Los Angeles is famous for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, for its beautiful beaches, and for Disneyland, and this draws visitors year-round. Unfortunately, having all of those things in one place means it can cost quite a bit of money to visit. Here are a few tricks to make L.A. more affordable.
1. Don’t try to Uber or take a taxi from the airport — use the Flyaway bus.
Getting in and out of LAX is not for the faint of heart. Attempting to hail a cab or waiting for an Uber is a form of torture, thanks to the never-ending construction at LAX. However, the experience can be a bit less painful if you use the Flyaway bus. The Flyaway bus does not require a reservation, and picks passengers up every 15 minutes from LAX and drops them in a lot of the major spots around the city, including Hollywood, Long Beach, Westwood, Van Nuys, the Orange Line, and Union Station. It’s not the most glamorous, but at $10, it is a much easier and cheaper option.
2. Consider renting a car — but know that L.A. does have a metro system — and it does go to quite a few places.
Having a car in L.A. makes your life a whole lot easier. Unlike New York City or London, we do not have the most extensive public transit, and some of the best attractions (for instance, the beaches in Malibu) aren’t easily accessible by public transportation. Rental prices vary depending on how long you are staying and the type of car you are getting, but on average, car rentals total between $150-200 for a week-long stay. If you are planning to drive down to Orange County or to the northern part of the city, then a car would be necessary.
You can take a trip to L.A. without a car: there is the option of the metro. The subway system is fairly easy to use, and TAP cards can be loaded with money so you do not have to constantly buy individual fares. As of right now, the subway visits quite a few places — Santa Monica Pier, the Pantages Theater, Hollywood Blvd Universal Studios, and Downtown Los Angeles. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of places the Metro doesn’t reach, but combined with buses, it can be a much more affordable option to renting a car.
3. A number of L.A.’s museums are free.
L.A. is not always known for its highbrow culture. However, we do have some interesting museums, and many of them are free. The newest museum, The Broad, is a contemporary art museum located downtown that is completely free (you just need to set up which day you want to visit) and has become quite the favorite among locals. The Getty Center, one of the most iconic art museums in Los Angeles, is free (parking does cost $15, but you could solve this by taking public transit or an Uber!) and has some of the best views of the city. Additional museums that are free are the Hammer Museum, Griffith Park, and the California Science Center. Quite a few of the more popular paid museums do offer free days (usually on Tuesdays or Thursdays), just check with them ahead of time.
4. A number of L.A.’s best attractions are free.
Some of the biggest attractions in L.A. (i.e. Disneyland, Universal Studios) are costly — however, many of our well-known (or not as well-known) attractions do not cost a penny. There is no cost to wander around the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater (this walk is worth it for the people-watching alone). The Walk of Fame has also recently become home to people dressed as characters and celebrities, including busted Spongebob SquarePants and non-union Mickey Mouse. Keep in mind that if you take a picture with them, they will try to charge you for it, so simply watch these characters from afar.
Santa Monica Pier is free and includes a rollercoaster, old-time arcade games such as skeeball, and a number of restaurants. If you’re visiting the pier, avoid the restaurants on the actual pier and journey below the pier where there are a number of cheap food stands.
There isn’t even a need to go on a film set tour, as quite a bit of filming takes place outside the studios and around the city. Instead, consider organizing your own tour to visit the locations of your favorite films. For instance, many of the locations in La La Land are easily accessible: Mt. Hollywood Drive is where Ryan Gosling tap-danced with Emma Stone, and it has beautiful views of the Valley and the city. The most famous scene in the film (the Planetarium dance) takes place at Griffith Observatory, which was also featured in the James Dean movie Rebel Without a Cause.
5. Try finding your own private beach in Malibu.
Santa Monica Pier is worth the visit but locals tend to prefer the beaches in Malibu, as they are often less crowded. Many of the beaches in Malibu appear to be blocked or have signs claiming that they are “private.” But there is no such thing as a private beach in California: all of the beaches here are public property. While many celebrities have built homes right in front of the beaches and done all they can to ensure that there are no visitors, you can access these beaches through the app Our Malibu Beaches. The app will give you exact directions to these private beaches, including where to walk, and which “No Trespassing” signs are actually fake.
6. The best and cheapest food? Tacos.
Angelenos love tacos — we take great pride in our taquerias and taco trucks, which can be found all over the city. The tricky part is figuring out which serve the best tacos. Guisados, which has a few locations around the city, is known for their $2.75 tacos and $3 horchatas. Leo’s Taco Truck, which now has four different trucks that all move around the city, is home to $1 tacos and known for pairing their tacos with a rather unusual ingredient: pineapple. Guerilla Tacos, another taco truck, is open for lunch and moves to a different location each day. Earlier in the week, they can be found downtown, while later in the week they move to the eastern neighborhoods before settling in Venice on the weekends. The tacos vary in price from $4-8, and the menu often varies depending on the season.