LOS ANGELES 101: FIRST TIMERS GUIDE TO SURVIVE (AND FALL IN LOVE) IN L.A.

I’ve lived in L.A. from 2013 to 2016 and I still go back and forth to visit friends every time I can, so I get a lot of people asking me tips and hacks about this fabulous city and what to do in Los Angeles if it’s first time in town.

I thought I’d just share everything here.

Something that I get a LOT is : “I didn’t like LA, LA is so ugly.”

This is because Los Angeles is not the best city to visit, in my opinion, but it’s the absolute best to live in. You gotta get to know it, you gotta get used to it. It’s not super touristic, it doesn’t have a specific center, it’s not crazy glamorous… But I adore it. It has everything you’ve ever imagined and even more. It’s my favorite town in the world and nothing can compare to it!

BEFORE YOU GO

– For European Citizens: you don’t need a specific visa, just apply for ESTA (here’s the link) a month before leaving. This allows you to stay in the U.S. for 3 months. Apply prior at your embassy if you need a longer tourist visa (3-6 months).

Print out your flight back ticket. They’ll probably ask you at the boarder a proof that you are getting out of the country in time.

– Get an adapter! This is what you will need:

Get an International phone plan for your cellphone. Wifi is common but you might need connection to get around more than you think! I don’t recommend buying a local SIM since phone bills tends to get crazy (I used to pay 70$ a month with T-Mobile).

Stay open minded. L.A. is definitely not all glamour like they portray in movies, but it has a lot to offer!

FLIGHTS

I usally book my flights through Skyscanner.com or Volagratis.com. The cheapest airlines that cover Europe-LA are AirBerlin (German) and Aeroflot (Russian), but expect long layovers or your flights to be modified last minute if you pick these two companies.

HOW TO GET AROUND

From LAX I suggest getting a taxi to wherever you have to go. After that, never get in a cab again. I personally Uber (or Lyft) everywhere. You won’t experience the stress about parking, which in LA is THE real nightmare.

If you plan on renting a car I recommend Avis USA or Budget Rent a Car. Be aware of the tickets! LA is famous for its crazy tickets given for even the smallest dumb reason (make sure you read the signs very well!).

Public transportation in LA is mmmm.. Not simple. The underground doesn’t reach many points of attraction and the buses are likely to arrive late (they’ll still bring you destination though). Again, if you are not on a super tight budget I recommend using Uber.

SAFETY

Despite all the things I’ve heard about LA, I’ve never felt unsafe in this town and nothing bad ever happened to me. There are some crazy people around though, so be mindful! Don’t stay late in Downtown LA or Venice Beach alone (especially the Boardwalk). Buses can get dangerous after sunset and a lot of homeless people tend to remain on the buses forever.

If you arrive at LAX, try to not book your hotel nearby Inglewood (as a lot of people tend to do for apparently no reason), unless you plan to stay locked in the hotel at night.

WHERE TO STAY

I lived for one year in Westwood and two years in West LA (Sawtelle-Santa Monica).

I suggest you to stay as close as you can to the ocean, especially if you plan to spend some time at the beach or to visit Malibu as well. I wouldn’t stay in Downtown LA unless if you have business to do. West Hollyood is a good alternative as well, an pretty central.

Get 25$ off when you book your first Airbnb stay with this link: www.airbnb.it/c/reneemooraf

WHERE TO EAT

Chateau Marmont Restaurant – West Holywood

Laurel Hardware – West Hollywood

Larry’s – Venice Beach

Gaby’s Mediterranean – Palms/Culver City (delicious greek food at a moderate price, you’ll get obsessed with the garlic sauce!)

Cafè Roma – Beverly Hills

Bottega Louie – Downtown LA

Mr Holmes Bakehouse (sweets) – Pasadena

You aren’t a true Losangelino if you haven’t tried the AVO TOAST

QUICK BITES (yummy but cheaper options)

Swingers – West LA (for Breakfast and always.. I love this place! Hip cool vibe and typical American breakfast food. Open until late!)

Mel’s Drive In – Hollywood (Bomb Oreo Milkshake and fancy hamburgers in the American Graffiti movie’s location)

The SideWalk Cafè – Venice Beach (yummy food with the best beach view!)

C&m Cafè – Palms/Culver City (quick and easy, try the avo toast!)

En Sushi – Sawtelle/Santa Monica (recommended at Happy Hour!)

Novel CafèWestwood (I had a million lunches here while attending Ucla- try the Shrimp Salad!)

True Food KitchenSanta Monica (very healthy and refreshing!)

CHAINS THAT I LOVE:

In-n-Out (Cheap and a lil healthier than the usual Fast Food chains)

800 Degrees Pizza (try the Truffle Oil Bread and thank me later)

Chipotle (I’m obsessed with their rice bowls. Gosh I want one right now.)

WHERE TO DRINK

The Bungalow – Santa Monica (most popular bar in Santa Monica, with a Wes Anderson vibe. Basically where all the cool kids are)

The Abbey – West Hollywood (most famous bar in WeHo)

Basement Tavern – Santa Monica

The Standard Hotel – Downtown L.A. (stunning, stunning view!)

Perch – Downtown L.A.

E.P. & L.P. – West Hollywood (very popular)

The Den on Sunset – West Hollywood (super cozy)

The Culver Hotel – Culver City (sophisticated and classy)

Cabo Cantina – Everywhere in town (endless Margaritas!)

TOP COFFEE SHOPS

 Alfred Coffee

Carrera Cafè – West Hollywood/Melrose

Alfred Coffee – West Hollywood/Melrose

Coffee Commissary – Palms/Culver City

Caffè Gratitude – Venice

Rise-n-Grind – Hollywood Blvd


SHOPPING

The Grove – Mid Wilshire (since you are there stop by The Farmers’ Market as well!)

Promenade – Santa Monica

Westfield – Culver City

Westside Pavillion – West LA

GROCERY STORES

My favorites are Trader’s Joe (so many delcious organic goodies!) and Ralph’s (where you can find absolutely ANYTHING). If you want something fancier, try Whole Foods.

The first time I saw an American grocery store I was VERY impressed. They’re HUGE compared to European ones and have all sorts of products! Have fun exploring 😉

WHAT TO SEE

If you don’t have much time, go see Venice Beach and Santa Monica first, since they represent the essence of Los Angeles.

Then for sure go exploring West Hollywood, Melrose and La Brea, then over to Hollywood and Downtown LA.

Hollywood is NOT fancy as they like to portray in movies! There are gonna be plenty of homeless people around… Are you hoping to see celebrities on the Hollywood Blvd? I must warn you… You might get disappointed! They hang out in completely different places.

Book a tour in one of the studios! When one of my friends visited, we got tickets for Universal Studios and we had a blast! Plus, they recently opened a Harry Potter themed section as well!

Must see/do in Los Angeles the specific neighborhoods:

VENICE BEACH

Must see in Venice Beach: Ocean Front-Walk – Venice Skatepark – Muscle Beach – Abbot Kenney Boulevard – Venice Canals.

Don’t forget to pass by the beautiful Venice canals as well, close to Abbot Kinney road.

It’s possible to walk (or even better skate or bike) from Santa Monica to Venice Beach: it only takes about 30 minutes.

SANTA MONICA

Must see in Santa Monica: Santa Monica Pier – The Promenade.

WESTWOOD

Must see in Westwood: University of California Los Angeles UCLA – Fox Theater.

DOWNTOWN L.A.

Must see in Downtown Los Angeles: Bradbury Building – The Last Bookstore – Walt Disney Concert Hall – The Broad – LA Art Exhibition – Grand Central Market- Sports events at Staples Center (Lakers and Clippers) – Union Station – Rooftop Bars (The Standard, Perch).

HOLLYWOOD

Must see and do in Hollywood: Hike the Hollywood Sign – Dolby Theater (Oscars) – Chinese Theater – Milkshakes and hamburgers at Mel’s Diner – Hollywood’s Forever Cemetery – Hollywood Hills – Griffith Observatory/Hike Griffith Park – Hike Runyon Canyon – Universal Studios (Studio City) – Concert at Hollywood Bowl – Amoeba Music.

WEST HOLLYWOOD / MID WILSHIRE

Must see and do in West Hollywood: Gay bars and shops’ strip – LACMA Museum – Shopping at The Grove – Farmers’ Market.

MELROSE- LA BREA

Must see in Melrose – La Brea: Vintage shops -Street Art – Art Galleries – Nick Metropolis.

CULVER CITY

Must see in Culver City: Culver Studios – Downtown Culver.

BEVERLY HILLS

Must see in Beverly Hills: Rodeo Drive – Playboy Mansion.

EXTRA: TOUR A STUDIO! 🙂

Universal Studios – Warner Brothers – Paramount


Again, LA is more of a place where I’d suggest people to MOVE and not just merely to VISIT. But if you just happen to visit, I hope you can get a little of its beautiful spirit.. LA got my heart forever and still (not so) secretly hope I can move back there one day!

Ire

Comments (3)

great guide! despite being from NorCal I secretly love to visit LA… and you have truly become a Californian by recommending In and Out & Trader Joe’s! Living abroad I so miss those places. So funny that you say people randomly stay in Inglewood – I can totally imagine foreigners doing that and being a bit surprised by the area!

I wish I’d read this weeks ago when I first moved to LA! I’m only there for three months while my bf is on a dance scholarship but I’ve definitely struggled with making it a home. There are some great suggestions here and we’ve go 3 weeks left so I’m going to tick as many off as I can xo

I love LA and lived there for five years. It makes me so sad when people say they don’t like it. It seems like that’s usually because they had no idea where to go and what to do, which is understandable because it’s such a massive city. Great guide!

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