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By Car

To reach Santa Monica and other northern beach communities, exit the airport, take Sepulveda Boulevard north, and follow the signs to California 1 (PCH) north. You can take I-405 north, but you'll be sorry you did -- that stretch of freeway is always heavily congested.

To reach Redondo, Hermosa, Manhattan, and the other southern beach communities, take Sepulveda Boulevard south and then follow the signs to California 1 south.

To reach Beverly Hills or Hollywood, exit the airport via Century Boulevard and then take I-405 north to Santa Monica Boulevard east.

To reach Downtown or Pasadena, exit the airport, take Sepulveda Boulevard south, then take I-105 east to I-110 north.

Tip: If you're going to rent a car at LAX, avoid arriving during midweek mornings or evening rush hour, particularly if you have to get on dreaded I-405. You'll save yourself several hours of stop-and-go misery if you time it right.

A shortcut to LAX -- One of the city's busiest interchanges is from the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) to the San Diego Freeway (I-405) on the way to LAX -- many a tourist has missed a flight because of this beastly bottleneck. Therefore, if you're heading to LAX for your flight home, the scenic route may prove to be the fastest. From the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) westbound, exit south to La Brea Avenue. Go right on Stocker Street and then left on La Cienega Boulevard. Veer right on La Tijera Boulevard and left on Airport Boulevard, then follow the signs. You can use this trick from West Hollywood and Beverly Hills as well -- simply take La Cienega south, continuing as above.

By Car Service

For about the same price you would pay for a taxi to and from LAX, you can hire a personal car service, which is far more convenient and luxurious. M and M Car Service (tel. 310/738-9898 or 285-0193; www.mandmcarservice.com) provides friendly and reliable car service both to and from LAX, with rates starting at $50 (gratuity not included) for car service to LAX from Santa Monica, and slightly more for LAX pickup. M and M also provides car, limousine, and SUV service throughout the greater L.A. region for shows, restaurants, scenic cruises, and special occasions.

By Shuttle

Many city hotels provide free shuttles for their guests; ask when you make reservations. SuperShuttle (tel. 800/BLUE-VAN258-3826 or 310/782-6600; www.supershuttle.com) offers regularly scheduled minivans from LAX to any location in the city, as does Prime Time Shuttle (tel. 800/RED-VANS [733-8267] or 310/536-7922; www.primetimeshuttle.com). Fares can range from about $15 to $35 per person, depending on your destination. If you're a group of three or more, it probably will be cheaper and far more convenient to take a cab. Reservations aren't needed for your arrival, but are required for a return to the airport.

By Metro Rail

Budget-minded travelers heading to Downtown, Universal City, or Long Beach can take L.A.'s Metro Rail service from LAX. An airport shuttle can take you to the Green Line light-rail station; from there, connections on the Blue, Gold, and Red lines can get you where you're headed. It's a good idea to contact your hotel for advice on the closest station. The service operates from 5am to midnight, and the combined fare is less than $3 -- but you should be prepared to spend 1 to 2 hours in transit. Call the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) at tel. 323/GO-METRO (466-3876 ), or see www.metro.net for information.

By Public Bus

The city's MTA buses also go between LAX and many parts of the city. Phone MTA Airport Information (tel. 323/GO-METRO [466-3876 ]; www.metro.net) for the schedules and fares. If you arrive at LAX and your hotel is in Santa Monica, you can hop aboard the city's Big Blue Bus (tel. 310/451-5444; www.bigbluebus.com). It's a slow ride, but the $1 fare is hard to beat. Bus information is available in the baggage claim area of every LAX terminal.

By Taxi

Taxis are at the arrivals level under the yellow sign outside each terminal. Be sure to ask for a list of prices to various major destinations before setting off. There's a flat price of $47 between LAX and Downtown Los Angeles; expect to pay at least $45 to Hollywood, $35 to Beverly Hills, $30 to Santa Monica, and $75 to the Valley and Pasadena. But wait -- there's more. You'll also have to pay an airport surcharge of $2.50 for trips originating from LAX.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.