The next stage of our journey was to cross from one side of the world to the other; Destination: New Zealand.
We flew from Argentina, and surprisingly to get to New Zealand it was cheaper to fly back up to North America and cross from there. So we took the marvelous opportunity to stop off at LA and Fiji along the way. Why not?
I’d heard mixed reviews about LA. I heard it was dangerous and a nightmare to get in to. Once you’re in Hollywood you’re OK but watch your back and avoid public transport (is what they told me). Well, we pretty much had the time of our lives, felt completely safe and got in and out of Hollywood (where we stayed) with no problem at all.
LA is quite possibly the most fun place I have ever been to! I loved it.
Things to Know – Transport
Getting from the airport into the city
It really couldn’t be easier.
When you arrive, go to an information desk in the airport and ask where you can get a shuttle bus into the city. Many of the shuttle buses take you directly to your hostel or hotel. The shuttle bus we used to take us to our hostel was:
This shuttle bus was parked a few meters outside the airport exit. A fare to Hollywood direct to our hostel cost $15 pp and took approximately 45 minutes.
Getting Around the City
Getting around is easy as well. The trains are easy to use and are frequent. Buy a tap card (a travel swipe card) from any station or borrow one from your hotel/hostel (they usually have spares).
Tap Card: $1.00 to buy
Bus fare: without tap card: $1.75 (exact change required)
Metro Day Pass: $7.00
(above fares based on April 2015 prices)
Walk: Use Google maps on your handheld device/phone if you have one. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to walk to some places. Locals consider a 10 minute walk a struggle and would urge you to take a bus.
Things to Know – Safety, Scams and Money
Be vigilant. As with most busy cities there are a lot of pick pockets roaming the streets.
Unless you’re made of money, avoid having your photo taken with the people dressed as superheroes. They charge up to $50 for one photo, and usually don’t tell you until you’ve taken the photo.
Money. All the cash machines along Hollywood Blvd charge withdrawal fee. Try and make your withdrawals from a bank cash machine.
Places to Stay
Orange Drive Hostel, Hollywood, California
1764 Orange Drive Hollwood, CA 90028
(323) 850 0350
It’s clean, relatively cheap, the location is excellent – literally around the corner from the Dolby Theatre and Chinese Theatre.
Places to Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Classic American Diner – a favourite for locals and tourists.
The Frolic Room
6245 Hollywood Blvd, LA, CA 90028
A great little dive bar, frequented by the odd celebrity. Kevin Spacey was filmed giving a $50 tip here in LA Confidential!
6721 Hollywood Blvd.
The Sushi is superb and plentiful, and the service is great! Aside from the 6 huge plasma screens attached to every wall, it’s a nice place to stop off for a bite to eat.
Palms Thai Restaurant
I heard that this place had a Thai Elvis impersonator (which is the reason why I went) but when we arrived the waitress informed us that sadly he had returned to Thailand. There was a musician though – the performance, nothing special – but the food… amazing!
Tip: Don’t over order – the portions are enormous. You could definitely order one main meal with rice and it’ll be enough for 2 people with some left over to take home. I’ve never in my life seen portions like it – but again, it’s LA. Oh, and it was goooood!! (and I’m fussy when it comes to Thai food).
Things to See and Do
Walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame
There are 2500+ stars and counting on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, stretching across 15 blocks! It takes a day to walk the length of the stars and back again on the opposite side of the road. Well, it depends how many pictures you take and how many tacky shops you stop off at. We mixed up the day with star spotting, stopping off at the Chinese Theatre and walking to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (resting place of Johnny Ramone and Mel Blanc – That’s all Folks!)
Check out the following sights:
Chinese Theatre (see below for more info), Dolby Theatre (home of the Oscars), Capital Records, Scientology building, Hollywood Forever Cemetery. All sites were within walking distance.
Visit the Hollywood Sign
Although you can’t get right up close to the sign you can get fairly close and despite what locals say, it doesn’t take long to get there and it really isn’t that much of a hassle.
- Go to Hollywood / Vine Station (walk, bus or train depending where you are).
- Make a right on Vine street. Bus stop will be to your right.
- Take the DASH Beachwood Canyon Bus towards Beachwood Dr. & Westshire Drive. Check what times/days of the week the bus runs.
- Get off at Beachwood Drive (just tell the driver you want to go to the Hollywood sign and to let you off on Beachwood Drive if you’re uncertain)
- Walk North on North Beachwood Drive
- Turn left onto Ledgewood Drive
- Turn left onto Rodgerton Drive
- Turn Right onto Ledgewood Drive
- Take a sharp right onto Rockliffe Drive
- Turn left onto Deronda Drive
- Turn left onto Mulholland Highway.
- You’ll continue up hill until eventually the houses stop and there is a gate into an area where there is a clearing from which you can see the sign and take photos.
- Just at the top of Mullholland Highway – near the last set of houses is another clearing from which you can also see the sign. I preferred this spot as there were no tourists and photographically you could get a better picture.
Whatever is on – go and see a movie! It’s a MUST! It’s the biggest IMAX in the world, for God’s sake!
Venice Beach / Muscle Beach
How to get there:
Bus 212, 217 or 780 on Hollywood Blvd/Highland Avenue. Exit at Venice Blvd and transfer to bus 33 or 733
Dudes pumping iron, hot girls on roller-skates, basketball matches, a beach! It’s tacky but cool. It’s busier, with more going on at the weekends but we couldn’t do much about that. It was still fun.
If I’d had the time (or money)…
Rodeo Drive – where Pretty Woman was filmed.
There are a whole heap of other tours you can do – Universal Studios, Warner Bros. Studios, Paramount, bus tours to celebrity homes etc. but all cost a lot.
Get on the subway and head to Downtown LA for the day. There’s Graffiti and street art everywhere, and it is some of the world’s best! We didn’t pay for a tour or anything like that but I know you can organise if you search online. LA Art Tours is one I found that looked pretty good.
We took the subway to Union Station as it was more convenient but the nearest station is Little Tokyo/Arts District. Click here for the subway map.
We didn’t have long in LA and just took each day as it came, trying to squeeze in as much as possible. You can go on your own downtown – despite what you read, it’s quite civilized, very hipster and safe. As long as you’re vigilant and don’t go down any dark alleyways, you’ll be fine.
Next stop: Fiji