LA can be an expensive place to explore — it’s a sprawling city and the transportation system is less than great. On the flip side, the weather is fantastic, it has one of the most exciting culinary and art scenes in the country right now, and it’s a great city if you love the outdoors. Luckily, there are a ton of ways to save a few bucks so you don’t have to break the bank when traveling to Los Angeles.
1. Ride the LA Metro.
While the transportation system in LA isn’t quite as evolved as other major cities, the LA Metro has made strides in recent years. You can now get across town from downtown LA to the beach and skip the parking lot traffic, i.e. the 405 freeway. Each ride is only $1.75 or you can purchase a daily or weekly pass to save even further. Since most Angelenos have a car, the Metro isn’t as frequently used as it may be in other metropolitan cities but it is a great option for tourists who are looking to get around the city without renting a car.
2. Trade the high-end restaurants for street food.
The food truck movement practically started in LA so it’s no doubt some of the best (and cheapest!) grub in LA is from a food cart or truck. Start with the Kogi BBQ truck, founded by Roy Choi (the Godfather of food trucks), which became famous for their short rib tacos. These delicious little Korean-taco bites became an iconic LA food. The best part? They’re only $3 a pop! If you’re craving Mexican, find Leo’s Taco Truck and run, don’t walk. The tacos al pastor at $1.25/each may be the best tacos you’ll have north of the border. Moral of the story: don’t underestimate the hole-in-the-wall taco stands or street vendors — they are the city’s pride and joy.
3. Take advantage of free museum days.
LA is home to a ton of incredible museums and while some are free of charge i.e. The Broad or Getty Center, others offer free museum days once a month or on weekdays at specific times. For example, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is normally $20 for adults, but free admission after 3 PM Mon-Fri. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown LA is typically $15 for adults but free on Thursdays from 5-8PM, so if you plan accordingly, you can get cultured without spending a penny!
4. Download Uber and Lyft.
Ridesharing apps have single-handedly changed the transportation game in LA and they will be your best friend in LA. It’s not unlikely that an Uber ride will be cheaper than the cost of parking in a lot or valet, so ditch the car anytime you’re headed to downtown LA or the Sunset Strip. You can also take an Uber Pool or Lyft Line if you have time on your side. (Some rides can cost as little as $3!) Besides, you never know who you’ll meet and though the city is so widespread, half the time you won’t even get another passenger during the ride.
5. Shop at the farmers market.
California is home to some of the best produce in the country and no matter what neighborhood you’re staying in, there’s likely a farmers market in your ‘hood. Shop the bountiful produce and create your own farm-to-table meal! The Original Farmers Market that’s been around since 1934 is located at The Grove, but the market in downtown Santa Monica on Wednesdays (steps away from the beach) is also a local fave often frequented by chefs shopping for the next seasonal star to feature on their menus.
6. Get outdoors.
The beach is our backyard and the mountains are our playground. With gorgeous weather year-round, there are a ton of (free) things you can do outdoors. You can hike the Santa Monica Mountains at Solstice Canyon, take paddleboarding lessons in Marina Del Rey, or bike ride along The Strand while watching the sunset.
7. Explore the city on bike.
In a city as spread out as LA, riding bikes is a great way to explore each neighborhood. You can rent bikes from the LA Metro Bike Share program or the Breeze program if you’re in Santa Monica, and those bikes will cost you $7/hour. But here’s a little secret: Timbuk2, the travel bag retailer, partnered with Pure City Cycles to offer free bike rentals at their Abbot Kinney location. The only catch is there are only two bikes available on a first-come, first-serve basis but if you’re lucky enough to get there first, they’re yours to ride, all day. You’re welcome.
8. Purchase the SoCal City Pass.
If you’re planning on visiting Disneyland while you’re in LA, consider purchasing the SoCal City Pass which could save you around $145/per person. You’ll get access to Disneyland California Adventure, SeaWorld San Diego, and LEGOLAND so you can park hop and take advantage of FASTPASS which allows you to skip the lines.