The home of Hollywood and Rodeo drive, LA isn’t exactly a destination that comes to mind if you’re on a budget. But if you passed it over for that reason alone, you’d be seriously missing out, and to prove it here are a few things you can do in LA for absolutely free.
(And if you need to plan flights, China Airlines flies every day (from 1 June 2015) from Singapore to Los Angeles, with an easy stopover in Taipei Airport.)
If you’re looking for things to do in LA on a budget, you should start off by reserving free tickets for studio tapings of some of the biggest talk shows, like Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen DeGeneres.
There are plenty of websites where you can check the scheduling of your favourite shows, and even reserve your tickets ahead of time, just to be extra kiasu. Some shows go on break over the summer, so be sure to check in advance if you want to catch a particular one. If you aren’t fussy, there is usually something going on that you can go see, and experiencing a live-taping is something you definitely shouldn’t miss, especially since it is completely free!
Price: Free, but be sure to check schedules and reserve your tickets in advance online.
Another activity you can do for free is taking a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, perhaps one of LA’s most well known (and well worn) tourist sites. This famous road is home to iconic attractions like the Hollywood walk of fame – where you can hunt for your favourite star’s hand prints in the pavement – and the grand TCL Chinese Theatre, which used be one of the grandest theatres in the country. Still pretty impressive, the TCL Chinese Theatre often hosts premieres for some for of the biggest movies, and you can see the handprints of many celebrities in its front courtyard.
If you’re lucky, while walking along Hollywood Boulevard, you may see impersonators of famous characters and celebrities. Get your picture taken with them, though they will ask for a “tip” before allowing their photo be taken. Some of them can be quite pushy; so if you’re sticking to your budget, don’t be afraid to tell Batman to go back to Gotham.
Price: Free, but if you want to take photos with impersonators, an acceptable ‘tip’ is US$5.
When in sunny California, do as the sun-tanners do and head to the beach. We recommend Venice Beach, which is known for its interesting mix of visitors and is an excellent people-watching spot. Park yourself at the boardwalk (formally known as the Venice Ocean Front walk) with a picnic lunch and get some free entertainment from the myriad of buskers, fitness-enthusiasts, and colourful locals who frequent the beach.
Again, some of buskers will often ask for tips, but don’t feel obliged to give anything unless you want to.
Price: Free, unless you want to tip performers of course.
Hiking to the Hollywood Sign
Finally, if you’ve had enough of the city, take a hike to the famous Hollywood Sign on the Griffith Park Hiking trail. Accessed from Vermont Canyon Road, north of the historic Greek Theatre, the hike is a three-mile (4.8 km) loop and will probably take 1-2 hours. When you hit a fork in the trail, go left and it will snake around the back of the famous sign, for great views of Los Angeles sprawling below you.
If you go right instead, you’ll head to the Griffith Observatory, where you can explore the skies through their telescopes, exhibits and in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and also enjoy spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign.
The Observatory is open from Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 noon to 10 pm, on Saturdays and Sunday from 10am to 10pm, and is closed on Mondays. To make the most of your free day out, time your hike so you catch the sunset at the Hollywood sign, then head to the Observatory to gaze at the stars.
Price: Both the hike and the Griffith observatory are free! Hooray!
Getting around LA
Driving around LA can be a pain, what with the traffic, parking, and also needing to arrange for an international license. Lucky for you the public transport within the city, called Metro, is pretty good and well connected. Similar to Ez-link, Metro has a TAP card that you can top up as you go. You can also chose to get 1-, 7-, or 30-day passes, which might be a better deal if you’re in LA for an extended period. The Metro website also has a trip planner, in case you need help figuring out which bus or train to catch.
Price: Metro rides are $1.75 for 1-way trips, including transfers within 2 hours. The passes are $7 for the 1-day pass, $25 for the 7-day pass, and $100 for the 30-day pass. TAP cards are $1 at TAP vending machines and onboard buses, or $2 at pass vendor locations.
Getting to Los Angeles
Though it’s literally on the other side of the globe, Los Angeles is surprisingly easy to get to from Singapore. China Airlines flies daily (from 1 June 2015) from Singapore to Los Angeles, with a connection at Taipei airport. With easy connection timings of two hours both ways, China Airlines provides an excellent service from Singapore to Los Angeles. You can search you flight and book directly at www.china-airlines.com.
For more comfort on that long flight, China Airlines is using brand new Boeing 777 aircraft, equipped with Premium Economy seats (longer leg room and recline!) and the Family Couch (three economy class seats converted in a wide flat bed, which is great for kids).
This article is supported by China Airlines