Los Angeles, California is probably one of the most well-known cities in the world. A networking playground for actors, singers, models and sports stars. You name it – they’re living there. Home to the glamorous Hollywood and the Oscars. The whole idea you have in your head when someone mentions LA is that the city is swarming with celebrities, rich people and people living out their American Dream. Seems almost impossible to afford it, right?
With literally no intention of visiting the States this year (because I wanted to try and complete the whole of Europe by the time I turned 21), I have somehow managed to afford to visit Los Angeles TWICE in the past 3 months. (I don’t mean to flex, I just want to make it obvious how easily it can be done if you’re strategical).
So with that being said, I figured I would write something that would allow you to have an unforgettable trip in LA – leaving from London, UK, without breaking the bank.
First of all: Getting to LA
Flights can sometimes be the most pricey part of visiting a new country – and Los Angeles being over 11 hours flight away, it’s completely unrealistic to think you will get a £9.99 Ryan Air deal there. HOWEVER, if you have read my ‘How I Get To Travel So Much’ post, you will see some tips and tricks on how to secure long haul flights for the best value.
Norwegian Air, Virgin, American Airlines, United Airlines and British Airways would be my top airlines to check deals going from London to LA. Depending on when you book the flight and what season you go, you could get a return flight for as low as £250! That’s a steal considering you’re racking up over 10,000 miles.
Second point: Where to stay in LA
Now, one of my biggest points from this whole post. Los Angeles actually is a regular city. Like any city, you have nicer areas and more shady areas. Unlike Europe, you have to be aware that in America in general, you may have one street/neighbourhood that’s decent, but the one literally RIGHT next to it could be dangerous.
In my experience, I have decided that the areas more West of LA are better to stay. So this could be Santa Monica, Westwood (home to the UCLA campus), Palms and Culver City. These places are also very close to Beverly Hills and being close to Santa Monica means you are close to Venice beach. This whole area feels more like another town, so if you want to be away from the main city then I suggest staying here. Lots of college students are in this area so there are plenty of things to do, including bars and restaurants and sports events.
However, if you’re more of a city person and would rather be close to downtown. Then this is also a good option. There’s plenty to do in Downtown (keep reading) and it’s super close to other places that you will be dying to visit like Universal Studios, the Zoo, Hollywood Sign, Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Dodgers Stadium (keep reading).
Depending on your budget, you could stay in a hotel, hostel or Airbnb. My two recommendations for hostels would be:
Dormshare Westwood – costing around £20 a night (Pros: clean, safe, cheap, close to UCLA and Santa Monica)
(Cons: no pool, people staying here tend to be more residents, not tourists)
Freehand Hostel Downtown Los Angeles – £35 a night (Pros: rooftop bar and pool, clean, in downtown)
(Cons: personally I didn’t like walking around downtown at night, but everyone has their own opinion)
Third Point: Transport in LA
America, in general, is known for its ‘Car Culture’. But, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get somewhere without one. Maybe some of you that plan to go to LA will have plans to do a California road trip anyway so you will already have a rental. But for those that don’t:
Los Angeles has a really good metro system, connecting all major points and it’s SUPER cheap. When you get to the metro station, you buy a Tap card and add your journey. A one-way journey costs $1,75 and it doesn’t matter whether you travel 1 stop or 10 stops, it costs the same. It was really convenient for me to travel places and saved so much money on unnecessary Ubers. The tap card also covers you for the bus, where a one-way journey costs $1,25.
That being said, if you find yourself needing a Uber then the prices for the trips didn’t cost a staggering amount either. You could get from the airport to Santa Monica for about $20, so if you’re sharing that anyway with one other person, then you’re looking $10 (about £8) for a possible 45-minute journey. I would definitely opt for the metro though during peak times, as traffic in LA is another level so the train is just much quicker.
So, the perfect itinerary to have you saving $$$:
The main attractions and sights that you will be wanting to see in Los Angeles are surprisingly cheap. I was really shocked when I got there as I thought they would purposely make things expensive for tourists, but the actual tours and attractions themselves were either FREE (yes, free) or reasonably priced. So let’s list a few things that you could tick off the bucket list:
Hollywood Walk of Fame – If you take the metro to Hollywood Vine station, as soon as you exit the station Jennifer Lopez’s star is waiting for you. You can buy a tour, which will show you maybe some specific stars, but this is literally so unnecessary as the stars are all on the floor and you can take a couple of hours just to walk around yourself and follow them. So that’s like the most popular thing to do in LA and it’s completely free.
This whole boulevard, in general, is nice to walk down as you can also see the Chinese theatre, Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, the Dolby Theatre and the Hollywood sign from a distance. There are many people offering trips that take you around the city, including Beverly Hills and Rodeo drive. They are worth it as you get to see parts of the city that you might not see without a car and they give you some pretty cool views of the Hills and Downtown LA. Just make sure you haggle with them as they are keen to give discounts.
Hollywood Sign Trek – So you want to take the Insta worthy photo of you next to the Hollywood sign just to prove that you were there, you can, for FREEEEEEEEEE! Just get to the Griffith Park and begin your trek. It takes a couple of hours to complete and it can get really hot, so bring plenty of water and dress for the weather. But 4 miles later, you’re at the top, with the sign in clear sight and a really impressive view of Los Angeles. It’s totally worth the hike! Again, you can buy a tour with this and do it with a group of people, but it’s really unnecessary. It is also close to the Griffith Observatory and the Greek theatre so you could pop there afterwards.
Central Market and Angel’s Flight – Head down to Downtown LA and go to the central market. It is an inside market full of different kinds of street food representing the diverse culture of the city. Try Filipino, Mexican, Brazillian and some classic American burgers and chicken sliders. It’s all really reasonably priced and delicious food.
Next, head down the street where you will come across Angel’s Flight. A small piece of the funicular railway that takes you 298ft to the top for a total of 50 cents. It’s really pretty and gives you major California vibes.
Watch a Dodger’s game – America is particularly known for its baseball, and LA is no different. If you go in the right season, you can get tickets to games for as low as 20$. It really was an unforgettable experience and the whole atmosphere made me fall in love with the sport. So grab your blue baseball cap, foam finger and jersey and start clapping to LETS – GO – DOD – GERS *clap, clap, clap, clap, clap*
OUE Skyspace – If you want another spectacular view of the city, then this observatory is the place. This isn’t exactly what I would call a budget activity, but it is definitely worthwhile and one for the bucket list. If you pre-book your ticket online you could save quite a lot of money and hopefully, if you followed all my tips then you will have extra cash to splash for this activity anyway. Admission is between £20 and £25 and then if you would like to go down the all-glass slide it’s about an extra £6. The view from the 72nd floor is really something to behold. You can sit and chill in their outside areas and look out the binoculars to all major parts of the city. Alternatively, you can go at night for some drinks and see a completely different view of the city.
Universal Studios and Universal City Walk – Again, something that is way cheaper if you book it in advance online. But this was definitely one of the best days out I ever had. Go to Springfield and meet the Simpsons, go on all the rides that were inspired by Dreamworks (Despicable Me, Madagascar) and go on the Studio Tour where they show you how they make many famous Hollywood movies and TV series. This tour got me experiencing an earthquake, a flood, and an alien invasion. With sets and rides inspired by Harry Potter, Transformers, Jurassic Park and Fast and Furious, it would be a great shame for you to miss this one out on your LA trip.
If you don’t fancy the rides, then the City Walk is worth a visit. With many restaurants and shops, they also have a cinema and an indoor sky-diving activity.
Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach –Literally my favourite place on the entire earth. And plus, IT’S FREEEEEEEEE.
Go to 3rd Street Prom. in Santa Monica and have a look at their many different quirky shops, bars and restaurants before walking to the pier and having a ride on the most recognisable Ferris wheel (the ride is 10$) before renting a scooter, bike or tandem to check out all the beach sights. Download Apps like Bird and get 5$ free credit for your scooter, simply scan the code and then start riding. I rented bikes, which was 7$ for an hour or 20$ for the entire day. However, you can dodge this if you are staying in a hostel that provides free bike rental. Whatever transport you pick, ride down the beach and pass by all the funky artwork and stalls selling food, clothes, jewellery, marijuana (it’s legal) and coffee. Then make your way to Muscle Beach and see people working out and doing acrobatic tricks like walking on a tightrope. Keep riding to Venice beach, where you can stop for drinks or rent out a surfboard and go ride the waves instead.
You can also check out Marina del Rey and Venice Canals. It was a really pretty area that really did mimic the real Venice in Italy!
Final Thoughts: I have so many more suggestions for this amazing city. I arrived there thinking that I wouldn’t really like it as it came across very fake and artificial. But LA really showed its authenticity and attention to diversity. You can really feel the fun, relaxing Californian vibe there. The thing with LA is that there is so much to do that you will always leave missing something out, but at the end that is just the perfect excuse to go back again!
If you have any suggestions of your own from your own trip to Los Angeles, feel free to DM me or add a comment. I love getting inspired by other people and their experiences. Follow me on Instagram to keep up to date with new blog posts and some snaps from my trips. 🙂