On ‘doing’ Los Angeles without a car.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

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, the metro and my old pal Uber, that the area holds.

Hollywood Blvd, opposite my little room

Hollywood Blvd, opposite my little room

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.

Paramount studios.  Whether you consider this walking distance or not depends how much you like walking.  Google could find no buses but suggested it was 33 minutes walking.   Hmm, I think their walker is a lot fasterr than me.

Paramount studios. Whether you consider this walking distance or not depends how much you like walking. Google could find no buses but suggested it was 33 minutes walking. Hmm, I think their walker is a lot fasterr than me, or maybe it wasn’t 37 degrees when they did it.

You can get a bus to Beverley Hills and Rodeo drive (ok in reality two buses unless you really like walking in the heat).IMG_3949

IMG_3959The 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.

A very hot day at Griffith park

A very hot day at Griffith park

The metro takes you to the downtown area (plus some other places too, like Universal studios).

here's the metro at 2pm on a weekday.  Where are the people?

Here’s the metro at 2pm on a weekday. Where are the people?

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.

Hollywood/Vine metro station.  See, it's pretty.

Hollywood/Vine metro station. See, it’s pretty.

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.

Venice beach; it took an hour and a half on two buses.  Not so bad; I was in no hurry.  And it was worth the effort.

Venice beach; it took an hour and a half on two buses. Not so bad; I was in no hurry. And it was worth the effort.

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.

Categories: USA

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13 replies »

  1. Man, this is great. I will be visiting LA in December without a car and have already been a tad worried about the logistics. This gives me hope. One more thing, though. Since no one uses the metro, is it safe or a little dogy?

    • People tend to say it can’t be done but really it can as long as you stay somewhere convenient to start with. I felt safe enough on the metro by day but I didn’t use it at night. This isn’t based on any warnings or anything but just that I tended to go out to local places around Hollywood at night. Buses are probably safer and go to more places, just as long as you’re not in a hurry.

  2. Hi Sarah

    The subway looks ace. It is a shame it is not used. I loved the idea of palm trees decorating it. I wonder if that could catch on here lol.

    It looks as if you are having a blast. Where would we be, well I guess lost, without Google maps, but sure the shuttle bus information would have been helpful. LA looks amazing and it is on my ever increasing list of places to visit. One day maybe.

    Safe travels my friend xx

    • I just think it’s interesting that the metro exists but nobody really talks about it. Like it’s some kind of guilty secret. And it’s so cheap as well. You can’t see in the picture but the walls behind the palm trees are made up of lots of rolls of film.

  3. LA to me always seems like such a strange city and the fact the subway isn’t used just adds to that, but at the same time I still want to see what it is really like. Hiring a car is so expensive and has always put us off, good to know there are other options.

  4. Incredible how empty the metro is. Crazy how in the 1920’s LA had one of the most expansive tram networks in North America! All taken away for the mighty automobile!
    But great to see this post, pretty much every other article is the stereotypical LA trip in a convertible!

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