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Los Angeles:
Choosing your So Cal base - the best area to stay


Location, location, location is the mantra of the southern California real estate industry, and location should be your mantra, too.

Where you stay in the Los Angeles area can make all the difference between a fulfilling, uplifting visit and a stressful, tiring, and even dangerous one.

Los Angeles is heaven and . . . not heaven. Some parts are heaven and some parts are not. Even the legendary Los Angles area smog concentrates in some areas and not in others.

And location in Los Angeles means more than avoiding less safe neighborhoods, as you would anywhere.

In LA, whether you have a car or use public transit, it takes a long time to reach places. You want a hostel or hotel as close to what you want to do and see as possible.

Avoid centre city Los Angeles

The biggest mistake a visitor can make is to stay more than one night near the centre city Greyhound or Amtrak Union Station terminals or anywhere near the city centre. Downtown has fun activities but so very much of this area does not uplift you.

Unlike a Sydney, Paris, Toronto, or New York City, downtown LA does not attract shoppers or those wanting a "night out on the town." Downtown, you find city and county offices, banking towers, the energy industry, but not much of what you think about when you think about LA.

In fact, the worst skid road in America, an appalling neighborhood, impacts much of the city centre, especially once offices close. (It surrounds the Greyhound station.)

DrV advises avoid staying in downtown Los Angeles unless you are arriving or leaving southern California by bus or train at some very late or very early hour, and want a convenient place to stay for one night, or you are attending a conference or other event downtown.

Avoid less expensive accommodation near LAX airport

Most of the area more than a few blocks east of Los Angeles International Airport (just beyond the most expensive airport hotels) is downright dangerous.

The LAX area also isolates you from what most travellers want to do.

Be careful in Hollywood

If at all possible, avoid accommodation in much of Hollywood—especially the eastern portion of Hollywood.

The hostels and hotels around the Hollywood and Highland Academy Awards complex are fine, with some caution. And, you should be fine if you stick to hotels and hostels on Hollywood Boulevard or just off it further east, with the same caution.

Note though that quite a few people you meet on the street in these areas seem to be in training to join the downtown monster skid road.

Many love to stay in Hollywood because of its vibrant music scene and because there are fine hostels there. However, stay away from very cheap motels along streets like Sunset Boulevard east of West Hollywood, which are often venues of prostitution and hard drug use.

If more information on hostels and how to reach Hollywood and Highland from LAX, Amtrak, or the downtown Greyhound station, see "Hollywood Hostels: Pros and Cons."

Outstanding Los Angeles-area hotel bargains. Check out: Hotwire.com

Stay on the west side of Los Angeles or in Santa Monica

Generally for most visitors, anyplace in an arc from Santa Monica to Hollywood and Highland in Hollywood makes a convenient base. This includes cities and neighbourhoods such as Westwood Village (UCLA), West Los Angeles, Beverly Hills (not all hotels there terribly expensive), and West Hollywood (the Sunset Strip area).

The area around Highland and Hollywood and Santa Monica offer the best public transportation.

In West Hollywood, The Standard makes a good "mid-priced" (for the area) but nevertheless chic hotel choice. (This was the venue for several HBO Sex in the City episodes set in Los Angeles.)

Across from the Hollywood and Highland entertainment centre, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel also has mid-priced rates for its area. Marilyn Monroe once lived here. Academy Awards limos line up across the street.

Beverly Hills, adjacent Westwood Village (UCLA), and Bel Air area all make good choices. The deluxe choice in this area, the Hotel Bel Air, just a few minutes from Beverly Hills and the beach, and set in the midst of beautiful gardens, has closed until 2011.

Using Hotwire.com, you can actually find affordable hotels in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Westwood Village. You pick the quality, price, and neighbourhood, but don't find out your hotel name until you pay. Allow a minute or two for prices to show.

A visitor with a car can conveniently and comfortably stay anywhere between Santa Monica and West Hollywood, which includes Beverly Hills.

Santa Monica Beach

Seriously consider basing your Los Angeles visit in Santa Monica.

There you'll find a fine beach, great restaurants, the well-run Santa Monica Hostel (a short walk to the beach), a wide range of hotel choices, and easy access to sightseeing. You'll also be near LAX Airport but not its negativity. See our Santa Monica page for more details.

For more introduction to your L.A. area visit:

Go to >> Introduction to your visit
Go to >> Santa Monica
Go to >> Finding the perfect beach
Go to >> Why L.A. is so unique

For additional L.A. information:

Go to >> Off the beaten track L.A.
Go to >> L.A. at night
Go to >> Disneyland
Go to >> Links to the most useful information

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