Being dropped in a hostile world is scary. And Grand Theft Auto Online – the recently-launched multiplayer part of open-world action game Grand Theft Auto V – can be very hostile at times.

It’s dog-eat-dog out there. Everyone’s hustling for a quick buck and death comes easily. The crime-themed open world, which was more than five years in the making, sold more than $1 billion in its first three days, and analysts expect it to sell more than 30 million copies. That means you’re going to have a lot of competition online, and it pays to be prepared.

With that in mind, here are 26 tips and tricks that should make your Grand Theft Auto Online experience a little less hostile and a lot more fun. Heck, you might even save enough money to buy that fancy apartment by Vespucci Beach.

1. Get to the chopper!

Why travel by road when you can go and grab a helicopter? While the airport is more secure than in the single player game, you can still get in if you go up the stairs to the Flight School and hop over the wall. Unlike in single player, airport security won’t jump on you, and you can take your time strolling to the helipad before heading over the Los Santos skyline.

Other reliable places to grab a chopper include the roof of the Central Los Santos Medical Centre, the helipad near the canals at Vespucci Beach, and Trevor’s airstrip in Grand Senora Desert.

Entrance to the airport

Above: Hop over the wall at the top of the stairs to reach the airport

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

2. Base jumping

When you’re in a helicopter, head straight for the tallest building downtown or the building under construction next to it. Both have a parachute sitting on top of them, just waiting for you to use. Why not drop in on the traffic below?

When you get to Level 10, you’ll also unlock the parachute missions, which offer a great opportunity to feel the wind in your hair and get away from the hustle of the streets.

3. Helicopters not enough?

If you’re finding the helicopters a bit slow, you can always trade up to a military jet.

Fly in to the military base, in the north-west section of the map, and jump into one of the fighter planes stored in the hangers. You have to enter by air, as ground access is closed off (unlike in single player). Be careful, though, as you’re going to get a fairly hostile reception from the forces stationed there.

You may also find a tank or two inside the compound, if that’s what takes your fancy.

4. Fast travel

Need to get across the map in a hurry? No problem.

Select a race on the main map that is near your destination, by hovering your cursor over it and choosing “Launch Job.” Click “Play” on the first menu to get into the lobby screen, then simply quit. You’ll find yourself hovering over the world for a few seconds, before being deposited at the race location, ready for action.

5. Try passive mode

Tired of being shot in the back while you’re taking a selfie? You might want to try passive mode. It stops you getting shot while on foot, but you also can’t shoot other players. Going into passive mode will cost you $100 a time, but it may save you more than that in medical bills.

Your player icon on the radar will change when you enter passive mode, to let others know you can’t be shot. Activate it from the interaction menu (hold “Select” on PS3, or “Back” on Xbox 360).

Passive mode isn’t like taking an invincibility pill, however. You can still be run over, blown up, or shot while you’re in a car or on a bike.

Pick up a parachute from the top of Los Santos' tallest buildings

Above: Pick up a parachute from the top of Los Santos’ tallest buildings

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

6. Sell cars to make quick cash

If you need money quickly, you’re best off heading to the nearest Los Santos Customs and selling a stolen car. Grab a decent looking vehicle and set a course for the nearest mod shop (select it from GPS options on the interaction menu). Pull in to the garage and you’ll get the option to sell.

Only cars up to a certain value are saleable. The Lampadati Felon and Gallivanter Baller are two of the higher ticket items and each will net you $9,000. Pull up in anything too fancy, though, and you’ll be turned away.

You can sell one vehicle per in-game day, meaning a potential sale every 45 minutes. Easy money.

7. Insure your ride

Once you get a decent car, you’ll want to insure it. If it gets lost, stolen, or destroyed you can phone the insurance company and request an immediate replacement. The replacement car gets delivered straight to you, and it will continue to have insurance protection. Unfortunately, you’ll need to pay a fee (which is 10 percent of the original insurance premium).

The car you take to LS Customs during the tutorial will get free insurance, so choose wisely.

Only cars fitted with a tracker are insurable. At first you’ll need to pay LS Customs for each tracker, but once you get your own property a tracker gets fitted automatically (at no cost) to any car you park there.

8. Lock your car!

If you don’t want random strangers stealing your wheels, then you’d best set your options up properly. From the interaction menu, you can choose who can open the doors to your vehicles. I wouldn’t recommend selecting “Anyone,” but you’re safe with your friends and crew. Right?

9. Bank your money

If you’re carrying more than $5,000 in cash around Los Santos then you’re asking for trouble. Get mugged and killed carrying less than that and you’re only going to give up $100. More than $5,000 in your pocket and you’ll drop the $100 plus the excess.

Don’t bother with ATMs when depositing your cash; instead use your phone to deposit online via the “Money and Services” internet browser tab. Just be sure to stand somewhere quiet while you go online.

I'm not sure this property is going to be on the market for long

Above: I’m not sure this property is going to be on the market for long

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

10. Buy a garage

Once you’ve saved enough money, you should invest in some property. I bought the cheapest garage I could find, in a really nasty part of town, but it was worth every cent.

Cars will get a free tracker fitted when you first pull in, making them your own. Add some insurance and they’re yours for life.

A garage also gives you some place safe to escape the mayhem of Los Santos, even for a few minutes. No-one can enter unless you let them. You’ll hear people buzzing when they want to come in.

When you have a bit more money to play with, you can work your way up the property ladder. Buying a new property makes you sell your old place; getting some money back in the process.

A free starter garage should be available to Social Club members, according to Rockstar Games, but this did not appear during testing.

11. Claim your free sports car (and shotgun)

Sign up to the Rockstar Social Club and link it to your PlayStation Network or Xbox Live account to get a sweet ride for free.

When you buy your first property, buy the Elegy RH8 from the Legendary Motorstorm website. It comes in a choice of colors and won’t cost you a cent. Better yet, it has a top speed of 196 miles per hour, can go from zero to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds, and has insurance cover.

Signing up to the Social Club will also give you access to a free shotgun, which you can pick up from any Ammunation store.

The Elegy RH8 is available for free if you sign up to the Rockstar Social Club

Above: The Elegy RH8 is available for free if you sign up to the Rockstar Social Club

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

12. Sing in the shower

What better way to wind down after a hard day’s hustling than singing in the shower? If your microphone is on then the game will hear your vocal efforts and reward you with reputation points, or RP (the GTA Online equivalent of experience points). You’ll need an apartment, or access to one, to try this out.

You might want to set your chat options to “No-one” (from the interaction menu) before showering. Or you might not.

13. Play solo to level up safely

Developer Rockstar designed Grand Theft Auto Online for multiple players. That doesn’t mean you can’t play alone.

Start up a “Solo” session from the single player pause menu, under “Options”. You can explore, take on missions, and race with no-one to bother you. The races essentially become time trials when played solo. They won’t earn you any money, but you will earn RP for each one you enter. This is also a great way to practice and build up your driving/flying/riding skills before taking on the world.

Grand Theft Auto V

Above: Los Santos looks incredible from the sky

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

14. Race to make cash and earn RP

Deathmatches are fun, but they take a long time and use up lots of ammo. Races, however, are a surefire way of making some money and earning RP. Even doing badly in a race nets you some cash, and sitting in a decent lobby exploring the variety of races on offer is a great way to pass the time in GTA Online.

If you don’t want to play in a public lobby, then start a private session with some buddies (from the Online menu)  and get racing.

Pro tip: if someone in the lobby is consistently doing well, it’s worth placing a bet on them to win. Do this from the last menu before the race starts.

16. Get a turbo start

If you’re going to be racing, you’ll need to get out of the blocks fast. In true Super Mario Kart style, GTA Online offers a turbo start if you depress the accelerator right at the word “Go!”.

Get 50 turbo starts and you’ll unlock some neat new colors at Los Santos Customs.

17. Find your friends (and enemies) easily

With 16 dots moving around the mini-map, it can sometimes be difficult to see who you’re after. Use the interaction menu to choose “Highlight Player,” then select whose dots you want to flash.

When set to “On,” the flashing dots will appear on the main map and will flash on the edges of the on-screen mini-map, helping guide you quickly and easily to your target.

18. Forgot who shot you? Rockstar didn’t.

Navigate to the “Info” section of the game menu and you’ll get a run-down of your most recent activity. I’ve used this, on more than one occasion, to track down a miscreant and exact revenge.

Helpful if most of the players in your lobby have instantly forgettable user names created from a seemingly random string of letters and numbers.

Interestingly, Rockstar is constantly keeping tabs on who plays nice in GTA Online. Players report being forced to wear dunce caps for 48 hours, due to being bad sports. Conversely, good sports have received in-game payments of $1000 from Rockstar.

Play nice or you get to wear be a dunce for 48 hours

Above: Play nice or you wear this dunce cap for 48 hours

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

18. Use your “Action” commands

You can assign an action to your character from the interaction menu. Activate it by clicking both analogue sticks in.

Actions include dancing and flipping the bird which are essentially useless, but fun. If you stock up on energy bars from the convenience stores, however, and set your action to “Eat snack,” then each time you click the sticks you’ll recover some health. Handy to remember when you’re in a firefight.

19. Expand your mini-map

Two “Down” clicks on the D-pad will expand your on-screen mini-map. Perfect for getting a better view of where you’re heading, or of who’s after you. I wish the single player game had this option.

20. Join a crew for extra RP

If you haven’t joined a crew, then you’re missing out on reputation points. Being part of a crew gives you a 10% bonus for every mission. You can search for recommended crews via the start menu if you don’t have any online buddies to hook up with.

You're going to rank up quicker if you're part of a crew

Above: You’re going to rank up quicker if you’re part of a crew

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

21. Use the phone to bug your single player friends

While the phone system was in place for Grand Theft Auto IV, GTA Online takes it up a notch. Now you call up your buddies playing the single player story and brag about the fun you’re having online. Just select them from your contacts and choose “Call’.

Doing this for the first time felt very strange, blurring the line between the single and multiplayer experiences and making Los Santos feel very real. It was pretty cool.

22. Wear a mask to hold up convenience stores

Head to Vespucci beach and you can buy some interesting masks from the vendor there. If you wear a mask while holding up a convenience store, the store worker won’t recognize you when you next go back. This essentially allows you to rob the same stores over and over without being recognized.

Try robbing the same store a couple of times as yourself and you’ll find that convenience store workers hold a grudge.

Removing your mask while hiding from the cops should also theoretically cut your wanted level by one star, but this hasn’t actually worked for me in testing.

Get your masks from the vendor on Vespucci Beach

Above: Get your masks from the vendor on Vespucci Beach

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

23. Helicopter crime sprees

Forget getaway cars; GTA Online is all about getaway choppers. You can rob convenience stores quicker and more easily from the sky, and you’ll get much less trouble from the cops.

As long as you don’t actually shoot the store workers, you shouldn’t ever get more than a two star wanted level, meaning no police air support. So, move quickly to a store, shout a lot, grab the money, and take to the skies. You can easily evade the police cars and move quickly onto the next store.

Just remember not to turn your back on the store workers as some of them carry weapons. And watch out for vigilante citizens.

24. Commit suicide

If you’re stuck in an impossible situation, pinned down by the cops, with a four star wanted level, then taking the easy way out is sometimes the best option.

Medical expenses and bail money can really add up (they scale with the amount of money you have, to a point), so taking a $500 hit for topping yourself will probably save you some cash. Just remember, it’s only a game.

25. Split the bounty money

Rockstar has spiced up GTA Online with a neat bounty hunting system. When you hit level 10 you meet Lester and unlock the ability to place bounties on other players heads. This also allows players to place a bounty on your head.

If you get hit with a sizeable bounty (say, over $5,000), then it’s worth letting an online friend kill you, claim the bounty money, and split it with you. Even after medical expenses, you should turn a profit.

Non-player characters can also place bounties on your head if you cross them. The best way to avoid these bounties is to shoot (or knock out) the NPC concerned. Just don’t let the cops see you.

John Marston is selectable as a father for Social Club members

Above: John Marston is selectable as a father for Social Club members

Image Credit: YouTube/iJustcie

26. John Marston was my father

Red Dead Redemption protagonist John Marston is available as a parent option in character creation for anyone signed up to the Rockstar Social Club. Scroll down to “Dad’s Mother/Dad’s Father”, press “Y” or “Triangle,” and Marston will pop up as your character’s father.

Collector’s Edition owners can also select some old faces from previous Grand Theft Auto as parents. Those lucky few can choose between Nico Bellic (the protagonist from Grand Theft Auto IV), Claude, or Misty (both from GTA III).

Hopefully these tips have been of use for your ongoing life in Los Santos. If you have any of your own that you want to share, feel free to drop them in the comments below.

And be careful out there.