Cultural Experience | California

5 Tips on How to Take Public Transport in L.A. Like a Pro

Don’t want to drive in LA? Taking the Metro is totally easy!

Everyone seems to have an opinion about driving in LA, and almost all of them veer towards the idea that it is completely necessary. Cruising down expansive freeways (with the top down, if you’re so lucky) seems to fit the Californian stereotype of sunshine, freedom and the endless possibility of the open road. But what if you’re on a tight budget, and renting a car cuts too deeply into your little cash pool? Or you come from a country that drives on the other side of the road? Or what if all the warnings and horror stories you’ve heard about LA traffic and aggressive drivers have gotten to you? Here’s a novel idea – how about taking the bus? It sounds a little crazy, and some Angelinos (and people who aren’t even from here) might tell you so, but if you’re thinking of giving public transportation a shot, here are some tips to help you along, from a first-time rider of the LA metro system to another.

driving LA transportation image

1)  Stay somewhere that is close to a Metro station.

Look up the line maps on the Metro Website. There are eight rail lines, with station connections that can help you get to different areas. I stayed for four nights in Franklin Village, which is in Hollywood Hills, and is a 10-15 minute walk to the Hollywood/Vine station on the red line. When you exit the station, it comes right out onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Being close to the metro station is important because after a whole day of sightseeing and walking around, you would want to be able to get back into bed as quickly as possible.

hollywood walk of fame star vincent price image

2) Get a TAP card.

Single-ride fares for the Metro bus and rail are $1.50. You can get a TAP card (a reusable plastic card) at any station, and load it with cash to pay for your trips. They are easy to use, and you won’t have the hassle of scrambling to find change each time you board. There are also certain passes you can purchase, if you know you’ll be using the Metro a lot, such as a day pass, 7-day pass or 30-day pass. The passes will definitely save you a lot of money!

tap card


3) Plan out your day before you step out each morning.

It is especially important to figure out what you’re doing every day if you’re going to be reliant on public transportation, and if you’re only in LA for a short amount of time. This is not to say that there isn’t room for spontaneity, but it would save you a lot of time if you group things you want to do/see by where they are located. You should also check and see what time the last train or bus back to where you’re staying is. Certain services run 24-hours a day (but sporadically late at night). It also might not be safe to stay out so late anyway.


4) Download a good public transit app onto your phone.

Hopefully you have a phone with data capabilities, because this can be a lifesaver. Try a free app like Moovit, which eliminates waiting nervous and alone at a bus stop, uncertain if the bus will ever arrive. Moovit helps you choose routes based on all public transport methods available (you can tell it if you want to avoid walking too much, or want less transfers), tracks arriving buses and trains on the live map, and lists all the stops on the route (and indicates where you are) so you know where to get off.

moovit app image

 5) Plan for the worst – getting lost.

Bring your phone charger with you, as well as a fully-charged external battery pack. You’d want to be able to look up directions on your phone, or contact other people you might be traveling with. If you’re in a safe area, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. Most people are nice enough to point you to the correct bus stop.

Taina Teravainen

Emerson College | 5 stories

Taina is a semester away from graduating from Emerson College with a BFA in Writing, Literature & Publishing. She hails from the little island city of Singapore and often writes about the search for home.

One response to “5 Tips on How to Take Public Transport in L.A. Like a Pro”

  1. […] Leave the car keys at home and take the Metro for some of your adventures this weekend.  We’re travelling around Los Angeles with the help of this nifty guide to public transportation. […]

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