Free Guide to Los Angeles: What to See, and Dangerous Neighborhoods

Petr Novák

Los Angeles, known as the City of Angels, is the most populous city in California. On this page, you’ll find tips about the most intriguing places to visit, economical means of getting around the city, and noteworthy hazards in certain neighborhoods. Once, while waiting for a bus in the Watts neighborhood late at night, two people were shot just a few blocks away.

Free Guide to Los Angeles: What to See, and Dangerous Neighborhoods | © Petr Novák

  1. Table of Contents
    1. Basic Facts about Los Angeles
    2. Current Time and Time Zone in Los Angeles
    3. Los Angeles Weather
    4. People in Los Angeles and How to Get Along
    5. How to Get to Los Angeles
    6. Getting Around Los Angeles
    7. What to See in Los Angeles
    8. Dining in Los Angeles
    9. Accommodation in Los Angeles
    10. Safety in Los Angeles

    Basic Facts about Los Angeles

    Los Angeles is situated in Southern California, and the whole metropolitan area is among the largest in the entire USA. Several distinct cities are often mistakenly referred to as Los Angeles. Some of the most famous ones are Santa Monica, Long Beach, Anaheim, Riverside, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Van Nuys, Encino, Pasadena, Burbank, and Bel-Air. The landscape surrounding Los Angeles is also diverse, encompassing mountains, valleys, forests, deserts, and beaches, all within a few hours’ drive, with the Pacific Ocean marking the city’s western boundary.

    Los Angeles’s industries primarily encompass television and film. As you walk around the city, it’s quite common to come across a film or television crew. This doesn’t only occur in Hollywood; filming also takes place in Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Culver City, and there are major studios in Burbank.

    Other significant industries in Los Angeles include tourism, culture, finance, business, pharmaceuticals, media, and food processing.

  2. Current Time and Time Zone in Los Angeles

    In Los Angeles, the time zone is PST (UTC-8) during standard time and PDT (UTC-7) during daylight saving time.

    The current time in Los Angeles is 06:58.

    To calculate the time in Los Angeles from British time, simply subtract nine hours. This is accurate throughout the year, with the exception of a few weeks in March, October, and November, when the USA transitions to daylight saving time. The dates of this transition differ from those in Western Europe, resulting in an eight-hour difference during these weeks.

  3. Los Angeles Weather

    Los Angeles has a semi-arid climate, characterized by relatively low rainfall and sparse vegetation.

    The sunniest and driest period in Los Angeles is from May to October, when rainfall is scarce and temperatures typically range from 63°F to 79°F during the day, in the shade. August and September can be even warmer, offering some of the most pleasant days in the Los Angeles area. However, these ideal conditions can occasionally be marred by episodes of smog.

    Rain in Los Angeles is most common between December and April, with daytime temperatures peaking at a maximum of 68°F and dipping to 48°F at night. Temperatures can be even colder further inland, with frost being a rarity in Los Angeles.

  4. People in Los Angeles and How to Get Along

    Much like New York, Los Angeles is extraordinarily diverse, home to individuals from hundreds of nationalities. The largest ethnic group is the Mexicans, who form the most significant community in Los Angeles outside of Mexico. In the city, you will find them everywhere, most commonly in restaurants, buses, or hotels.

    In addition to English, Spanish is also widely spoken in Los Angeles. Some Los Angeles subway lines make announcements in both English and Spanish. The same applies to signs on shops or billboards.

    People in Los Angeles are generally friendly and, in my experience, always ready to lend a hand. When I didn’t have change for the bus, several people offered to cover my fare. On a late-night bus ride in one of the suburbs, the bus driver even deviated from her route and stopped right in front of my hotel.

    Don’t hesitate to engage and be friendly.

  5. Free Guide to Los Angeles: What to See, and Dangerous Neighborhoods | © Petr Novák

    How to Get to Los Angeles

    🛫 Los Angeles Airport

    Several public and private airports of national and regional importance are located in the Los Angeles area. The primary one is Los Angeles International Airport (IATA code: LAX). This vast airport with nine terminals serves destinations worldwide, including exotic locations like French Polynesia.

    A free shuttle bus, marked with the letter “A”, operates between the terminals. To avail of its services, head down to the lower level and look for the “LAX Shuttle and Shuttle Connections” sign. If you need to travel between two adjacent terminals, it’s faster to walk.

    Free wifi is available inside the terminal; simply log in.

    🚌 How to Get from Los Angeles Airport

    The connection from LAX to downtown leaves much to be desired. The most affordable option is to follow the “Ground Transportation” sign, leading you to buses that travel to the nearest Metro station. That would be the Aviation / LAX Station on the Green Line. Buses to downtown depart from the “LAX City Bus Center” on West 96th Street.

    LAX FlyAway buses also run every half hour downtown to Union Station, and a one-way trip costs $9.75 (as of March 2023).

    Good alternatives are the Uber and Lyft apps, with drivers abundant around the airport. Fares depend on your destination, current supply and demand, or the car you choose. At times, Uber is cheaper; at other times, Lyft. An Uber ride from the airport to Santa Monica typically costs around $40. Expect significant traffic and

    Several car rental agencies around the airport offer the option to rent a car or pick up a reserved vehicle. Given the long distances in Los Angeles, renting a car can be a good option.

    ✈️ Cheap Flights to Los Angeles

    You can often find round-trip bargain tickets to Los Angeles departing from Europe for as little as €350$373, or around $300 on rare occasions. However, the cheapest tickets usually come with a few restrictions:

    • Flights depart from various airports across Europe, often from Germany. You must take into account the additional financial costs and time needed to get to the airport.
    • Luggage is not included in the price. You must be content with a carry-on bag only. You can purchase a suitcase, but it will cost up to $150 more.
    • The availability of cheap flights is relatively limited and they are not during peak season.
    • The ticket must be booked and paid for promptly, as it can sell out at any time.
    • You may have to make several stopovers during your trip and endure waiting at airports.
    • In some low-cost airlines, in-flight refreshments are not included.

    Visit the latest bargain tickets to Los Angeles to get a better idea of the price.

    In Los Angeles, you can easily change planes and continue on to other cities in the USA. Personally, I like the low-cost airline Southwest, which offers cheap tickets, a dense network of destinations, and includes two checked bags. Other airlines charge for each checked bag.

    🚆 Train to Los Angeles

    Train fares in the USA are often expensive, making it more sensible to either fly or take the bus to most destinations.

    The primary train station in Los Angeles is Union Station, located at 800 N. Alameda Street. The station provides connections to the Red and Purple subway lines, as well as a stop on the Gold Line commuter rail.

    Amtrak long-distance trains operate from Los Angeles to Seattle, San Diego, Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans, and Sacramento. It is practically possible to travel as far as the East Coast.

    Metrolink commuter trains also serve Lancaster, Oceanside, Riverside, and San Bernardino. Compared to Amtrak, Metrolink fares are more affordable.

    🚌 Bus to Los Angeles

    Buses are often the cheapest option for traveling to Los Angeles from nearby cities. If you book early enough (look for tickets about 3 months before your planned trip), you can travel for as low as $10.00.

    Comfort is not a concern as buses are equipped with power outlets and free wifi. If you’re fortunate enough to find a bus that isn’t fully booked, you’ll have a relaxed journey. Just find a seat in the last row of the bus.

    The most well-known carriers operating in Los Angeles include Megabus, Greyhound, and Flixbus. Unfortunately, all three levy a booking fee of $3.99 for each ticket. For more information, read the article how to travel the USA.

  6. Free Guide to Los Angeles: What to See, and Dangerous Neighborhoods | © Petr Novák

    Getting Around Los Angeles

    🚕 Taxi via Uber and Lyft

    The most convenient and often the cheapest way to navigate Los Angeles is via the Uber and Lyft mobile apps. However, you’ll need an internet connection to use them, preferably via a US SIM card.

    You just need to input your destination into the app, which will automatically detect your current location. Then, you’ll be offered various ride prices for different types of vehicles. You can order a regular car, a premium car, or an economy option where the taxi picks up and drops off additional passengers along the way.

    The final price is known upfront, and the taxi is only ordered after agreeing to this price. The displayed amount does not change once agreed.

    The cost of the ride is influenced by several factors including distance, current demand and supply, the type of car or chosen route. It is recommended to have both apps installed and to check prices on both as one can be cheaper than the other at any given time.

    🚏 Public Transportation in Los Angeles

    Public transportation in Los Angeles is quite different from what you might find in New York City. By “different,” I mean it’s typically less efficient. While in New York, you can get from anywhere to anywhere at any time, in Los Angeles, it usually takes longer and requires several transfers.

    Residents who can afford a car prefer to spend hours in endless traffic jams. Mass transit in Los Angeles is generally utilized by the less affluent or the more environmentally conscious. In the city center, bus intervals usually range from 5 to 10 minutes, but in the outlying neighborhoods, buses depart every 30-90 minutes. The subway operates from approximately 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

    You can expect public transport travel to be slow. On a weekday evening, a 9.32 mi journey on the subway and buses can take about 2.5 hours, including waiting time.

    If you’ll be relying on public transportation during your stay in Los Angeles, buy a TAP card worth $2.00 plus loaded credit. TAP is valid for all subway lines and most buses in the city. Keep in mind, though, that there are several companies operating in Los Angeles, some of which issue their own tickets. You’ll recognize them by their unique signs and differently colored buses.

    Ticket prices for buses and subways in Los Angeles (as of March 2023):

    • Single ticket (subway or bus): $1.75
    • Metro – Silver Line: $2.50
    • 24-hour ticket: $3.50
    • 7-day ticket: $12.50
    • 30-day ticket: $50

    Time passes are not tied to the number of rides; you can freely ride the metro or buses from morning to night. You can buy tickets from a ticket vending machine located at each metro station. In the case of buses, you can pay the fare at the driver’s counter, but have exact change ready.

    I recommend downloading an offline Google Map of the entire area to your phone. This allows you to use the navigation even without an internet connection.

    🚗 Rental Car

    Renting a car in Los Angeles affords you a freedom of movement that is typically offset by hours spent in endless traffic jams. If you’re traveling with several people and plan to visit multiple places in a single day, it’s definitely worth renting a car.

    Almost everywhere in Los Angeles, there’s a fee for parking. Rates vary by area and time of day or night, ranging from $0.50 to $6.00 per hour. A parking meter can be found next to each parking space. You can park at it and pay either by inserting coins directly into the machine, by credit card, phone, or mobile app. The time until the parking fee expires is displayed directly on the machine.

    🛴 On Bike and Scooter

    Getting around Los Angeles by bike is typically not a good idea. The distances between major points of interest are huge, and the environment isn’t very cyclist-friendly. If you still want to ride, consider the coastline around Venice Beach or The Strand, where there are pleasant bike paths.

  7. Free Guide to Los Angeles: What to See, and Dangerous Neighborhoods | © Petr Novák

    What to See in Los Angeles

    Los Angeles is synonymous with Hollywood, film, television, and celebrities. As you explore the city, it’s quite likely that you’ll come across a film or TV crew. They can be easily identified by large signs with extensive text indicating that by being there, you’re giving permission for your image to be used on the show.
    Many of the most famous attractions in Los Angeles are free.

    📌 Hollywood Walk of Fame

    The Hollywood Walk of Fame extends along Hollywood Blvd. The nearest subway station is Hollywood/Highland Station on the Red Line. I recommend setting aside at least an hour to experience the entire path.

    If you anticipate seeing some names more than once, you’re not mistaken. Numerous artists have been honored with a star on the Walk of Fame on multiple occasions.

    📌 Hollywood Sign

    The sign can be easily seen from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but the journey to it is lengthy. If you don’t have a car, you can walk, but you need to be somewhat physically fit. The best views and photographs of the sign can be obtained from the intersection of Mt. Lee Drive and Deronda Drive.

    On the way, you can visit the renowned Griffith Observatory and stroll along Mulholland Drive. From the hills above Los Angeles, you’ll have a truly breathtaking view of the entire city.

    📌 Universal Studios Hollywood

    Universal Studios Hollywood is a must-visit for movie fans. Numerous movies and TV shows have been filmed in the actual movie studios, including Fast and Furious, Back to the Future, Transformers, CSI: Las Vegas and Desperate Housewives.

    You can tour the real sets. Roller-coaster-like attractions and demonstrations of traditional Hollywood crafts also provide entertainment. The admission fee is fairly steep, but the experience is well worth it.

    📌 Participate in the Filming of a TV Show

    I personally attended the filming of the now-cancelled Tonight Show with Jay Leno. While I can’t say he was my favorite host, the experience was enlightening. It offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Hollywood and a first-hand understanding of how TV shows and series are produced. Look for tickets on the official websites of each show; they are often free.

    📌 Stroll the Beaches Around Los Angeles

    While the photogenic Venice Beach and Santa Monica Beach are teeming with homeless individuals and tourists, they remain among the must-visit locations in the Los Angeles area.

    In Venice, you can work out at the open-air Muscle Beach, where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to flex his muscles. Dedicate an entire day to the beaches around Los Angeles.

    If you’re traveling with children, consider visiting the amusement park at the Santa Monica Pier. While the rides are not as thrilling as those at Six Flags, kids are sure to enjoy them.

    If you’re looking for quieter, less touristy locations, I recommend Hermosa Beach to the south of the airport. It offers restaurants, cafes, volleyball courts, The Strand promenade, and a long pier.

    📌 Attend an NHL or NBA Game

    For sports enthusiasts, Los Angeles hosts a variety of teams for the most popular sports.

    Hockey matches are played by the Los Angeles Kings at the Crypto.com Arena (formerly the Staples Center) in downtown Los Angeles near the Blue Line’s Pico Station. Witnessing an NHL game in person is a thrilling experience. I went to one with a friend who had never been to a hockey game before, and he loved it.

    The Basketball team, the Los Angeles Lakers, is one of the most popular in America. They play at the same venue as the hockey players, the Crypto.com Arena downtown. Tickets can be quite pricey, but the Los Angeles Clippers, who play at the same venue, usually have cheaper tickets.

    Baseball is extremely popular in the USA. The Los Angeles Dodgers play at Dodger Stadium near Chinatown in northeast Los Angeles. The closest station is Chinatown on the Red Line.

    Soccer is played by the Los Angeles Galaxy, where soccer icons like David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimović once played. MLS home games are held at Dignity Health Sports Park in the Carson neighborhood south of Los Angeles.

    Tickets for NHL, NBA, MLB, and MLS games obtained through official channels can be expensive; it’s cheaper to use ticket exchanges like TickPick.com or Stubhub.com.

    I have personally used these services for NHL games and found them to be excellent. I didn’t even need to print the tickets. The attendant scanned them from my phone screen.

    📌 The Getty Center

    Also known as the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center houses an impressive collection of artwork and is located in the hills above Santa Monica. The exhibitions constantly change, but the spectacular views are a constant feature.

    The museum charges no entry fee, however, advance reservations are required at certain times. Parking costs $20.00 per car, with a reduced rate of $15.00 after 3pm and $10.00 after 6pm, as well as on Saturdays.

    For more information, visit the museum’s website.

  8. Free Guide to Los Angeles: What to See, and Dangerous Neighborhoods | © Petr Novák

    Dining in Los Angeles

    Los Angeles offers a diverse dining scene. Alongside American bistros and steakhouses, you can experience ethnic cuisines, with Mexican food being the most represented.

    Food trucks continue to be popular, and you can typically find them around office buildings during lunch hours. These trucks, equipped with small kitchens, primarily serve fresh burgers, tacos, and other specialties to office workers.

    In almost every neighborhood, you’ll come across a branch of a fast food chain, and occasionally you’ll even find two on the same street. Among the multinational brands, the most common are Subway, McDonald’s, KFC/Taco Bell, and Wendy’s. Some lesser-known ones include Jack in The Box, Crispy Crust, In-N-Out Burger, and my personal favorite, Chipotle Mexican Grill.

  9. Accommodation in Los Angeles

    When deciding where to live, consider your plans first and foremost. Commuting hours each day to see the sights and attractions does not make much sense. Whether you will be renting a car plays a significant role in your decision.

    One of the most popular neighborhoods is Hollywood. There, I recommend the Samesun Hollywood hostel or the Economy Inn.

    If you prefer to stay in Santa Monica, consider the top-rated Hi Los Angeles hostel. Additionally, located a short walk from Paramount Pictures studios is the top-rated Hollywood Homes Minutes to Everything. It offers the advantage of free parking.

  10. Safety in Los Angeles

    Popular neighborhoods such as Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Westwood are safe during the day, despite an increase in homelessness and drug addiction in recent years. After dark, the situation worsens, but maintaining vigilance should keep you safe. Safety levels significantly vary from neighborhood to neighborhood in Los Angeles.

    Downtown Los Angeles and the suburbs, where gangs control the streets, have more severe issues. Guides particularly warn against the Pico-Union, Westlake, Watts, and Compton neighborhoods. Crime rates are high in these areas, with murders, muggings, and gang-related incidents being frequent.

    Nearly 100% of the residents in these neighborhoods are impoverished African Americans and immigrants from Latin American countries. Wearing a shirt the color of a rival gang may inadvertently provoke trouble. While these neighborhoods offer little in terms of attractions (unless you’re interested in scenes reminiscent of GTA: Grand Theft Auto), they are easily accessible if you rely on public transport.

    Guidebooks generally advise avoiding these areas, regardless of the time of day. From personal experience, there were instances when I navigated the Watts, Crenshaw, or Compton neighborhoods alone late at night — the ones that top the violent crime charts. I took the subway, buses, and faced no issues. While you may also remain unharmed, remember that the risk level here is higher.

    However, while waiting at the 103rd/Graham bus stop, two people were shot a few blocks away. That same day, five more assaults involving deadly weapons, two home invasions, and one car burglary were reported. All these happened in a neighborhood with 37,000 residents.

    For up-to-date and accurate information about safety in a particular neighborhood, visit NeighborhoodScout.com.

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