LA does have more than its share of traffic congestion from too many cars on the road, but it is much easier to navigate than many other large cities, and for most people, especially for families, driving is the most practical and economical way to get around. If you have internet access, you can also check real-time Los Angeles Traffic Maps.
Most major car rental companies have outlets at LAX and the other area airports. It’s most efficient to make your car rental reservations in advance, either online or by phone. The car rental lots at LAX are off-site. Shuttles pick up in front of all terminals under the designated signs. Courtesy phones are available at the arrival terminals to call for pick up. Rental car offices are also located at many of the larger hotels.
You can get just about anywhere in Los Angeles on public transportation, but the system is rather unwieldy and can take longer than sitting in LA traffic. But if you have more time than money, the $7 day pass will get you all around LA on the 5 Metro lines and two bus systems. There are additional fees for transferring to the other 20 local bus and transit companies that serve the Greater LA area. Tip: Don't try to take the Metro all the way from LAX to anywhere that's not directly on the Green Line.
There's almost always a better option, such as taking the Union Station FlyAway bus (see below) to one of the drop-off points and taking a rideshare service (see below) or Metro from there.
Airport FlyAway Buses
The LAX FlyAway is a shuttle service that provides non-stop transportation between LAX and designated bus stops in 5 LA neighborhoods including Union Station, L.A.'s Downtown rail travel and Metro hub, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Van Nuys and Westwood (UCLA).
Hotel Shuttles from Airports
Hotels near the airports offer courtesy shuttles to transport guests from the airport to the hotel. Many hotels have regularly scheduled shuttles to local tourist attractions and beaches. There may be a fee. Some high-end hotels offer complimentary outgoing limousine service to destinations within two or three miles.
Connect you with regular people who use their own cars to give you a ride. Drivers and cars are vetted, and you get to see a photo of the driver, the car, and the price before you agree to be picked up. Lyft and Uber can now both pick up at LAX.
Shared Ride Shuttles
Several companies offer door-to-door shared ride services to and from the airport to your specific destination. SuperShuttle and Prime Time Shuttle are two of the biggest companies, and Shuttle2LAX is a flat rate consolidator of shuttle providers. Discounts are often available if you book online. For one or two people, a shuttle can be economical, but for 3 or more, you'll most likely get where you're going cheaper and faster with a car rental.
There are nine taxi companies serving the City of Los Angeles, with additional companies serving other Los Angeles County and Orange County cities. Taxis with the official City of Los Angeles Taxicab Seal are insured, are regularly inspected and have trained drivers. All licensed taxis have meters but may offer a flat rate for trips from LAX to Downtown LA. There is a surcharge for taxis originating at LAX. Click here for current taxi fares in the City of Los Angeles. There are taxi stands at a few spots in Hollywood and near other major attractions, and you can now find cruising taxis in Hollywood & Downtown, but not in too many other parts of town.
If you don't have a smartphone, ask hotel, restaurant or nightclub staff for assistance in calling a cab before leaving the premises.
If you need the convenience of a car at your beck and call without having to deal with parking, you can hire a limo, or hire a driver to drive your car for you.
Get a Map
A good map is a necessity for getting around LA. There are many Online Maps that can give you great destination-to-destination maps and directions. There are plenty of single-sheet, folded maps available. The better ones are specific to the section of town. If all of LA is on one map, there will not be enough detail to really navigate LA surface streets. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in LA or need to drive to a lot of more obscure destinations, the heavy Thomas Guide for Los Angeles and Orange Counties breaks the area into over 100 indexed pages.
GPS navigators and mobile phones with GPS mapping are huge time savers in LA traffic and more efficient than paper maps but are not always 100% accurate. In a few places, like traveling through the Malibu canyons or some parts of Griffith Park, you might hit a dead zone where you have no GPS access.