ahhh, i had the same worries like you ie turing into a bad neighbourhood. In fact it was och who convinced me that its ok. (tks och!
well, i went to only the tourist areas. The maps and road signs were all very good, so no worries. PLus it guess it doesn help to do a bit of homework before you set off, ie find where you are on the map and find your destination. Stick to the major roads and highways and you won't go wrong.
FYI the maps i got were from the AA equivalent in the states, but those from AA Singapore were also good.
If you're worried abt car breakdowns, then rent a car from a large and reliable company. I chose to rent from BUDGET (slightly cheaper than hertz); they offer a 24-hour vehicle assistance in case of breakdowns.
Pardon me for saying this, but i think the public transport in the states esp in LA isn't so good. Everyone there drives!
Sure you can rely on public transport in SFO (bus and trams), LV just rely on your legs or taxi but pls get a car in LA. The frequency of the public transport in LA is also very spaced out!
FYI there is only 1 public transport bus service serving most of the hotels in anaheim. If you miss the bus, chances r that you will have to walk back to your hotel. There is hardly a single public bus or taxi in sight!!!
Getting to six flags fr anaheim will also be a problem if you want to rely on public transportation coz there is none available!
Therefore i suggest you rent a car ... parking in disneyland is expensive, so rent a car only AFTER you have finsihed with your disney experience. (No point leaving a rented car in your hotel carpark all day long also right?)
I can't remember exactly how much it is, but i think it was in the region of US$300 per week (7 days) for a 2 litre car excluding all tax and insurance. Look out for their offers at www.budget.com