There's a kernel of truth to the reputation of Los Angeles as a one-industry town fuelled by plastic surgery, smarmy agents and intellectual vacuity. But look past that and you'll see an increasingly sophisticated centre of art, design, cuisine and commerce loaded with opportunities for the traveller passing through, whether or not you're in "the business".

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Get your honk on: Nowhere is driving so common as in LA. In theory, rush-hour times on weekdays are 06.00 to 10.00 and 15.00 to 19.00, though on Friday afternoon it’s busy from 14.00 until 21.00.
  2. Taking sides: The city is divided by the 405 freeway. The west is the place for those seeking a beach-friendly vibe; the east, while not as polished as Santa Monica, makes up for it with creativity and charm.
  3. Rules of engagement: Angelenos are uptight about making plans; if you’re looking to have dinner or drinks, a minimum of three days’ notice is required.
  4. Here’s a tip: Whether you’re showing thanks for your Moon Juice Brain-Tonic or trying to get into that new club, don’t be shy with your cash – it can get you a taste of the high life.
  5. LA living: Downtown used to be an unprepossessing neighbourhood. But over the past 10 or so years it’s undergone a transformation, with flagship art and performance venues, a lively restaurant and bar scene and some smart hotels.

Soon to be part of the Monocle Travel Guide series

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