Planning a trip to Los Angeles but got a tight budget? Don’t worry we have all been there and making the $dollars stretch for a big road trip or a long break traveling around the country can require a lot of planning, budgeting, and a strong will. While L.A is a city of millionaires where you can splurge $300 a meal and live the high life it is still a city where you can make the dollars go a long way. We are here to show you how to How To Visit Los Angeles On A Budget
We take a look at the best value places to stay. How to get around cheaply, Where to bag bargain discounts to Los Angeles Attractions and what to do that costs nothing. If you are looking for advice on Saving Money on your L.A Vacation this is the place for you.
Where to Stay in Los Angeles on a Budget?
There is no shortage of accommodation in L.A, However, it can be fairly expensive if you want to stay in high-class accommodation in premium locations. There are very few ways around this but the best way to bag cheaper accommodation is to choose your Location Wisely. You are unlikely to find cheap hotels in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. But you don’t need to stay in a flea pit or miles from anywhere to bag a cheap but nice hotel.
Let’s take a look at a few of our favorite spots to find cheaper accommodation.
Hollywood is easily the cheapest place to stay in L.A. for tourists. Those wanting to sample the Themeparks, sights, and tourist hotspots of the city. However, it is not really the most glamorous area. There are plenty of cheap motels but most are fairly low quality with questionable pools and cheap room finishings well past their best.
Head out of your hotel after dark and you are not faced with the best neighborhoods. There will be homeless and dubious characters in the immediate vicinity. However, if you are looking for a bargain and will not spend much time in the hotel instead of out and about seeing the sights and attractions then at least the location is central and there are loads of cheap and cheerful diners and restaurants around.
Hollywood is not as bad as people make out, but it is certainly no paradise. If you are willing to put up with its imperfections you can get decent accommodation at rock bottom prices.
If you are looking for a more Vacation style trip with time at the beach as well as seeing the city then Venice beach is perfect. The second cheapest of the tourist hotspots but it has far more going for it than Hollywood.
Down on the Stunning Pacific Coast Venice is the quintessential Californian Coastal resort. The golden sands pounded by Pacific Breakers while the Ocean walk Promenade lined with Palm Trees and quirky and interesting shops, cafes, and restaurants is the picture-postcard L.A
The area is the original hippy haunt and filled with weird and wonderful characters. At night it is not the best area in the city but it’s far from the worst and has transformed in recent years. While we would choose Santa Monica any day, it would a stretch to call that a budget resort whereas Venice has a host of budget hotels motels and hostels many right on the oceanfront!
It is the perfect spot for a Budget trip to Los Angeles.
Anaheim is not our favorite place to stay in L.A. it is far from most attractions, Far from the coast, the mountains, and has little going for it. There is, of course, one small theme park in the neighborhood that you might if heard of, Disneyland?
Really for a Tourist, this is the only reason to stay in Anaheim. While we don’t want to bad-mouth the place, it is perfectly pleasant with a ton of amenities, there is just nothing there that makes it a good vacation spot. Unless you are visiting Disneyland. If you are visiting Disneyland, we only recommend Anaheim for the days you are at the park, all other days head elsewhere.
Surprisingly there are LOADS of cheap and good accommodation in the immediate area of the park. Disney never got any kind of exclusivity outside of the land it owned so hundreds of hotels and motels shot up around the park and you can find really nice accommodation for a fraction of the price of a Disney hotel.
We have a full article on where to stay around Anaheim for Disneyland Visits
Looking for the perfect spot in Los Angeles check out our full guide on where to stay in L.A.
Getting the Best Price
Hotel Prices fluctuate wildly in L.A. and bagging the best price is all about timing. If you see a really cheap hotel the chances are in a few days that price will have shot up! That is why we tend to use Booking.com for our hotel bookings. The prices are normally about as cheap as we can find them, but most hotels offer FREE cancellation through the site. Meaning you can book at the price you see today, but should you find a better deal later, or further research leads you to regret your decision, or maybe your plans just change. You can cancel easily and free of charge!
It is a great feature of the site and one we use regularly with NO issues. We even regularly cancel simply as we have found the price cheaper on Booking.com. We simply cancel and re-book at the cheaper price!
There are loads of other Price aggregators out there but we find Booking.com works best for us!
L.A. is a bit of a nightmare to get around. By far the best way is by car. The problem with the City is it is just so BIG getting around is a bit of an issue. The L.A infrastructure is based around private car ownership. In L.A people drive. Huge highways criss-cross the city and enormous snakes of traffic stretch for miles as people get around the city. It is not hard to see where L.A’s infamous smog comes from!
For the most part, the best way to get around is with a hire car. But then you run into the issue of parking. We touch more on this nightmare later. So for those not wanting the expense of a car and the hassles and cost of parking it, you need to look at other, more cost-effective ways to get about the city.
The Ultimate in Budget transport is just no Viable in L.A. The Distances to get around the City are just too great, L.A. is more like multiple cities grouped together. Sure you can explore Hollywood or Sant Monica on foot but to get between them is a 14-mile journey!
Uber / Lyft
Taxis end up being a very expensive and ineffective way to get around the City. L.A’s horrific traffic means journeys are long and expensive. Uber and Lyft can do very little about the length of journeys but at least they are significantly cheaper. Per mile Uber and Lyft are very cheap. As Los Angeles is so large anything else would make Uber prohibitively expensive but journeys with the ride-sharing services are actually quite affordable. The 14-mile journey from Hollywood to Santa Monica will cost around $20-25 with Uber. A similar distance trip in New York would be around $50!
You would probably pay well over $25 simply to park in Santa Monica! this makes Uber and Lyft a very viable option, especially for groups of 2 or more. It is still not cheap however
Public Transport – Bus and Metro
If you want to get really inexpensive then the integrated Buss and Metro system is pretty comprehensive. It is also really cheap. A single trip is $1.75 and a 7-Day pass is a mere $25. The system is modern and can get you to most places in the city. The metro also bypasses most of the nasty traffic!
The Downside! The layout is not really very well suited to tourists. The System is geared to getting people to Downtown L.A. from the suburbs and residential areas of the City. This tends to be quite unhelpful for tourists.
If you are going to Downtown then the Metro is brilliant, anywhere else and it’s a bit of a bind, requiring multiple changes. We tend to start planning a trip on public transport, and then just give up and hop in the car!
See our full guide to getting around Los Angeles without a Car
If you do just go for the car, which is not the cheapest but definitely the most convenient you then have the problem of PARKING! Parking is a pain in L.A, to say the least! It is not for the lack of space. L.A has HUGE parking lots and millions of spaces it is just damn expensive.
Street Parking is complicated and expensive for long stays and unless you are very sure of the rules could mean you get towed. The best bet is to head to one of the large parking lots and park there. However, this is often expensive. On top of this even big attractions such as Disneyland and Universal still, charge for parking on top of the entry fee and even your hotel may charge up to $60 a day!
It’s a bit of a nightmare really. We go into more detail here about L.A’s parking.
Things to Do in L.A For FREE
There are many attractions, sights, and things to do in Los Angeles that do not cost a penny. The Huge sprawling metropolis provides a wealth of landmarks, sights, and world-renowned sightseeing locations all completely free. There is so much to do we have a full guide on all of L.A’s best free attractions right here.
There is a huge variety of free attractions from Stunning BEaches, amazing landmarks, Celebs galore, and even a few fantastic Museums that are free to the public. It is quite possible to Visit L.A. and not spend a penny on things to do. However, we do recommend visiting a few of the BEST paid attractions and supplement those with free things.
Paid Attractions – Cheap Tickets
L.A. is home to some of the world’s premier attractions and theme parks. Outside of the Themepark capital of the world, Florida, L.A. is home to more theme parks attractions and top tourist hotspots than anywhere else. However, the sheer popularity of these attractions gives the Park the chance to pretty much charge what they please. Some of the ticket prices are quite outrageous!
You do not have to pay the full price though, we show you how to pay the least for any of Los Angeles’s top attractions.
Disneyland Resort California
King of the list is Disneyland! The original and arguably still the best theme park in the world. We love Disneyland, even more than its younger sibling Disneyworld! It is however frighteningly expensive. Disney also keeps a close eye on its resellers and only allows certain discounts and controls ticket prices very rigidly.
There are many ways to bag a discount and we take you through all the best ways to bag discount Disneyland Tickets here.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Another Huge attraction, another “must-see”, and another huge ticket price! Universal Studios is a real icon of L.A. and the one that encompasses so much of what makes L.A such an attractive destination. If you had to visit just one park this is the one we recommend.
Our Guide to getting the cheapest Ticket to Universal Studios should help you save as much money as possible.
Other Paid Attractions
There are hundreds of things to see and do in Los Angeles, and as we have already seen many are free of charge but there are plenty that do require payment:
Warner Bros Studio Tour – A fantastic tour of the world-famous Warner Bros Studios
Six Flags Magic Mountain – A Serious Themepark packed with some of the biggest and best roller coasters in the worlds
Knotts Berry Farm – another world-class theme park with a wild west/ghost town theme
Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier – An old victorian style amusement park on the world-famous pier
Hollywood Homes Tour – It is possibly the corniest thing you can do in L.A but SO much fun!
OUE Skyspace – Take a trip to the top of Downtown L.A.s tallest Skyscraper for some phenomenal views.
The above is only a fraction of what you can expect to find in the City. As you can imagine these sorts of things really add up. Saving money is possible on all these attractions but hunting down and finding all the best deals is tricky. As far as attractions go we always head to L.A. armed with an attractions Pass
We love the Go Los Angeles Card, The all-inclusive pass covers everything listed so far in this article, Apart from Disneyland, and can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. However, we find the best thing about the pass is not the sheer cost-saving but the fact we just see and do a whole load more when using a pass than when not!
If the Pass sounds like it might suit you take a look at our full Go Los Angeles Review to see if the pass is for you. We also often have discount codes to get the pass even cheaper!
Cheap Eats and Happy Hours
Food and drink in L.A. are fairly well priced. There are tons of small local bars and restraints offering great fresh food for great prices. While there are many high-end fine dining establishments there are also Small Italian joints offering free Dough balls, Amazing Taquerias with fantastic Mexican cuisine, and some really good smaller Sushi Bars offering fresh and delicious Sushi. on top of that, there are huge numbers of franchise fast-food restaurants.
L.A. is also the home of In’N’Out Burger so you have to hit this infamous burger chain to see what all the fuss is about! There are a ton of Cheesecake factory locations too which always provide good food at reasonable prices.
If you want to eat well for really low amounts Happy hours are the easiest way to do so. L.A Happy Hours
Have Your Say
Got a great tip in Saving money in L.A? want to share it with our readers? Just fire away in the comments below. Also if you have any questions about the article then fire away in the comments too. In fact, if you have anything at all to say about our Visiting L.A. on a Budget article just let us know, we love hearing from you!