This Los Angeles Travel Guide shares everything you need to know before visiting the city, including where to stay, what to do and how to save.
Sprawled across a massive city, Los Angeles is the second largest city in America and it feels it. Made up of movies stars, wannabes, surfers and heavy traffic, LA offers a metropolis of attractions.
There are lots of things to see and do in LA but make sure you hire a car or buy a sightseeing bus ticket, as getting across LA can be expensive. Check out the celebrity homes, Hollywood signs and Hollywood Boulevard but also take a day trip from Los Angeles to the nearby national parks and beaches.
Budget: Dorms in Downtown LA start at $45 whilst those in the Hollywood area and Venice Beach start around $30.
Midrange: Motels can be found from $55+ whilst budget hotel cost between $70 – $110.
Luxury: Rental apartments and luxury hotels in good areas will cost you around $150+
Transport: Car rental are cheaper the longer you have held your license for whilst a regular fare for the Metro is $1.75 per boarding or $7 for a day pass.
Average cost of food:
LA offers some of the greatest fast food and cheap eats in America.
Sandwiches, burgers, chilli cheese fries and even healthy options can cost between $5 – $15 while sit down meals cost between $15 – $30.
Best time to visit Los Angeles
Southern California is sunny almost all year round, with average temperatures of 21 – 27°C. This makes LA the ideal vacation destination, any time of the year. However, the best time to visit Los Angeles is march to May and September to November, when there are less crowds and less humidity.
July and August are the hotted months, with temperatures as high as 113°F / 45 °C.
If you are on a budget, the cheapest month to visit LA is February; with lower temperatures attracting less tourists.
Where to stay in Los Angeles
Banana Bungalow can be found on Hollywood Boulevard; arguably one of the best areas to stay in LA. Near the nightlife of the Boulevard and the starting point for most celebrity home and red bus tours, dorm beds start at $30.
Orange Drive Hostel can also be found in the Hollywood area, with dorms starting at $45 and private double ensuite rooms start at $109 for two.
The Hotel Hollywood is a great hotel to stay at if you are looking for a central hotel; just one block from Hollywood Boulevard, with rooms starting at $98.
Hotel Solarie Los Angeles, is a popular hotel for those visiting on business or who wish to stay in Downtown LA. Rooms start at $102 a night and are spacious and comfortable.
During our stay in LA we spent 4 nights at Ginosi Hollywood Apartments, offering spacious and clean apartments just off Hollywood Boulevard. This was a great choice for us, allowing us to make some homemade food and enjoy plenty of space to relax. The apartments also offer a pool which is great during the summer months, prices start at $190 but deals can be found when booking in advance.
The Georgian Hotel is a great choice for those wishing to stay in the Santa Monica, with historic and elegant decor just a 10 minute walk away from the pier, rooms start at $262.
Save money in Los Angeles
America is not the best place to start if you are travelling on a budget but there are many ways you save money travelling the USA.
- Chain hotels – The USA has many budget chain hotels. These are basic and make sure to check reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor first, but you can save some serious money staying in places like Econolodge, Travelodge, Days in and Super 8.
- Hotels with kitchenettes – When booking a hotel or motel, check if there is a kitchenette. If there is a room or hotel with a kitchenette, then opt for that choice, especially if you are staying somewhere for an extended period of time. This means you can save loads of money cooking food yourself rather than eating out.
- Farmer markets – Heading to farmer markets or ethnic grocery stores can save you money on snacks and food.
- Early Bird – When eating out, either aim to have a big lunch or head to a restaurant before 5. Many places offer an early bird option, where you can save money when eating between 2 – 5pm.
- Coupons – Pick up the local newspaper to find coupons for attractions and restaurants each week. If you plan on visiting a chain restaurant or cafe (such as Starbucks), check for vouchers or gift certificates on Ebay.
- Reward cards – If you travel a lot, why not get a rewards credit card for your favourite hotel chain. Hilton and Marriott have great sign up offer, so you can collect points each time you spend money on the card and then redeem free stays and upgrades worldwide.
- Compare rentals – If you intend on road tripping, make sure you compare prices for a rental car on websites such as rentalcars.com or hotwire.com.
- Turo – Another option if you are looking to rent a car is by using getaround.com or turo.com. This is a similar concept to airbnb but for cars; you can rent a car from owners and this can work out cheaper than renting from a rental company.
- Avoid checked luggage – If you are flying in or out and visiting for a short period, avoid having checked luggage. You can book budget flights to save money but these don’t always include checked luggage.
- Hotel Tonight – This app can be used in the big cities such as New York, LA, Chicago, Miami and Vegas. It offers last minute rooms, particularly great if you are thinking of a weekend away.
- Download a Wifi Map – This map is fantastic at finding available Wifi Spots in your area. These aren’t just Free Wifi Spots too, they have a database of passwords to make your connection reliable and safe.
- Avoid Public Holidays – Hotel and travel prices rise around the 4th July and Labor Day, so avoiding travelling at this time. If you do want to travel at this time, book everything in advance.
- Avoid hostels – Hostels are a great way to save money accommodation everywhere else in the world but not in the US. There aren’t many hostels and most are overpriced. If you are travelling by yourself, you are better off using a budget hotel or look for a bedroom on airbnb.
- Free attractions – Take advantage of the free attractions in LA. Visit the Griffith Observatory, head to Venice Beach, stroll along Santa Monica pier and celebrity spot at the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.
- Go Los Angeles Card – This city pass saves you money on the major attractions if you plan on seeing a lot during your time in the capital.
Best things to do in Los Angeles
Hollywood Boulevard & Walk of Fame
Santa Monica Pier
Universal Studios Hollywood
Warner Bros Studio Tour
Griffith Observatory & Park
Grand Central Market
California Science Center
Walt Disney Concert Hall
The Getty Center
TCL Chinese Theatre
Venice beach and canals
How to get to Los Angeles
Fly – Los Angeles International airport (LAX) is the main entrance into the city. Some domestic flights arrive at Bob Hope/Burbank Airport. From the airport, you can catch a door to door shuttle bus such as Prime Time or Super Shuttle, costing $21 for trips to Santa Monica and $27 for trips to Hollywood. You can grab a taxi, with flat rates to Downtown LA costing $47, Santa Monica $35, West Hollywood $40 and Hollywood $50. The LAX flyway buses travel nonstop for $8 to Downtowns Union Station, Santa Monica, Hollywood and Westwood Village.
Bus – Greyhound offer buses into LA from all major cities, but their bus terminal isn’t in the greatest of places so avoid arriving at night. Some buses go directly to the terminal in Hollywood, with a few passing through Pasadena and Long Beach.
Train – Amtrak trains arrive at Union Station, heading from Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans and San Diego.
Drive – There are several routes into LA. Some may have taken route 66, ending at Santa Monica Pier whilst those heading from San Francisco should take the fastest route 1-5 through San Joaquin Valley. Hwy 101 is slower but more picturesque as is HWY 1. 1-5 ib the best route from San Diego and south points, whilst 1-15 south to 1-10 gets you to LA from Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
How to get around Los Angeles
Renting a car is the best option for getting around LA; though avoid rush hour (7am – 9am and 3.30pm – 6pm).
Parking at motels and cheaper hotels is usually free whilst top-end hotels charge anywhere between $8 – $40 for parking.
The Metro System has 6 light rail lines and 2 subway lines, most of which start and end in downtown LA. The red line is the most useful for visitors, with its subway linking downtowns Union Station to North Hollywood, Central Hollywood and Universal City.
As LA is such a big city, you may wish to get a 2,3 or 4 day ticket for the sight-seeing hop on hop off bus. Not only do you get to see all the sights but it also gets you to and from opposite ends of LA; just keep hold of the map as different lines and changeovers can get confusing.