If you’re wondering what to do in Los Angeles for a week, I can help. I traveled to this US destination twice (well, three times if you count that one dinner during a road trip) and have gathered my experiences into a one-week itinerary including places to go, things to see and where to stay.
I wrote about my trips to Los Angeles in the past but as I’d only just started blogging back then, the information was scattered over different articles and so I decided to compile everything in this one-week program for Los Angeles. It talks about all the things I did when I was there in 2012 and 2013, presented in a bit more of a pleasant form than it used to be. At least, so I hope.
- One week in Los Angeles itinerary
- Where to stay in LA
- Day 1: Santa Monica
- Day 2: Venice Beach
- Day 3: Downtown LA
- Day 4: Hiking and shopping
- Day 5: Malibu and the Getty Villa
- Day 6: The Walk of Fame, Chinatown and El Pueblo
- Day 7: Festivals and festivities
- Extra: visit Universal Studios
- Nightlife in Los Angeles
- Where to eat in Los Angeles
- The Go Los Angeles Card
- How to get around in LA
- How to get to LA
- Stay connected while visiting LA
- Don’t forget travel insurance
- Pin for later
- Read more about Los Angeles:
Don’t have time to read everything now? Check this summary video and bookmark the article so you can get all the details later:
One week in Los Angeles itinerary
Where to stay in LA
LA is massive and so it’s good to have an idea of the different regions in Los Angeles before you book your accommodation. Now there are literally dozens of areas in the whole of Los Angeles so the below is a rough sketch of some greater regions.
Concert halls, restaurants, museums, theater, thrilling nightlife and a vibrant art scene: that’s Downtown. Some accommodation options include:
Budget option: PodShare DTLA
The PodShare DTLA is a hostel that offers beds in a mixed, air-conditioned dormitory with a shared bathroom. There are cooking and coffee making facilities as well as a seating area. WiFi is free and a nice breakfast is included in the price.
Midrange option: American Hotel
The 2-star American Hotel offers spacious air-conditioned rooms with a satellite flatscreen tv and free WiFi in an area with plenty of shops and cafes. The bathrooms are shared.
Luxury option: The NoMad Los Angeles
The 5-star NoMad Los Angeles hotel is located in the historic Giannini Building. It features a rooftop pool and bar, a gym, a bar, a cafe, and a formal dining restaurant. All air-conditioned rooms feature Parisian artwork and custom-designed furniture. WiFi is free throughout the property and valet parking is available for those coming by car.
The epicenter of the entertainment world, Hollywood is what put LA on the map internationally. This is where you find the Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Bowl and the Dolby® Theatre™ at the Hollywood & Highland Center which hosts the Academy Awards.
Some accommodation options include:
Budget option: USA Hostels Hollywood
USA Hostels Hollywood is a 2-star hostel just a 5-minute walk from the Walk of Fame. It offers both private rooms and dorm rooms where each bed has a shelf, a light, and a power outlet. Linen is provided, breakfast is included, and WiFi is free. Guests can use the kitchen, get information from the tour desk or participate in one of the daily organized activities.
Boutique option: Elaine’s Hollywood Bed & Breakfast
Elaine’s Hollywood Bed & Breakfast is set in a beautiful house with a front patio, a terrace, and a garden. The air-conditioned rooms have a private bathroom, a bath tub, and a flatscreen tv. WiFi is free and a delicious breakfast is included in the room price.
Luxury option: Kimpton Everly Hotel
The 4-star Kimpton Everly Hotel has a rooftop outdoor pool with views of the famous Hollywood sign. Dinner is served at the on-site restaurant and the Ever Bar serves great specialty cocktails. All rooms are air-conditioned and equipped with a flatscreen tv and guests can make use of the fitness center. Complimentary rental bikes are provided and WiFi is free throughout the property. Breakfast costs extra.
3. The Southern Beach Cities and LAX
Beach towns such as Hermosa Beach, Manhattan and Venice are great places to experience LA life at a slower pace. Do a bit of shopping, relax at the beach or go for a walk along the promenade.
Some accommodation options include:
Budget option: Surf City Hostel
The Surf City Hostel in Hermosa Beach has both private rooms and mixed dormitories. It lies less than a block away from the beach and provides free linen, towels, breakfast, and WiFi. Guests can use the hostel’s shared kitchen and it’s possible to rent bikes and surfboards here.
Midrange option: Hotel Hermosa
The 3-star Hotel Hermosa offers spacious air-conditioned rooms with private balconies, flatscreen tvs, coffeemakers and refridgerators at just 1.3 km from the beach. The heated outdoor pool can be used year-round, as can the hot tub. The back patio has a cozy fire pit and seating area while the yoga room is great to stretch after a day by the beach. There’s also a business center. WiFi is free while breakfast comes at an extra cost.
Luxury option: The Beach House at Hermosa
The 4-star Beach House at Hermosa offers air-conditioned suites with a balcony or patio, a spa bath, a fireplace, a flatscreen tv, a fridge, and a microwave. There’s a fitness center as well as a hot tub and guests can book spa services on-site. WiFi is free and a continental breakfast is included in the room price.
4. Santa Monica
Known for its pier and Feris wheel, Santa Monica easily blends a beach town vibe with an urban offering in restaurants and shops. It’s also home to the Santa Monica Aquarium.
Some accommodation options include:
Budget option: HI Los Angeles – Santa Monica Hostel
The HI Los Angeles – Santa Monica Hostel offers a choice between economy, standard, or premium all-male or all-female dormitories right by the beach and 3rd Street Promenade. WiFi is free, breakfast is included in the price, and a kitchen is available for guests who want to cook.
Midrange option: Santa Monica Motel
The 2-star Santa Monica Motel lies just 7 blocks from the beach and around the corner from a bus stop. It offers free WiFi, free parking, and complimentary coffee in the morning. All rooms have a flatscreen tv, a fridge, and a coffee maker.
Luxury option: Casa Del Mar
The 5-star Casa Del Mar lies right at the beach and just 5 minutes walking from teh famous 3rd Street Promenade shopping boulevard. It has an outdoor pool that overlooks the oceans, a hot tub, two on-site restaurants, a gym, and a business center. All air-conditioned rooms feature a 42-inch flatscreen tv and floor-to-ceiling windows. WiFI is free and a delicious breakfast is included in the room price.
5. Beverly Hills and surroundings
Beverly Hills is known for Rodeo Drive, home to more than 100 high-end fashion stores. In this region, you’ll also find plenty of luxury hotels, fine-dining restaurants and beauty, and wellness parlors. Nearby also lie the Museum Row and Culver City’s Art District.
Some accommodation options include:
Boutique option: Hotel Beverly Terrace
Hotel Beverly Terrace lies in the Heart of Beverly Hills. It offers air-conditioned rooms with custom-designed furniture, a flatscreen tv and a fridge. There’s also an on-site Italian restaurant where guests can dine on the private patio with garden views. WiFi is free and the exquisite breakfast buffet is included in the room price.
Luxury option: Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills
The 5-star Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills is located on a residential street in Beverly Hills in walking distance from Rodeo Drive. It boasts a rooftop pool, a spa center, a modern gym, a lounge bar, and a restaurant. Guests can also enjoy free car service in a Maserati, daily free newspapers and signature toiletries. WiFi is free while breakfast comes at an extra charge.
6. West Hollywood
Looking for something a bit more edgy? Then West Hollywood is the place to stay. Think trendy boutiques, vintage stores, a lively arts and LGTB scene and an overall progressive and funky attitude.
Guesthouse option: The Residences at Beverly Connection
Enjoy an exceptional travel experience with style, elegance, comfort and convenience in the heart of Los Angeles! This six-room guesthouse is located just steps away from The Beverly Center as well as The Grove, Farmer’s Market, and the LACMA Museum.
For prices and availability, please contact Jesse Ro at [email protected] or send a message via the Facebook page.
Luxury option: The London West Hollywood
The 5-star The London West Hollywood is located right by the Sunset Strip and Beverly Hills. It boasts a rooftop pool with cabanas, a fitness center, a beauty salon, and two on-site restaurants. All rooms are air-conditioned suits with plenty of living space, a flatscreen tv, mirrored closets, a walk-in shower with two shower heads and a bath tub. Many of the larger suites also have walk-in closets and separate seating areas with wet bars. WiFi is free and a European continental breakfast buffet is included in the room price.
7. The San Fernando Valley and the Santa Clarita Valley
The Santa Clarita Valley lies in the upper north of Los Angeles Country and is mostly a residential and rural area – except for the fact that it’s also where you find the Six Flags theme park.
The San Fernando Valley is has a mix of famous film studios on the one hand and meeting venues, business centers, and conference hotels on the other. If you want to stay in The Valley and still visit the rest of LA, North Hollywood with its big art and theater scene is a good option.
Some accommodation options include:
Budget option: Valley Village // Sherman Oaks // North Hollywood Hostel
The Valley Village // Sherman Oaks // North Hollywood Hostel is located in Garnsey, 22 km away from central LA. It has a garden with a terrace, a shared lounge, a kitchen, a dining area, and a shared bathroom. Guests stay in 4-person dorms.
Midrange option: Lexen Hotel North Hollywood
The Lexen Hotel North Hollywood is located in the North Hollywood Arts District, across the street from a park. It has a fitness center, a shared lounge, and an outside bar. All rooms are equipped with a king-size bed, a flatscreen tv, a fridge, and a safe. WiFi is free and breakfast is included in the room price.
Luxury option: Hyatt Regency Valencia – Magic Mountain
The Hyatt Regency Valencia- Magic Mountain lies just 3.2 km from the Six Flags theme park. It has an outdoor pool, an on-site restaurant, a bar, a fitness center, and a business center. All rooms are equipped with a flatscreen tv, a work desk, and a seating area. WiFi is free and a breakfast buffet is included in the room price.
If there’s one place that feels like a cozy town within the buzzing LA, it’s probably Pasadena. Thanks to its cultural institutions, diverse restaurant scene and plenty of shopping opportunities, it makes for a great place to stay if you’d rather not be in the middle of it all.
Some accommodation options include:
Serviced flat: Residence Inn by Marriott Los Angeles Pasadena/Old Town
The 3-star Residence Inn by Marriott Los Angeles Pasadena/Old Town boasts a swimming pool, a fitness center, barbeque facilities and a terrace where guests can enjoy a bit of downtime. All the rooms have their own seating area, kitchen with dishwasher, dining area, and bathroom with a hot tub. WIFi is free and a continental breakfast is included in the room price.
Luxury option: The Langham Huntington, Pasadena
The 5-star The Langham Huntington, Pasadena is a resort with 23 acres of lush gardens, a fitness center, an outdoor pool, 3 tennis curts, and a spa center. Guests can dine on-site at the Woof-Fired Steakhouse or the more casual The Terrace or enjoy an afternoon tea at The Lobby Lounge. For handmake cocktails and artisanal beers, there’s The Tap Room.
The luxurious feel of this hotel extends to the spacious rooms which all have Italian marble bathrooms.
If you’re looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I recommend checking airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
Day 1: Santa Monica
I visited Santa Monica on both of my trips to LA and twice on Labor Day in September. All the shops are open then, but it’s best to go early to get a parking spot right next to the Santa Monica Pier ($12 for a day at the time).
We made sure to arrive around 10 a.m. twice and that was fine. It allowed us to wander over the pier and cover a large part of the shopping street Third Street Promenade before things got busy and when they did, we simply headed to the beach.
By the way, a fun place to stop for lunch when you’re shopping is the Pancake House (no idea if it’s actually called that way, sorry) on Third Street Promenade.
The beach, the pier, and the stores really are Santa Monica’s three main attractions. At the pier, you can see street artists performing from early noon until late at night or people trying their hand at fishing.
Santa Monica Place lies adjacent to Third Street Promenade and the entire shopping area is just a 5-minute walk from the pier and the beach.
The beach is so wide that you’ll always find a spot although it can get crowded right along the waterline. If you’re looking for something a bit more active, you can always walk, rollerblade or bike along the beach promenade.
Something strange that I noticed the second time I visited, was that the little beach on the right of the pier was super full with families while it was a lot less crowded on the other side. It might just have been a coincidence, but it was striking, as if all families flocked together there.
Day 2: Venice Beach
Venice Beach lies right next to Santa Monica and you can easily walk or bike there, but I twice took a separate day for it. There are several paid parking lots not too far from the beach. We once paid $10/day on Pacific Avenue but saw lower prices elsewhere, so it might be worth driving around a bit if you’re watching your budget.
Now, most people know Venice Beach because of Muscle Beach, the outdoor gym, but what I mostly noticed is how diverse this beach town is. On the one hand, there’s the more touristy part of the beach which has a bit of a more grungy feel to it. There’s graffiti everywhere and street artists share the boulevard with beggars.
You’ll find souvenir shops here as well, but they’re a bit darker and more alternative than the kind you’ll encounter in Spanish coastal towns, for example.
Although we’d seen beggars in Santa Monica as well, the ambiance here was entirely different. I had this feeling that there were two kinds of people living in Venice Beach: the ‘upper class’ that didn’t leave their house too often and went shopping at the more expensive Abbot Kinney Blvd and the artsier and ‘alternative’ people who meet on the streets.
The beach itself is wide like in Santa Monica and in one spot there’s a pretty cool skate park right on the sand.
And then there are the Venice Canals, a beautiful area with big, often very modern houses. In summer, the water in the canals lies low, but we spotted several little boats so I imagine that when it rains for a while, people can actually do a little boat tour here.
It’s a quiet neighborhood without any big roads or lots of people on the street. I even felt a bit like an intruder when I took photos, but I just had to capture some of the amazing houses we saw.
From the Venice Canals, it’s not too far to the harbor of Marina del Rey, but I found that to be a bit disappointing. I’d expected a harbor that would be nice to take a stroll around, but this was more just a collection of boats that you could spot from afar. Maybe my expectations were a bit too European?
Discover Santa Monica and Venice Beach by bike
As they’re next to each other, it’s perfectly possible to visit Santa Monica and Venice Beach on the same day. To maximize your time, consider this electric bike tour. In three hours, you’ll visit Venice Beach, the Venice Canals and Santa Monica with its pier in the company of an expert guide.
Day 3: Downtown LA
Now, you can perfectly walk around Downtown LA, but real Angelenos take the car for everything, and so did we. We drove to Olympic & Figueroa and walked up to the L.A. Live complex where we saw the Staples Center, the Nokia Theatre, the Grammy Museum and so on.
We then walked to Figueroa & 9th to have a look at the Original Pantry Cafe. “The Pantry”, as it is called by locals, opened in 1924 and has never closed since, catering customers 24/7, even though it switched locations once.
In 1950, the Original Pantry Cafe moved to its current building because the government had acquired the old one to build a freeway ramp there. On the day of the move, the employees served lunch at the old location and dinner at the new one. That’s pretty badass.
To be honest, we wouldn’t have checked it out if it hadn’t been so close to where we already were. As we weren’t hungry or thirsty at the time we didn’t go in, which I kind of regret now. We did take a photo (oh yeah, we were that touristy that day):
From The Original Pantry it’s only a short drive to Angels Flight. Angels Flight is the shortest railway in the world, covering about 300 feet. It was opened in 1901 to carry prominent citizens up and down the steep hill between Olive and Hill Street.
Angels Flight was taken out of use and dismantled in 1969 because the city wanted to renew the Bunker Hill Neighborhood. When it was eventually put together again in 1996, it was moved half a block south so that it could take pedestrians up to the California Plaza. The original station house, rail cars Oliver and Sinai and the station arches are still being used, but the driving mechanism is only there for ‘decoration’.
We took the railway up to California Plaza, had a look around and up.
It was only after we got back down that we discovered the Grand Central Market right across the street from Angels Flight. Woops!
Already indoctrinated by the American way of being on the move (read: never walk, always take the car), we took the car and drove about a block to the Disney Concert Hall (111 S. Grand Ave.), home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The architecture of the building really reminded me of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, which isn’t surprising as both buildings were designed by the architect Frank Gehry.
We got up to the little garden on the rooftop but were a little disappointed. The garden was a nice and quiet place in the midst of the city, but we had both expected just a bit more of it. You know, like a green oasis with a pond and ducks.
When we left the building, we walked up to the Cathedral on Temple. We first wanted to visit it, but then we got distracted by a frozen yogurt shop. What do you do.
Day 4: Hiking and shopping
You may not know this, but LA offers some great hiking opportunities. Really!
Well, it’s no hiking in forests and bushes, but I can assure you that the hills of parks like Runyon Canyon and the climb up to Griffith Observatory are no joke, especially not in the heat. If you really want to do some walking, you’re best to go early in the morning, but be aware that Griffith Observatory only opens at noon during the week and at 10 a.m. on the weekends.
And let’s not forget about LA’s most famous hike: the one up to the Hollywood sign! We didn’t do this one when we were there but instead walked up to Griffith Observatory, from where you get a great view of the sign as well.
In any case, wear decent walking shoes, sturdy sandals or sneakers and keep in mind that you’ll mostly be walking on dusty paths, so best leave those white Stanley Smiths at home!
If you rather get some background information while hiking, it’s possible to go on a guided hike in Griffith Park to the Observatory and the Hollywood sign. Click here for more information.
After hiking, it’s time for another kind of walking: the kind from store to store.
Both times I traveled to LA I didn’t even pack half a suitcase to go there and I just filled it up over there. Not only were there sales on the time of year I went (in September) but in 2012 and 2013 the dollar was still much weaker than the euro and so I did a lot of shopping in stores we don’t even have in Europe, for prices much lower than I’d have paid here. Admittedly, I didn’t buy anything on Rodeo Drive.
Whether you want to get out of the heat in an air-conditioned mall, browse thrift stores or check out the big chains, there are plenty of shopping options in Los Angeles. I’ve listed some of the places I went shopping in Los Angeles at here.
Day 5: Malibu and the Getty Villa
Depending on whether you’re more interested in modern art or classical history, you can head to the Getty Center or the Getty Villa. The Getty Center is huge and you can easily spend a few hours there while an hour or two at the Villa are more than sufficient. At least, that was the case for me.
I visited both museums on separate trips and while I wouldn’t say the Villa is a must, it’s fun to combine with the beaches of Malibu if you’re in the mood for a beach day and want something else than the open beaches of Santa Monica and Venice. You might even bump into a photo shoot or two!
Day 6: The Walk of Fame, Chinatown and El Pueblo
A day filled with classics! You can’t go to Los Angeles and not visit the Walk of Fame, right?
Now, I have to say that this was maybe my least favorite part of the city (of the places I visited, obviously, as I didn’t venture into any dodgy neighborhoods). It was so crowded and everything felt kind of fake. I walked part of the Walk of Fame twice as I did both my trips to LA with other friends, but we didn’t hang around in that area for long. A little bit of shopping at the Hollywood & Highland and that was it.
From the Walk of Fame, it’s not too far to two historically important places in Los Angeles: Chinatown and El Pueblo with the adjacent Union Station.
Let’s start with Chinatown. I’d thought it would be a vibrant and colorful neighborhood, but I was a bit disappointed in that. The neighborhood seemed so… normal.
Except for some Chinese looking buildings you could have easily missed being in the Chinese quarter. Of course, there were some colorful shops, but not nearly as many and we were both disappointed not to find noodles and egg rolls on each street corner.
Maybe this Chinatown doesn’t look that much like a Chinatown is because it’s fairly new. You see, what we now know as LA’s Chinatown was actually only opened in 1938 as the ‘New Chinatown’. New Chinatown consisted of restaurants, shops, a bean cake factory and offices that had been relocated from the original Old Chinatown, less than a mile further down the road, into Little Italy.
With the arrival of the first Chinese in 1852 began the growth of an entire community that counted over 3,000 members at a certain point. However, US law prohibited the Chinese from becoming US Citizens, which meant that they also couldn’t own any properties. So to get their offices, stores, theaters, and temples running, the Chinese just rented or leased buildings from Americans.
This lead to problems later, when project developers turned their eye to Old Chinatown and several voices started asking for a new train terminal in that area. In 1931, it was decided that the new terminal, now known as Union Station, would be built on the site of Old Chinatown.
Luckily the Chinese had a man who stood up for them. Peter SooHoo was a native Chinese American who’d graduated as an engineer and spoke both fluent Cantonese and English. He became the spokesman of the Chinese community and, what’s more important, found a spot for a new Chinatown.
The Chinese would control this project. They would finance the new venture and own the buildings. It was agreed that New Chinatown would be a place appealing to both Americans and Chinese, which might explain while New Chinatown doesn’t look so Chinese as other Chinatowns, but contains more of a mixture between Chinese and American elements.
New Chinatown “opened” in 1938 and Union Station was built one year later. It’s not the beautiful Central Station of Antwerp, but it’s worth a look nonetheless. The old ticket hall has been preserved and there’s marble everywhere.
From Union Station, you only have to pass the street to get to the center of El Pueblo with the Plaza and Olvera Street. This is where Los Angeles originated and if you look around closely, you’ll see plenty of historic (in American time terms) buildings in this neighborhood.
Day 7: Festivals and festivities
As I was in LA twice during Labor Day, I attended the Fiesta Hermosa festival at Hermosa Beach two times, but there are plenty of other small local festivals throughout the year. Attending one of these is a fun way to mix with locals and for me, it was also interesting to be able to compare that festival, for example, with similar events in Belgium.
Just looking at the street food alone… I don’t think we’d ever sell spam here in Belgium..
TimeOut Los Angeles is a website that lists “everything” that’s going on in LA so make sure to check their list of events.
Extra: visit Universal Studios
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for this, but Universal Studios is the theme park in Los Angeles and the largest combination of theme park and film studio in the world. Here, you get the ultimate Hollywood experience with movie-themed rides and a behind-the-scenes studio tour. You’ll see actual sets and props from the biggest productions and true classics.
Like any popular theme park, it can get crazy busy though so I highly recommend you get a skip-the-line entrance ticket to get the most out of your day. With this ticket, you get
- full day admission to Universal Studios
- one-time reserved seating at all Universal Studios Hollywood shows
- one-time express access to all Universal Studios Hollywood rides and attractions
Don’t waste time standing in line and get your skip-the-line ticket now.
If you’re a true movie fan, the skip-the-line entry might not even be enough for you. In that case, it’s possible to book a VIP Experience at Universal Studios. This includes:
- exclusive access to parts of the park and the film studio that off-limits to the general public
- unlimited express access to all rides and attractions
- unlimited reserved seating at all Universal Studios shows
- A-List treatment with a gourmet catered lunch and on-site valet parking
Spaces for the VIP Experience at Universal Studios are limited and advance booking is required. If you don’t want to miss out on enjoying tryly everything this park has to offer, book your VIP Experience now.
Nightlife in Los Angeles
I didn’t go out nearly as much as I’d anticipated while I was in LA. Partly because most clubs close at 2 a.m., which is simply ridiculous. Of course, there are after parties and after-after parties, but we weren’t that eager that we tried finding out where they were. We usually had a late dinner and spent the night at the hostel or around Farmers Market.
One night we went to Boulevard 3 on Sunset Blvd. It was a night out organized by the hostel, so we figured we’d check it out. We had high hopes for Boulevard 3. I mean, going out in Hollywood, that must be fun, right?
Well, let’s start with the look of the place. It had a Roman theme going on, with a big rectangular dance floor in the middle, surrounded by galleries (on the ground, 1st, and 2nd floor). The galleries were in white and between the different columns were little lounge areas with some sofas and a table. The entrance area was also a big rectangle with little open ‘rooms’ on the sides, again separated from each other by columns.
Spectacular was the big swing hanging from the ceiling. At last, we also found a smaller area with a bar and some couches. Interesting here was the lady dipping strawberries into hot melted chocolate. Yummie :-)
Now let’s get to the most important part: the party atmosphere.
When we got there, somewhat before 11 pm, there were about two people on the dance floor and another 20 in the galleries. An hour later the room was full and people seemed to be in the mood to party. They played hip-hop and although that’s the kind of music I like to go out to, it wasn’t that great because they played the same kind of hip-hop all night long. After a while, it felt like we’d been listening to the same song for over an hour.
Not the best party experience.
Much better are the parties at The Federal, a club upstairs from a bar in North Hollywood. It regularly hosts 90ies and other cool hip-hop parties, including performances with dance crews. Yup, this place is known among the many dancers that flock to LA to take classes there.
If you’re not in the mood to party but do want to enjoy the nightlife a bit, there are several venues that program stand-up comedy, theater, dance performances and more. We attended the So-Cal Dance Convention at the Ford Amphitheater and went to see a stand-up comedy show in North Hollywood. Good fun!
Where to eat in Los Angeles
I wish I could tell you where all the trendy food spots are in LA, but I can’t (yet!). I did mind my budget a bit on both trips and that was easy to do by minding what I ate. Our hostel frequently organized free diners and we stayed close to Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods (mmmm, Whole Foods), which meant that we often grabbed some street food to go or cooked dinner at the hostel.
For lunch, we would just grab something wherever we were. As it was rather warm both times we were in LA, we often had enough with a salad, although I do have to admit we dropped in at In’N Out Burger a couple of times… and once that even saved me.
If you’re interested in Southern Californian food, check out this Hollywood food tour. You’ll first spend an hour learning about the history on a walking tour. Afterward, you’ll spend three hours driving to and stopping at the best foodie hot spots in Hollywood, sampling bites and listening as locals share personal insights on the history of the area.
The Go Los Angeles Card
If you’d like to explore LA on your own but don’t mind a few discounts here and there, check out the Go Los Angeles Card. It’s available for one to seven days and has so many benefits it would take too long to list them all, but you can find them here/>.
How to get around in LA
By rental car
When you go to LA, you’ll want a rental car. There is public transportation but it’s slow and impractical.
The first time I went, it was mostly my friend Sylvie doing the drive but the second time it was me behind the wheel. I’ve written about our first rental car experience in LA and what it’s like to drive and park around the county.
If you still need to book your rental car, check out Rentalcars.com. This site compares hundreds of rental car providers so you’re sure to always get the best deal.
If you don’t feel like driving in Los Angeles and don’t want to deal with the hassle and slowness of public transportation there either, there are a few other options.
1. The Hop-on Hop-off
The Los Angeles Hop-on Hop-of bus has an open top deck from which you get a 360° view of the landmarks it drives past and it stops at 50 locations all over the city, including Downtown, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Hollywood. There are tickets for 24 hours, 48 hours and 72 hours and tthey all include a map and a guide with discountsvouchers for local retailers and restaurants.
2. Bus tours
As Los Angeles is so big, many companies run tours where they drive you around in a van so that you get to see a lot in quite a short time.
This 6-hour Los Angeles City Tour includes hotel pick-up and drop-off by a professional driver as well as explanations for LA’s main sights by an expert guide.
This sightseeing tour takes you around Hollywood and past celebrity homes in an open-air Mercedes minivan. Your driver is also your guide so you can ask him questions about anything you see along the way.
This “death tour” takes you on a 2.5-hour multimedia bus excursion to locations and homes where LA’s most famous stars met their end. You’ll learn about stalkers, addictions, gangsters and scandals, listen to police interviews and 911 recordings, discover where Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston spent their last moments and pay your respects to some of the great at the legendary cemetery. It’s spookingly interesting.
This Grand Los Angeles Tour shows you all of LA’s highlights, taking you from Downtown all the way up to the Griffith Observatory to see the Hollywood sign, past the fancy stores of Rodeo Drive and along the Walk of Fame in an air-conditioned Mercedes van. And that’s to name just a few of the stops. This tour constantly gets top reviews and has received the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence four years in a row. Check it out!
3. By bike
Those with a decent fitness level can go on an ultimate guided bike tour of Los Angeles. This 5.5-hour bike tour takes you on a 32-mile or 51-kilometer ride through different areas of LA in a small group of max 10 people. A bybrid road bike, safety equipment, snacks, sunblock and bottled water are all included.
Check it out here.
How to get to LA
When you’re flying to LA, you’ll most likely fly to LAX. It’s the main airport and usually your only option if you’re coming from abroad. If you still need to book your flights, I recommend checking Skyscanner for a good overview of your flight options and the best prices.
LAX is located west of Downtown LA and although it’s the busiest airport in LA, there’s no real public transportation connection to it so you’re best to either get a rental car straight from the airport or to book a transfer to your hotel. Private transfers aren’t necessarily more expensive than regular taxis and they have the additional benefit that you’ve already paid them and so don’t need to worry about that anymore, plus you know they’ll be there waiting for you upon your arrival.
If you’re coming from elsewhere in the States, taking a long-distance bus to Los Angeles might be an option.
Greyhound offers a bus service to five different stations in the Los Angeles area. Their buses have:
- free WiFi
- personal power outlets
- reclining leather seats
- ample leg room
- an on-board restroom
- on-board entertainment
Their mobile app makes it easy to keep all of your bus booking info at hand and their rewards program lets you earn points each time you ride with them – and gives you a 10% discount on next trips.
Yes, it’s possible to travel to LA by train! You can ride Amtrak to Los Angeles from almost anywhere in the States, directly or with connecting trains. You’ll arrive at the historic Union Station, right by LA’s Chinatown and El Pueblo.
Stay connected while visiting LA
Traveling to LA from outside the States and want to stay connected so you can share photos, call loved ones over WiFi and easily use apps like Google Maps? Then check out Skyroam mobile WiFi.
They offer both day passes and monthly subscriptions providing you with 4G throughout your trips. I’ve been using their daily passes not just when I travel outside the EU (no roaming charges for me in the EU) but also as a backup for when I think I’ll go over my phone’s data plan.
Don’t forget travel insurance
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. Travel insurance has you covered in case (part of) your trip gets cancelled, you get sick or hurt abroad and even when your electronics break or get stolen. I’ve had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I’m covered for every trip I go on.
Rather be safe than sorry too? Check out World Nomads. They cover a wide range of activities for people from 140 countries.
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