Things to Know Before You Go to LOS ANGELES

This article covers all you need to know before traveling to Los Angeles like what’s the best time to visit, how to get around the city and avoid traffic jams, best apps to use in LA, and other practical information.


With four million people, Los Angeles is the largest city in California, and the world center of film and television industry. Here are our tips on what to know before traveling to this amazing city:

NUMBER 16: L.A. AREA

Los Angeles metropolitan area is the second largest metropolitan area in the US after New York. In practice, it is impossible to tell where Los Angeles starts or ends because most of its neighboring areas just seem like one big city.

Let’s take a look at the map of Los Angeles and its surroundings so you can get a sense of where the famous attractions are located.

Malibu, famous for its beautiful beach and surfing, is located Northwest. While still popular with tourists, this is a predominantly residential area with beautiful beach houses.

Westside includes Santa Monica Pier, the historic end of Route 66, Venice Beach, Beverly Hills and, for example, the Getty Center.

Downtown is the central area, where most of the high rises, including the famous US Bank Tower is located.

Hollywood is located to the west and northwest of downtown. Here is where you’ll find the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Hollywood sign, followed by San Fernando Valley, commonly referred to as just The Valley, where you will find Universal Studios.

If you drive South, there is Long Beach, and if you continue Southeast, you enter Orange County, another palace known for beautiful beaches and home to Disneyland.

Attractions in Los Angeles are spread out just as the city is, so driving from one side of LA to another will probably be your daily routine.

NUMBER 15: TRAFFIC

Los Angeles is known for its slow traffic. Since the city covers everything from the beaches in the West to East LA and spreads in all other directions, you can travel almost 50 miles and never leave the city. So, expect delays everywhere you go.

Some roads have tolls, so use your Google Maps, Waze or a similar app to check if there are tolls on your route as well as to see your ETA according to latest traffic situation.

Google Maps: https://apple.co/2DRzzId (iOS), http://bit.ly/2Rwig2F (Android)
Waze: https://apple.co/2NLpxvf (iOS), http://bit.ly/2H2L3Lw (Android)
Apple Maps: https://apple.co/2GfcQax (iOS only)

The best way to beat the LA traffic during the week is to travel when there is less traffic on the road like between 10 AM and 3 PM during the day and after 9 PM in the evening. Of course, rush hours can stretch either way and there’s no guarantees.

The average traveler experiences over 72 hours of traffic delays per year so be prepared to be stuck in traffic all the time. It is also good to stay away from the I-405 and don’t forget to use carpool (HOV) lanes lane if you are not travelling alone.

NUMBER 14: SAFETY

Los Angeles has both extremely safe as well as extremely dangerous neighborhoods. So always check where you’re going.

Places like Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Santa Monica are safe. Most areas in Downtown and some places on West Side like Venice Beach are relatively safe during the day but should be avoided at night.

Avoid these areas: Skid Row is an area with one of the largest homeless populations in the US and should be avoided. Areas located very close to downtown like Pico-Union, South Central or Westlake should be avoided as well.

Information on what areas to avoid:
https://www.roadsnacks.net/these-are-the-10-worst-los-angeles-suburbs/
https://esfandilawfirm.com/most-dangerous-neighborhoods-los-angeles/

There is some pickpocketing but mostly on the subway and places like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Similar with tourist scams, so don’t buy your tickets on the streets.

NUMBER 13: WEATHER AND CLIMATE

Los Angeles has Mediterranean climate, mild-to-hot and mostly dry all year.

The warmest months are from July to September and the average temperature in August is 84 °F (29 °C). However, if you’re planning to swim in the ocean, the water temperature is relatively low even in the summer, usually around 68 °F (20 °C). The weather in Spring and Fall is dry, the only exception are winter months, which tend to me more wet, especially February. Average high temperature in the winter is around 68 °F (20 °C) with the lows around 48 °F (9 °C) during the day.

Unfortunately, smog is also a very common phenomenon in Los Angeles.

NUMBER 12: BEST TIME TO TRAVEL

The best time to visit Los Angeles is from March to May and between September and November, when there are less crowds, average temperatures range between 70 °F (21°C) and 84 °F (29°C) during the day, and the air is more breathable, which makes visiting Los Angeles great for both outdoor and indoor activities.

NUMBER 11: WHERE TO STAY

Finding good budget accommodation in Los Angeles can be tricky. An average three-star hotel costs around $150 per night, but you can get some deals for under $100 per night. When it comes to luxury hotels Los Angeles offers plenty of options.

Since tourist attractions are spread out, there is no ideal place in terms of being close to major sights so we recommend that you choose an area that you generally like so you can, for example, take a walk on the beach if you like the ocean. Some of the best areas to stay are Downtown, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice, Beverly Grove, West Hollywood, and Westwood.

Watch our video on best apps to book your stay and find your best accommodation in Los Angeles: 👉 https://youtu.be/B7usOIXzAJk 

NUMBER 10: TRANSPORTATION

From and to the airport

The main airport in Los Angeles is LAX, located 18 miles (30 km) southwest of Downtown Los Angeles.

There are several options to travel from and to LAX:

  • Rent-a-car: if you plan on renting a car, it is wise to do so in advance as you can get much better deals this way
  • Airport FlyAway Bus, a shuttle service that provides non-stop transportation between LAX and designated bus stops: Hollywood, Long Beach, Union Station (Downtown Los Angeles), Van Nuys (San Fernando Valley), Westwood (West Los Angeles/UCLA)
  • Uber/Lyft
  • Shared Ride Shuttles
  • Taxies
  • A free shuttle that takes you to the metro station

Getting around the city

Los Angeles is spread out and public transportation is not as efficient and organized as in other cities such as New York or San Francisco.

So, check if your destination is covered by public transportation by using apps like Google Maps, where you can easily see public transportation options and how much time it takes to arrive at your destination.

Some areas are still well covered by either metro trains or buses. If you want to use public transportation, you can buy a reusable TAP card. Available from TAP vending machines at Metro stations with a $1 surcharge, the cards allow you to add a preset cash value or day passes. The regular base fare is $1.75 per boarding, or $7 for a day pass with unlimited rides.

The Transit Access Pass (TAP) card: https://www.taptogo.net/

A more convenient method of transportation for tourists in Los Angeles are car rentals or Uber and Lyft. You can also rent-a-car per hour, for instance with Zip Car. Download Zipcar app (registration needed: Zip card): https://apple.co/2TslVR9 (iOS), http://bit.ly/2S4eGSM (Android)

NUMBER 9: BEST APPS TO USE IN LA

Your smartphone can be your best buddy in Los Angeles. Here are some of the best apps to use.

Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps, or any other app with current traffic and public transportation information. And, as mentioned, Uber and Lyft if you prefer a ride:
Google Maps: https://apple.co/2DRzzId (iOS), http://bit.ly/2Rwig2F (Android)
Waze: https://apple.co/2NLpxvf (iOS), http://bit.ly/2H2L3Lw (Android)
Apple Maps: https://apple.co/2GfcQax (iOS only)
Uber: https://apple.co/2G6WqS3 (iOS), http://bit.ly/2WCwtyX (Android)
Lyft: https://apple.co/2t60sl7 (iOS), http://bit.ly/2SldQjK (Android)

If you are looking for the best and most affordable parking:
BestParking: https://goo.gl/wmjMnV (iOS), https://goo.gl/qck8ju (Android)
ParkWhiz: https://goo.gl/JLNcrV (iOS), https://goo.gl/N6fSsJ (Android)
ParkMe: https://goo.gl/hyWcZC (iOS), https://goo.gl/ChY3EH  Android)

GasBuddy if you want to find cheapest gas prices, since gas in California is expensive, compared to other US states: https://goo.gl/2NW6wu (iOS), https://goo.gl/Lu5ShR (Android)

L.A Weekly, a resource to discover events, restaurants, and activities in the city: https://goo.gl/hR72rS (iOS), https://goo.gl/5aAWj7 (Android)

5 Every Day, which suggest five interesting things to do in LA every day: https://goo.gl/zfgpi4 (iOS only)

Airbnb, where you can book experiences and tours with locals: https://apple.co/2W4AD2l (iOS), http://bit.ly/2ATCxd3 (Android)

Eatwith, where you can book a dinner or a cooking class at someone’s home: https://apple.co/2S1rt8t (iOS), http://bit.ly/2UAJ6sl (Android)

Lime or Bird, where you can rent an electric scooter and explore the city this way:
Lime: https://apple.co/2HNu1Cs (iOS), http://bit.ly/2t0a3tI (Android)
Bird: https://apple.co/2DOBoFN (iOS), http://bit.ly/2DPeQVg (Android)

GrubHub, a great app offering food delivery from restaurants: https://goo.gl/7dGSGv (iOS), https://goo.gl/EpY355 (Android)

NUMBER 8: LINES ARE EVERYWHERE

Since Los Angeles is usually a crowded place, you can expect lines not only on the road but also at the restaurants and all major attractions.

NUMBER 7: FOOD

Food in Los Angeles is not cheapest, but it is known for its quality and diversity. If you visit Grand Central Market in downtown LA you can experience food from all over the world, all in one place. An average meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs approximately $14, and a mid-range, three-course meal for two costs about $55.

You can find less-expensive options with a little research othese apps:
TripAdvisor: https://apple.co/2ML2tfI (iOS), http://bit.ly/2RBBww1 (Android)
Yelp: http://bit.ly/2GjamYv (iOS), http://bit.ly/2RvDpKw (Android)

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

  • Fast food: In N Out Burgers, Tito’s Tacos, Pink’s Hot Dog’s
  • Food trucks: Leo’s Tacos Truck, The Grilled Cheese Truck, Hungry Nomad Truck, Coolhaus (Ice Cream)
  • There are also Taco Tuesdays in Mexican restaurants (for example, Pink Taco, Cabo Cantina), happy hours (usually between 3 and 6 pm) and many other options.

We’ll make a separate post on cheap eats in Los Angeles.

NUMBER 6: FOR TOURISTS COMING FROM OUTSIDE US

If you are not from the United States, and especially if you are arriving directly to Los Angeles, there are a couple of things to know:

Tipping

You should always tip in bars and restaurants in the United States, and therefore Los Angeles. The normal rate is between 15% and 20% pre-tax for restaurants, $1 to $2 per drink for bartenders, or 15% to 20% of the bar tab. You should know that servers in the US are usually paid minimum wage or less and rely heavily on tips.

Power Plugs

There is a chance you will need special US power adaptor to charge your phone and other devices. We recommend purchasing a power adaptor before traveling to Los Angeles. In fact, it is worth buying the adapter for the entire world so you can use in other countries too.

NUMBER 5: DRINKING WATER

Despite the public perception that tap water is not fit for drinking, the Los Angeles Department of Water ensures that their tap water is as clean as bottled water. It might not taste as good as bottled water, but it may save you some money.

NUMBER 4: DISCOUNTS AND COUPONS

There are many things you can do in Los Angeles, from shows, standups to sport events, whale watching and many more. It is worth searching on Groupon, LivingSocial and other similar coupon sites for money-saving deals (events, food, products, etc.):

Groupon: https://www.groupon.com/
LivingSocial: https://www.livingsocial.com

NUMBER 3: SAVE ON ATTRACTIONS

Some of the famous attractions in Los Angeles are very expensive, for example, a daily ticket to the Universal Studios is around $100.

If you want to visit more attractions, we recommend buying a Go Los Angeles® Card to visit multiple LA attractions for reduced price.
Go Los Angeles® Card.

Or buy (SoCAL) Southern California City Pass if you plan to visit several amusement parks in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego and want to save some money. Amusement parks include Universal Studios, Disneyland, Sea World San Diego, Legoland, and others.

On the other hand, there are some great attractions in Los Angeles that are completely free, and you only have to pay for parking (~ $15), for example, The Getty Villa, Getty Center, Griffith Observatory. If you visit The Getty Villa and Getty Center both in one day, you pay only for one paring space and that way you can even save money.

NUMBER 2: WI-FI

Especially if you are an international traveler, access to free Wi-Fi is very important. You’ll find free Wi-Fi in many places in and around Los Angeles.

Download Wifi Finder, an app that downloads WiFi map so you can search for nearby WiFi even when you’re offline, or use Wiman that helps you find all the Free WiFi hotspots available in your travel destination.

Wifi Finder: https://apple.co/2tFj2kB (iOS), http://bit.ly/2TgyAtj (Android)
Wiman: http://bit.ly/2ECLush (Android only)

You can also buy a local sim card and get online that way. Some of the best providers for cheap sim cards when it comes to value for money are prepaids cards from T-Mobile and Mint.

Sim card providers: T-Mobile, Mint

NUMBER 1: BEST VIEWS OF THE CITY

For the best and amazing free views of Los Angeles you can visit Griffith observatory, Hollywood sign, Echo Park, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, Mount Wilson Observatory, City Hall, Getty Center, etc.

But you can also pay and see the city from another perspective from OUE Skyspace LA, the tallest observation deck in California and ride on their SkySlide stretching directly above downtown Los Angeles.

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Do you have a suggestion on what you need to know before travelling to Los Angeles? What’s your experience? Do you have a question about LA? Share it in the comments below.

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