The information found on these pages is part of a comprehensive booklet, A Guide to Living in Los Angeles, which is available for viewing/download. Click here to view the Flash version of the guide.
A traditional PDF is also available (PDF)
Also see: Arriving in/Moving to Los Angeles
Driver's License and Official Picture I.D.
In California, most business transactions are carried out by showing your driver's license as a form of identification. If you do not wish to get a driver's license, we suggest that you consider obtaining a California identification card. Both are available from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, a passport will also suffice for most business transactions.
According to the DMV, if you are a visitor in California over 18 and have a valid driver's license from your home state or country, you may drive in this state without getting a California driver's license as long as your home state license remains valid. However, if you take a job here or become a resident, you must get a California driver's license within ten days (residency is established by paying resident tuition, voting in a California election, filing for a homeowner’s property tax exemption, or any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents). For more information on applying for a California Driver's License or Identification Card, visit www.dmv.ca.gov.
Obtaining a License
Before a driver's license can be issued, the DMV requires both a written and road test. The written test examines your knowledge about driving rules and regulations in California, while the road test checks your driving skills, including a road sign test. If you pass both tests, you will complete a form with personal information (name, address, etc.) and take a vision test (first time applicants must also present evidence of date of birth, such as a birth certificate or passport). Your photo will also be taken and the license will be mailed to you when it is ready. In the interim, you will be issued a temporary license that will allow you to drive while waiting to receive the official picture license.
For more information on these and other DMV services for those who are new to California, visit www.dmv.ca.gov/newtoca/newtoca.htm.
Department of Motor Vehicles
Los Angeles Office
3615 S. Hope St.,
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Santa Monica Office
2235 Colorado Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90404
1335 W. Glenoaks Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91201
Cars and Traffic
If you are going to be driving any real distance in Los Angeles, it is always wise to check the traffic reports before you start out. Nearly every radio and television station has them during commuting hours, and most of the local news stations post real-time traffic maps on their websites. Smart phone traffic apps and AM-radio stations with all-news or all-talk formats are good sources during the day. For live streaming traffic videos and other traffic information before you leave your house, visit www.video.dot.ca.gov.
Sharing the ride with a friend can make the drive easier because a number of freeways in Los Angeles have carpool lanes for those cars with two or more people. This will usually cut a considerable amount of time off of your drive, and Southwestern offers special parking rates/privileges for students who carpool.
The VPSI Vanpool Agency may be contacted for existing local vanpool match lists at 1-800-VAN-RIDE (826-7433). In addition, the Southern California Commuter Information Center provides information regarding vanpools.
General driving considerations while in Los Angeles: If there are no speed limit signs posted, the default maximum speed is 25 miles per hour on city streets and 65 miles per hour on freeways. In California, drivers and passengers in private vehicles must always wear seat belts.
A few other things to keep in mind when driving in L.A. are:
- You may turn right after stopping at a red light, unless a sign directs otherwise.
- Pedestrians have the right of way.
- Drunk-driving laws are strictly enforced.
- Open containers of alcoholic beverages are not permitted in vehicles.
- It is illegal to use a cellphone without a hands-free device while driving.
Be sure to carefully read all signs detailing the days or hours you may park at any particular location, because in L.A., illegally parked vehicles get ticketed very quickly and may be towed away. A red curb means no parking; a green curb means parking is for a limited time (limit usually posted); and a white or yellow curb is for loading and unloading passengers only. Parking is generally available in lots or garages, but prices can vary.
Metro Buses and Metro Rail
The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) buses operate throughout the greater Los Angeles area, with service lines down Wilshire Blvd., including stops directly in front of Southwestern. Fare information and MTA bus schedules can be found in the basement of the Westmoreland building or online at www.mta.net.
And, believe it or not, Los Angeles does have a subway system. There is a Metro Red Line subway stop at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Vermont Ave., two blocks from Southwestern, which connects to Union Station and other places throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Subway schedules are also available on campus or online.
Bus and subway pass applications for students are available in the Registration and Academic Records Office (W102), and tokens are available in the Administrative Services Office (W100). To qualify for discount transportation passes, students must be enrolled for a minimum of 12 units of in-classroom study per week for a minimum of three consecutive months.
Metrolink College Discount Program
To apply for a Metrolink discount pass, students must complete the application available in the Registration and Academic Records Office, and submit it along with a 1" by 1-1/2" photo back to the Registration Office. Students can purchase one pass per individual, and only during the time when proof of enrollment can be verified. These passes are non-refundable, non-replaceable and non-transferable.
Orders are due by the 10th day of the month for passes to be used for the following month. Passes are available to students from the last week of the previous month until the 10th of the month used. Students must pay for passes upon receipt. Cash only; no personal checks will be accepted.
MTA College/Vocational Student Identification Card
To apply for a MTA College/Vocational Student Identification Card, students must complete the application available in the Registration and Academic Records Office and submit it in person, along with a 1" by 1 1/4" photo, to an MTA Customer Service Center. Applicants may apply for an Identification Card at any time during their current school term; however, once a term has ended, only proof of full-time enrollment for the next school term will be accepted.
For those living near Southwestern, bicycling can be a quick and efficient way to get to and from campus. Please check with the local municipality in which you reside for their specific rules on bicycle licenses. A bicycle license is inexpensive and will enhance the chance of recovering your bicycle if it is stolen. It is recommended that all riders wear an approved bicycling helmet, available at any bike shop or sporting goods store. Also, be sure to buy a lock and lock your bike every time you leave it unattended. Smart Traveler provides bicycle safety tips, information regarding bikes on transit in Southern California, links to Los Angeles and Orange County bicycling resources, and information on bicycling clubs.
Unlike New York City, Los Angeles streets are not filled with taxis. However, a taxi can be requested by phone fairly quickly from one of the following companies:
Checker Cab: (213) 481-2345
United Taxis: (800) 411-0303
Yellow Cab: (877) 733-3305
Southwestern recommends that you open a bank account as soon as you arrive in Los Angeles. This will give you access to ATMs and will also allow you to write checks from a local bank. Please keep in mind that a ten-day hold is usually required by banks when cashing checks drawn on out-of-town accounts. Southwestern does not cash personal checks.
International students must remember that all law school tuition and fees are required to be paid in U.S. dollars, by check or U.S. money order (payable to Southwestern Law School). Checks must be drawn from U.S. bank accounts or from banks that have branches in the U.S. No money orders in non-U.S. currency will be accepted.
There are ATM machines available at Southwestern on the lower level of both buildings. They accept virtually all ATM/Bank-system cards. There is a $2 transaction charge, and there may be a usage charge by your bank according to its policies.
Listed below is a selection of banks and useful information about each, including their branch closest to the Southwestern campus. This is intended for reference purposes only; Southwestern does not endorse these companies or their services.
case of emergency, call 911 from any telephone. This will immediately
connect you with fire, medical and police officials. Major local
hospitals in the area include:
Cedars Sinai Medical Center
8700 Beverly Blvd.
Good Samaritan Hospital
1225 Wilshire Blvd.
Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center
1300 N. Vermont Ave.
Midway Hospital Medical Center
5925 San Vicente Blvd.
St. Vincent Medical Center
2131 W. 3rd St.