Moving to a new city can be rough, especially because you don’t know your way around. When your new home is the size of Los Angeles (a city so big it contains whole other cities inside itself), it can seem an impossible task. Here are some helpful tips on how to navigate LA successfully.
1) You Don’t Need a Car – You Just Need Time
Unlike the horror stories you hear from people who came here in the early 90s, pretty much all of Los Angeles is accessible to people without a car. Just be prepared to wait a lot – for stalled buses, lost rideshares, and endless traffic.
Yeah, even without a car you’re still going to deal with the traffic.
2) Get a TAP Card
The days of tokens and tickets are long gone. The best way to access LA’s growing rail system – as well as bypass the seventeen schoolkids paying their bus fares in dozens of nickels – is to get a pre-loaded TAP card.
3) Reload it Online
The digital transition has been hard on a lot of folk, and you’ll find many confused people standing at the too-few TAP Vending Machines, trying to figure out which button they have to press to get a good cup of coffee. To ensure you don’t miss the train, reload your card before you get there.
4) The Subway (finally) goes to the Beach
You can get all the way to Santa Monica by light rail. It’s still going to take you two hours to get there, but at least you don’t have to park.
5) There’s a Shuttle to Dodger Stadium
Unlike other baseball teams, the Dodgers are located smack dab in Echo Park, convenient for absolutely no one, not even Echo Park. If you’re going to a game, do yourself a favor and take the subway to Union Station and hop on the Dodger Shuttle.
Bonus tip: don’t go to daytime games if you burn easily, because no level of SPF is going to save your skin during the four hours you’re going to spend in the sun.
6) Sometimes the Bus Just Doesn’t Come
One night after class in Burbank, I stood with a small group of strangers at a stop near the Warner Bros studio. Left class to get there fifteen minutes early for a 10:35pm bus.
At 11:02pm, I asked another guy waiting if the bus just wasn’t coming come. He said “Yeah, that happens. Welcome to Los Angeles.” His tone didn’t make me feel very welcome.
7) Separate Cities have Separate Bus Systems
Santa Monica might seem like one of LA’s beach neighborhoods, but it’s actually a city unto itself – and it has its own bus service. Same with Burbank, Culver City, Long Beach ad some others. Make sure you know which stops are which services, because you don’t want to be six miles from anywhere without the proper change.
8) Public Buses are School Buses
You’re probably used to getting stuck behind a school bus going slow in your community. Here, you’ll have to get used to the public buses also being school buses for the thousands of LA school children. If you don’t enjoy things like contemporary music, high-pitched conversations, or braces, don’t take public transit from 2-4pm weekdays.
9) Bikeshare has Arrived in LA
Where you live now, bikes may be a quaint throwback to yesteryear, or something for hippies and athletes. Here, Bikeshare is a taxpayer-funded part of your daily public commute . Don’t forget your helmet.
10) You Can’t Hail a Taxi
This is going to come as a shock to city dwellers from back East, but you can’t just put your arm up and expect a car to stop for you – they won’t even do that when you’re crossing the street. If you want a taxi and you’re not at the airport, you’ll have to call for one.
11) Surge Pricing is a terrible reality
Hooray rideshares! Private companies like Uber and Lyft give you a chance to get around town with your own hipster chauffer – and because they’re unregulated, can increase their pricing whenever they feel like it. Which means that during “Peak Hours” you may see as much as 150% added to your bill. Hope you did well in that job interview!
12) Your Rideshare Driver May Be Newer Than You
Uber and Lyft are two of the easiest jobs for a newcomer to get – which means that a lot of the drivers have no idea where they are. You shouldn’t have to direct them, but keep an eye on your map app just in case.
13) Tip your Driver
Seriously, tip your driver. It’s hard out there for all of us.
14) Trust but Verify your GPS
My address is on a major street, but for some reason Waze thinks my door is up in the bobcat-infested hills on the street behind me. Don’t let what happened to my Lyft driver Curt happen to you – double check the address before you leave home (RIP Curt).
15) There’s a Website Dedicated to Helping Actors Park
New actors in town will find that Hollywood is more of a loose description of a general feeling than a useful location; most auditions are held anywhere but there. Enter the aptly named actorswillbetowed.com, helping thespians avoid tickets since 2012.
Which is great, because…
16) Parking Signs Are Unhelpful
The red line on the side of the street is a no-brainer, but that’s about as helpful as parking directions get in Tinsel Town. Getting slapped with a parking fine here is kind of like losing at Jenga – you think there’s a way out of it if you’re careful, but it’s going to happen no matter what you do.
17) Parking in LA sucks
That’s not a tip, that’s just a fact of life.