Los Angeles is perhaps the only place in the world that has truly won my heart. Apart from Rome, my hometown, it is the only city in the world I would willingly move to, without hesitation. I’d go in a flash. I’ll explain why in this article, in the hope I can convey to you the magic of this place, through my personal experience in its fascinating streets. Streets that used to remind me of famous films, but that now, imbued with the memories of my own 12 visits there, arouse in me unforgettable emotions. In this article, you will find mundane, but important, tips for anyone who may be thinking of paying a visit to Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is also one of the largest cities in the world. This means it offers loads of things to do, but also has major problems, such as the traffic. So, it’s important to come prepared and to know how to get around. Otherwise, getting to Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach or Universal Studios, could turn out to be difficult. After reading this article, you will know how to avoid any pitfalls. From the time you book your flight, right up until the end of your vacation.
Firstly, I strongly recommend that you don’t book a flight that includes a stopover in America. This means you should avoid booking practically any American airline (Delta or American Airlines, for example). The reason is simple, when you make a stopover in America, you can’t go directly to catch your onward flight. Instead, you have to go through immigration first (often involving long queues) and then, as if that were not enough, recover your checked baggage and take it to a special section of the airport to check it back in.
Besides the inconvenience of doing all this after an intercontinental journey, if you do find yourself in a serious queue, it may take a very long time, meaning you could easily miss your connecting flight, which you probably booked for only a short time later. On the plus side, if you are willing to take the risk, these flights generally cost less than my preferred options, which I will now explain to you.
There are two routes that I would recommend for flying to Los Angeles:
- Eighter Alitalia’s direct flight Rome – Los Angeles
13 flight hours and you’re there. Easy! If you have a tight budget, you can travel in economy for 700/800 euros.
- Or else British Airways via London.
British Airways is probably the best airline for flying to Los Angeles, in terms of quality. The prices are about the same as those of Alitalia (so, not particularly cheap). But the price reflects the comfortable service, even in economy, enabling you to sleep in comfort and arrive in America well-rested.
My last tip is to sleep as much as possible during the flight. Regardless of which flight you choose. I go as far as using sleeping pills. In Los Angeles there are 9 hours of difference with Italy, this means that when you land, it will be afternoon there (but it will be late at night by our standards). To enjoy your holiday properly, it is important to adapt immediately to the time zone. To do this it is most important not to go to sleep before 10-11 pm (Los Angeles time) so you need to arrive well-rested.
Where to Stay
Bear in mind that Los Angeles is composed of 3 main areas. The coastal zone, the hills and the downtown. Let’s start by saying that if you want to go from one area to another, it could take as much as two hours because of the heavy traffic. And when I say two hours … I mean two full hours.
For this reason, I suggest you select your favourite area, the one where you will spend most of your time, so as to limit as far as possible the amount of time you will need to spend in the car.
Whenever I go to Los Angeles, I always sleep in one of my two favourite hotels. This is why I feel would strongly suggest,
- If you decide to lodge in the beach area, that you go for Santa Monica and the magnificent Hotel Loews. It’s very expensive (you’ll need to get used to that in Los Angeles), but the location is fantastic and it boasts every comfort. If you are interested, you can find my review of this hotel here.
- If you decide to lodge downtown, I can definitely recommend the Beverly Hills Plaza Hotel & Spa. This one is expensive too, but magnificently located in Beverly Hills.
The beaches are certainly amongst the main attractions of Los Angeles. They feature in so many American films. Above all, in the series “Baywatch” which was a big hit in the 90s.
But actually walking barefoot along them is something else. It’s a fantastic feeling because the sand is really fine, so strolling along the seashore is a real pleasure. Even if, very often, being the Pacific Ocean, the water is often pretty cold. The main piece of advice I would give is to be sure to go to Santa Monica. Naturally, you’ll want to visit the iconic pier with its Ferris wheel and the famous restaurant “Bubba Gump“, which we, in Italy, mainly know of thanks to the film “Forrest Gump”. But, above all, to do what for me is the coolest thing to do in Los Angeles, that is, the Seafront Walk between Santa Monica and Venice Beach. To give you an idea of how beautiful it is and what a great way it is to recharge your batteries, see my video, posted below. It’s a very simple one, done on my mobile phone, but it gives you an idea of how relaxing the walk can be.
Venice Beach, however, isn’t the only beautiful beach to visit.
If you have time, I would definitely recommend you try to fit in, at least, a visit to Malibu Beach. This beach provides the backdrop to some of the most beautiful houses in the world, obviously inhabited by mega stars from the worlds of cinema and music. A stone’s throw from the place where I took the picture on the left, for example, lies the house of the singer, Cher.
Manhattan Beach is also extremely beautiful. It lies further south than Santa Monica. This beach, too, is in a very rich area, a little further away than Manilu. It is worth the trip, however, with its beachside cafes and restaurants to suit all pockets. In fact, you can choose between high-end restaurants or trendy clubs frequented by surfers.
Given the recent strength of the dollar and the fact that Los Angeles is one of the most expensive cities in America, I wouldn’t care to recommend any particular place to go shopping.
You can make some savings on high-tech products, such as iPhones, or clothing brands, like Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch. But the golden era of shopping is over. I remember, back in 2008, with the dollar at 1.4, when I would take two suitcases with me, one of them completely empty. Now I limit myself to one or two items. Nothing more.
But shopping in Los Angeles can be fun even if you don’t have much to spend. How? For example, walking around Rodeo Drive. The ultra-luxury shopping street. You can stroll down this street, just like Julia Roberts did, in the famous movie “Pretty Woman“. Just like I did:
This may seem a minor point, but more than one of my friends got it wrong and ended up spending a fortune on taxis and Ubers. If you go to Los Angeles, remember to rent a car from Italy. The city of angels is huge and without a rental car it is very easy to misjudge distances and find yourself having to pay very high bills to get around. Uber is available and is cheaper than regular taxis, but still more expensive than we are used to in Europe.
What I always do is book a car from the Hertz online site. Then, when I arrive in Los Angeles, I come out of the Terminal and, right in front of it, wait for the shuttle. There is one for each car rental company (usually every 10 minutes). In the blink of an eye, I’m on the road, at the wheel of my car. Ah, and don’t forget that in California if you are at an intersection and you have to turn right, you can pass even if the traffic light is red. Just stop and make sure no one is coming before you turn.
Hollywood is probably the most famous neighbourhood in Los Angeles.
Very famous, but don’t expect anything out of this world. Honestly, it’s nothing special compared to any other good LA neighbourhood. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place, nice for a stroll. But, quite simply, it is much more ordinary than you might expect. Sure, a visit to the Chinese Theater, the place where the Oscars ceremony is celebrated every year, is a must. And you mustn’t miss out on Hollywood Boulevard, where you can walk down the sidewalk of the stars. You can also take pictures with crazy lookalikes from the worlds of cinema and music. But let’s be honest … with a little luck, you could also meet somebody famous just walking quietly on the streets of LA. It is one of the fantastic things about this magnificent city.