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Walt Disney Concert Hall, downtown L.A. | © Didier Baertschiger / Flickr
Walt Disney Concert Hall, downtown L.A. | © Didier Baertschiger / Flickr

16 Things Tourists Should Never Do in Los Angeles

Picture of Juliet Bennett Rylah
Updated: 27 May 2017

Los Angeles isn’t all beach and sidewalks emblazoned with stars. It’s actually a diverse, sprawling city with plenty to discover and rarely a celebrity in plain sight. Here are 16 ways to avoid being that tourist and really make the most of your time in L.A.

Call Silver Lake or Echo Park “East L.A.”

Santa Monica and Venice are on the west side of Los Angeles; that much is true. But native Angelenos balk at the idea that neighborhoods like Silver Lake, Los Feliz, and Echo Park are “East L.A.,” no matter what Leonardo DiCaprio says in his Oscar speech. East L.A. is an unincorporated area of L.A. County east of downtown and includes neighborhoods like Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, and El Sereno.

Expect to see celebrities all over

Celebrities do live in L.A., but you’re not apt to see them walking around Hollywood. They might be seen at various trendy restaurants, coffee shops, and bars around town or maybe even at Gelson’s or Erewhon markets. If you do see a celebrity in the wild, be chill. They’re just people, getting groceries or picking up dry cleaning. Nothing outs a tourist faster than a starstruck breakdown.

Block the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard

Tourists are all keen to get a photo of themselves crouching next to their favorite celebrity’s star. If your Instagram feed won’t be complete without this L.A. moment, that’s fine, but please be sure to mind the people around. Many people live and work in Los Angeles, and they’d prefer not to trip over tourists. Also, the sidewalks might be shiny, but they’re still sidewalks, so wash your hands afterwards.

Forget about L.A. Metro

The Metro can sometimes be an inexpensive and fairly reliable way to get around Los Angeles without dealing with parking fees or traffic. Neighborhoods like Hollywood, Universal City, and downtown L.A. may actually be easier to access via public transit. Check a map of the train line and Metro options online to see plan trips around the city. It’s $1.75 per ride with free transfers, or a day pass can be purchased for $7.

Drive during rush hour

Avoid traveling during rush hour and the notorious traffic, and especially avoid taking the 405 at 5:30 p.m. Instead, use the Metro trains or schedule the day around everyone else’s commute. Considering tourists are generally on vacation anyhow, avoiding traffic is the perfect excuse to enjoy happy hour.

Expect an Uber or Lyft to pick up at dropped pins at LAX

While Lyft and Uber drivers are allowed to drop passengers off at LAX, those getting picked up must walk over to one of several approved locations and then call for a ride.

Jaywalk

Jaywalking in L.A. can carry a serious fine, and police can and will ticket for it. It’s worth it on this one to just follow the rules and use crosswalks.

Try to pay for everything with a card

Some of Los Angeles’ best cuisine is sold via street-side trucks and carts. A lot of these vendors are not equipped to take cards, so make sure to have some cash on hand.

Trust every tour guide

Before hopping aboard a bus tour of celebrity homes or Hollywood hot spots, be aware that some tour guides tend to fudge the truth. That home of an A-list movie star’s might very well not be. Instead of wasting money on these tours or a Star Map, considering going on a graffiti tour with LA Art Tours or a historical tour with Esotouric.

Try to get to the Hollywood Sign via Beachwood Canyon

One of the most contentious issues in Los Angeles is tourists using the narrow roads of the Hollywood Hills to try to hike up to the Hollywood Sign. Avoid the crowds and angry residential glares by using an approved hiking trail.

Pass up the museums

Frankly, tourists will likely get more out of Los Angeles’ numerous cultural institutions than a visit to congested Hollywood. Los Angeles has both storied museums like the Los Angeles Museum of Art and the Getty Villa, as well as quirkier stops like the Museum of Death and the Velveteria, home to hundreds of velvet paintings. There are also over 20 free museums to explore without breaking the budget.

Rage at 4 a.m.

Los Angeles isn’t New York, Las Vegas or New Orleans. Bars here close at 2 a.m., with the exception of a few after-hours venues. The bright side: early mornings in L.A. are typically warm, beautiful, and perfect for a hike.

Wait in lines unnecessarily

With only so much time to spend in sprawling Los Angeles, don’t squander it by waiting in line for a Pink’s hot dog or to get into a crowded nightclub. Instead, talk to locals and seek out the neighborhood gems. Really want a hot dog? There are usually street-side vendors near bars and venues at night. Or try SumoDog in Koreatown for a Japanese fusion dog and sushi rice tots.

Shop on Rodeo Drive

Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive is not for mere mortals to do more than window shop. For better and arguably more interesting shopping opportunities, try Los Angeles’ best flea and thrift markets or all the cool shops along Melrose and Fairfax.

Forget sunscreen or sunglasses

Los Angeles has far more sunny days than cloudy ones. Tourists should remember to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats to ensure they don’t spend the second half of their vacation painfully burned.

Forget a jacket

Of course, once the sun goes away, temperatures drop. Bring along a jacket or hoodie to make sure you aren’t shivering at night or, even worse, forced to buy a cheesy “Cali” sweatshirt at a tourist trap souvenir shop.