Getting to and Around Los Angeles — Airports, Car Rentals & More

Getting to and Around Los Angeles — Airports, Car Rentals & More

I live in a two bedroom house right in downtown LA. I’m aware I could have a bigger house for my family if I moved to the ‘burbs’, but I’m just not interested. From my home, I can walk to world-class museums, parks, restaurants and shopping malls – places difficult to reach by car in heavy traffic.

All that is to say: the LA traffic battle is real. The city is so vast and it can feel like it’s always rush hour, so if you don’t make a strategic plan for getting around, it can quickly ruin your trip. For scale: The distance from the beach to a downtown concert may be just under 15 miles, but that can add up to a frustrating 90 minutes in bad traffic.

I recommend travelers plan ahead and create reasonable routes based on transportation time, and most people who want to be agile should plan to get around by car. These are the best options for getting to and around LA.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 departs Los Angeles, California on July 30, 2022 from Los Angeles International Airport.

If you’re calling an Uber to or from LAX, you’ll also need to take the airport shuttle from the parking lot to the terminals.

AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

LAX is a huge international airport, served by all major airlines – a total of 69 airlines. In that sense it is easy to get in and out of the city. But with ongoing construction and traffic jams, traveling through, to and from LAX can take patience.

My pro tip: The LAX ride for Ubers and Lyfts currently requires a shuttle ride, which is fine if you’re prepared for the extra step. But if you’re arriving after a grueling journey, traveling with young children, or have accessibility needs, I recommend a alt. This courier — and other black-car services — can pick you up on the curb or at the baggage claim.

Other local airports

While LAX is probably the best choice for many travelers given its size and scale, other smaller local airports can streamline the experience for certain visitors.

The Hollywood Burbank Airport hosts airlines including Southwest and JetBlue, as well as Avelo, a new ultra-low-cost airline. American Eagle, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest all serve Long Beach Airport. Traveling through John Wayne Airport in Orange County can also be a cost- or time-saving option depending on your route – I recently made the trek to fly from this airport because it offered a direct flight to Missoula, Montana, while LAX didn’t.

Public transport

Los Angeles has a huge public transportation network, including buses, railroads, and subways, but visitors should be warned that it may not get you everywhere you want to go, given the city’s size and sprawl. Most locals like me depend on a car to get around the city more easily.

If you choose to travel by public transport, Metro Trip Planner tool can help you determine your route, and I recommend using the Go Metro Los Angeles mobile app for help navigating the system on the go.

All transit fares start at a base fare of $1.75. Day passes are also available for $7 and week passes for $25. Please note that on Metro Rail and Metro Orange Line, you must load your fare into a reusable Metro TAP cardwhich you can buy at any station.

car rental

Los Angeles, California

Due to LA’s widespread design, the easiest way to get around the city is by car.

kenny hung photography/Getty Images

I don’t necessarily recommend that all visitors to LA rent a car. But I recommend everyone to have access to a car to make certain trips more feasible – taking rides is usually enough, but it can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars over several days if you really want to cover ground.

If you’re planning to rent, all the major players in the car rental industry – Hertz, Enterprise, Sixt, and more – have outposts in Los Angeles so you can pick up and drop off your rental car at the airport or several other locations around town. I recommend renting a car paired with your phone’s map tool so you can navigate unfamiliar highways and streets with ease.

App based ride hailing

Historically, it was easy to get an Uber or Lyft in Los Angeles. But pandemic conditions have made this a somewhat more expensive and less reliable proposition – so if you use a taxi service, take more time.

Car services like Alto, which employs its own drivers and has its own fleet, can be a more comfortable and reliable app-based option, but it’s also more expensive.

Check out Insider’s comprehensive guide to visiting Los Angeles, California.