There's no such thing as a free lunch. Just bare that in mind before being sucked in by the free offers of hostels in LA, and learn from my mistakes.
I arrived at LA's central station on a hot, February afternoon. The sun was already baking the pavements and blazing off the cars as they streamed by.
I was on a tight budget. I'd just travelled across the US by train for a bargain price of $150, and now I needed a place to crash. The Los Angeles Backpacker's Paradise Hostel seemed to be the answer. Free lunch, free airport transfer, free breakfast, free shuttle bus to venice beach, free taxi to the hostel - this was the one.
The warning bells should have rung when I looked at the address of the hostel, however. Inglewood. A neighbourhood just South of Crenshaw, of 'Boy's in the Hood' fame, and just North of South Central LA - an area notorious for gang fights and drive by shootings.
The word 'free' was still fresh in my mind though, and at $12 a night it would save me plenty of cash, so i put in the call for the free free taxi to the hostel.
It's difficult to comprehend just how vast a city LA is. After an hour of driving I still hadn't reached my destination, and before I got there - a friendly neighbourhood driver drove his SUV into the back of my taxi, and then sped off without stopping.
My taxi driver shot off in pursuit, speeding through red lights, screeching round corners, all while scribbling down the licence plate of the offending SUV. I been in LA barely two hours and already i'd been in a car chase.
A local cop came by to take the details of the accident. "Anybody hurt?" he asked, and upon seeing my British passport - "do you like Depeche Mode? I love them, and the Cure. By the way, don't go out on your own after dark in this neighbourhood."
So here was the catch to all the free stuff. The hostel was in an area with hookers, pimps and hustlers on every corner, a dangerous, grotty area where it really wasn't safe to walk around after dark.
The hostel had to lure naive backpackers to this area somehow. So for a few days I enjoyed the swimming pool, the free food, the free shuttle buses, but the dorms here were large and busy and it wasn't worth the risk of straying outside too often. I learnt my lesson. There's no such thing as a free lunch, and this hostel certainly wasn't paradise.
I have stayed in numerous hostels in north america but none compared to the one I stayed in venice beach, LA. Firstly we stayed in one recommended in a book, we were looking for the cheapest thing going, but this was in the dodgiest place. We were took a walk and found an alternative however, $20per night but well worth it..... basically a mexican family conerted their house into a small hostel, their two upstair bedrooms became dormitories, about 8 bunkbeds with a adjoining bathroom, one room for the men, and one room for the girls. But whilst staying there we met some funny people, one of the girls was a french lady who had set a business up and conducted all her administration work in the house, another girl was a student at a local college, attempting to revise. I was put itno the mens room, although I am a girl, they had no room in the other dorm so I had the pleasure of sleeping beneath a bed holding a charasmatic big blonde bloke and two dutch men who took us off to a party as soon as we arrived. We were allowed to make our own breakfast and get the barby out when we fancied, the owners were so generous with their household goods! So there wasn't very many people there but with the lot that were made it one of the most enjoyable times spent, we all gone on so well hiring out cars and taking road trips,playing volleball on the beach after taking a few swiggs of whiskey and basically running riot. I think if your young and just want a laugh and don't mind living out of your rucksack then your gonna absolutely love this place, even when I needed to get to the airport for my flight the owner took me in his car so that I got there in time, it was like having my Dad take me, he was so concerned! Therefore as far as safety is goes this hostel had no problems. I don't beleive this the only place available, there has to be others cos these owners made substantial money form this, and the amount of travellers in LA is pheno
menal. So there!
LA being such a spread out city, it can be a problem deciding where to stay. Instinctly you would think downtown area is central, but not for LA, nothing is central. Hollywood....no no.... it's rundown and not very safe at night. Venice beach... ok not too bad.... I would still say Santa Monica is the best, it's peaceful, safe and pleasant. It's slightly expensive though. But if you are travelling alone or just with another friend, and not driving, I will recommend Hostelling International Santa Monica. You don't have to be a member, just pay slightly more and get six stamps and you will be a member. I was there with my sister, just the two girls, so we reckoned we rather stay in somewhere safe. That was our priority for paying the extras, but I found more advantages than that, a pleasant experience for the both of us. Advantages: 1)Spacious 8-bedded room, they also have 4-bedded and twin for higher price, with in-room individual locker that can fit a 55 litre haversack and more things, just bring your own small padlock. 2)Fully equiped kitchen opens from 7am to midnight. 3)Breakfast sold at reasonable price and has a wide variety from cereal to cakes and fruits, hot drinks etc. 4)Clean and spacious dining area, even have outdoor dining area for smokers. 5)Nice common room with comfy sofa and also a piano. 6)Has TV room, small library and games room. 7)Plenty of sight seeing brochures, instructions to take public transportation. 8)Five minutes walk to Santa Monica Pier and the beach, where it was used to film Baywatch. 9)Discounted door to door service guided tours. 10)No lockout time, free lugage storage for a day after checkout. 11)Convenient public transportation to everywhere including airport, Amtrak station, downtown etc, bus stop just 5 min walk from hostel. Disadvantages: 1)Expensive; e.g. $25 per person per night in 8-bedded dorm (non-members price). This is double
the price for hostels in Hollywood area. 2)No email or online booking, only telephone booking or book through the ISBN network. Because LA is so spread out, if you do not have many days in LA, you would rather take a day tour to places like universal studios and movie stars homes. From the money you save from the discounted tours (30-40%) and the convenience of public transportation to get around from the hostel, it's all worth the money. Just a little note, if you are going there for the summer (mid-June to end August), book ahead, the hostel is always heavily booked during that period.