How to Read a Thomas Guide Map

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There is a Thomas Guide in almost every car in Los Angeles.
There is a Thomas Guide in almost every car in Los Angeles. (Image: los angeles image by Pontus Edenberg from Fotolia.com)

Thomas Guides contain maps covering the Los Angeles area. You can buy one for $20 to $30 in any grocery store: spiral bound books of maps that are easy to read and loaded with information. The books lay flat on a car seat or dashboard and you can use them to track your progress across LA, to find your way out of unfamiliar neighborhoods or to go straight to an address you have never visited before.

Familiarize yourself with the Thomas Guide before you need it. Don't start learning about it when you are lost in a scary neighborhood or late for an appointment. The Guide contains three basic sections--the special maps at the front of the guide, the street maps (the majority of the guide) and the index of streets at the end of the book. The special maps each concentrate on one feature: one shows how the zip codes overlay the city, another just shows the freeways and how they interconnect, and a third shows the county lines.

Find your home address by looking up your street address in the index. You will find a page number and a letter-number code. The page number indicates the page holding the street map that contains your home address. The letter-number code locates your address on the page. If the letter-number code is F6, look down from the F and across from the 6--your address appears where they meet. Your home page will also contain four more page numbers on the top, bottom, left and right of the page to the street maps of the regions to the top, bottom, left and right of your neighborhood.

Plan your trip before you leave. Before you start driving, look up the destination address. Experienced Angelenos will look up the starting page in the Thomas Guide as well as the destination page, and leave the Thomas Guide open to the destination page on the passenger seat or dashboard. Driving in LA consists of going from your current location to the freeway, then to the freeway exit near your destination. The Thomas Guide uses a simple code that tells if a freeway has an exit from the direction you will be driving.

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