Gridlock traffic is almost as iconic to LA as beaches, palm trees and movie stars. It can take a lifetime to master the city’s transportation patterns, but here’s a cheat sheet for visitors.1. You need a car: Back in the 1940s, streetcars and electric railways were common, but they were bought up and phased out by -- guess who? -- General Motors. (This is a much-grumbled-about point among LA natives.) Today, there are buses throughout the city and a metro rail system, but the former is not known for its promptness while the latter doesn’t service areas like Santa Monica or Beverly Hills. The only way to get around with ease is by car. Luckily rental car deals are easy to find.
2. Avoid rush hour: Because driving is the only way to get around town, roads can get pretty congested. It’s almost become a pre-requisite to show snaking highways with bumper-bumper traffic in the opening sequences of movies about LA. Avoid driving (particularly on freeways) between the hours of 7:30-9:30 a.m. and 4:30-7:00 p.m. on weekdays, and you’ll probably never know what that looks like firsthand.
3. Stay where you want to be: It may seem basic, but it’s sound advice: If the idea of movie premieres and late night hotspots excites you, stay in Hollywood. If you’re more a beach person, the west side is better. Sure, these areas are less than 15 miles away, but traffic can make that trek feel twice as long. For those who want it all, a Beverly Hills hotel (like the Thompson) is a great option: It’s tucked right in the middle. Best of all, when traffic is at its peak, there’s plenty of shopping to be done.
4. Look out for public parking: Parking garages around town are plentiful, but they can also be pricey. Look out for one of the city’s public parking garages -- they’re in popular areas and usually cost nothing until after 6 p.m. Click here for a handy map that shows where they are.
5. Stretch your legs in a walkable neighborhood: There’s a saying: “Nobody walks in LA.” It’s not entirely true -- there are plenty of pedestrian-friendly areas to explore. Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade is a three-block stretch of trendy shops, cafes, and dinosaur topiary, for some reason. It ends up at the ocean, where a beachside bicycle and walking path extends all the way from Malibu to Hermosa Beach. Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive is also best seen by foot, while Hollywood’s Walk of Fame invites visitors to walk in the footsteps of the stars.
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