How not to look like a tourist in LA

Not the LA way – what not to do in Los Angeles

There are different types of travellers – those who’re keen to visit every famous sight and landmark, and those who prefer to get under the skin of a location. There’s nothing wrong with either, but some people try their best to avoid looking like a fish-out-of-water tourist. If you’re someone who prefers to avoid the ‘obvious’ locations and the tourist traps, we’ve got the scoop on navigating Los Angeles like a local.  

Selfie etiquette

This being the generation of smart phones and selfie sticks, it’s expected that you’ll be snapping away when you set eyes on famous landmarks like the Venice Beach boardwalk or the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. However, a faux pas that’ll have you attracting an eye roll and a tut from the Los Angeleno locals is being careless with your selfie behaviour. Don’t be put off from enjoying your holiday and getting photos on the Walk of Fame but remember that Angelenos are coming and going from work, running errands and generally going about their life – try to stand to one side, don’t block paths and watch out for traffic.

Forgetting to tip

American waiters, waitresses, servers and bartenders generally get paid pennies (or cents if we’re keeping it geographically accurate). Unlike places like Europe, the minimum wage for servers in America is low because it’s understood that tips are meant to cover the gap. Therefore, tipping isn’t just considered a politeness, it’s a lot of people’s livelihood. As a rule, you should always tip at least 20% of the bill total, more if you’re feeling generous or the server has gone above and beyond.

Bills, bills, bills

When you come to buy something in a store or assess how much dishes cost on a menu, you need to be aware that tax isn’t always included in these prices. So don’t act surprised or like you’re being fleeced if the end total is more than what you’d worked out yourself.

Shop around

Overpriced merch – like the ubiquitous I <3 LA t-shirt - is the tell-tale sign of any tourist. If you do want a souvenir of your time in LA, try to avoid the shops in heavily-crowded areas. Shops around the Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theatre and other major attractions will hike up the prices, and it’s usually items you can get anywhere. For uniquely Los Angeleno gifts and goodies, visit the gift shops at one of the museums and galleries. And to avoid paying inflated prices on other clothes and bits-and-bobs have a look at our shopping guide for the best places to bag a bargain.

Pronunciation

Asking for directions won’t necessarily flag you as a tourist but butchering the pronunciation will. Here are some of the most common locations you run the risk of mispronouncing.

  • Rodeo Drive – pronounced Ro-Day-Oh, not like the thing involving cowboys and horses.
  • Los Feliz – pronounced Los FEE-lus, this creative and chill neighbourhood in Los Angeles is definitely worth a visit.
  • La Brea – pronounced la bray-er.
  • Wilshire Boulevard – pronounced like wil-shar, not will-shire.

Jaywalking

Don’t get caught out by jaywalking if you want to avoid standing out and paying a fine. We might be used to a brisk walk/jog across the road when we see an opportunity here, but in L.A. it’s actually a crime to cross the road in the middle of a block. You should always cross at designated pedestrian crossings, and only when the ‘Walk’ sign is flashing.

Taxi, taxi

A cool wave of your arm might flag you a yellow taxi in NYC or a black cab in London, but it’ll mostly just give you an arm workout in Los Angeles. You’re better off ordering an Uber or a Lyft. In some municipalities around Los Angeles, it’s actually illegal to hail a cab due to the fines and restrictions in place about where cars can stop and impede traffic.

Don’t get burnt by the smoking laws

If you’re a smoker – or just enjoy a sneaky cig here and there – you might be asking for your travel money to go up in smoke. Throughout the city of L.A. you can’t smoke or vape:

  • within 10 feet of outdoor dining areas and 40 feet of food trucks or carts
  • at outdoor farmer’s markets
  • at any park
  • in a car when anyone younger than 18 years old is a passenger

However, the laws are even stricter in surrounding cities. Manhattan Beach is a completely smoke free area, with smoking even prohibited on the beaches and sidewalks.