One of the most popular cities in the United States, Los Angeles has a reputation that precedes it. Most tourists have at least a vague idea about what to expect in the city of angels before they arrive, with most guesses involving Hollywood glamour and perpetually sunny weather.

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The best thing about LA is that it’s never quite what you’re expecting, even if some of the stereotypes really are true. The vast and wondrous city can sometimes catch even the most seasoned travelers off guard. Here’s what to know about visiting Los Angeles before you go.

10 Bring A Jacket, Sunscreen, And Moisturizer

Los Angeles is known for having ideal, sunny weather. Most of the time, it really is sunny and mild but you still need to be prepared. Nighttime in LA can be really cold, for example, so it’s a mistake to visit without bringing a jacket to put over your summer clothes. And of course, because of all that sunshine, you’ll want to bring sunscreen to protect your skin.

It’s also a good idea to bring plenty of moisturizer when you visit LA. It doesn’t look like it anymore, but the city really is in the middle of the desert and your skin will feel extremely dry.

9 It’s Better Not To Drink The Tap Water

Although the tap water in LA is relatively safe compared to what it’s like in other countries, it’s still not the best to drink. You might even be able to tell from the taste of it that it’s packed with minerals that aren’t the healthiest for your body.

It’s a good idea to avoid drinking the tap water and instead make sure you’ve always got bottled water in LA. Luckily, bottled water is easy to come by. You can find it in supermarkets, drugstores and convenience stores.

8 You Can Enjoy The Street Food

Tap water might be something to avoid in LA, but don’t be afraid to indulge in street food. Some of the yummiest food that you’ll find in Los Angeles can be purchased from street vendors, so don’t hold back. You’ll also find that the front of certain venues, such as nightclubs, will host food trucks and shopping carts where you can buy delicious street snacks well into the night.

Among the tastiest street foods available in LA are tamales, tacos, and bacon-wrapped hot dogs known as danger dogs.

7 LAX Is Super Busy

If you’re flying into LA, sometimes you won’t be able to help coming in through LAX. When flying internationally, there is no avoiding LAX, which is one of the busiest airports in the country. But when you can avoid it, try to fly in and out of either Hollywood Burbank Airport or Long Beach Airport.

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These domestic airports tend to be less crowded than LAX. Oyster advises choosing them when flying domestically with airlines such as Delta and United, as there won’t be nearly as many lines or long waiting times.

6 Certain Times Of Year Are Better Than Others

Even when you visit LA in the winter, the weather is much milder than it is in other cities at that time. But there are still ideal times of year to visit the Californian city. Experts advise visiting between March and May or September and November. In other words, visit in the off-seasons of fall and spring, avoiding the summer chaos and the winter rain.

Winter in LA is not as crowded as summer in LA but the rain can become a burden on your trip. While the summer weather isn’t unbearably hot or humid, the crowds aren’t to everyone’s taste.

5 There Is No Heart Of The City

When traveling to a new city for the first time, many tourists choose to base themselves in the heart of the city and explore the major sights from there. But you can’t do that in LA because the city is far too spread out.

Time Out explains that there is Downtown LA which is somewhere tourists can walk through. But you can’t just stay Downtown, the way you can just stay in the heart of other cities. You’d be missing out on too much.

During the planning stage of your LA trip, factor in how spread out the city is and accept that you won’t be able to stay in one place and walk to all of the points of interest.

4 There Really Is A Lot Of Traffic

LA traffic has a bad reputation for being extremely congested. Unfortunately, this reputation is a reflection of reality. LA traffic really is as bad as they say. Even places that are only a couple of miles away can take hours to get to. It’s best to avoid traveling during peak hours, but the traffic still gets busy at other times of the day as well.

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This is another thing to keep in mind when planning your trip. Book accommodation closest to the main sights you want to see so you have to spend as little time on the roads as possible.

3 It’s A Good Place To Drive

In some cities, public transport is so advanced that there’s no need to rent a car. In others, the main sights are so centrally located that if you stay in the right accommodation, you can just walk everywhere. Neither applies to LA. If you’re comfortable renting a car, all the power to you.

Not only is it sometimes easier to get around LA with a car than by public transport, but some experiences actually require you to drive them. These include cruises down Mulholland Drive and the Pacific Coast Highway.

2 There Are Lots Of Free Things To Do

One of the best things about LA is that so many of its highlights will cost you nothing to experience. Places like the Hammer Museum, the Broad, Getty Center, Getty Villa, and Annenberg Space for Photography are totally free to enter.

There are also places that are free to enter at certain times, so it pays to do your research before you travel. The Norton Simon Museum, for example, is free to enter on the first Friday of every month. The MOCA contemporary art museum is also free every Thursday after 5 p.m.

1 Hollywood Might Not Be As Glam As What You Thought

A lot of people are drawn to LA by the glittering lights of Hollywood. But once you actually arrive, you’ll probably realize that Hollywood is nowhere near as glam as you thought it would be. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not really a place where celebrities stroll around.

You might see the odd celebrity, but they’ll be hard to spot among the thousands and thousands of tourists. A TV show taping is a better idea if you want to enjoy the glamour of show biz. The Ellen DeGeneres Showand The Late Late Show with James Corden are both filmed in LA.

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