Moving to LA can be either a pleasant experience, or more of a shock than just a cultural one, as I find out.
Thankfully, I had a good time when coming here, and everything from packing, to flying, to arriving in LAX turned out to be a dream-like experience. I attribute my stress-free journey to proper planning and thorough research.
Before moving to LA, I selected the best LA neighborhoods that I can afford and made sure that my first day is structured, too. I don’t like not being in control of my situations.
Normally, relocating to any new city doesn’t come with a “do’s and don’ts” list. However, the city of Los Angeles is quite different.
Furthermore, with a culture and people unlike that of any other state or town in America, Tinseltown is the place with different laws, rules, and even etiquette and expectations. You may even want to read up on those before moving to LA.
Now, I’d like to put my own experience to some use.
To save you some trouble, I recommended skimming through my list of things that personally, I wouldn’t do when moving to LA, and plan accordingly. I’ve covered some of this my article on finding roommates in LA and living on a budget in this city.
But then again, it’s just me and these are just recommendations. You may get away with either one, or even all of them. If you do, tell me your story in the comments!
15 Things I Wouldn’t Do After Moving to LA to Live
1. Don’t Move to LA in Summer
I visited LA in summer before. Coming from the cold London, it was hot. Too hot.
I made sure that when I’m actually moving to LA, I don’t do this during the hottest period of the year.
But it’s not really about the heat. It’s about the rent prices.
There are many people who want to visit or temporarily move to LA for the summer period, live by the beaches, drive bycicles in Venice, go for morning jogs by the ocean and drink pina coladas watching sunset in Santa Monica.
Rents in LA increase from May to September.
Everything else will be more expensive in summer in LA too: utilities, going out, Uber and parking lots (which, in LA, you will use a lot).
My advice would be to save your move to LA for the less popular, and cooler, winter months of the off season. Move to LA around November-March. It will save you at least a few thousand and a bunch of trouble.
2. Don’t Skimp on Parking
You’re finally with us. Here are 14 more things not to do after you’ve made the move to LA.
Parking is a popular topic in Los Angeles.
If you don’t have a parking spot in your apartment, chances are that as a new transplant in LA, you’ll have a ton of parking tickets.
I had my first three parking tickets within 2 months of moving here. Parking enforcement is a business in Los Angeles and the fees are high ($75 for parking on street cleaning side).
So first of all, be very mindful of the parking signs.
Because parking laws, rules, and regulations will probably eat into your bank account, it’s important to make sure your new place offers secure (and free) parking. It would strongly suggest you put a lot of emphasis on this when searching for an apartment in LA.
Whenever you have to park on the street, which will be always if your place doesn’t have an assigned spot, don’t forget to read the posted signs in the neighborhood you’re staying and remember them.
In LA, it’s often that different parking laws apply on alternating days.
Do the same scanning of the nearby street signs when you’re parking anywhere in LA to avoid a hefty fine on your car’s windshield when you return.
3. Don’t Walk Everywhere
No, walking isn’t a crime in LA. In fact, coming from England, I’m a big walker myself.
I still walk good lengths almost daily; however, it’s not as easy in LA.
It’s not only about the roads with no sidewalks, which is always annoying if you’re an avid walker.
It’s the fact that LA is so huge and spread out. Everything is in different locations across town and it takes hours just to drive there, let alone walking.
The city itself is massive, and it’s difficult to ride a bike through its trafficked streets as well.
It’s easier, and often safer, to drive anywhere and everywhere in Los ANgeles rather than to hoof it.
Or, if you’d rather not get in your car to avoid dealing with parking difficulties and local traffic (which often is a smart choice, I found), you can also choose one of the city’s many taxi-like options, from Uber to Lyft to town car service.
4. Don’t Bring or Even Buy a Bike
Unless you’re very attached to your bike for some reason, don’t bring it with you.
This also applies to buying bicycles here to use as transport.
You do need a method of transportation to get around, but LA isn’t a bike-friendly city.
Instead, it’s better to rely on your own car. Public transportation isn’t good and Uber will get expensive, quick.
It’s difficult to bike on the crowded city streets with all of the dangerous traffic.
Most people leave their bikes unused throughout the year, or use them purely for recreation on the Strand at the beach.
5. Don’t Live Too Close To a Freeway
Although it seems clever to live as close to a freeway as possible, don’t do this.
You want to live close enough, but not close-close. Here’s why.
You already know that traffic in LA is horrible, so living near a freeway means you’ll be subletting a disaster.
I’ve seen this a million times. As everyone heads to the on ramp each morning, people are stuck in their driveways, unable to merge on. This starts around 7am and doesn’t end until about 7pm; it literally goes on throughout the whole day.
Dealing with the daily traffic on the roads of Los Angeles sucks, but it’s even worse when it clogs up your ability to get to and from home.
And I’m sure you’re not interested in listening to thousands of cars flying by at all hours.
Los Angeles is a city that sleeps, but it’s freeway traffic is ever-present. That said, accept the traffic for what it is, and try not to let it anger you.
6. Don’t Jaywalk in Los Angeles
In other states or countries, jaywalking is perfectly legal.
Or, at most what you’ll get is a warning from a cop.
Many people are familiar — and comfortable — with casually crossing a street right in the middle, ignoring the crosswalks and walking as they need. I did that at first, too.
However, it turns out that Los Angeles is serious about keeping both pedestrians and drivers safe.
Jaywalk, and you’ll be slapped with a ticket.
You will literally be fined. And the police isn’t hesitant about that, either.
So don’t run the risk of a cop catching you in the act, and choose to wait for the lights to change at every crosswalk.
Honestly, I was annoyed by this at first, but now I can see how it benefits everybody to live in a society that follows rules of safety. One point goes to you, LA.
7. Don’t Smoke (a.k.a Consider Quitting)
For many aspiring actors who still get their inspiration from the likes of James Dean, this career and the community of actors in LA may be associated with smoking.
In reality, LA is not smoke-friendly city. It hasn’t been for a while.
Most other people moving to California already know the “healthy nut” type of community that’s the norm in cities like Los Angeles.
Consider quitting smoking before moving to Los Angeles.
With literally no smoking zones or areas within or near most buildings, full cities (neighborhoods) banning smoking altogether, rising taxes on tobacco, there’s no tolerance for the tobacco habit.
From beaches and parks to restaurants and bars, smoking is frowned upon by both residents and local officials.
I recently quit smoking myself. It was part of my move to LA plan.
You can still find places to smoke in Los Angeles, of course. But for me, it made sense to quit smoking to avoid potential fines, angry looks, spending money and deteriorating health.
8. Don’t Forget Flip Flops
I mean this loosely. Basically, be ready to dress very casual.
When I compare Los Angeles to New York, the east coasters like to keep a little fashion going.
In here, when Los Angelenos say an event or meeting is “casual”, they mean it. We are (notice I included myself there?) most comfortable in t-shirts and jeans.
You’ll also get used to LA’s ubiquitous “flip flops and shorts” fashion, too. And I love it.
Naturally, you’ll find reasons to wear business attire and suits, like everywhere else.
But don’t expect to don much fancy clothing in LA, as the city’s adopted dress code is truly California casual.
I’ve seen business meetings conducted in jeans. Wedges are often spotted over stilettos. Suits aren’t often worn on a daily basis unless a company requires it.
So add more casual pieces to your closet, and you’ll fit right in.
9. Don’t be a Tourist
Dropping the tourist mentality as soon as possible will behoove anybody moving to LA.
Sure, there’s a ton of exciting tourist spots throughout Los Angeles that everyone wants to visit, but it’s best to avoid making these locales your regular spots.
Hollywood and Highland is a sight to see, the home of the Academy Awards and famed attractions. And it’s also packed with a lot of people and traffic every day of the year.
The Hollywood sign is an exciting landmark to hike to — but, with so many who want to see it, its trails can get heavy traffic, too.
Branch out and try neighborhoods, places, and spots that are less traveled, and you’ll both broaden your experiences within the city and find new favorites to enjoy, with fewer non-LA residents surrounding you.
Experience the real LA as soon as you’ve over that “I’m in Hollywood!” high.
10. Don’t Bother with a Gym
If you need to keep up your shape when on a tight budget, you can save yourself some cash by choosing alternatives to the gym.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Los Angeles.
LA is a fit city, but it’s not a reputation that was built on the outdoor gyms of Venice or inside various 24 Hour Fitness locations.
Instead, its residents get outside and stay active, running or hiking its trails, swimming in its ocean, and taking yoga classes at local parks.
Don’t get me wrong. LA is definitely a “gym culture,” and many people do go to gyms here. In fact, most gyms I’ve been to are overcrowded.
But if you’re moving to LA, don’t stick to the same training patterns you could’ve done at home. Personally, I would advise to take advantage of the wonderful weather and scenic views by getting active outdoors.
11. Don’t Limit Yourself to Your Neighborhood
After I moved to a safe and affordable neighborhood, I’ve quickly grown to love it and stay in within the limits of its comfort. I spent many days just hanging around the neighborhood because we have everything here. Until I snapped out of it.
Don’t make the same mistake. Explore.
After moving to LA and renting your new place, you’ll grow comfortable in the surrounding blocks.
You will soon know the restaurants and you’ll know which grocery store is best. But don’t stick to the same streets forever.
Thanks to its size and scope, Los Angeles offers its residents a ton of options and interests, from the best food, to unique local art, to varied and impressive shopping, to insane nightlife and thousands of day attractions.
If you stay just within your neighborhood, you’ll miss out on enjoying yourself in LA.
12. Don’t Stick to the Freeways Alone
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it a million more times if you’re moving to LA. Probably at least once by the end of this post.
One of the trademarks of Los Angeles is its traffic; its ever-impacted freeway lines with cars moving at speeds of 10 and 25 miles per hour during peak travel times.
And it’s really that bad.
So don’t stick to freeways. Don’t assume that freeways throughout LA and its environs are your only way to traverse the large city and county.
Sometimes, or maybe even quite often, side streets are less congested and a faster alternative. Check traffic any time you have a drive ahead of you, so you can determine whether the streets or the freeways are your best bet.
In fact, you probably already have a smartphone with 3G/4G data enabled. Do what I did if you still haven’t: get yourself a car phone holder and use Google Maps instead of anything else. It amazes me how well Google calculates and picks the best route; it’s always right.
Google Maps will save you a lot more stress.
13. Don’t Bring Fido Everywhere
It’s okay to admit it. Did you assume that everyone in LA brought their small, purse-sized dogs around town with them, keeping them under arm while shopping, dining, and running errands.
This is true, but far less common, and mostly depends on the area.
It’s a widely assumed Los Angeles stereotype, but dogs aren’t welcome in every shop, restaurant, and market. It’s actually quite rare to see dogs accompany their owners everywhere, unless you’re spending a Sunday strolling along the beach or hanging out in Venice or Larchmont.
Again, it highly depends on the area. Neighborhoods like West Hollywood and Beverly Hills are far more dog-friendly.
But if you’re moving to LA with a pet, don’t expect your furry friend to be allowed everywhere you go. Instead, if you’d like to bring your dog along, check to see if where you’re headed is in fact a dog-friendly establishment.
I think there’s an app for that.
14. Don’t Throw Out Your Jackets
Even though it’s hot most of the time, it does get cold, too.
California is the state of sunshine and temperate weather, but that doesn’t mean it’s a land completely devoid of freezing nights.
I thought that I will be saved from ever being cold after I moved to Los Angeles, but that wasn’t the case.
Although living in Los Angeles doesn’t necessitate a down coat or a jacket suited for 30 degrees and below, it does get a bit chilly here at times. If you’re going to live close to the shoreline, evenings in the winter can grow damp and cool. If you’ll live more inland, temperatures drop in the winter.
However, don’t worry, all of our zipcodes are scorching temps during sunny days. So, while you won’t need your furry coats, you will want to keep a few light jackets on hand for cooler months and nights.
It’s still hot during most days even in winter.
15. Don’t Get in the Carpool Lane… if You’re Alone
Not many states or other countries have carpool lanes like those of LA.
The diamond lane is the one bright spot in LA’s dismal and disappointing traffic.
There’s nothing like sitting just two lanes away from those in the carpool lane, watching them whiz by at the actual speed limit while you’re stuck at a measly four miles per hour.
As tempting as it might be to simply skip over that double yellow line and enter the swiftly moving carpool lane, don’t do it if you’re a solitary driver — only parties of two or more can enter.
If you do decide to jump in solo and are caught by a police officer, LA sheriff, or CHP, you’ll regret it. Fines for illegally entering the carpool lane begin at around $350, and increase from there. In fact, they keep raising them still.
Save yourself that insanely high fee and stick it out in a regular lane.
Plus, they don’t always move that much faster. Yes, traffic is that bad.