Planning a party in the USA? Chances are, if you're flying from New Zealand, you'll end up landing in Los Angeles. Home to celebrities, Hollywood, epic beaches and incredible cuisine, LA is worthy of your attention; whether it’s a quick stopover on the way to your next destination, or a holiday in itself.
LA is home to the rich and famous (and the wannabe rich and famous), so it's no surprise that it isn't the cheapest of holiday destinations. This doesn't mean you can't travel on a budget, though, with plenty of options for every traveller.
Navigating your holiday budget can be hard, so the team at Travel Money NZ have put together a nifty travel budget calculator that does all the hard work for you. The budget planner combines Numbeo data with the latest exchange rates to give you the most up to date idea of how much USD cash you'll be splashing in LA.
Before we dive into the calculator though, let's have a squiz at what you should be including in your daily travel budget.
What goes into a budget for Los Angeles?
Los Angeles is spread out, so you can't rely on your boots to get you around the whole city. Instead, consider the following transport options:
Car hire: One of the most accessible modes of transport so you can explore at your own pace without the restrictions of timetables and tours. Rental cars are pretty cheap in LA, allowing you to pick up a car for around 40 NZD per day. It is worth noting that parking can be a hassle, as parks can be tricky to find and expensive. There are a few apps like BestParking or ParkMe that can assist with finding parking spots downtown. If you are opting to hire a car, consider budgeting around 5NZD per hour for parking to be on the safe side. Also, LA traffic is notoriously busy, so batten down the hatches and try to avoid road rage in busy streets - you're on holiday after all!
Ride-sharing: Apps like Uber and Lyft are very popular as they are often much cheaper than taxis. Consider using the shared/pool option to save even more cash if you aren't in a rush.
Taxis: Another option if you're in a rush, however, taxis can be difficult to flag down, and the costs can add up when stuck in traffic.
Public transport: This is by far the cheapest option, with tickets costing 1.75 USD each way. The metro includes buses and trains that service the majority of the city, however, if you're going further afar your route may not be serviced (or you could be spending a few hours trying to get there). If you're frequenting public transport, consider loading a TAP card that can be used on all buses and trains. A day pass is 7USD, and a 7-day pass is 25USD.There is an 8USD bus that goes from LAX airport to downtown LA and Hollywood as well.
Bike Hire: The perfect option for exploring smaller areas and suburbs. You can hire a bike for 7USD per day, which covers unlimited trips under 30minutes.
Los Angeles is notorious for having expensive accommodation. Throughout the city, you'll find the usual suspects: hotels, motels, hostels and Airbnb. If you are on a budget, Airbnb is a fantastic option, and it will often allow you to stay in nicer neighbourhoods for a fraction of the cost. It's also worth noting that all accommodation options, including hostels, will inflate significantly during peak seasons.
Depending on your travel style, the following are reasonable estimates when it comes to budgeting your nightly accommodation costs:
Hostel bunk - between 50 and 60 NZD per night
Budget hotel - between 150 and 250 NZD per night
Apartments - between 200 and 300 NZD per night
Luxury hotels - 350+ NZD per night
When booking accommodation, make sure you consider where you want to visit in LA. It's enormous, so you can save on transport costs by booking a room close to the attractions you wish to visit. Better yet, aim for somewhere close to public transport.
LA is blessed with cuisine from all over the world. Whether you're after a classic American burger or fried chicken, fresh tacos, slurp-worthy ramen, vegan delights or the latest food-craze, you'll find it in LA.
There are food options for all travel styles. Budget travellers can shop at any of the supermarkets, frequent classic American fast-food restaurants like In-N-Out or indulge in some epic street food and food trucks. It is not hard to fill your stomach and satisfy your cravings for under 15 NZD.
If you're after the finer things in life, there is no shortage of restaurants to tantalise your tastebuds. Dining out can be expensive, so expect to pay anywhere between 20 and 300 NZD for a meal depending on what you order and where you're eating.
Regardless of your budget, we highly recommend trying some Mexican food, indulging in a burger or two and visiting both the Grand Central Market in Downtown LA and the Santa Monica Farmers market to get an authentic glimpse into how the locals live.
While there are plenty of tourist attractions to fill up your time spent in LA, there are plenty of local hangouts and events that are much cheaper and allow you to gain an insight into the life of a local.
Organised tours, attractions and theme parks will vary in cost; however, they can eat into your travel funds, so be sure to plan accordingly to avoid getting caught out last minute. With this in mind, here are our top activity recommendations when visiting LA:
- Go to the beach, whether it be the famous Venice Beach, gorgeous Santa Monica, iconic Point Dume or popular surf spot, Malibu.
- Visit any of the museums, many of which are free
- Stargaze at the Griffith Observatory (bonus points if you do it before sunset)
- Stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and get a picture with your favourite celebrity's star.
- Spend some time at the Huntington Library, which is beautifully designed and home to Chinese and Japanese gardens, as well as priceless literature.
- If you're most at home when surrounded by books, take a step further and visit The Last Bookstore, where all books are $1.
- Shop til you drop! There are plenty of shopping options for all budgets and styles, you just have to know where to look.
- Chase some adrenaline highs at Universal Studios, Disneyland, Six Flags, Knotts Berry Farm or any of the theme parks within a few hours of the city.
- People watch at a restaurant or bar overlooking the bustling streets
- Go celebrity spotting, either in known hot-spots or on a tour.
- Take a hike up Runyon Canyon for epic views of the city and a classic picture with the Hollywood sign
- If hiking is your idea of a good time, it's also worth checking out the Eaton Canyon Falls and Silver Lake Stairs.
- Live out your NASA dreams at the California Science Centre where the Endeavour space shuttle is permanently housed.
- Bike or walk along Santa Monica Boulevard and the Venice canals.
LA is known for having good weather all year round, so be sure to step out and soak up the sunshine.
Kiwi's are required to get an ESTA (American Visa) when visiting the USA. It's 14USD and lasts two years. ESTA requirements have recently become stricter, so it's worth double-checking you are eligible before booking flights and giving yourself plenty of time for the visa to be approved.
If you are concerned about your health or any vaccinations, it's also worth consulting with a healthcare professional before you leave.
Finally, we recommend all travellers invest in a comprehensive travel insurance policy. Insurance for the USA is generally more expensive due to the high cost of healthcare in the States; however, the cost of insurance is worth it for the peace of mind, and potential savings you may have should anything unexpected happen overseas.