Los Angeles is notorious for its traffic and lack of good public transportation options. The city is a spaghetti maze of freeways, surface streets and narrow canyon roads (connecting the basin with the San Fernando Valley). Those that want to see LA to the fullest are looking at renting a car. However there are many other options available for those who would prefer to stay off the roads but still efficiently get around.
If you rent a car know that Los Angeles can be confusing at first but if you study the maps you’ll soon get the hang of things. Despite its many freeways there are only two that prominently criss cross the recommended areas of this guide-the 405 (San Diego Freeway) and the 101 (Hollywood Freeway). It’s the 405 that gets you from LAX into Venice, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica areas while the 101 connects Universal Studios with Hollywood. Most of your driving will not be on these freeways but surface streets.
The main east/west arteries to stay on are Sunset, Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds. Depending on traffic you can get from Hollywood to the Westside in as little as 30 minutes or it can take over an hour. The streets of LA are in poor condition and with the many cracks and potholes you’ll think you were driving in the rustbelt. Parking is fairly easy in LA, there are tons of meters and with just a little persistence you should be able grab a spot. Be careful though, money has been tight in LA and the traffic cops are in full force writing tickets as soon as some of the meters expire. As for side street parking, read the signs! West Hollywood has the most restrictions, Beverly Hills is manageable.
If you rent a car, follow Sepulveda Blvd NORTH out of the LAX area to the 405 where you want to take the 405 NORTH. DO not follow Century Blvd east. Although you can intercept the 405 here it is tricky and if you miss it you end up driving into the ghettos of Los Angeles (South Central and Inglewood).
Los Angeles operates an extensive bus system throughout the city. However the buses, like cars are at the whim of traffic and will take longer (due to the additional stops) to get from one point to the next. Most of the bus lines follow the major arteries of the city so it is easy to get from the beaches to Beverly Hills and West Hollywood by riding either the orange or red buses along Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds. Hollywood is a little more trickier as you have to take a bus south along La Brea or Highland and transfer at the intersection with Santa Monica Blvd to head west to Beverly Hills, West Hollywood or Santa Monica.
Los Angeles by far is no London or New York City when it comes to an underground comprehensive subway system. However that said the city has a small line that can be advantageous to those staying in Hollywood. The Red line runs from Hollywood and Highland (the main entertainment area with large concentration of hotels) to Universal Studios and Downtown Los Angeles. The trip to Universal is less than five minutes and to Downtown less than 10.
Getting Around LA without Car or bus
It is conceivably possible to see all the main points of Los Angeles without traveling by car or bus. Book a t a hotel in Hollywood and Highlands area and you have access to the red double decker hop on and hop off buses that depart every ½ hour. These buses make a loop that include West Hollywood, the Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, The Grove and back. In Beverly Hills you can transfer to a second double decker bus and travel to the beaches (Santa Monica and Venice.) Getting to and from this area to either Burbank or Los Angeles Int’l Airports is a breeze with the use of Super Shuttle (the blue Van) or Primetime (the red van) shuttle services.