Los Angeles is shamelessly pretentious, loud and glitzy. Yet those who explore beyond the city’s veneer will discover a fascinating cosmopolitan metropolis.
Sprawling LA has minimal public transport; therefore hiring a car is the most practical way to get around. Once arriving from flights to LA, start your adventure by exploring the city’s famous neighbourhoods. Hollywood and West Hollywood – home of the iconic Hollywood mega-sign – ooze that old Hollywood glamour, with Frank Gehry-designed houses overlooking the city and 1960s convertibles parked in the driveways. Down the road in Beverly Hills, you’ll find the famous Rodeo Drive, where tourists, celebrities, and the ready-to-pounce paparazzi hang around the exclusive designer boutiques and cafes.
LA’s laid-back coastal towns attract thousands of visitors each year. The landmark Santa Monica Pier, a veritable shopping and amusement park with its historic 1920s carousel, is worth a visit, while Santa Monica’s Downtown and Third Street Promenade is a shopper’s paradise. Venice Beach is a prime people-watching location.
LA has a Mediterranean climate with abundant sunshine and mild weather year round. Summers average 24-29 degrees Celsius and winters about 16 degrees (with some rain). The closer you get to the coast, the cooler the temperature, as the Pacific Ocean makes temperatures 10 degrees lower than areas further inland. “June Gloom” or “May Grey” is a weather phenomenon in late spring, which makes it overcast for much of the day.
LA is always busy from April through October. To avoid the highest prices on flights to Los Angeles, accommodation and entertainment, avoid big events such as the annual Academy Awards in February.
Since there isn’t really an off season in LA you’ll only find slightly lower airfares or hotel rates during the rainy season, typically January.
Although LA’s complex network of freeways can be intimidating, hiring a car is the only way to see LA. All you need is a GPS, a good map and/or good directions. LA was designed for the car, so it is more driver-friendly than most big cities, with wide streets and plenty of parking, but try to avoid the rush-hour crush. Luckily, LA is also one of the cheapest places in the US to rent a car.
Getting around by bus is not a particularly practical option, as multiple transfers and large distances can make them slow and frustrating, and buses are not recommended late at night. The MetroRail’s three lines only service a small part of LA, though trains are regular and reliable. Taxis are expensive, due to the long distances.