- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Los Angeles Guide (PDF)
Getting around Los Angeles is truly a lesson in the art of patience. This 'cartopia' is notorious for sluggish and lengthy rush hours, highways choked with congestion, and rather painful commutes.
The unfortunate reality is that having a car in Los Angeles is a must, as the public transport system is far from comprehensive, and the sprawl of the city means many areas remain inaccessible by bus and rail.
While certain neighbourhoods are pedestrian friendly, many are not, and it is usually not long before the car-crazed LA mentality has new residents driving even the shortest distances.
Public transportation in Los Angeles
Public transportation in Los Angeles has improved over recent years, but is still greatly limited in scope and efficiency. Buses and trains are the main modes of transit, with supplementary smaller shuttles operating in the downtown and Hollywood areas. Commuters often need to combine multiple modes of public transport to get where they are going.
The Los Angeles metro is certainly fast and easy to use but it only services certain districts, although this is slowly changing with expansions. The metro is most popular with commuters in outlying suburbs making their way into the city. Fares are affordable, and weekly or monthly passes are available for purchase.
Buses are best used for travelling short distances. Service is generally slow, but what the system lacks in speed it makes up for in economy. Buses start early and run quite late, but taking the bus at night is not recommended, especially in areas with high crime rates.
Downtown Area Short Hop (DASH)
These simple shuttle routes make getting around areas such as Downtown LA and Hollywood quick and easy. On weekdays, departures are roughly every seven to 10 minutes, while on weekends, service is more limited.
Taxis in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a sprawling city and it follows that even a small trip in a taxi can easily balloon into a large expense as cab fares are costly. They're not recommended unless sharing the fee with a few other people. With the exception of the downtown area, cabs can't be hailed, so it's often necessary to find a reputable company and call for service.
Another option is making use of ride-hailing applications such as Lyft and Uber, both of which are operational in LA.
Driving in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a monstrous metropolis, and those looking to master driving in LA will first have to familiarise themselves with the city's roads. Highways, interstates, and surfaceways interweave in a mess of arteries and veins to connect various communities. The system is extensive and well maintained, but it can be overwhelming initially. That said, a little patience and a maps app will make a huge difference.
Drivers should pay attention to traffic patterns and learn to consult real-time traffic charts before they begin their commute. Planning a route beforehand is the best way to minimise stress and travel time.
Residents of California will need a local licence to drive legally. For these purposes, a resident is legally defined as someone who works, rents or owns a property in California. Driver's licences from other states can be swapped for a California licence, but a knowledge test must be passed before the licence is granted. Expats with licences from outside of the US will have to take both a knowledge and practical test to obtain a local licence.
Are you an expat living in Los Angeles?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Los Angeles. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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