Expedition: The Great Escape: 2014-15
Adventure Time: 4 Days
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 marvellous 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. Well, we had the time of our lives, felt completely safe and got in and out of Hollywood (where we stayed) with no problem at all.
Getting from the airport into the city
On arrival go to the airport information desk and ask where to get a shuttle bus into the city. Most buses take you directly to your hostel or hotel. The shuttle bus we took was: Prime Time Shuttle - 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
Trains and bus
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)
Use Google maps on your handheld device/phone if you have one. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get around on foot.
Be vigilant. As with most busy cities there are a lot of pick pockets roaming the streets.
If you're travelling on a budget, 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.
All the cash machines along Hollywood Blvd charge withdrawal fee. Try and make your withdrawals from a bank cash machine.
Places to Stay
We stayed at the Orange Drive Hostel in Hollywood (1764 Orange Drive Hollwood, CA 90028)
It’s clean, quiet, relatively cheap, there's a shared kitchen, the location is excellent – literally around the corner from the Dolby and Chinese Theatres.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Classic American Diner – a favourite for locals and tourists. Great food and Hollywood charm.
The Frolic Room - 6245 Hollywood Blvd
A great little dive bar, frequented by the odd celebrity. Kevin Spacey was filmed giving a $50 tip here in LA Confidential!
Kino Sushi - 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: order for 1, you'll have food for 3)
Things to See and Do
Walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame
There are 2500+ stars and counting, 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 at. We mixed up the day with star spotting, stopping off at the Chinese Theatre, The Dolby Theatre (home of The Oscars), Capital Records and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (resting place of Johnny Ramone and Mel Blanc).
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. Just track the route below on Google Maps.
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 not sure)
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 you could get a better picture and there were fewer people.
Catch a movie at the Chinese Theatre
Whatever is on – go and see a movie! It’s a MUST! It’s the biggest IMAX in the world! The foyer is also a museum and you'll see Judy Garland's dress from The Wizard of Oz, Arnie's leather jacket from the Terminator. SUCH a cool place!
Venice Beach / Muscle Beach
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.
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
If I’d had the time (and money)…
Rodeo Drive – where Pretty Woman was filmed.
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 venture on your own downtown – despite what you read, it’s pretty civilised, very hipster and felt safe. Just be vigilant and avoid dark alleyways, like with any city.
Next stop on The Great Escape: Fiji
Check out my highlights and travel tips for everywhere else I travelled to as part of this expedition: Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands, Fiji, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and Japan.
For highlights and travel tips for all countries I've travelled to click here.