My first solo trip to Los Angeles is over, so I thought I’d share 3 of the biggest mistakes I made. If you’re like me, and tend not to do much/any research before you travel to a new city, you probably won’t read this, but on the off chance that you do I hope it saves you a lot of time and frustration.
Mistake #1- Not Renting A Car
I had heard something about horrible traffic in LA, so it seemed obvious to me that I should walk or take transit. Wrong! LA is a traffic nightmare because everything is spread out and the transit system is the worst I’ve ever experienced. Everyone drives here and for good reason.
On my first full day I thought I would take the bus from my hostel in Hollywood to Beverly Hills. The closest bus stop was a 15 minute walk. I gave up and turned back 10 minutes later, after the sketchiness level was through the roof. People were horrified when I told them this story; turns out LA is pretty dangerous and you shouldn’t walk around alone. Who knew!
The next day I bought a pass for a Hop-On-Hop-Off tour. I usually don’t do these touristy things but since I was alone and had no way to get around, it was a good and affordable option. I had planned to go to Beverly Hills, the Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach. That was a little too ambitious because everything is a lot farther than it looks on a map. I made it to Beverly Hills and the Santa Monica Pier but had to turn back before I could go to Venice Beach because it was getting late and I didn’t want to be stranded. Turns out you can’t really hop-on or hop-off of the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour bus because it takes all day to get places and the buses stop at 5:30.
I had planned to see a lot during my one week in LA and figured out pretty quickly that it wouldn’t all be possible. I was surprised that everything was so spread out and that this wasn’t the most friendly city for a tourist without a car.
Mistake #2- Staying In Hollywood
As I said, I did no research before going to LA and picked a hostel in Hollywood because it sounded like a central location, right? Wrong again! Turns out Hollywood is a dump (but it looks so nice on TV!) and there is no such thing as a central location in LA so you might as well stay somewhere nice like Beverly Hills or by the beach.
My hostel, USA Hostels Hollywood, which I actually loved, was located on the walk of fame about 10 minutes from downtown LA and 10 minutes to the Chinese Theatre. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really close to anything else. I found the area to be a combination of really sketchy, with these bizarre wig stores everywhere (I think I might have been in a drag queen shopping area), and overly touristy. However, as a solo traveller it was actually useful to be in such a touristy area because I was able to purchase and join tours without going out of my way.
Mistake #3 – Not Checking Holidays
Did I mention I did no planning before going on this trip? I didn’t even occur to me to check for public holidays before booking my trip and I was there during American Thanksgiving, arguably the most popular holiday in the States. Even when I realized that I would be in town for Thanksgiving I didn’t really give it a second thought, and still planned to sightsee that day. Turns out not even Starbucks was opened for Thanksgiving (well a few were, but not the one near me). Luckily I was able to connect with a friend of a friend who invited me to her house for my first American Thanksgiving. Everything was delicious and I even had a homemade dessert tamale, yum! Had I known about these holidays I would have booked my trip so that I was also in town for Black Friday and the holiday parade. Oh well, live and learn!
Despite these 3 big mistakes, I really loved LA and can’t wait to go back (with a car and some planning). If you have any questions about travelling to LA please feel free to leave a comment and I will be happy to give you some more tips and advice.