I stayed in LA as a guest of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, and paid for my own airfare to/from the USA.
When I visited Los Angeles in October last year, I had an experiment in mind. I wanted to see what it was like to travel from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to the city's Downtown by public transport.
I'm not talking about the official LAX FlyAway bus, which will take you from the airport to Union Station for US$9. I wanted to use 'real' public transport, ie the city's Metro system.
This is how it's done.
1. Free shuttle bus to Aviation/LAX Station.
Exiting the international terminal, you head right to catch a shuttle bus departing from a blue sign marked "LAX Shuttle & Airline Connections".
As I reached it, I was lucky enough to score Shuttle Bus "G" (for "Green Line") immediately. The "G" bus is the one which takes you to the nearest Metro station.
2. Train from Aviation/LAX Station along the Green Line in the direction of Norwalk.
At the base of the station is a ticket machine, where you can buy one of the city's electronic TAP cards, or add credit to an existing card (I had one from a previous trip). Then catch the elevator up to the island platform - note the cool quote from Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl:
Be careful here, as it's easy to get on a train going the wrong way; signage is not all it could be. I managed to get on a train heading the opposite direction, toward Redondo Beach, but it was an easy mistake to fix by switching to the other side of the platform at a later station.
3. Transfer to the Blue Line at Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station.
When you get to Willowbrook/Rosa Parks, take the escalator or elevator down to the ground level Blue Line platforms.
Note that you must tap your TAP card again, and the validators aren't in that logical a position - they're off to the side, away from the escalators.
Once on the island platform, wait on the side marked "Downtown LA" rather than "Long Beach". When a train pulls in, get aboard.
The day I caught the train was - unknown to me - a public holiday. So the trains on the Blue Line, which pass through the hip hop hubs of Compton and Watts, were pretty lively.
People chatted with groups of friends and played music, and (I assume unlicensed) vendors made their way through the carriages selling cold drinks and, for some reason, earbuds draped in large numbers around their necks.
4. Alight at 7th Street/Metro Center Station.
You can leave the system here, or transfer again to the Red Line (Union Station-North Hollywood), Purple Line (Union Station-Koreatown) or Expo Line (7th St/Metro Center-Culver City) to travel farther afield.
I was heading to the excellent Hotel Normandie in Koreatown, but as I was only carrying cabin luggage I had a look around Downtown first - visiting an Aussie pie shop on the way.
And how much did this journey cost me? A mere US$1.75, which is LA Metro's standard one-way fare, but includes transfers to other lines for up to two hours.
It's not necessarily a fast way to get away from LAX; but it is colourful, and it is cheap.