When I’m travelling I always make sure I use the local public transport, it’s usually the cheapest and most authentic way of getting around, showing you the bits of town you’d probably otherwise miss
(sometimes this isn’t necessarily a good thing…) It’s generally always the way the locals get from A to B and therefore you should follow suit!
However, this isn’t quite the case in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is a city famed for its traffic, highways and the fact that pretty much EVERYONE owns a car. Public transport is used solely by those who can’t afford to run a car, not like London where it is used by most as the easiest way to hop around. As an eighteen year old backpacker with five days to kill in the city I was in no position to tackle car hire let alone the notorious freeways. This meant that I had to rely on public transport to get me any further than Hollywood Boulevard, resulting in me having to catch two buses on a day trip to Santa Monica. It also meant getting the bus under the cover of darkness in a city which doesn’t have the best after-hours safety record…
So after an hour or so delay in the middle of one of the less desirable suburbs of LA, I boarded the 720 bus to Hollywood Boulevard, a 45 minute or so journey pinpointed by some of the most interesting and crazy characters I’ve ever came into contact with. Here are my 7 favorites:
1- The Tour Guide: This elderly lady shouted out the name of every stop along the route, listing the local points of interest as well as giving directions to any place she heard mentioned by other passengers. Quite helpful actually.
2- The Poet: Obviously everyone in LA is trying to make it ‘big in the business’, this guy was no exception. He sat reading snippets of his poetry to anyone who would listen and nattering about how many pieces he had had published (‘oh but I’m not bragging!’) Yeah… Not quite a Ginsberg yet…
3- The Couple: There was a massive argument between a couple about who had/hadn’t paid the bill that month. (‘Ya’ll so damn tight Rhonda!’) Apparently Rhonda had to bail her brother out of jail that week so what did he expect!
4- The Rehab Guy: A guy sitting at the back of the bus was treating us all to a pros and cons conversation with his mother about sending his brother to rehab. (‘Expensive though isn’t it?’)
5- The Eccentric: A small older lady wearing a very revealing top which slipped around as she sporadically jumped up and down and screamed for a bit before getting settled.
6- The Stoners: A young skater couple sat silently at the back of the bus, the girl occasionally cocked her head and smiled Exorcist style and the boy constantly bit his nails and stared intently at everyone boarding the bus.
7- The Philosopher: A very high, very drunk and very smelly young man sat having a conversation with a sympathetic older gentleman who sat next to him. After an intense discussion about the benefits of legalising drugs the older guy proceeded to give him a fistful of money before gravitating to a group of guys sat near the front who slipped him a packet of small white pills.
So, as you can tell, Los Angeles public transport was definitely an experience and one which is still left pretty unrivaled by the other bus journeys I’ve taken. If you are travelling alone then I would definitely take care, especially when travelling on the buses in the dark but during the day the buses are definitely the cheapest way to get out of town. I paid $1.50 for unlimited travel and it doesn’t come better than that. It also gave me some of the best stories from my trip and allowed me to see a side of LA outside of all the glamour, mansions and theme parks. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.