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Many people associate Los Angeles with the fame of Hollywood, the beaches of Malibu, and the conspicuous consumption of Beverly Hills. However, California's second-biggest city also has much more to offer beyond surfing, sunbathing and stargazing. Many of these attractions are accessible only with car hire in this notoriously car-centric city. The pockets of public transportation within the 80 cities forming the greater Los Angeles area include expensive taxis, a couple of bus networks and even a limited subway system.
Who to Book With
Not surprisingly, there are about 40 different car rental companies in Los Angeles International Airport alone. Some of these companies are internationally familiar like Thrifty, Hertz and Budget. Other chains, such as Fox Rent A Car, may be unfamiliar to visitors outside the United States. Many other Los Angeles vehicle rental locations are clustered northeast of the airport and around the city's downtown area. Online booking rates are usually very reasonable in this extremely competitive market.
Best Time to Go
Los Angeles is synonymous with year-round sunny and warm weather, but although the climate remains virtually unchanged during the year, hotel and vehicle hire rates often increase during high tourism seasons. A large percentage of Los Angeles visitors come during the December holiday season or the months of March and April when many North American children are out of school. Visitors hoping for discounts and smaller crowds should avoid Los Angeles during these times of year.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents are needed to collect rental vehicles here:
- A valid driving license
- The credit card used for making the reservation
- A passport for motorists from outside the United States
- Proof of insurance for motorists declining additional coverage options
As notoriously clogged and confusing as the Los Angeles freeway system may be, it remains the only way to travel across much of the city. Motorists used to driving in other large cities should be able to manage just fine in Los Angeles, but drivers must allow themselves plenty of extra time no matter what time of day they travel as they can find themselves in the middle of a traffic jam at all hours. Morning and evening rush hours should be avoided at all costs, and high speed police chases frequently zoom across the crowded freeways.
GPS systems, radio station traffic reports and plenty of advance planning should help most motorists better navigate Los Angeles freeways. Electronic message signs frequently update motorists on all lane closures, detours and traffic accidents. Special carpool-only lanes are clearly marked and reserved for vehicles containing two or more people.
The biggest hazards motorists will encounter on Los Angeles streets after leaving the freeways are cracks and potholes, especially on Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards. These potholes and cracks become even worse a few weeks after Los Angeles rainfalls. Parking is plentiful, but expensive, in downtown Los Angeles, where motorists tend to drive slower than usual due to the several exits and turns on the streets.
Few other large cities on Earth may be as dependent on automobile travel as Los Angeles, but public transit is not completely absent from the city. Rail, bus and taxi links are all available at both Los Angeles International Airport, 15 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles, and the spectacular Union Station. Visitors can board four commuter trains, six subway lines, and dozens of bus lines from this Los Angeles architectural masterpiece.
Union Station is the main Los Angeles Amtrak station, where passengers can board trains bound for the Pacific Northwest, San Diego, New Orleans, Chicago, and California's San Joaquin Valley, with stops at several more cities along the way. Metro Rail operates the city's relatively new rapid transit rail system, which currently contains six different heavy and light rail lines across Los Angeles. Although all rail lines operate seven days per week, late night service is limited. Base ticket fares are £0.94 each, but separate fares are required for each line.
Metro and DASH, the two man bus networks in Los Angeles, cover most of the city and its surrounding county, but service is most frequent in the central Los Angeles area. Local Metro buses are coloured orange, while red coloured Rapid buses travel through traffic faster, but make fewer stops. Metro fares are around £0.95 per ride, excluding transfers, but £3.16 day passes and £18.95 weekly passes are also available. DASH bus fares are £0.32 per trip.
Los Angeles boasts no fewer than nine different taxi companies with a combined fleet of over 2,300 vehicles. Passengers should board only cabs bearing an official City of Los Angeles seal from reputable companies like United Independent Taxi and Los Angeles Yellow Cab. Taxi fares begin at around £1.80, followed by an additional £0.19 for each extra one ninth of a mile and 37-second waiting period. These fees can add up very quickly in Los Angeles traffic jams. The flat fee for journeys between Los Angeles International Airport and the downtown area is £29.36.
Many Southern California visitors are surprised to find out one of the region's most popular attractions, Disneyland, is located not in Los Angeles, but a 25-mile drive away in the Orange County city of Anaheim. Several other famous spots are also situated within Los Angeles city limits, including the Malibu beachfront and Beverly Hills mansions where numerous celebrities live. Santa Monica, famous for its beachfront pier and Third Street Promenade, is among the most walkable cities in the greater Los Angeles area.
Disneyland - The original theme park was the first of its kind in the world when Walt Disney himself opened its gates in Anaheim in 1955. More than 600 million people entered the park's turnstiles during the next five decades, and the park was the world's second most visited in 2011. Over the years, the park has expanded to include New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Mickey's Toontown and a separate Disney California Adventure Park.
Malibu - The main attractions of Malibu are the 21 miles of beaches that line its main drag, the world famous Pacific Coast Highway linking this legendary seaside community to Santa Monica and Los Angeles. The Malibu Lagoon is one of the world's best-known surfing spots, while Highlands Park boasts one of the best Pacific Ocean views. In addition to the many state parks and public beaches along Malibu's coastline, several private beaches also have public access.
Santa Monica - Visitors wishing to escape the perpetual traffic of Los Angeles should head for the seaside city of Santa Monica, one of Southern California's most walkable cities. The Ferris wheel soaring above the Santa Monica Pier may be the city's most legendary landmark, but the nearby Third Street Promenade is the best place to shop, dine or enjoy an array of music and dance performances by street entertainers.