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I'll have to wait for 4 hours at the LAX airport in a flight from Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro. I'm not a U.S citizen (have business visa, though), so I would like to know if it is allowed to leave the airport while waiting for the next flight (I'd like to buy some stuff in the U.S).

--- UPDATE ---

Thank you all for answers and comments. It's answered, but can anyone comment on this (I don't want to create another question just for this little thing): if I have 1:30 to do shopping, is it possible to get to an Apple Store or BestBuy? I really need a new notebook... :)

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Four hours isn't really enough time to get out and about so you might be cutting it awfully thin if you do try. –  dlanod Jul 30 '12 at 23:03
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You may have time to take a taxi. There is a Best Buy at 740 S Sepulveda Blvd and an Apple Store in the Manhattan Village shopping center (3200 N Sepulveda Blvd), which are less than 6km away and in the same direction. It is not really possible to hail a taxi in that area, however, so you would be advised to have the cabbie from the airport wait for you— which could become an expensive proposition, especially if there is a long line or they can't find your item. –  choster Jul 31 '12 at 4:39
    
I updated my answer with the relevant links. Lived in that area, know these stores very well:) –  littleadv Jul 31 '12 at 9:02
    
@choster Thank you!!! –  Roberto Jul 31 '12 at 12:58

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Technically, you can. Practically, 4 hours is not that much time. If you're admitted to the US on arrival, you go out through the immigration and customs, and its up to you whether to turn left (connections) or right (exit), no-one forces you to go either way. I might have confused left and right, haven't been in LAX international arrivals for a while now.

You'll have to go through the security again if you exit (if I remember correctly - you'll have to go through the security either way, but I may be wrong on this).


To answer your second question: the closest Apple Store is in Manhattan Village mall, 10 minutes from LAX by cab. The closest Best Buy is one block before that, both along Sepulveda Blvd South, on your left when driving from the airport. If you're into buying electronics, then right in between there's Fry's Electronics. You can go to the mall, and walk your way back to Best Buy (10 minutes walk + stop at Fry's, beware of the time though, people tend to spend hours at Fry's:-) ), and get a cab back (call the cab ahead of time though).

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Assuming Tom Bradley International Terminal, left used to be exit and right was connections; but they sent everyone to the left during the remodeling a year or two ago, and I'm not sure how it stands right now. –  waiwai933 Jul 30 '12 at 23:01
    
@littleadv Thank you very much!!!!! –  Roberto Jul 31 '12 at 12:58
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Yup. I've done it before but on a 7 hour connection. I wouldn't try it with 4 hours, you won't have much time and it would be easy to miss your flight. –  Loren Pechtel Jul 31 '12 at 16:28
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@Roberto: As I said, I did it on a connection--that means that's not home base for me. I have no idea where you might buy an iPhone in Los Angeles. –  Loren Pechtel Nov 8 '12 at 5:38

Yes, it is allowed, unless your transit visa restricts you to staying inside the airport. I don't know whether there are any such transit visas, and there wouldn't be anyone to check. In the US, airports have no international zone: you land, you pass immigration, even if you're flying away immediately afterwards.

However, since you only have four hours, the only shopping you'll be able to do is in the airport. 1 hour to pass immigration, 1 hour to pass security on the way back, be there ½ hour before your flight — even in a taxi, you won't go have time to go far, and Los Angeles is huge.

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