Touristing in Los Angeles - Do we need a car to get around?
July 3, 2018 7:39 PM   Subscribe

We are having a brief stay in Los Angeles and wondering what our best transportation options are for getting out and about.

We are headed to Los Angeles for three and a half days at the end of July.

The main ports of call we will need to get to are:

- From LAX to DTLA
- To LAX from DTLA
- From DTLA to Glendale and back
- From DTLA to Burbank and back

As well as potential visits to LACMA and The Getty.

Previous stays we have hired a car and that has worked well, but am just wondering if that is still the best option. Our hotel (in DTLA) is charging $40 for parking overnight and we will still need to take ubers (or something along those lines) for our evenings out so that we can both enjoy a few drinks.

Will it be more cost-effective to rely on a mixture of public transport and ubers to get around but much more inconvenient? Is the cost worth it for a rental car to get to where we want to go? Are there options like FlexiCar or share cars that are available for hourly rent (and are these an option for international tourists?)?.

I welcome your advice.
posted by liquorice to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Given a cost of $40/night parking, other parking, and the total cost of rental and insurance and taxes and blah-blah, as long as you're not going to face a hardship if your transportation costs are a little higher than renting (but not higher, I think, than the frustration/time cost of dealing with a rented car, which is a lot), I would go with the Uber/Lyft/Public option.

We do not have a good flex car option here, unfortunately. I would just recommend using Public/Uber combos and plan really well so you're not taking extra long trips.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:03 PM on July 3, 2018

Where in burbank and glendale are you planning to go?
posted by brujita at 8:17 PM on July 3, 2018

brujita we are headed to Glendale Galleria/The Americana at Brand and Magnolia Park.
posted by liquorice at 8:21 PM on July 3, 2018

LAX to and from DTLA is easy: Take the Flyaway Bus and then Uber/Lyft/cab to your final destination. You want the Union Station route.

Does your hotel run any shuttles anywhere? Some do and it's worth asking.

Also depending on your hotel location, it may be an easy straight shot on the public bus down Wilshire to LACMA. Or, if you take the subway, it's 3 miles from the Wilshire/Western station. That could be a nice walk, or a public bus straight along Wilshire.

This guy talks about getting to the Getty via subway + bus, and it sounds really easy. (He starts in Lincoln Heights, but you could pick up his route starting at Union Station, again depending on the location of your hotel.)

Americana and Magnolia Park -- this would be all bus, I think. Or taking the train closer, then Uber, but probably just too big a pain. Maybe these are one combo day when you do rent a car, from your hotel, and return it at the end of the day, never having paid for hotel parking.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:48 PM on July 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'd use Lyfts/Ubers.

If you rent a car and park in the hotel, you'll spend about $200 total on parking plus let's say $100 on the rental itself. Your big Lyft/Uber journeys will probably not cost more than $30 or $40 (DTLA to Burbank right now, 9pm, is $25). Depending on how much you travel, what rental insurance you take and whether you save some money by parking somewhere other than the hotel, renting a car might work out cheaper, but I'd be surprised.

And then there's the convenience: if you've driven in the US before, driving in LA is fine, but it's not enjoyable. If you haven't driven in the US before, get ready for terrible signage, terrible roads, and terrible drivers like nothing you've ever experienced. Parking can be hard to find (or pricey) at destinations as well as downtown. It's nice to be able to jump out of a car at the front door of LACMA, for example.

If you skip renting, it might make sense to take the FlyAway bus from LAX to Union Station when you arrive. But this depends on your hotel's exact location. "Downtown" is big. I wouldn't bother if you'll need to take a cab at the other end and there's two of you. In that situation, just take a Lyft from the airport. It will cost about the same as two FlyAway tickets and a 2 mile downtown car ride.

If you get lucky, your hotel will be on top of a Metro (subway/light rail) station and so will your destination. LAX itself doesn't have a Metro stop (don't ask), and neither does Glendale, but you can get to Burbank on the Metrolink (different from the Metro, more like a regular train) from Union Station. It's not on your list, but if you decide to go to Santa Monica, that's the one destination I'd definitely take the Metro to from DTLA. It's obviously cheaper, but it's also faster if there's traffic.

If you're curious and have time you can take (probably several connecting) buses. Ignore advice from locals who never take the bus in LA: it's cheap, it's fine and you see a lot of the city you wouldn't otherwise see, but it's slow. Google Maps can help you figure out the options.
posted by caek at 8:56 PM on July 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm a big fan of Lyft/Uber in Los Angeles unless you're going to do a HUGE amount of driving. LA drivers are aggressive and LA car rentals are not cheap, and of course parking is expensive too. I greatly prefer Uber/Lyft, since there are an infinite number of them in LA.
posted by Slinga at 9:16 PM on July 3, 2018

I've visited LA a few times and always used public transport (buses and subway and the Flyaway bus). It's clean, I always felt safe and it was easy to navigate if you planned the day in advance. It got overwhelming if I hadn't decided in advance because then you look at maps and LA is so big.

Bus to the Getty is straightforward and well set up. Union station is lovely, a beautiful old building.
posted by kitten magic at 11:18 PM on July 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would just lyft everywhere, myself.
posted by zippy at 12:10 AM on July 4, 2018

Don't rent a car. Do take a mix of Lyft/Metro/bike share. Subways are decent but not up to the sprawl; buses are slow and OK. Bike share is pretty nice downtown if you've ever ridden in an American city before (Denmark we ain't). They're cruisers, heavy but handy for last-mile stuff.

If you can avoid going to the Americana/Hellmouth, do. I understand it's the closest place for some stuff (Apple store, etc.), but most of the department stores can be found elsewhere, including a big downtown Macy's that's pretty decent. If you gotta go there, at least try to take a side trip to the Glendale library right there. It's got pretty nice art shows pretty regularly; the one currently up is about the Japanese internment with both contemporary artists and FSA documentary work.
posted by klangklangston at 2:22 AM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've stopped renting a car in LA (even though I actually like driving in and around the city).

I Lyft everywhere - and I spend less money than I would for car rental and assorted parking fees and tips to valets.

If you are a brave soul, try LA public transportation. It's just not that easy or simple (in my opinion).
posted by tmharris65 at 7:00 AM on July 4, 2018

Unless things have changed in the last 9 months, the Uber/Lyft revolution has completely destroyed the concept of traffic flow at LAX. And, I suppose, at every other large airport.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:53 AM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

FWIW, my daughter and I stayed in Santa Monica for a week a couple of years ago and got around by Uber and the metro. No buses. I thought the metro was a breeze, and no less safe (and cleaner) than the Tube in London.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:56 AM on July 4, 2018

I live in LA and own a car and I STILL find myself using Lyft for many of my destinations because it is cheaper and easier than driving. In LA, Lyft and Uber have cheaper options (Lyft line, uber pool) where you might pick up a rider along your route but you save $$. That’s a step up from the metro but cheaper than plain old Lyft.
posted by andreapandrea at 9:07 AM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree with no car, flyaway bus to/from airport, and lyft or public transit. But I am a car-light Angeleno and love taking the bus and train and biking, so my opinion is skewed. If you do decide to do public transit, consider downloading the free app Transit (NOT the official LA metro app). One of the confusing things about LA is that multiple agencies run transit overlapping within the city- the city buses (dash), county buses and trains (metro), plus small cities within/near LA (Culver City, Santa Monica, Glendale) have their own services- so it is a pain to keep track of the agencies and schedules and figure out a route. Transit app has all the agencies loaded. You open it, it senses where you are, and you put in a destination, and it searches all the agencies to get a route for you. Other apps and mapping systems I have used don’t include all the transit agencies.
posted by holyrood at 10:06 AM on July 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

The glendale Galleria is my favorite la area mall, but it's just a shopping center. Google maps says the trip is about an hour by bus.Is there anything in particular you wanted to buy in the US that you can't get in Australia?
posted by brujita at 10:44 AM on July 4, 2018

Thanks everyone for the helpful answers - sounds like we won't be hiring a car this time round, and will rely on Uber/Lyft and public transport.

Re: Galleria/Americana - there are stores there that we want to go to that aren't available in Australia and also exist together in one spot there in LA as opposed to needing us to go to multiple locations. I appreciate that y'all are pointing out that it might be a pain to get there and also shop there and I'll keep that in mind as we continue to plan our trip.
posted by liquorice at 4:47 PM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can Lyft from DTLA to the Americana SO EASILY. It's pretty close.

I live in LA and I love my car and I love to drive and I still think you can mostly just Lyft/Uber everywhere you need to go on this trip.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 6:21 PM on July 4, 2018

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