A week ago, when I told someone my next stop was LA, he asked me ‘are you hiring a car there?’. Before I could reply he cut in with ‘oh of course you are. It’s impossible to do LA without a car isn’t it?’
Er, well, I’m hoping not.
I found an airbnb (more of a hostel really, but you’re paying for the location) right on Hollywood and Vine. I then had access to all the buses, metros and Ubers that the area holds.
So it can be done. It just takes a good starting location and the ever helpful Google maps. As a nice little touch, my airbnb came complete with a TAP card; all I had to do was load some money and I was ready to go (it also came complete with a set of earplugs, but that’s another story).
The advantage of Hollywood and Vine is that you have a lot of the sightseeing stuff within walking distance: the Chinese theatre, the avenue of stars, Paramount studios and Sunset boulevard are all within walking distance.
You can get a bus to Beverley Hills and Rodeo drive (ok in reality two buses unless you really like walking in the heat).
The 180/181 takes you to within (tough) walking distance of Griffith Park, the hiking trails, the observatory and great views of the Hollywood sign. When I got to the park at the top of the hill, hot and exhausted, I was overtaken by a shuttle bus. Thanks Google, for not mentioning the shuttle bus.
The metro takes you to the downtown area (plus some other places too, like Universal studios).
Nobody uses the metro. As someone said when I left, ‘if you’ve spent a week using the Los Angeles metro, then you know more about it then most of the natives here, because we never use it’. Well, it’s ok. Quiet. Easy to figure out. If it’s going somewhere you want to go then it’s a great choice.
I can see how a car would have afforded me advantages. I could have gotten better accommodation for my money if I’d moved a bit further out, and a car certainly would have come in handy for the beach area and to visit the surrounding parts. In truth though, I had plenty to do with the time I had available (6 full days, 7 nights) and I was glad not to have the stress of figuring out where to park. The places I didn’t get to were more because I ran out of time, rather than because I couldn’t get to them. That said, if I come again I will stay further out and hire a car.
Margaret Thatcher once famously said that anyone over the age of 25 still using a bus should consider themselves a failure. Nowhere does this seem more true than in LA. Really only the very old and/or very poor use the buses. The rest drive. This is something not only true of LA but, in my experience, of the US generally; everything is built to facilitate the car and people who don’t drive, for whatever reason, are marginalised, standing in the heat waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green.