Coming to California for the first time can be an absolute thrill for rookie travelers. Seeing the Hollywood Sign. Soaking in the sun. Meeting celebrities! We just want to make sure you know that not all of these things might happen in Los Angeles as easy as you think. While all around great weather, fantastic skyline views, and amazing food are always accessible, LA can be a bit difficult to get around.
Many travelers visiting LA for the first time might have heard a few things about how to navigate through the entertainment capital of the world, but we've got the most detailed guide to the city you'll ever come across - Here are 10 Mistakes All Rookies Make Their First Time In Los Angeles.
10 Avoid flying into LAX if you can
The Los Angeles Airport, though a hub for most airplane traffic, is still a pain to get through thanks to all the traffic. Just this month, the airport has also enforced a new policy for Uber and Lyft drivers that make it even harder for travelers without cars to get out of the area. If you're not flying internationally into Los Angeles, consider flying into another airport.
The Burbank / Bob Hope Airport would be your closest bet if you're looking to head towards central LA. A few other surrounding airports are the John Wayne Airport and Long Beach. Though you might need a ride to get into the city, at least you'll have gotten out of your airport's vicinity in a decent amount of time.
9 Don't underestimate the LA traffic
Ranked as the number 1 city for most congested traffic, rush hour in Los Angeles is the absolute worst. Whether you've planned on getting a rental car and driving around town, or are planning on ordering an Uber to take you where you need to go, you MUST make sure you give yourself a 45 minute cushion of time (at the very least) because that's how late LA traffic is bound to make you.
When you hear Angelenos complaining about traffic, it's because they have a good reason to. Despite wide roads and multiple freeways that go to the same destination, the city is always just trying to get around. Be sure to plan for travel time carefully!
8 Don't rely on public transportation
Because LA traffic can be so congested at any given time of the day, anyone who's not a local might be led to think that taking public transportation would get them to their destination faster. Sometimes it'll work, but more often than not, that's not the case.
Los Angeles buses take the same routes as all the other cars in the city and have as good a chance at getting stuck in traffic as much as anyone. The LA Metro is a great resource if you're looking to get around central LA. Consider taking it if you're pressed for time!
7 Don't go looking for celebrities on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Despite what you might have heard about the Hollywood Walk of Fame, celebrities and Hollywood stars aren't actually walking on it. It's true that a lot of A-listers live in the area, but unless there's a major movie premiere going on, it's highly unlikely you'll bump into Brad Pitt out on the streets.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is more like a huge piece of artwork lined on the streets of Los Angeles, commemorating actors, musicians, and celebrities that have changed the entertainment industry. It's worth a visit for your first time in LA. You just might not run into Katy Perry in the flesh.
6 Don't think surfing and swimming will be a breeze
The west coast is lined with so many beautiful beaches. You may have seen a lot of them on the big screen, filmed for movies and TV shows. However, no matter how fun, beachy, or sunny they might look on television, the truth is, Los Angeles beaches aren't always the warmest places to be.
Different than summers on the East Coast, California has more coastal temperatures and the waters on their beaches can sometimes be a challenge to swim in or surf on. If you're planning on spending a day at the beach, be prepared for some rough waves!
5 Avoid Celebrity / Hollywood tours
Seeing Hollywood for the first time can be so exciting, especially if you're a movie lover or someone who's really fascinated by the entertainment industry or celebrity gossip. However, all the Hollywood bus tours you might come across in the city aren't going to be worth your time.
Many of the tours will take you through Beverly Hills and parts of LA where most celebrities live these days, but you'll only be met with views of houses with closed doors and gated front lawns. If you wanted an inside look into the entertainment world, consider a tour at a TV or movie studio lot like Paramount or Universal Studios nearby!
4 Don't text and drive - SERIOUSLY
Because traffic is congested in Los Angeles, it is often bumper to bumper. However, if you're driving on the street, cars usually move at a stop-and-go kind of pace. We know the "No texting while driving rule" should go without saying, but if it's your first time driving in LA, we encourage you to really not be distracted by your phone.
Los Angeles is a city that's full of commuters and full of people trying their hardest to get to their destinations in a short amount of time. Because they can't do it on foot, a lot of LA drivers will drive recklessly. Be aware of them and your surroundings while on the streets.
3 Don't assume Los Angeles is small
When people think of Los Angeles, they might only think of the Hollywood area. However, the truth is that Los Angeles county actually stretches out over Southern California for a total of 4,084 miles. That's significantly bigger than the size of New York City. Do NOT think that Los Angeles is like New York City.
Walking a block in New York City is not the same as walking a block in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a city you're meant to drive through. One thing first-time travelers also don't realize is that Disneyland is actually a little ways south of LA. Consider staying in the city of Anaheim if Disneyland is going to be your number one vacation destination while visiting California!
2 Bring extra money for parking
Even though Los Angeles is a big place, its spots for parking are extremely limited, and you also have to pay for them. A lot of tourists coming to LA for the first time will budget for transportation costs such as rental cars, but forget to budget for parking prices. Most major LA buildings like concert halls, museums, and shopping centers come with parking garages that can cost between $5.00 - $25.00, depending on the location.
Street parking is also almost always available, but if you're driving through the city you're still going to have to pay the meter for it. A few quarters always on hand is a great traveler's tip!
1 Don't forget your sunscreen
Known for its sunshine, California does consistently have awesome weather. So Cal is even the number one place that people move to when they consider a change in weather. However, Cali heat is different than most other regions of the United States. If you're from the East Coast, you most likely experience very hot and humid summers.
In California, the heat feels like a desert. The wind is dry and the sun beats down on your skin. A lot of tourists forget to pack sunscreen or bring hats and sunglasses and other sun-protectant gear. If you're planning a summer trip to The Golden State, don't forget to pack these essentials!