Los Angeles is a difficult city to navigate without a car, but it’s something those on a budget need to manage one way or another. Arriving at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) is the first step in that navigation. How do you get the hell out of there as quickly as humanly possible? Over the years I’ve generally jumped into one of the SuperShuttle services, where you join others trying to save a bit of money getting from the airport to their destination, but in my most recent US travels I decided to give the public transport option a go – or at least the closest thing to it available – The FlyAway bus.
The service is not dissimilar to what is offered at Melbourne International Airport. In fact, it’s pretty much the same thing – just cheaper. Arriving at Terminal 1, I was one of the first to board the bus, though it took less than 20 minutes to pick up passengers at the remaining 6 terminals. Get unlucky with the Shuttle buses mentioned and you could be looking at two round trips of LAX before your car fills up and you get out of there… Then there’s also the chance you take of being the last to depart the bus. I’ve been in circumstances where it took some three hours to get to a place a taxi would have taken 20 minutes to get to. Though the shuttle remained the more affordable option, you sometimes have to remind yourself that, when travelling, your time is valuable…
That said, the FlyAway service isn’t going to suit every traveller. They only head to four destinations. However, at a low cost (starting from $7) and a guaranteed direct route, it’s certainly one of the quickest ways to get your journey started. Staying in Silverlake, I jumped on the $7 express to Union Station (this service is now $8 at the time of publishing), which wasn’t too far from my final destination.
The trip to Union Station took a little under 40 minutes, keeping in mind this was at 4pm when traffic does start building up, though in peak traffic it may take longer. The payment system seems rather flawed, you line up after you get off the bus, and you can only collect your bags once you pay. But if you don’t have a bag to collect, then you can likely get away without payment – not to condone it, I just noticed some people doing it. Sit near the front if you can to ensure you’re near the front of the line on exit.
Once at Union Station, my only real option from there was a taxi. If I was to face a large amount of traffic I faced a hefty taxi bill. However, if I didn’t, it should have been affordable enough to keep it below the to/from residential cost of a company like SuperShuttle.
In the end, my ride cost $16, still making it – combined with the FlyAway fee – a cheaper voyage than the SuperShuttle, and though it’s hard to say how long a SuperShuttle would have definitely taken, this is likely to have been the quicker alternative.
If you’re not close to Union Station, another option is changing at Union station to one of the train lines, if you’re lucky enough to be staying near a station (though chances are you’re probably not).
This advice is meant for the solo budget traveller only. Once you’re in a group, the private services that companies like SuperShuttle offer are definitely your best option. But in this instance, a combination of FlyAway with a taxi service definitely got me to where I need to go, affordably and efficiently.
Note that I didn’t provide myself with the local bus network as a transport option. I’ve been there, done that and travelling on LA public transport with baggage is a nightmare. Avoid at all costs. Once you have dropped your bags off at your destination, however, the LA Metro bus network is fairly extensive – and if your origin and destination are lucky enough to be on one of the few subway lines that run through the city, they are both quick, affordable ($1.50 a ride) and reliable. The buses are famously not the same, though they remain as affordable, and you can purchase day passes for $5 from any Metro train station.
FlyAway also serves Van Nuys, Westwood and Expo/La Brea, and runs 24 hours a day.
All information was correct at the time this article was originally published. Visit http://www.lawa.org/welcome_LAX.aspx?id=292 for all the current costings, timetables and additional information.