you scan it.
There is a fare cap if you use a Tap card, meaning you won’t be charged over $5 in one day or over $18 in one week. It will automatically cap if you add your card to your Apple wallet. This saves you more money as once you’ve reached the cap amount (of the day or of the week) any rides after are free.
The trains and buses are pretty well signed. You can always ask the bus driver if that bus goes to the stop you need. If you’ve never ridden on a big-city train, the LA metro might be a bit of a shock. It’s a little sketchier than other cities, but it’s still a good way to get around.
If you're riding a bus here, make sure you know exactly what stop you need to get off at. Once you reach the stop before yours, get ready to push the stop button. You must request to stop with the red stop buttons or by pulling the cord on the windows down.
Always stay aware of your surroundings and avoid taking the train late at night or really early in the morning. Homeless people might try to bother you occasionally, but keep to yourself and you should be fine. When in doubt, try to find a family group to stick close to.
Rideshare: Uber and Lyft
Another option is to utilize rideshare while in Los Angeles. Uber and Lyft are both available here. I recommend setting an account up with both if you don’t already have one. This way you can check your route on both apps to see which is cheaper.
Sometimes, Lyft is cheaper than Uber or vice versa. Often they’re about the same, but occasionally there’s a large difference so it doesn’t hurt to check. I recommend getting an Uber or Lyft from the airport to your accommodation as well; it's the easiest option.
If you do choose to go with rideshare, remember you’ll be subject to LA’s traffic as well. Try to avoid booking a ride during rush hour in LA, around 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. If there’s a place you really want to check out while in LA, try to head out early in the morning to get to it.
Rideshares are generally cheaper outside of rush hour. Say you know you want to spend a day at Universal Studios Hollywood; leave before 7 a.m. and have breakfast before you enter the park opening time. You’ll avoid most traffic and have the entire day ahead of you to spend at the park.
While rush hour traffic in Los Angeles is insane, it is generally only on the freeways. If you're going somewhere that doesn't require you to get on the freeway, you should be totally fine.
Rideshare From LAX Airport
There is a specific rideshare pickup location at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). From inside the airport, follow the signs to the rideshare pickup. Once outside where passenger pickup is located, there will be a free bus that takes you to the rideshare location. It's located outside of all the terminals so the bus is the only way to get to it.
It is somewhat easy to find the bus with a large sign saying "rideshare". There’s only one stop for this bus, the rideshare pickup. Uber and Lyft have their own sides once you're at the rideshare pickup, and your app (depending on which you book) will tell you exactly what pick-up location your ride will be arriving in.
There are multiple pickup locations within the rideshare area, and each spot is numbered. Go to your specific pickup spot and wait for your ride; they will be going to that specific spot to pick you up. This is to help dilute traffic. Drop-off is much easier. They are allowed to drop you off at your terminal.
The Best Option: A Mix of Both
The best option for how to get around LA without a car is to use a mix of both public transportation and rideshares. Take a train or bus for the largest stretch of your journey and opt for an Uber or Lyft the remainder of the way.
Take getting to Griffith Observatory for example. You can take the Metro B line train from downtown and get off at Vermont & Sunset. An Uber from here to the observatory is only about 10 minutes and costs around $8.
Sometimes buses only run every hour so you might end up having to take an Uber somewhere; however, this only happened once during my week in LA. The trains are a little more reliable, but also a little sketchier and most of them run underground.
Where to Stay in Los Angeles Without a Car
The best place to stay in Los Angeles without a car is in downtown near Little Tokyo. This neighborhood is filled with delicious restaurants and coffee shops, and it’s close to a few popular Los Angeles attractions.
There are also metro stations and bus stops conveniently located around this area. The best hotels in downtown Los Angeles are boutique hotels, my top recommendation being Citizen M.
This modern, artsy hotel is in the heart of DTLA (downtown Los Angeles) and within walking distance of some of the best restaurants such as Yuko Kitchen DTLA and Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen. It’s also much more affordable than other hotels in the area.
CitizenM in Koreatown
Modern, chic decor
Completely digital room
24-hour eatery in house
Gym and lounges
Just like most other cities in the US, there are homeless people that live in LA. You will see them in Little Tokyo like every other area of Los Angeles. Just mind your own business and leave them alone. Little Tokyo in downtown is a cheaper area, but from personal experience, it was a great place to stay in LA.
How to Get Around LA Without a Car FAQ
Is it hard to get around LA without a car?
It can take a little longer to get places without a car in Los Angeles. However, it’s still worth skipping a rental car. You’ll save money on parking and gas, and you still run the risk of getting stuck in traffic if you rent a car.
Plan your journey on public transportation with Google Maps and download the Tap app to buy tickets for LA public transportation. You can also catch an Uber or Lyft somewhere for convenience and still spend less than a car rental.
How do tourists get around LA?
The best way for tourists to get around LA without a car is by utilizing the trains and buses and downloading the Uber and Lyft apps. You’ll save a lot of money by skipping a car rental and still be able to get everywhere you need. Rideshares are abundant in the city and the public transportation routes are spread out.
Cheapest Way to Get Around Los Angeles
The cheapest way to get around Los Angeles is by train or bus. Using public transportation is a great way to save money while in LA. Tickets cost around $1.75 per ride and there is a fare cap of $5 per day or $18 per week. Once you’ve paid that amount in fare costs, the remainder of your rides that day or week will be free.
The metro and the buses are much cheaper than renting a car or using rideshare, like Uber and Lyft, in Los Angeles. Remember to give yourself a little extra time to get places if you plan on solely using public transportation in LA.
Los Angeles is a superb city to visit in California and one of the best in the United States. From the famous Hollywood to classics like Universal Studios and Santa Monica Pier, there is so much to see and experience in LA.
While it’s a very spread-out city compared to the other US giants like Chicago and NYC, it is possible to get around Los Angeles without a car. Download the Tap app to utilize public transportation and buy tickets in advance.
You should also have Uber and Lyft on your phone for backup options; sometimes it’s easier to go the rideshare route or keep it cheap and convenient with a mix of both. Take a train or bus for the longest stretch of your journey, then hop in an Uber for the remainder of the way.
Now you know exactly how to get around LA without a car. It might not be common practice, but it is doable! Save money and avoid the headache of sitting in traffic by opting to not rent a car for your trip to Los Angeles. You’ll have more money to spend on fun activities!
Where are you going next?
While you're in Los Angeles, head up to Mt. Hollywood for the views and the free observatory. Plan to hike at Griffith Observatory for a fun LA adventure!
Calling all movie lovers and thrill seekers, don't skip this Los Angeles classic. Plan a day at Universal Studios Hollywood full of exciting coasters, all things Harry Potter, a world of Mario, and more!
Want to see more of the United States, check out some of the most underrated places to visit in the US for an epic trip. From nature to cities, there's something for everyone here.
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