Riding (and paying for) Metro
The first thing you’ll need before boarding a train or a bus is a physical or digital TAP card. Though we’re all for technology, we’ll actually start with (and recommend) the physical TAP card: Available at all Metro Rail stations and select retailers with a $2 surcharge, these reusable cards can be filled with pre-set dollar amounts or day passes. A single ride, regardless of the destination, costs $1.75 and includes free transfers for up to two hours. Day passes start at $7 but are only worthwhile if you’ll be taking four trips more than two hours apart.
Very few bus stops have TAP vending machines, but you can buy a new card with a day pass on board (buses also accept exact change). Make sure to hold onto your card as it’s accepted on all 26 county transit agencies (and has a 10-year lifespan). You can also order or refill a card on the TAP website.
So what about that digital version? Available as an app for both iOS and Android, TAP L.A. lets you use your smartphone to pay for your Metro ride. While it’s kind of magic, we’ve had enough finicky experiences that we don’t necessarily recommend it for first-time riders.
When you’re entering a train station or a bus, it’s as simple as holding your TAP card against the marked terminals. Some light rail stations don’t have turnstiles, but still make sure to tap—otherwise you could face up to a $250 fine.
Most lines operate from before 5am to after midnight. Trains run as often as every 10 minutes during peak times, though you could be stuck waiting for 20 minutes during late nights. Use Metro’s Nextrip service to take out some of the arrival time guesswork.