How to Get Around Los Angeles on the Cheap

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The traffic and parking situation in downtown Los Angeles is often bad, so take the subway when visiting Walt Disney Concert Hall and other downtown attractions.
The traffic and parking situation in downtown Los Angeles is often bad, so take the subway when visiting Walt Disney Concert Hall and other downtown attractions. (Image: SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Los Angeles’ notorious traffic, complex freeway system and sheer size can make it difficult to navigate. LA is bigger than eight major cities -- Boston, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Manhattan -- combined. Although LA has a bad reputation for a lack of public transportation, in recent years, some cheap, user-friendly transit options have developed, making traveling around the city easier and more affordable.

Metro

People are often surprised to learn that Los Angeles has a subway system. Unfortunately, the subway only covers a fraction of the city and does not go directly to the Los Angeles International or many of the beaches, though an expansion project is underway. You can, however, easily get to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios and downtown using the subway. Metro also operates one of the largest bus fleets in the country, so many locations that are not accessible by the subway, such as the Getty Center art museum and the Getty Villa, can be reached by bus.. The Metro Trip Planner website can be used to calculate the quickest and cheapest route to your destination. Pay per trip or purchase a one-day or weekly pass.

Buses

There are several buses in Los Angeles that are not run by Metro. The seaside city of Santa Monica operates the Big Blue Bus, which has routes to Venice Beach, Culver City, Brentwood and many other destinations on the Westside of Los Angeles. The Culver City Bus also serves numerous communities on the Westside, including Century City, Marina del Rey, Venice, Westwood and Culver City, which is the home of Sony Picture Studios, formerly known as MGM. West Hollywood operates a free shuttle called Cityline. The shuttle travels down Santa Monica Boulevard, which is lined with restaurants and bars.

Ride-sharing

Ride-sharing services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are usually cheaper and quicker to arrive than LA taxis and are very popular with locals. UberX is Uber’s cheapest transportation mode, and like Lyft charges per mile. Sidecar drivers set their own prices; passengers can select a ride based on the rate the driver is charging, the type of vehicle or the estimated arrival time. Each of these services offers a smartphone app that you can use to book a ride.

Airport Transportation

There are several shared vans that shuttle passengers to and from LAX. The rate for SuperShuttle and Prime Time shuttles varies based on your destination and can be determined by requesting a fare quote from the company's website. Shuttle 2 LAX is the same price no matter what your destination is, provided that you are in their service area, which includes most of Los Angeles. A cheaper option is to take the LAX FlyAway bus. These buses stop at each terminal and at Van Nuys, Union Station, Westwood, Santa Monica or Hollywood.

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