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Los Angeles

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Los Angeles skyline with San Gabriel mountains in background.



Los Angeles, California, the second largest city in the United States, is the largest city west of the Mississipi River. The city of Los Angeles is recognized as a very ethnically diverse and very spread out on a basin, totaling 469 square miles (1,215 km). Founded by the Spanish in 1781, Los Angeles became a part of Mexico in 1821, of the USA in 1848, and was incorporated as a municipality in 1850, the same year California achieved statehood.

It is home to the entertainment industry, with numerous film, television and stage productions being created or produced here, but also video game and music entertainment. Los Angeles also has a significant tourism industry presence, with a large number of tourist attractions in the area or nearby, such as the City of Beverly Hills, the Wall Disney Concert Hall, the beaches of Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice, the Getty Center, the Capital Records building, Hollywood Walk of Fame/Hollywood Boulevard, Graumann's Chinese Theater, the Bradbury Building, Watts Tower, Angels Flight, and the Hollywood Bowl.

Los Angeles also has a significant athletic presence, with major professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, and teams in the area, and a significant number of college teams playing at high levels in American Football, Basketball and a number of Olympic sports, in landmark buildings such as the Rose Bowl (used multiple times for the 1994 World Cup) and the Los Angeles Coliseum (used for both the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games). Additionally, it is the home of other major athletic facilities, some of which are frequently used to host other events, including concerts, such as Dodgers Stadium, the Forum, Staples Center, Weingart Stadium and the Home Depot Center. Los Angeles has also been selected to host the 2028 Olympics, and as such, some construction will be happening, including transit related construction, for the next decade.

Getting Here

Many airline fly into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Ground transportation is curb side on the same level as baggage claim and includes private taxis, shared vans, car-rental shuttles, etc.

The Bob Hope/Hollywood - Burbank airport has seven airline carriers operating from it, including two of the largest discount airlines. It serves the east side of the San Fernando Valley, from the City of Burbank. It is the closest airport to the Burbank based studios and the Universal Studios Tour and amusement park.

The city of Long Beach has the other significant airport, serving the South Bay,:it is served by four carriers, the most significant of which is the discount carrier, Jet Blue.

Ground Transportation

All area airports are served by ground transportation: Burbank Airport is accessible via Metrolink, with free Super Shuttle service to the Downtown Burbank Metro Link station, as well as free Super Shuttle service to the Metro Red Line subway station in North Hollywood; public transit from Burbank includes the City of Burbank bus service and MTA buses, both also connect with the Metro Red Line subway in North Hollywood, a direct train with both Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles. Burbank is also served by shared ride shuttles and taxi service and other other ground transit, including rental cars and long term parking.

Long Beach Airport can also be partially reached by Metro Link, but finishing the trip requires a private taxi trip. The Metro Blue Line terminates at the Downtown Long Beach Transit Mall, where Long Beach Transit buses to the airport can be accessed. Car rental, shared ride shuttles and other options are also available, information accessible via the airport's website.

Los Angeles International Airport: taxi service from LAX to Downtown Los Angeles can cost upwards of $40 and take 30 minutes or longer in good traffic, but can be far slower (and more expensive) in heavy traffic. There are several options for ground transportation, including public transit, from LAX, depending on where you need to go, as well as rental car agencies, and shared ride vans (which can cost about half of what a taxi wil cost you), and all these options can be found in more detail on the LAX website.

The FlyAway shuttle bus is a good alternative to get to Downtown Los Angeles, the City of Long Beach, the Hollywood District of Los Angeles, or Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley. Depending on destination, cost runs $8-$9.75 (purchasable in advance, on line, or payable - cash only - in person); the shuttle makes the trip in an hour or less, depending on time of day and traffic. Wifi can be sporadic but is available on some of the shuttles/couch buses. NOTE: the Westwood/UCLA Flyaway has been cancelled as of Summer 2019 - these are your best current options for this.

The FlyAway shuttles run on variable schedules, depending on destination. It is best to check the schedule on line, and/or to confirm the schedule in advance. At the lower level of LAX, just look for the green signs indicating "FlyAway, Buses and Long-Distance Vans" and wait for the next shuttle. They are clearly marked, blue colored shuttle buses. All shuttles feature cushioned seats, luggage bays, and wheelchair lifts. As of 2019, they no longer stop at Tom Bradley International but a FREE hop on/hop off LAX airport circuit shuttle will take you from or to the international terminal to all other terminals.

Orientation

Finding A Couch

Los Angeles is fairly large and quite spread out, with numerous districts and neighborhoods, causing confusion and frustration to the first-time visitor. When looking for a host to surf with, you may want to clarify exactly where he/she is located and how easily you can access public transportation during daytime work hours. There are many hosts throughout Los Angeles and you should contact several people directly two weeks before your intended arrival. Mass emailing is not appreciated and may not receive any replies. Try to personalize your request and take some time to read up on your host. If you still cannot find a host, contact the city ambassador or post an emergency couch request on the Los Angeles Last Minute/Emergency Couchsearch board. As a general rule for Couchsurfers, no matter which country you are in, it is highly recommended that you have a hostel/hotel in mind as a backup plan in case your host cannot accommodate you or a problem arises. Use common sense and be prepared as you would be if on your own.

Getting Around

Public Transit (Bus/Subway System)

Public transportation in Los Angeles is a bit hard to figure out since each district has its own bus system. Metro is the main system for downtown Los Angeles but reaches out into the surrounding neighborhoods. On the Metro website, you can search for public transit routes by entering your current location (i.e main intersection) and your destination. There is a limited subway and light rail system as part of the mass transit options, but most of the Los Angeles area is served by bus service.

Bus drivers do not carry change, so you should have the exact cash fare when you board. A Day Pass costs $7, a seven day pass is $25 and if you are staying long enough, monthly passes run $100. Discounts are available for students, etc.

Regional Passenger Train

Metro Link is the regional passenger connection system, a train system connecting Los Angeles with adjacent counties which goes as far south as San Diego County, as far east as San Bernadino and Riverside Counties and as far north as Ventura County. A central hub is Union Station and major destinations it would connect you to include Anaheim (Disneyland), San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente in Orange County, just north of the San Diego county line, the Burbank-Bob Hope Airport and the Irvine-John Wayne Airport

Union Station

Union Station is an architecturally significant building that was place of the national historic registrar in 1980, and is featured in a number of films, music videos and television productions, and even the video game, Grand Theft Auto.

In addition to MetroLink, Union Station is also a central hub for the Metro subway system, and a number of Metro and regional connector bus systems, as well as Amtrak for passenger train service to other parts of the USA. Amtrak has service up the west coast to Seattle, and east, to the upper mid-west, Chicago, and the south-east, New Orleans.

The MegaBus express bus passenger network also currently boards and drop off passengers at the Patsaouras Plaza Bus Bay locations (at street level) with service from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento in California, as well as to and from Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Tips For Travelers


Mobile/Cell Phone Information

There are two main GSM providers in the US: AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon and Sprint do not use SIM cards, so you cannot use your GSM phone with those providers. However, there are also MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) that buy AT&T and T-Mobile service wholesale and sell it retail on a prepaid basis.

NOTE: not all GSM phones are compatible with US GSM service providers, but if your phone is "tri-band" or "quad-band", it should be compatible for voice and SMS services. Check with your provider to make sure. Also make sure that your phone is "unlocked" so that it can operate with SIM cards that do not belong to your provider. If your phone is locked to your carrier, it may be possible to have it unlocked.

If you plan to use data on your smart phone here in the US, 3G data services in the US are often incompatible with phones not made specifically for the US. Your phone must be compatible with both frequencies of a provider to be compatible with 3G data. If it is not, you can still get data service, just at a slower speed (2G, also known as Edge).

  • AT&T uses both the 800 MHz and the 1900 MHz frequency bands for their 3G data network. They use the 700 MHz frequency for their LTE (4G) service.
  • T-Mobile uses both the 1700 MHz and the 2100 MHz frequency bands for their 3G data network, which in some cities is as fast as the 4G networks -- with the right phone.

You can input your phone model in this website to find out its specifications and if it supports the frequencies above, or you can input the IMEI of your phone in this website to find out the model and the frequencies. The IMEI is usually located under the battery of most mobile phones.

Here is a listing of GSM prepaid plans. Note that many of these plans include international minutes and/or SMS text messaging. Also note that in the US, the owner of the mobile phone pays for both incoming and outgoing minutes and SMS/text messages, but people do not pay more to call you on your phone or send you an SMS/text message.

If you walk into a T-Mobile or AT&T store and ask for a prepaid SIM and activate it in the store, they will probably charge you $5 or $6 for the SIM.

MVNOs:

Carriers with storefronts aren't the only options. You can also find great deals with MVNOs, Mobile Virtual Network Operators. MVNOs are services that resell other operators' spectrum, and prices go as low as $30 per month without a contract.

TracFone is the largest, and owns StraightTalk, a Wal-Mart exclusive that resells AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Ting and Credo Mobile ride Sprint's network, as do Sprint's own prepaid Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile brands. PureTalk sells AT&T; Net 10 rides AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint; and Simple Mobile resells T-Mobile service.

You can get a SIM card from any of these providers on eBay or at their respective websites for $5 or less, plus shipping (often the seller offers free shipping to addresses in the US, and a small shipping fee outside the US). If you buy the SIM online, you can then have the seller ship it to your host or hostel and then activate it online. It is safe to purchase a SIM card on eBay, but just be careful not to purchase a used SIM (the listings clearly state when the SIM is used), and whether you buy from eBay or directly from the provider's website, purchase far enough in advance so that it is delivered before you arrive.

You can also buy an inexpensive Pay-As-You-Go phone once you arrive in the US with credit already on it (for example: GoPhone, Virgin Mobile, and Boost Mobile), and you can add to that credit if you need to. Plans differ by provider, so you have to ask what the plan is before you buy the phone. Stores where you can buy such phones:

  • BestBuy (electronics chain)
  • CVS (a drugstore chain)
  • Rite Aid (also drugstore chain)
  • Target (department store)
  • Walgreens (yes, another drugstore chain)

Wireless Internet / Hotspots

These are all free options for internet and wifi access in the Los Angeles. Some are open 24 hours or access is available outside the buildings after hours.

  • City of Burbank public libraries [1]
  • City of Glendale public libraries [2]
  • City of Los Angeles public libraries [3]
  • City of Santa Monica public libraries [4]
  • County of Los Angeles public libraries [5]
  • Most hotels and hostels, some larger malls/shopping centers
  • Vons, Pavillions, Ralph supermarkets (certain locations) and Whole Foods supermarkets
  • Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (may require purchase), most McDonald's (with and without purchase), and all stand-alone Starbucks
  • Capital One Cafe in downtown LA and Westwood both offer high speed complimentary internet and will not require a purchase; additionally they have comfortable seating and plenty of electrical outlets
  • Many restaurants and coffee shops now offer complimentary wifi, but you may have to check or make a purchase.

Events

Couchsurfing

Check the Los Angeles Area group on Couchsurfing to keep up to date with CS L.A. activities. It's also a good idea to contact one or two active members personally to find out if there is anything going on. Do not look for hosts or ask to be hosted by posting in this group.

Monthly Events

  • ArtWalk - second Thursday each month

Festivals and Holidays

February - Chinese New Year

April - Thai New Year

May - Cinco de Mayo

June - LA Pride

July - Independence Day

October - West Hollywood Halloween Carnival

Listings

  • LA Weekly - a free newspaper featuring a large listing of cultural events and leisure activities in Los Angeles
  • Time Out LA - a free periodical in some major cities worldwide, it is essentially an online-only publication for LA but has a large listing
  • Yelp LA

Things to do

L.A. In 24 Hours

When visitors to Southern California only have one or two days to spend, it's usually recommended that they select from the landmarks on this list:

Hiking

There are lots of hiking trails around Los Angeles. North of Santa Monica near the Pacific Coastal Highway, Topanga State Park (parking $6) has an easy 3.5 mile loop with an outlook at Eagle Rock. Will Rogers State Park and Temescal Canyon are also located nearby. For the best view of the city, Runyon Canyon is an off-leash dog park that is popular amongst screenwriters and actors. It is only a 45-minute hike and the entrance is located two blocks west of the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Another place of interest is Catalina Island, which is great for camping or you can visit it for a full-day trip.

Museums

There are a number of interesting and world class museums in the Los Angeles area, in nearly every neighborhood and region including adjacent areas such as Long Beach, Pasadena, and Orange County; many of these museums regularly schedule days or time periods when they can be visited without charge.

Theme Parks

  • Six Flags/Magic Mountain is in the Northern part of Los Angeles County, in the city of Clarita, includes an amusement park and a water park, Hurricane Harbor
  • Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City and City Walk a free, open-air shopping area adjacent to the theme park, both in North Hollywood, in the San Fernando portion of Los Angeles County.
  • Knotts Berry Farm is in the southeast part of Los Angeles County, in the city of Buena Park, and includes a large variety of amusement and theme park attractions

Please NOTE that Disneyland is NOT in Los Angeles, it's not even in the same geographic area (LA County) but south; while there is public transit that goes to Disneyland, it takes two hours+ to get there and two hours+ back.

Places to Eat

Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants

Southern California is one of the most veg-friendly areas in the United States. More & more restaurants dedicated to serving only plant-based foods are springing up throughout Los Angeles; cities in the San Fernando Valley (to the north of LA); cities in the South Bay communities; Long Beach (to the south of LA); and cities in Orange County, just south of Long Beach.

One of the best resources for finding veg restaurants is Happy Cow www.happycow.net

Find out whether alcoholic beverages including spirits, wine & beer are vegan-friendly at Barnivore www.barnivore.com

Here are some of the Los Angeles-area Couch Surfers' favorite vegetarian/vegan restaurants...

El Segundo:

  • Veggie Grill (vegan) - Plaza El Segundo 720 Allied Way, El Segundo, CA 90245

Veggie Grill is a chain of vegan restaurants with numerous locations throughout southern California.

Los Angeles:

  • Pure Luck (vegetarian) - 707 N Heliotrope Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90029

Redondo Beach:

  • Happy Veggie (Asian vegetarian) - 709 N. Pacific Coast Highway Redondo Beach, CA 90277

San Fernando Valley:

  • Vegetable Delight (vegetarian "mock meat" Chinese) - 17823 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills, CA 91344

Silverlake:

  • Cru (vegan and raw food) - 1521 Griffith Park Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

West Hollywood:

  • Real Food Daily (organic vegan) - 414 N. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048
  • Veggie Grill (vegan) - 8000 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Westside (West LA):

  • Real Food Daily (organic vegan) - 514 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401

Orange County:

Huntington Beach:

  • Bodhi Tree Cafe

Downtown Huntington Beach (Easy walk to the Huntington Beach Pier & the beach) All vegan, some raw vegan menu items Family-owned & operated business 501 Main St Huntington Beach CA 92648 Main St x 6th St Closed Tuesdays

  • VegiLicious Cafe

Near Huntington Harbor Algonquin St Huntington Beach CA All vegan, Japanese cuisine Small cafe with husband & wife proprietors, Akira & Ana Located at the back of the shopping center, behind Trader Joe’s grocery Algonquin St x Warner Ave Closed Tuesdays

  • Vegan Nirvana

Mid-city Huntington Beach Warner Ave x Beach Blvd Huntington Beach CA All vegan

  • Loving Hut

Mid-city Huntington Beach Beach Blvd near Talbert Ave Huntington Beach CA All vegan, a few raw vegan options Closed Tuesdays

  • The Secret Spot

Pacific Coast Highway x Warner Ave Huntington Beach CA Vegan-friendly menu, but this cafe does serve meat Directly across from the beach, next to a Subway sandwich shop

  • Mother’s Cafe inside Mother’s Market HB grocery store

Beach Blvd x Adams Ave Huntington Beach CA 92648 Separate vegan menu, but this cafe does serve meat


Fountain Valley:

  • Au Lac Fountain Valley

Brookhurst St at Heil Fountain Valley CA closed Mondays All vegan cafe, extensive raw vegan menu

Late Night Eats: Open All Night or 24 hours

Downtown:

  • The Pantry Cafe (diner, always open) - 877 S. Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90017

Hollywood:

  • Kitchen 24 (diner, open late) - 1608 N. Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028
  • Fred 62 (diner, always open) - 1850 N. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Los Angeles:

Manhattan Beach:

  • The Kettle (diner, always open) - 1138 Highland Avenue Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Silverlake:

Getting Away

Transportation

Flights to San Francisco or San Diego can easily be purchased online from SouthWest Airlines or use BookingBuddy to compare prices. Trains and connecting buses on Amtrak or Bus lines such as Greyhound are also options. You can also check the Craigslist Rideshare page or post a request on the CS California Ride Share Group.

Destinations Near Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a great launch pad for your next destination. Orange County is next to Los Angeles and home of Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, and some of the most expensive real estate and coastline in the world. Other places to visit within 200 mile / 350 km is Palm Springs, Coachella Valley and Joshua Tree National Park are east of Los Angeles and can be reached via Highway 10. Towards the northwest, Santa Barbara and Solvang can be reached via Pacific Coastal Highway 1. Also known as Highway 1, it is a famous scenic seaside route that extends into and through The Big Sur. In the southeast, Temecula is a great place to go wine tasting. From there, you can visit the Salton Sea and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, close to San Diego. To reach San Diego directly from Los Angeles, you can drive south for two hours via Highway 5. Tijuana, a small city on the border of Mexico, is also popular with tourists.

Emergency Services

Info-Line (Information & Assistance) (800) 339-6993
Fire/Police/Ambulance (Emergency) 911
Los Angeles County Disaster Hotline (800) 980-4990
Rape Treatment Center – Santa Monica/UCLA Medical Center (310) 319-4000
Substance Abuse Treatment (800) 564-6600

Non-Emergency & Advisory Services

Embassies & Consulates

Use the Department of State's website for full listings of all embassies and consulates in the United States. A commercial website offers information on Consulates and Embassies for Los Angeles here but there is no way of knowing how complete or accurate this information may be.

Last-minute Accommodation

Hostels & Hotels

Web Travel Agencies Unlike small compact cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles is a large sprawling metropolitan area that blends into surrounding cities and counties. Even by car, it can take two hours to get from one end to the other. When selecting a hostel, check that it's in the area you want to explore.

http://www.lahostels.org/ They have hostels in three areas of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, South Bay and Fullerton (Orange County). There also have a "Travel Store" with classes for new travelers, Eurorail and Amtrak passes, and shuttles around the southwest.

http://www.hostels.com/los-angeles/usa

http://www.hostelbookers.com/hostels/usa/los-angeles/

http://www.usahostels.com/hollywood/

Many hostels listed with an agency may also have their own website. You may wish to check the individual website to see if the price is any better, one advantage is that direct booking will save the fee charged by the agency websites and may also make cancellation or other issues easier to handle.

Individual Hostels

Hosteling International Santa Monica Good location in Santa Monica and close to Venice Beach. Lots of shops, pubs and is next to the beach. Third Street Promenade is also close.

The LA Adventurer Not in a prime location but have clean and spacious rooms. Living room, small kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Dorm options available as well. Free 24-hour shuttle from airport, free wireless. Access to pool and restaurant, including free continental breakfast and afternoon tea. Free champagne and appetizers from 5-6 pm.

Orange Manor Hollywood Quiet, great location for Hollywood sightseeing and close to Metro.

Orbit Hotel/Hostel Rooms are not impressive but are typically dorms. Free parking. The staff is friendly and helpful. The location is quite nice, especially for people who travel alone or are more concerned with general safety. Good walk to various destinations. Located at Melrose and Fairfax.

Surf City Hostel Prime location but noisy and busy neighborhood espeically during weekends. Artsy atmosphere and sits above a local bar/club. Right next to the beach and the Hermosa Beach Pier. Live music, DJs in the surrounding area.

Venice Beach Hotel The location is close to the beach and Venice boardwalk.

Vibe Hotel Situated on Hollywood and Vine, close to Hollywood attractions. Very modern and clean.