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Four days in L.A.

Four days in L.A.

Old Apr 25th 2011, 8:09 am
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Default Four days in L.A.

Hi folks,

Me and the missus will be visiting the U.S from Australia for a thirty day vacation, starting our trip with 3/4 days in L.A. We've only ever used L.A as a transit point before, so we have little knowledge of the city itself, so any help you can give would be much appreciated. We are considering staying in the 'down town' area, I've heard that there is a pretty good 'metro' system that will get us to most of the attractions and as we won't hire a car until we get to our next stop, public transport would be a big plus for us. We have so many questions, so I've tried to make a list

1/ Do you have any recommendations on the best area for us to stay, given that we will have to rely on either public transport or taxis to get around the city ?

2/ With the short time we have to enjoy the area, what are the things you feel we must see, and what are the area's we should avoid. We are an older couple, late sixties to seventy, so we are not too interested in the 'edge of the seat' stuff like amusement parks, but would love to see things like the main railway station, Rodeo Drive, muscle beach etc. We are both quite happy to stroll around taking in the sights and local culture, with the occasional stop for a refreshing beverage and perhaps something to eat. Is this safe and possible using only public transport and taxies ?

3/ Transport from LAX to the down town area, the internet tells me that it's possible to use the Metro/Bus system to make the trip, but the details aren't too clear. I also think it would be too much hassle with two large suitcases and a tired wife . How much would a taxi from LAX to down town cost ?

4/ The internet gives lots of hotel choices, and the revues are pretty consistent for all of them, half the people who have stayed there think the place is great and the other half think that it's a roach infested sh*t hole frequented only by hoe's and crack heads. Can anyone personally recommend a decent down town hotel that won't break the bank ? At the moment we are seriously considering the Biltmore Hotel.

5/ We will both need to keep in touch with our family at home and our banks etc and intend using my laptop to keep in touch, can anyone recommend a prepaid wireless dongle company that will work in the south western US, California, Nevada, Utah region ?

6/ Cell phones, my wife and I both like to do our own thing, so it's important that we are able to keep in touch if we decide to go our own separate ways during the day. I was hoping that we could both use a local prepaid sim card to use in our existing (Australian ), cell phones. If this is not possible, then what is the best way for us both to be in cell phone contact ? I'm thing we could both buy basic unlocked cell phones and a local sim cards. If anyone has local knowledge, we could certainly do with it

7/ Last but not least, many thanks to any forum members who have read this far, and thanks in advance to anyone who can offer information, it will be much appreciated

All the best, Jim and Barb
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Old Apr 25th 2011, 12:58 pm
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

Originally Posted by Hino View Post
Hi folks,

Me and the missus will be visiting the U.S from Australia for a thirty day vacation, starting our trip with 3/4 days in L.A. We've only ever used L.A as a transit point before, so we have little knowledge of the city itself, so any help you can give would be much appreciated. We are considering staying in the 'down town' area, I've heard that there is a pretty good 'metro' system that will get us to most of the attractions and as we won't hire a car until we get to our next stop, public transport would be a big plus for us. We have so many questions, so I've tried to make a list

1/ Do you have any recommendations on the best area for us to stay, given that we will have to rely on either public transport or taxis to get around the city ?

2/ With the short time we have to enjoy the area, what are the things you feel we must see, and what are the area's we should avoid. We are an older couple, late sixties to seventy, so we are not too interested in the 'edge of the seat' stuff like amusement parks, but would love to see things like the main railway station, Rodeo Drive, muscle beach etc. We are both quite happy to stroll around taking in the sights and local culture, with the occasional stop for a refreshing beverage and perhaps something to eat. Is this safe and possible using only public transport and taxies ?

3/ Transport from LAX to the down town area, the internet tells me that it's possible to use the Metro/Bus system to make the trip, but the details aren't too clear. I also think it would be too much hassle with two large suitcases and a tired wife . How much would a taxi from LAX to down town cost ?

4/ The internet gives lots of hotel choices, and the revues are pretty consistent for all of them, half the people who have stayed there think the place is great and the other half think that it's a roach infested sh*t hole frequented only by hoe's and crack heads. Can anyone personally recommend a decent down town hotel that won't break the bank ? At the moment we are seriously considering the Biltmore Hotel.

5/ We will both need to keep in touch with our family at home and our banks etc and intend using my laptop to keep in touch, can anyone recommend a prepaid wireless dongle company that will work in the south western US, California, Nevada, Utah region ?

6/ Cell phones, my wife and I both like to do our own thing, so it's important that we are able to keep in touch if we decide to go our own separate ways during the day. I was hoping that we could both use a local prepaid sim card to use in our existing (Australian ), cell phones. If this is not possible, then what is the best way for us both to be in cell phone contact ? I'm thing we could both buy basic unlocked cell phones and a local sim cards. If anyone has local knowledge, we could certainly do with it

7/ Last but not least, many thanks to any forum members who have read this far, and thanks in advance to anyone who can offer information, it will be much appreciated

All the best, Jim and Barb
Hi:

I only live in LA, so I can't really say about visiting. That said.

You are correct in that LA now has a public transit system -- I've seen this come into existence in my lifetime [born 1950].

I think that the Biltmore is an excellent place to stay. It is located on Pershing Square. Do note that there is the original building and the new tower. If it were me, I would take a room in the old part. However, the new part has been designed to be visually integrated with the old part.

Regards to using the Metro from the airport -- do not do that. It is pretty much agreed that the urban planners punted that one. The Taxi's will be on the expensive side. There are "Shuttle" van services -- the two major ones being Super Shuttle & Prime Time. As a general rule, I would say it is $20 per person per way. However, there are often discounts for multiple riders or between LAX and major hotels. [You can check this out -- and make reservations in advance].

There is also a "Flyaway" bus between LAX and Union Station. From Union Station, you can take a taxi, red line or, depending upon the time, the "DASH" bus. If you can take the DASH, you will like the price -- 25 cents. [I love the DASH].

The Biltmore is across Pershing Square from the Pershing Square Metro Red Line subway station [I use it all the time]. You can purchase a day pass for $6.00 for unlimited use of the Metro from the machines there. They are also usable on the buses.

The downtown area is somewhat off the tourist track -- but I happen to like it. Take a look at the website of the Los Angeles Conservancy. Note that they have a brochure for self-guided tour of Seventh Street. [The Biltmore is between 5th and 6th].

The Red Line will get you to Hollywood [Hollywood/Vine & Hollywood/La Brea stations and to Universal City]. Note that the Metro Purple Line ends at Western Avenue. You will then have to take buses to go further west on the Wilshire Blvd -- such as to museums. I would recommend taking the red "Metro Rapid" buses. They have limited stops and the traffic signals are programmed to let them through!

On taxi's -- expensive and other than the hotels, they are on a call basis.

On the cell phones -- T-mobile and AT&T use GSM. Any quad-band phone which is unlocked should work. I do not know if the SIM cards are available at LAX. I'm sure there is some way to work it.

In comparison of various prices, do note that the US has a different model for mobile telephone service -- in the US, the "per minute" charge is for "air time" which means charging both outgoing and incoming. But there is no surcharge for calling to a mobile number.

Enjoy our fair city.
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Old Apr 25th 2011, 1:03 pm
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

Hi Jim and Barb,

Originally Posted by Hino View Post
Hi folks,
1/ Do you have any recommendations on the best area for us to stay, given that we will have to rely on either public transport or taxis to get around the city ?
Maybe others will disagree, but I would really recommend NOT staying Downtown, especially if you're on public transport. It's true there are some important sights there (you mentioned the station, which is indeed very nice) but overall I think somewhere on the Westside would be much nicer. I find Downtown to be grotty and depressing, with a relatively unpleasant atmosphere and a stunningly high homeless population. I think it would be a terribly grim place for a holiday base, especially in hot weather, and it takes a long time to get out to anywhere else on public transport!


Originally Posted by Hino View Post
Hi folks,
2/ With the short time we have to enjoy the area, what are the things you feel we must see, and what are the area's we should avoid. We are an older couple, late sixties to seventy, so we are not too interested in the 'edge of the seat' stuff like amusement parks, but would love to see things like the main railway station, Rodeo Drive, muscle beach etc. We are both quite happy to stroll around taking in the sights and local culture, with the occasional stop for a refreshing beverage and perhaps something to eat. Is this safe and possible using only public transport and taxies ?
If you're dependent on public transport, I'd stick to the Westside. Then you can use a combination of the Metro Bus and the Big Blue Bus, and there are several really nice 'strolling-friendly' neighbourhoods!

Personally, I think Westwood would be a good base -- then you're at a great location for public transport (you can get the Metro Bus east to Hollywood, Griffith Park and downtown, and the Blue Bus west to the sea, Getty Center etc). Also, you'll be able to find a variety of places to eat out in the local area in the evening, saving a few potentially expensive taxi rides home (I'm not that keen taking some of the buses after dark).

Other nice areas in which to stay if you're using public transport: Santa Monica (right on the beach, and a very 'strollable' place, but then you're as far west as you can get), Beverly Hills (possibly expensive, though!). I wouldn't stay in Hollywood (packed with tourists, and somewhat seedy in places) or Venice (I love Venice... in the daytime).

My own list of LA favourites, sampled by yours truly courtesy of public transport:

*Culture and great views*
Getty Center
Getty Villa
Griffith Park Observatory
LACMA

*Beaches and other nice healthy outdoor activities*
Santa Monica for beach/strolling/shopping
Venice (especially renting bikes/segways and using the very long beach cycle path)
Beverly Hills for Rodeo Drive etc
Malibu, esp Point Dume (bus trip up the Pacific Coast Highway alone is lovely; Malibu isn't especially pedestrian-friendly, but if you keep between the PCH and the beach it's fine)
Hiking at Runyon Canyon and Will Rogers State Park (the latter is a bit of a trek on the bus, but worth it!)


Originally Posted by Hino View Post
Hi folks,
3/ Transport from LAX to the down town area, the internet tells me that it's possible to use the Metro/Bus system to make the trip, but the details aren't too clear. I also think it would be too much hassle with two large suitcases and a tired wife . How much would a taxi from LAX to down town cost ?
I wouldn't take the bus if you have suitcases, especially if you're arriving after dark. The bus station at LAX is not exactly world class. With taxis, there are fixed-rate prices for airport runs -- something like $45 for Downtown. Well worth it with suitcases!

If you need a taxi at any point, I really recommend the Yellow Cab Company -- 877 733 3305. They cover the whole city and are the fastest to arrive. I find all the area-specific taxi companies hopeless; they take ages to arrive, moan because you're taking them out of their area, and then ask you for directions.

Lastly, if you're taking the bus... bring plenty of dollar bills and quarters! The Big Blue Bus is $1/trip, and the Metro Bus $1.50, and they don't give change. The bus isn't ideal for getting around LA (this is a polite understatement), and if you can rent a car I'd recommend it, but then again maybe public transport is fine for four days if you're feeling adventurous! Just don't sit right at the back or the front of the bus, and plan your journeys so you're not left waiting at some dodgy street-corner bus stop after dark.
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Old Apr 25th 2011, 1:06 pm
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

P.S. Oh dear, I'm on my husband's computer and so have used the wrong name. In case you're suspicious someone with only one post has popped up to write a really long message in hopes of promoting the Yellow Cab Company, this is MoshiMoshi, LA resident and busybody housewife.
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Old Apr 25th 2011, 3:22 pm
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

I would consider the down town area to be "girtty" but very interesting. To me, Beverly Hills and much of the West Side is sterile and boring -- but I do love the beach.

In regards to Rodeo Drive -- I think it is overblown. I do like shopping in the L.A. Garment District. Also, the Jewelry District is nearby.

The Griffith Park Observatory is neat. Do note that DASH shuttle runs only on weekends. It runs from the Sunset/Vermont Red Line Metro Station. BTW, Vermont and Hillhurst are nice areas to shop on and stroll. [I live very near there]. If one is into hiking, the observatory is a good place to hike from.

I also think that a baseball game at Dodger Stadium might be nice, although not as nice as it used to be. There is a certain true American ambience to the games. Howver, there was a violent incident on opening day, but as a result, there is now a heavy police presence there. Special shuttles run from Union Station to the Stadium on game days. Most games are not played at night. Note that seats on the third base line will be in the sun in late afternoon, early evening.

On the airport transit, I was curious and looked it up -- the taxi fare is $46.50 plus $2.50 airport surcharge for originating in the airport. The Super Shuttle is $32.00 for two. Both are just fine for handling luggage. The shuttle may make one or two stops before your destination [e.g. stop at the Omni then to the nearby Biltmore].

BTW, one of my favorite places to eat is near Union Station -- Phillipes has been in business since 1908.
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Old Apr 25th 2011, 11:16 pm
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

Get a rental car - this is America you know

Stay in Santa Monica, easy walkable access to Venice beach and SM Pier etc, laid-back vibe, nice restaurants in the evening (even a couple of British pubs that serve real Brit food - what more could you want!).

Drive to Hollywood, Griffith Park Observatory, Malibu, Getty etc.

Public transport sucks in LA (imo).
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Old Apr 25th 2011, 11:21 pm
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

Originally Posted by Cape Blue View Post
Stay in Santa Monica, easy walkable access to Venice beach and SM Pier etc, laid-back vibe, nice restaurants in the evening (even a couple of British pubs that serve real Brit food - what more could you want!).
Yes! Ye Olde King's Head in Santa Monica is my favorite!

http://www.yeoldekingshead.com/

Also, taxi fare from LAX to West Hollywood is about $40 one-way.

Rene
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Old Apr 25th 2011, 11:40 pm
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

The thing that throws people about LA is that it's not a 'city' as you know it. When my brother was coming to visit, he said, "I would like to go to a record shop in the town centre" as if we were still living in Chelmsford

I would second Cape Blue and suggest Santa Monica as a base, and hiring a car if at all possible.
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Old Apr 26th 2011, 12:20 am
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

Originally Posted by S Folinsky View Post
I would consider the down town area to be "gritty" but very interesting. To me, Beverly Hills and much of the West Side is sterile and boring -- but I do love the beach.
Gritty, grotty... let's call the whole thing off.

I get enough excitement on the bus -- when I arrive somewhere in LA, I want to see palm trees, manicured lawns, tasteless marshmallow-coloured architecture and ideally a Pacific view. That's very exotic if you're from an English village.

I do agree with other posters that the OP should rent a car if at all possible. My friends visited recently and got one for 165GBP all-in for seven days, which I thought was pretty good. Also, I greatly enjoyed being in a car at the pedestrian crossing, muttering COME ON HURRY UP, rather than the lone figure on the crosswalk being menaced by revving Escalades.
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Old Apr 26th 2011, 2:29 am
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

As an LA resident, I would ask that OP not rent a car for their short sojourn in our fair city. They will jet lagged and they will be driving on the "wrong" side of the road. Traffic can be a bitch and parking and gas are expensive.

Most of the comments here are excellent. However, the original post struck me as one where the poster did his/her research. Yes, proximity and view of the ocean is nice and desirable -- and therefore costs more money. If one wants to get around by public transit, then Pershing Square is excellent place to be.

Regarding seeing homeless -- Santa Monica has made a concerted effort to keep them away. However, they are not all that prevalent elsewhere and even when you see them, I do not feel threatened or at risk for my safety.

I have no idea what kind of tourists OP's are -- they may very well enjoy avoiding Rodeo Drive -- not everybody wants to see where the rich shop.

If I felt that OP's plan was un-advisible, I would say so.
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Old Apr 26th 2011, 2:53 am
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

Originally Posted by S Folinsky View Post
I have no idea what kind of tourists OP's are -- they may very well enjoy avoiding Rodeo Drive -- not everybody wants to see where the rich shop.
I think they did mention wanting to see Rodeo Drive, and Muscle Beach. I agree that Pershing is a good public transport hub -- but only depending on what sights you want to see. It'll be relatively easy to get to Hollywood or Griffith Park from there, but it's going to take over an hour on the Metro Bus to get out to the coast, and forty minutes to get to Beverly Hills. Survivable, of course, and cheap, but perhaps not especially pleasant on holiday, and requiring a stoic attitude depending on one's ideas of public transport standards.

I don't think I can get into the homeless issue without going massively off-topic, so I'll save it for another time.

Not at all meaning to be argumentative -- just my two cents as a tourist/resident/busrider.
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Old Apr 26th 2011, 4:51 am
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

Originally Posted by MoshiMoshi View Post
I think they did mention wanting to see Rodeo Drive, and Muscle Beach. I agree that Pershing is a good public transport hub -- but only depending on what sights you want to see. It'll be relatively easy to get to Hollywood or Griffith Park from there, but it's going to take over an hour on the Metro Bus to get out to the coast, and forty minutes to get to Beverly Hills. Survivable, of course, and cheap, but perhaps not especially pleasant on holiday, and requiring a stoic attitude depending on one's ideas of public transport standards.

I don't think I can get into the homeless issue without going massively off-topic, so I'll save it for another time.

Not at all meaning to be argumentative -- just my two cents as a tourist/resident/busrider.
I don't consider it argumentative. At least you acknowledge that L.A. does have public transportation.

I have often found in my travels that the sights I see are determined by the available transportation. I've also found that sometimes, the limits of time, money and transportation simply mean one can't begin to see it all.

The bus ride is on the long side -- but one can get the feel for the city. Perhaps take the bus out and then a cab back in. Expensive though IMHO. With some careful planning, they make some interesting stops.
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Old Apr 26th 2011, 5:44 am
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

Originally Posted by S Folinsky View Post
I have often found in my travels that the sights I see are determined by the available transportation. I've also found that sometimes, the limits of time, money and transportation simply mean one can't begin to see it all.
Interesting you would say this, after living in LA for 3 years I never once used public transport, and would never advise anyone to. However, when we visit any other city, SF, Boston... I love taking the public transport, it means I get to see things I wouldn't see if I was driving myself around. Maybe I would have enjoyed LA more if I had got on the metro rather than sitting gridlocked on the 101 every day.
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Old Apr 26th 2011, 8:18 am
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

Hi all,

My thanks and sincere appreciation for all your input and advice.

Since reading your replies I have decided on the "Biltmore" and also to use public transport for the time I'm there, apart from the shuttle to and from the airport and taxis when needed. As "S F" has already stated, after what will be for me an almost 25 hour journey, the very last thing I need is a "crash" course in driving ion the 'wrong' side of the road in a large strange city whilst suffering badly from jet lag. Also the cost of car hire, parking and gas would probably pay for all of the cab rides we're liable to take and not being able to have a few 'refreshing beverages' due to being the 'designated driver', would add nothing to the 'wow' factor of my L.A. visit.


If the public transport isn't as good as I hope, or the local 'residents' take us outside our 'comfort zone', then we will make other arrangements. After all we are only there for 3.5 days (arrive Wednesday morning and leave Sunday so hopefully just the 'adventure' of a new city and and the enjoyment to be had just wandering about and soaking in the local culture will be enough to get us over any 'hurdles'. L.A will be the first four days of a thirty day vacation, so we should be fresh and able to overcome any difficulties.

Thanks to you input I'm now looking forward to the L.A. leg of the journey, when my wife "suggested" four days in L.A. as compensation for my five days in Vegas, my heart sank. Apart from LAX and several airport hotels, I had no knowledge of L.A. Thanks to your help, I'm now looking forward to my stay.

I can't wait to sample the food at "Phillipes", just looking through the menu made my mouth water, and brought back fond memories of American delicatessens and their range of foods. As an Australian, I can hardly believe the prices they charge, compared to Oz they are giving the stuff away, plus with the A$ being so strong, I'm sure I'll soon stop complaining about the cost of cabs

Once again, many thanks for taking the time to respond and for all the information you've shared with us. I'll be printing out a copy of this thread to take with me as my basic L.A. tourist guide
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Old Apr 26th 2011, 2:22 pm
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Default Re: Four days in L.A.

Originally Posted by Hino View Post
Hi all,

My thanks and sincere appreciation for all your input and advice.
BTW, out of idle curiosity, I walked into a T-mobile store yesterday and inquired about SIM's -- they do have them -- $10 set up and $30 for minimum. I have no idea if you can get them at LAX.

Since you will be there on a Saturday, you will want to do the LA Conservancy's "Historic Downtown" tour.

I've eaten at Cicada Restaurant nearby and it was was an enjoyable experience.

Last edited by S Folinsky; Apr 26th 2011 at 2:32 pm.
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