Getting Around Los Angeles
First on the List
If you need emergency assistance from public authorities, dial 9-1-1 from any phone.
Where To Go
One of the most popular attractions is Universal Studios. It's only ten minutes from Hollywood Boulevard, another major attraction. If you have never visited Disneyland, that is a "must see." There are dozens, if not hundreds of other worthwhile attractions in LA.
Where NOT To Go
Generally there is no area that is so dangerous that it could be considered "off limits." Just use common sense. If an area looks rundown then there is a higher possibility of crime there. Like any large city, L.A. has its share of crime. But most likely, it will not involve you. If you rent a car, keep the doors locked at all times. Do NOT keep anything of value in your car, because vehicle crimes are common.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) patrols most of the city streets, except in communities and areas that are covered by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department (including West Hollywood, Malibu, Marina del Rey, Catalina Island and Santa Clarita, near Magic Mountain). There are independent cities within the county of Los Angeles, such as Beverly Hills, Culver City and Santa Monica. Each has it's own local police department, or contracts with the Sheriff's Dept. California Highway Patrol monitors the freeways.
Contact Information for Police Departments
- Emergency: Dial 9-1-1 from any phone.
- LAPD non-emergency: 877-ASK-LAPD
- L.A. Sheriff's Dept: Phone Directory
- CHP non-emergency: 800-TELL-CHP (1-800-835-5247)
- Beverly Hills Police Dept Website
- Burbank Police Dept Website
- Culver City Police Dept Website
- Long Beach Police Dept Website
- Redondo Beach Police Dept Website
- Santa Monica Police Dept Website
- Pasadena Police Dept Website
Where To Eat
Unless you have a special diet, you really do not need to plan this in advance. You'll find a wide variety of places to eat, within your price range. serving any of your dietary needs. Follow this list to find a list of LA Dining Guides.
Drive Thru Fast Food
A vast majority of fast food restaurants in LA are "drive thru's". You already have a McDonald's where you live so why not try a local favorite, such as In-N-Out, El Pollo Loco or Tommy's?
Don't Get Lost - Finding Your Way Around
- Google Maps: Like most places, Google Maps has Los Angeles well-covered and provides reasonably close drive-time estimates. It can show you the best route at any given time, considering traffic, construction, accidents and road closures. The main caveat is that you need internet access to use it.
- Paper map: The most popular printed map in L.A. is called the Thomas Guide. It's a book of detailed maps and an indexing system. Before Google Maps, this was the go-to map for most Los Angelenos.
- If you do not have a US-based cell phone, then the next item on the list is to rent a cellular phone. Public pay phones are not common here. If you need emergency assistance from public authorities, dial 9-1-1 from any phone.
- Another good idea, though a little more expensive, is a hand held GPS. It can help you get around, and more important, these devices track your position via satellite and allow you to mark "waypoints" such as your hotel, or your car in the parking lot at Disneyland (it's a HUGE parking lot!). It can also estimate how many miles you have traveled, or walked. It is a passive device, and does not transmit your position to others.
What is a "Block"?
A "block" is an estimation of distance. It refers to the distance from one street corner to the next. A very good definition of a block is as follows: "an informal unit of distance popular in the U.S. A block is the average distance between street intersections in the rectangular street grids common in most American cities. The length of a block varies from about 1/20 mile (80 meters) in New York to about 1/16 mile (100 meters) in many Midwestern cities to about 1/10 mile (160 meters) in cities of the South and West."
Public transportation has vastly improved in Los Angeles during the past couple of decades. Metro buses and trains are generally clean and offer good coverage of the city. For more options, see the LA Transportation Page)
If you need something but don't want to take the time to go to the larger stores, try 7-Eleven or AM-PM. Most of them are open 24 hours.
Driving Around LA
Los Angeles does a pretty good job of maintaining the roads. Obviously you'll find some roads, traffic signals or streetlights with a problem, but for the most part roads are in good repair, well lit at night, and you can see traffic signals from a long distance.
In Los Angeles, sometimes parking a car is the hardest part of driving. Street parking is available but you can't depend on it. If you find street parking with a meter, then you need to insert quarters (25 cents) or use a credit card to add time to the meter. Most meters only accomodate around two hours of parking or less. But the most important parking tip is the one below.
Read the Parking Signs!
If you use street parking, the first thing to do is to read the parking signs. Certain hours can be restricted (no parking allowed during that time) and if you park there during a restricted time, your car can be towed away! That can ruin your vacation, so read the parking signs!
Car Pool Lane
These lanes are intended for vehicles with more than one occupant. Read the restrictions carefully before entering these lanes, which are designated with a white diamond on a black background.
The inside lane, which is the lane furthest left, is sometimes referred to as the "fast lane." That's because typically the traffic moves fastest in that lane.
Number One Lane
Occasionally in traffic reports you will hear the "fast lane" referred to as the Number One lane. That's the official name for this lane. Number Two lane is the next one to the right, and so on, until you reach the outside lane, which is closest to the exits.
These are more likely to occur at certain times during the day. The worst is 7-10:00 AM and 4-7:00 PM on weekdays. If you are simply trying to get from point A to point B, you'll find that it's up to 2-3 times faster to go at night. There are several websites that display real-time traffic charts, such as Traffic.com Google Maps (see above) is another good source for information about traffic congestion.
Finding Your Way Around
See the tips above under "Don't Get Lost." They are especially relevant when you rent a car.
How To Avoid Crime While Driving
- While you are in the car, keep the doors locked, always.
- Do not keep valuables in a parked car! Sometimes thieves will watch parking areas that are popular with tourists. If they see you hide something in the trunk of the car, they might try to break in. The best option is to leave behind a bare, uninviting car that is unattractive to thieves. Your valuables are safer in your hotel room than in your car.
- Choose well-lit areas for your destination at night. Hollywood Boulevard, Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade, and Universal City Walk are examples of places you can safely visit at night. All major theme parks such as Magic Mountain and Disneyland are well-lit and contained within gates.
- Car Jacking - this is when a criminal steals a car directly from a person using force, or a weapon such as a gun. These crimes are rare, but they get a lot of publicity, so you've probably heard about it. During your stay in LA, you probably will not even hear about a carjacking, let alone become a victim of one. But in the rare chance that happens, just let them have the car and then call the police (9-1-1).