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The development of Los Angeles began with the completion of the transcontinental railway in 1876. It is now a very expansive city, the largest one in the state of California. Sometimes it may take two hours to get from one part of the city to another. L.A., as the city is often referred to, is a collection of suburbs. Downtown, there are still some old buildings, in an interesting mix with brand new offices. At night, this part of the city is virtually deserted. However, a visit to Disneyworld, the Hollywood studios, Beverly Hills and the new Paul Getty museum is very interesting. If you want to go out or shop, the old part of Pasadena is your best choice.
The municipality of Los Angeles has almost 4 million inhabitants, although in the larger urban area surrounding the city, there are at least 15 million inhabitants.
The population is very mixed. Initially, the city was populated by adventurers that had moved to the west coast of the US. Nowadays, there are also immigrants from Latin America ('Hispanics') and from other countries around the Pacific Ocean (East and South-East Asia).
Los Angeles is located on the west coast of the United States, on the Pacific Ocean, about 150 kilometres to the north-west of the border with Mexico. The city has grown together with other cities like Long Beach, Pasadena and even with the far more easterly San Bernardino.
It is sometimes hard to tell what belongs to the city and what is not. For example: Hollywood is a part of Los Angeles, but West-Hollywood and nearby Beverly Hills are separate municipalities.
To the north of the city are the San Gabriel Mountains, off the coast are the virtually uninhabited Channel Islands. Five of these islands form a national park.
The city has a very diverse economy, important elements of which are international trade, the entertainment industry (film, television and music), aviation, oil and tourism. The combine ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are especially important to trade with countries on the Pacific Rim. Together they form the country's biggest port.
A part of the economy is invisible, or 'black'. Many immigrants (especially from Mexico) are illegally in the United States, and are therefore forced to work illegally.
Los Angeles has no fewer than five airports. Most people fly to Los Angeles International (LAX), which maintains connections with all major cities in the world, and of course the US itself. The airport is located 24 kilometres to the south-west of the city centre. The airport cannot be reached by public transport, but there are shuttle buses from and to the metro stations of Aviation and Union.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) provides the public transport in the city. There is an extensive bus network - which, like cars - are often stuck in traffic. Buses that operate under the name 'Metro Rapid' are an exception. These buses have right of way everywhere and move between the best-known places in Los Angeles.
For visitors to the city, the metro or the lightrail offer the best form of public transport. There are five lines and plans to further expand two of these lines. The metro used to have a bad reputation because of its many technical failures, but in recent years the system has been improved enormously.
Regional trains depart from the historical Union Station downtown. The fast long distance buses operated by Greyhound depart from the bus terminal on East 7th Avenue. This terminal is far removed from any sights worth seeing and it is not very safe - especially at night.
The city has an extensive though very complicated network of highways. Twenty-seven highways run through the city, whith many unequal crossings where it is easy to take a wrong turn. We recommend buying a detailed roadmap of Los Angeles and preparing yourself well before going anywhere near the city. The roads are often overcrowded; many car drivers spend many hours a day in traffic jams. Downtown, there are many one-way streets.
Parking in the street is paid. You can pay by telephone: you dial a special number (listed on the parking meters) and provide your credit card number. However, you are not allowed to pay longer that the maximum allowed time. Clean ('hybrid') cars can park for free anywhere in the city. The car has to have a special sticker.
Cars that are parked where or when they shouldn't are towed away.
Choose a hotel that is closest to the destination you want to visit, or else you will first spend hours in traffic. There are a huge number of hotels in Los Angeles: from very simple budget accommodations to hyper-luxurious 5 star hotels, and anything in between. Generally speaking, the areas in the south and east of Los Angeles are considered of a lower quality; the better neighborhoods (and hotels) are located in the west. Ask whether or not the hotel includes parking facilities before you book a room.
For more information about Los Angeles, we recommend Google, and the following sources: