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Los Angeles has been a dreamland of a place for me to visit. The weather, outdoors, lifestyle, and FOOD have been aspects of Southern California that captivated me since my island days.

I will show you how to travel around LA on a college kid budget, getting the best bang for your buck while eating the best food SO CAL offers.

1. LODGING

California is expensive like nobody’s business. In order for you to cut funds for lodging, it would be best to find someone to stay with. It could be a friend, family member, mission housing, or any relation; if you could find somewhere to stay for free, you’re all set. If you plan on staying in a cheap hotel, forget it. Cheap hotels or Airbnb’s will be located in shady areas in LA. As a tourist, that’s not the right move. To be blunt, don’t bother visiting LA if you don’t have an affordable place to stay.

I stayed with my high school friend. He rents his place from a pool house in someone’s backyard near his university. Since I kept him company, he gladly accepted me to stay there rent free.

2. TRANSPORTATION

Uber is expensive; however, it gets you places. If you’re on a budget, you’ll want to take the bus. The LA Bus app allows you to find buses near you and purchase one dollar tickets for each ride. The downside: it’ll take you a while to get anywhere in LA on bus. You’ll have to leave an hour before your estimated time of arrival.

Another similar app that I think is better, is the Transit app. It’s green, but also does the same functions as the LA Bus app. However, the information and organization of Transit is easier to navigate than LA Bus.

You’re going to see a lot of electric rental scooters, titled as Birds or Lime, in LA. While they’re fun, don’t use them. They’re expensive and not cost effective. It’s too boujee for a college students’ wallet.

3. FOOD

Bring your own shopping bag wherever you go. You are a tourist–you’re going to be walking around seeing cool things. At some point, you will give into the urge to splurge on random things.

LA has a lot of specific ethnic grocery stores. From East Asian to West Asian, you’ll come across grocery stores that have delicious food. If your lodging has a stove, you’ll want to hit up these ethnic grocery stores and buy supplies.

I recommend the matcha ice cream popsicles from the Japanese stores; it’s rich and fulfilling. If the quality is good, the matcha won’t taste grainy like Dunn Brother’s Coffee.

Another aspect is the array of options in ethnic-specific districts. LA has multiple “towns.” You can choose to visit Chinatown, Koreantown, Little Osaka, Thaitown, Little Ethipoia, farmers markets or even taco trucks, the options are endless. Taco trucks are cheap but DELICIOUS, street food is the best food, and if you’re too chicken to try it, you’re missing out.

When eating out in LA, the best way to save money is to order a big portion of a meal and split it with your friend. Always bring someone with you to eat out, it’s cost effective and a fun moment as you share food with a friend. My friend and I went to Menya Tigre in Little Osaka on Sawtelle Blvd; it serves Japanese curry ramen with beef and veggies. Since the portion was huge, my friend and I split a ramen bowl and ordered tea from a nearby store. We spent about eight dollars including tips on that meal.

We also went to a farmers market in West Hollywood. We ate at a Brazilian barbecue stand called Pampas Grill. We piled meat on the plate and split the cost; it was delicious. The meal was about $12.

The best tea I had in LA was from Yi-Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea. I myself like fruit tea over milktea’s, so when I saw AUTHENTIC, NON-SYRUP-made tea I was ecstatic. I ordered Tangerine/Orange Green tea with honey. It was citrusy, cold and refreshing. Yi-Fang is incomparable to any Minnesota tea. They include actual tangerines in the tea, so when you’re done, you can use your straw and munch on the fruits as a snack. Drinks are about five to six dollars including tip. One thing to note is that it is cheaper to buy teas from a grocery store, ranging from two to four dollars. However, handmade/shaken teas taste better and are worth the expense. Treat yourself.

4. KNOW HOW TO FINESSE

The way I saved money in LA was through connecting with people already living there. I have extended family in the area that I asked to take me out. Also through my high school friend’s connection, we were able to have fun and hangout with his friends through a big group, who had cars and were able to take us places. When you’re visiting a city, my best advice I could give is to know someone in the city you’re visiting. Always jump at opportunities, and be nice to everyone you’re meeting. You don’t know if you’re coming back again, and when you do, you want to make sure you left on a good impression with the new people you met.

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