15 Ways to Spend Your Days in LA

I have been to LA at least 8 times since 2005. Sometimes it’s just been for a day or two as a layover between a flight elsewhere, other times I’ve stayed for longer. But every time I walk the familiar route out of LAX towards the rental car shuttle, the warm air and sight of palm trees always makes me smile.

I love LA. It’s the first place I went when travelling without my parents, and I regard it almost as a type of height chart that marks my adventure progress. But it also has a comfortable familiarity about it, and has been a great place of refuge when I need a quick vacation without much thought put into it.

I am always happy when friends ask me for LA suggestions  (sometimes they don’t ask, I just dole them out like candy in the hopes they’ll consider going there – seriously California Tourism, give me a job) because in all the times I’ve gone there I’ve resisted the Hollywood touristy gimmicks – for the most part. A couple exceptions will grace this list – my top 15 ways to spend your days in LA.

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Ways to Save Your Pennies in Sydney

I’ve been procrastinating from doing it, but I finally sat and actually calculated how much I’ve spent during my 15 or so days here in Australia.

After passing out from the shock of the number appearing on my calculator screen, I added it up again and fell over once more.

Let’s just say that it cost me less to get to New Zealand (from Canada!) and noodle around there for the same amount of time, AND fly from there to Australia. Unbelievable. For that kind of money, I feel that I should be wearing brand new Uggs while staying at the Four Seasons eating room service. Instead, I am hunched over on a top bunk at a hostel overlooking a train yard, eating nothing (I did eat today, though, further adding to the “donate my bank account to Australia” fund).

So yes, when people tell you Australia is expensive, they ain’t kidding. Thank goodness I have a job to go back to.

At any rate, there are things you can do for next to nothing in Sydney, hard to believe, which include:

  • Free Ride. There’s a shuttle bus that runs around the CBD, so if you don’t want to take the bus or train you can hop on a green bus and be down by the Opera House in no time.
  • Guided Walks.  While I didn’t do any, many hostels offer free guided walks to help you get familiar with your surroundings. There are also free twice-daily tours through the Sydney Botanic Gardens, which is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon with a picnic. You’ll find one of the best views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from here too, in my opinion.
  • Get Out on the Water. My one week Multi 1 transit pass did cost me $41, however I made sure to utilize the heck out of that sucker and get my money’s worth. On hot days, I parked myself on the front of whatever ferry happened to be leaving, and snapped pictures of the harbour along the way. Even if you don’t have a transit pass, most routes cost less than $5 which is a steal.
  • Weekend Markets. I explored the Paddington and Bondi weekend markets, and there are also well-known markets at The Rocks and other areas. Markets are great ways to pick up locally-made products or food and see the true character of a neighbourhood come alive. The Paddington Market in particular is huge, and it was fun to just sit with a coffee and people watch.  Sydney has great little neighbourhoods and you can pick up guides to each from various stores, cafes and visitor’s centres – I got some great suggestions from them.
  • Take a Hike. I previously mentioned the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, but there are numerous walks that range from a few minutes to full-day affairs. I took the ferry to Watsons Bay and did the Watsons Bay to South Head trail. A fairly easy trail (I saw some people wearing flip flops and HEELS, which always amazes me), you’ll wander past cute houses and across a small beach before gaining elevation and some pretty fabulous harbour views to boot. Also as a head’s up – Sydney’s only nude beach is along this trail. I saw a lot of Sydney that day. Not as much as the young family hiking behind me did, who actually went DOWN to the beach before realizing where they were. Another great area to explore for hikes is Manly. Yes, Manly has a fantastic beach but there are also several fairly lengthy hikes available to choose from. I did the walk to North Head, which promised spectacular harbour views (it delivered). It also left me completely tuckered out, but there are buses back to the ferry wharf.

So while you can go to the Opera House, climb the Harbour Bridge, and shop to your heart’s content (there are lots of good options), you can also give your wallet a vacation occasionally too.

Walking Around Auckland

In an effort to save money (and because I like walking), I went on the “Coast to Coast” walk in Auckland my second day to check out the city on foot and shake off jetlag. I had hoped to pick up breakfast and lunch items and bring them along with me, so I started my morning at Victoria Park Market. My guide book had touted it as a must-visit – one booth was open. As I wanted breakfast and not antiques (sorry Mum) I kept looking, and subsequently discovered that food is expensive EVERYWHERE. My initial belief that I would save money here due to the wicked exchange rate and low transportation prices has been dashed quickly. Breakfast cost me EIGHTEEN DOLLARS. Granted, I ended up eating at the Auckland Domain at a rather-nice café, but this was the price I kept finding everywhere. It is costing me the same amount for a hostel as eggs benny. MERCY. Moving on.

Full from breakfast (and of remorse over forking out a large percentage of my daily budget) I trudged on for the walk. The Coast to Coast walk was sold to me as a “lovely” (which I interpreted as “easy”) 16 km walk through neighbourhoods and parks, allowing you to see both harbours of Auckland.

This walk was not easy.

Granted, 16 km would be tiring anyway, but I climbed up and down huge hills, walked around an old volcanic crater, stumbled through a university and accidentally ended up in someone’s backyard. The trail was hard to find at times (hence the backyard adventure), but it did show different areas of the city I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. And I also saw just how lovely New Zealanders are as many people cheered me on for doing the walk (probably muttering “idiot” after I had passed by) and pointed me in the right direction.

At the end of the trail I discovered a grocery store and the one food item that is cheap here – chocolate.

Well that’s just fine now isn’t it? No complaints here!

I also discovered a free shuttle bus that went back downtown. Free ride and cheap Cadbury’s – all in all not a bad day.