Los Angeles is surprisingly one of the cheapest places in the US to rent a car. You can rent a compact, economy car for about US$40 per day (hybrids cost $80-$90) or $200-plus per week, with unlimited mileage. The latter is the best option. All major car-rental agencies can be found at the airport and also in the bigger hotels, although booking a car online before you reach LA is recommended.
Travelling by bus is not entirely practical in LA as it involves a lot of transfers, spread-out stops and a pretty sluggish service. If you're only going a short distance, however, taking the bus is an economical and environmentally friendly way to get about. Avoid taking the bus at night. The bus fare is a fixed US$1.50 for all local lines, and transfers cost 35¢ each. A Metro Day Pass is $6 for unlimited bus and rail rides all day long. Up to two kids aged four and under can travel free with an adult.
Cab fares tend to be very high in LA as distances are wide and traffic is terrible. A very short trip can easily cost US$20 or more. Taxis currently charge $2.85 plus $2.70 per extra mile. A service charge of $2.50 is whacked on top of fares from LAX. If there's a delay, expect an additional charge of 30¢ for each 37 seconds.
This handy shuttle bus system operates throughout Downtown and Hollywood meaning you can reach some of the main attractions quite easily and cheaply. Services run every five to 30 minutes, depending on the time of day, and cost 35¢. The schedule can be quite confusing if you're new to LA so don't forget to get yourself a map. Alternatively, on a weekday and Saturdays the Cityline shuttle is a great way to get around West Hollywood for 50¢ a ride.
In 2009 the United States (US) implemented a mandatory Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, known as the ESTA, for visitors from countries currently part of the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Get yours before you leave by making an online ESTA application.
The standard tip in a LA restaurant is 15% to 20%. The best thing to remember is to double the tax on your bill and round upwards as you like, depending on how well you've been treated. In taxis you should also tip 15% to 20% and hotel bellboys will need between US$1–$2 per bag.
The Los Angeles area is subject to a microclimate with daytime temperatures varying from as high as 36 °F (20 °C) in areas such as the San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley, as opposed to the coast in the Basin. Most of LA's rainfall occurs during winter and early spring. February is considered the wettest month, although it's not too cold. Expect light rainfall in October and November, and even more in December through February.
If you're holidaying on a budget –particularly if you're traveling with children – get the Go Los Angeles Card. You'll save lots of money as you'll get access to over 40 attractions in the area and save time by skipping queues at the top sights. You'll even get free bonus admission to Universal Studios Hollywood if you get a 3, 5 or 7-day card. Each card offers up to two weeks of access.
Qantas, Delta, United and Virgin Australia International run 4–5 direct flights to Los Angeles from Sydney taking approximately 13.5 hours.
From Melbourne Qantas and Virgin Australia International run 1–2 direct flights to Los Angeles from Melbourne taking approximately 14.5 hours.
From Brisbane Qantas and Virgin Australia International run 1–2 direct flights to Los Angeles from Brisbane taking approximately 13 hours.
From Perth Qantas and Virgin Australia International operate flights from Perth, which usually take upwards of 19 hours with at least one stopover, usually via Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.
The SuperShuttle Los Angeles is a great service that will pick you up from your home, office, or hotel and take you to and from the LAX Airport. It's much more convenient than parking and a good way to get to your hotel if you're not planning to hire a car from the airport. You'll share the ride with other passengers going in the same direction in a comfy and economical blue van. Book in advance.
If possible try to avoid a change of terminals at LAX as there's no way of changing terminals without leaving the security perimeter, which means several annoying and time consuming checks along the way. You will need to show a boarding pass to get through security so keep the boarding pass for your connecting flight on hand when you first arrive at LAX if you want to avoid a big queue.
A free shuttle bus service is provided from LAX at the Metro Green Line Aviation Station. Wait under the LAX Shuttle and Airline Connections sign on the lower/arrival level islands in front of each terminal, and then get on the 'G' Shuttle. The 'C' Shuttle will take you to the Metro Bus Centre, where you can get a city bus to the Los Angeles area.
You can easily get a taxi outside the lower/arrival level islands in front of each terminal at LAX, under the yellow 'Taxis' sign. Your ticket will display the typical fares to major destinations. Be aware that only authorised taxis with an official seal that's been issued by City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation are permitted in the airport.
There are a good few of these tours on offer all around Hollywood. Hop in an air-conditioned mini-bus and be prepared to get nosy. You'll see the homes (past and present) of celebs like Tom Cruise, Paris Hilton, Christina Aguilera, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and heaps more. Rodeo Drive, the Hollywood sign, Mulholland Drive, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and the Sunset Strip are all on the agenda.
As a top LA attraction, you can't miss a day in Universal Studios to explore where some of the top movies are made. With great additions like the world's largest 3D experience, the King Kong 360 3D created by Peter Jackson, it'll be a day of thrills you won't forget. Don't miss the Universal CityWalk, which has over 32 exciting places to eat, 19 state-of-the-art movie theatres, and six night spots to keep you dancing all night.
The greatest and most popular Madame Tussauds in the world continues to draw the crowds in LA, so arrive early for the best photo opportunities with the (wax) stars. There are almost 100 in here, from Hollywood movie stars to presidents. Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Johnny Depp, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga are all waiting in wax. Don't forget your camera.
A great day out for the kids as well as adults, here's the place to explore the ocean without getting your feet wet. You'll find mysterious sea dragons, a man made coral lagoon, a very active and snappy shark tank as well as a close up look at over 11,000 creatures from Southern California and the Baja Pacific, the North Pacific, and the colourful reefs of the Tropical Pacific.
This 24-hour Jewish deli has been popular with the late night crowd since it first opened over 66 years ago. After the clubs close, this is where you'll see the drunken celebrities slurring and chomping on matzo ball soup, potato pancakes, huge pastrami sandwiches and other Jewish faves.
For probably the best steak you'll ever eat, take yourself to Mastro's. As well as a warm and cosy atmosphere you'll find excellent staff in this classy yet traditional all-American steakhouse. Think heaps of butter, heaps of cream and all the naughty things that make for a great meal out on the town. Prepare for a dent in your wallet, but it's worth it.
If building your own burger is an idea that gets your mouth watering, look no further than The Counter, a fashionable dive in Ocean Park. Think fresh ground organic Angus beef, Tillamook cheddar and the freshest vegetables on the planet. Tuck in but keep your eyes on the counter. You might even spot a celebrity.
Positively mooing for something different? Blue Cow is an upscale, full-service New-American restaurant serving up reasonably priced yet seriously delicious and innovative sandwiches, cocktails, craft beers and small plates of tapas and entrees which all work to showcase local farming and artisan products. Don't miss Grandma's Gooey Butter Cake.
This legendary club first became famous in 1993, when it was opened by Johnny Depp. You're bound to see a celebrity or three here late at night, all of whom flock for the electric music and starry scene. Johnny Cash, Iggy Pop, Tom Petty and Slash have all played here.
Fancy a belly laugh, plus the chance to see a potential star in the making? The Comedy Store is where new LA comics develop their material, and established ones get up to scratch with new stuff. The Main Room is host to professional stand-ups continuously on Friday and Saturday. You'll also see people who appear regularly on TV shows.
When 'the Den' made the spotlight thanks to the movie Swingers, it became a hipster's hot spot and it's still cool, no thanks to lounge act Marty and Elayne who still play here up to five nights a week. For kitsch galore and some fabulous cocktails, snuggle up for a night of classic LA fun.
Above the Avalon theatre, Bardot is the master of reinvention and has been since it opened its doors in 1927. Here's where to head for some burlesque, live jazz, dance and classic rock. The outdoor courtyard is nice on balmy LA evenings and you can get a bit romantic in the plush cushioned tent room after all those gin and tonics.
Rent a car and take in the top LA sights all the way from Hollywood to Venice Beach. Start with the Hollywood and Highlands (Hollywood Sign) and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Drive to Santa Monica via Sunset and take in the manly sights of Muscle Beach before a dip in the ocean. Have dinner at the popular Sidewalk Cafe.
More pre-historic fossils have been discovered at the La Brea Tar Pits than any place else on earth and you can see a large collection in the Page Museum. Head for lunch at the Farmers' Market on 3rd Street and spend the afternoon cruising through Beverly Hills, checking out the multi-million-dollar mansions. Laugh the night away at the Comedy Store, where many comics first found fame.
The astronomy museum at the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park is free so head there early for your glimpse at the cosmos through the Zeiss telescope. Snap the Hollywood sign from the viewing area at the Hollywood and Highland shopping and entertainment complex, as well as getting your souvenirs. Check out the street performers at Venice Beach and then head to a fun and free TV show taping in Burbank, Studio City or Culver City.
If you've got kids, take them to Santa Monica beach early for some sandcastle building time. Have lunch at Perry's Cafe and Rentals – their butler service will bring the food to you on the beach – and then rent rollerblades for a cruise down The Strand. Next up, head to Pacific Park for some fun with high tech bumper cars, then get your tickets to a show at the Santa Monica Playhouse who often stage fairy stories for the kids.
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