West Coast was fun in our recent 10-day trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Last year, we explored East Coast (NYC and Washington and Niagara Falls) on a 15-day trip. We decided that a shorter trip would be better after our first experience in the States. And after this trip, we further affirmed this duration was just nice for us.
Sunset at Melrose Avenue
Grand Central Market in Los Angeles
In terms of jet lag, we fared better this time round and only crashed on the first day in the evening. I did wake up in the middle of the night the first few days and I slept soundly thereafter. My jetlag back in SG was alright with my bedtime at 10-11am for the first few nights, and will wake up at 5am somehow.
At Melrose Glossier Photo Room
I’m going to share our accommodation, air fare, transport and more stuff in this blog entry and I hope that you will find it useful; especially for those planning a trip there for the first time.
You will need a VISA to visit USA. Each visa should last you 2 years. You can apply at esta website directly.
Last year, we rented the wifi router from Changi at SGD165 for 2 weeks period and it was a disaster. We did not have any much wifi and had to re-start the gadget many times. Imagine you can’t book Uber efficiently or use data in need; especially IG stories.
To prevent this, we opted for data roaming with our respective telcos. I used 3GB from SingTel and paid SGD105. I really cannot stand not having connectivity as it can put you in a less-than-ideal situation. I’m not willing to take this risk and staying connected is first priority for me.
We booked our air tickets 6 months in advance when we chanced upon Korean Air tickets at SGD1000 per pax! What a steal. There was a 6-hour stopover at Incheon on our way there and we enjoyed the facilities in the airport and had a satisfying meal as well. Our flight back had 1 hour connection FYI. For this timing, I would say the air fares were pretty decent.
The stopover transit lounge at Incheon International Airport is very clean and they provide free towels.
We picked Hollywood area after extensive research on the safety of each neighbourhood. Downtown LA is a big No-No. Touristy places such as Hollywood, Beverly Hills are alright. We chose this place named “Hollywood Orchid Suites“, just right behind Hollywood Highland Mall. Apparently it’s new and refurbished from an apartment-styled building. Though it seemed like it’s situated in a small lane on Google Map, it is really safe. On top of it, it is easily accessible to the Hollywood area with a tunnel connection to it (Though we did not use it at all during our stay LOL).
Hollywood Orchid Suites ( I didn’t take photo of the room near toilet..too spooky for us. Imagine there’s another room with a queen size bed, wardrobe and stuff.)
We were upgraded to a deluxe suite or something equivalent and our room was spacious. It actually comes with another room in it which we did not dare to sleep in it haha. It has kitchen and appliances if you decide to do some cooking. Overall, it is clean, reception is very friendly and helpful, and near In-N-Out outlet if you consider this as a plus point. One thing to consider is that some Uber/Lyft riders may not find their way into this lane so you may have to guide the drivers. Other than that, I highly recommend this place.
We stayed there for 6D5N at SGD1543, which was around SGD308.60/night.
We stayed one night at DoubleTree by Hilton Commerce when we come back from San Francisco, which is situated just right beside Citadel Outlet. Best choice ever because you can just shop all day and the outlet is just a 5-min walk away from the hotel. The last thing you need is to uber to the outlet and back to hotel after being worn out from all the walking and shopping. We paid SGD251.20/night for our stay there.
For anyone who wants to be located right in the heart of the city, I would strongly recommend Herbert Hotel San Francisco. H&M is just right opposite and you can see the cable car making its path in front of you. Their pharmacy/supermarket Walgreens was located just right downstairs as well. We used our Agoda gift card for a 3D2N stay here, which should cost around SGD510. Or SGD170/night.
This is more of a boutique hotel which is clean and is a short walk from many attractions. Museum of Ice Cream is just down the street! 🙂 In addition, food places such as Chiptole, Old Siam, King of Thai Noodle House, Dojima Ann are just downstairs or across the street.
Awesome Japanese food at Dojima Ann
Don’t even think about taking public transport in LA. First of all, we feel unsafe in LA and public transport would be the last place you want to go to and take it. Even if you choose public transport, it will take you a long time to reach a particular destination.
If you intend to drive a car, I would recommend to have your local friend to drive you around. You need to consider rental and the expensive parking fees. In addition, you would need to be familiar with the road and it is left-hand drive in LA. (It is right-hand drive in SG) In LA, there’s heavy traffic and require lane changes and turns.
Both of us went ahead with Uber/Lyft as our only mode of transport and trust me, once the sun set, you would not want to be walking along the streets but only uber/lyft from one place to another. The only time we took a public bus was at Griffith Observatory Park whereby we could not get any Uber/Lyft and had to take the bus to drop us off somewhere more possible to get Uber/Lyft. When we just arrived LAX airport, we didn’t have much luck with Uber as most drivers cancelled on us or we could not get one. Lyft was smooth for us and we got a driver to take us to the hotel.
Do note that wifi and data are weak at Griffith Observatory Park.
We spent approximately SGD380/pax on Uber/Lyft during the entire trip (LA and SF) which I think it is still a reasonable amount, considering the high cab fare in certain countries such as SG, HK, JP etc. Of course, the places of interests in LA and SF are far away from one another so we see this as buying time to maximise our trip.
A short trip of 10 mins cost around USD8-12 while longer trips such as 40-50 mins would cost USD35-40. If you want to save more, you can choose to UberPool. A one-way trip from hotel to airport typically cost around USD40.
We took the iconic cable car which cost USD7 to reach Fisherman’s Wharf from city. We took public bus to Painted Ladies and back using Clipper Card which we top-up USD10 in it. For some further places like the Golden Gate Bridge, we were lucky enough to get a Lyft driver to take our booking and take us back to hotel. We waited for the lights on the bridge to turn on, which meant the sun was setting and soon it was pitch dark. We panicked as we realised there were no lights or street lamps at all. All of the uber drivers cancelled on us. This is the second time that Lyft driver did not cancel on us and we find Lyft to be more reliable than Uber in time of need.
We prepared a checklist of food items and we splurged on food.
Los Angeles food checklist
- In-N-Out Burger
- Shake Shack (Never sick of it and we love it)
- Umami Burger
- Sprinkle Cupcakes
- Cheesecake Factory
- Beverly Hills Cabana Cafe
- Blue Bottle Coffee (Though tried it in Tokyo)
- Alfred Coffee
- Alfred Tea Room
San Francisco Checklist
- Boba Guys
- Boudin Bakery
We’ll recommend to share as the serving portion is usually huge. The cost of dining is expensive. For e.g A Umami Burger cost USD15 and their truffle fries cost USD9. That would work out to be SGD33! A Shake Shack Burger cost around USD12-15. The most affordable option was In-N-Out Burger set meal (burger, fries, drink) cost around USD8-9. Our meal at a restaurant such as Cheesecake Factory or Pier Market (which we shared the food) would cost around USD45-55. You would need to include tips in it.
In fact, some days we only had 2 meals per day as we had heavy brunch and in between we will try boba/drinks/snacks/desserts and then it would be dinner time already.
At Pier Market, we ordered a chowder bread bowl, 6 oysters and fish and chips. We paid USD54 (including tips) = SGD75.60!
At Cheesecake Factory, we had guacamole and chips as appetiser, fish and chips, and their highly-raved Strawberry cheesecake (low carbs) haha.
Of course you can have more affordable options to cook on your own or get takeaway options at supermarkets. But we are foodies and would love to try the food that’s on our checklist. It’s only once a in a blue moon that we get to travel here and would want to enjoy our trip. You do you as long as you are happy.
Whatever you see on Instagram, are only the good side of LA filled with pretty pictures and moments. The reality is that you will see lots of homeless, drug addicts and mentally-ill wanderers walking along streets – be it their touristy areas, CBDs, beaches etc. Downtown LA (CBD area) is quite notorious as the area to avoid at all costs. Every 10 metres, there’s weed smell and a homeless. We were approached so often that we lost count.
We had an encounter at Coco Fresh Tea and Juice at Downtown LA. We ordered our boba and a guy walked in with his right hand placed in his pocket fiddling ‘something’. I had just ordered my boba and sat aside, waiting for my friend to place her order while he was standing behind her, against the wall. I was looking at his pocket the entire time. Clearly, the 2 store assistants were distracted the entire time and could not remember my friend’s order at all. They were all paying attention at him. He then asked for water in a threatening manner while fiddling ‘something’ in his right pocket. It may be a gun or something but at that point of time, I was thinking that anything can happen.
Just to paint a better picture of the entire situation in Coco, there was a homeless sleeping inside the store, another guy sitting and staring at us as if he was on drugs. I really don’t know if we should just run off or be calm and collected. All this while, another lady with her pet cat had received her drink and was sitting beside me while the entire thing unfolded in front of us. There was silence. She pretended nothing happen and bade farewell to the assistants and made a move first. Thereafter we left as well but in a calm manner. When we got out safely, I updated my friend what happened and we were just shaken by the entire thing. We thanked our lucky stars for the entire trip.
Once we got onto our Uber, the driver actually said that he was glad we were leaving Downtown LA for LACMA. It was only around 4pm. Another Uber driver told us at night, Downtown LA would become a totally different place. We learnt that if there was a pair of shoe tied to power lines/telephone cables, it’s a hidden code for drug dealing. And if one stands right under it, it means there’s potential buyer. Well, we don’t know how true it is but we know to steer clear of walking or standing under a hanging pair of sneakers.
There was one day we went to Santa Monica Pier and walked along the beach, past Muscle beach and heading to Venice beach. The entire atmosphere changed and there was an entire stretch of homeless lined up, each having their territory. The opposite of this stretch was shops/eateries selling souvenirs and food. The stench of marijuana filled the air more than ever and we walked faster. I could not even take out my iPhone or GoPro to film as I walk. If not for Venice canals, we would not have wanted to include Venice Beach in our itinerary if we had known it would turn out to be like this.
Things were a bit better in San Francisco but still we had a fair share of other encounters here and there. We saw how a store manager at Walgreens had to deal with a mentally ill customer who was shouting away and clearly behaving incoherently. There was a well-dressed men who appeared to be following my friend closely and taking whatever items (chocolates) she’s taken off the shelf. He queued right behind her and I stood there watching them with eagle eye to make sure nothing happens; and there was this constant stench of weed again in Walgreens. A beggar approached us for money in wee hours while we waited for our Uber to arrive and the street was so dark with many homeless around. I’m sharing our experiences there and do not want to sugar-coat it at all. I still love the sightseeing and shopping there with all the positive memories but the same goes for everywhere you go – just need to be careful.
On a lighter note, shopping was not bad. I managed to score 2 pairs of Fila Disruptor 2 at Foot Locker in San Francisco. It cost USD65 per pair which is a steal! SG Fila retail stores is selling at over SGD200 the last I checked few months ago. Foot Locker had a lot of new seasonal colours but they had limited quantities.
Other than that, I didn’t shop much as the prices ain’t that cheap if you convert back to SGD. If you have 1 day left, plan a trip to Citadel outlet in LA on your last day. It’s a good place to get those X’mas gifts for your loved ones and I spent close to 3 hours in Coach! Another 2 hours in Kate Spade haha. I got 2 pairs of shoes and we finally had our final chance of eating Chipotle there. haha.
I brought along SGD1200 cash which covered my expenditure there, including food and some miscellaneous items. But I did spend more on shopping at outlet so you would want to activate your credit cards for overseas usage in advance. One of of CC did not work as the bank did not activate for me and thus, I was glad I brought 2 other CC with me. Always bring extra CC just in case.
My total overall expenditure (excluding outlet shopping lol) is approximately SGD4600.
I hope this entry will be useful and do hit me up if you have any questions!