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Las Vegas
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Las Vegas Tips

For anyone contemplating a visit to Las Vegas or a visit to the US Southwest, I am offering these useful tips. Hopefully, they will assist you in planning your next trip to the USA.

McCarran Airport

Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport is centrally located between many of the major natural attractions in the US Southwest, and it offers a wide variety of competitively priced flights from most major cities in the USA.  With over 500 flights per day coming from nearly every major city in the USA and from several foreign cities, it offers convenient access to the Southwest at competitive prices. If you wish to visit the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park or any of the great scenic attractions in the Southwest, consider flying into Las Vegas.

Airport Transportation

When you arrive at McCarran Airport, you will be directed to the great hall with all of the baggage claim carousels.  The doors on one side of this hall open to the passenger pickup area and to the taxi stands.  A taxi ride from the airport to your hotel will cost you about $10 to $20 and will typically take 10 to 20 minutes.  If you are traveling with one or more companions, the cost per person would be very inexpensive.  The doors on the opposite side of the hall, lead to the bus and limo stands.  A shuttle bus ride to your hotel will cost about $7 per person and may take a bit more time than a taxi.

Hotel Bargains

The hotel prices in Las Vegas are most expensive on weekends and much more reasonably priced during the weekdays.  Plan your trip to be in Las Vegas during midweek and you will save money on accommodations.

The big casino hotels often provide some of the best accommodation bargains.  In order to attract more customers to their gambling halls, where they make their greatest profits, the casinos frequently offer bargain priced rooms.  If you go during the slow season in mid winter, and stay during mid week, you can often find incredible bargains on top quality hotel rooms.

Exterior of the Luxor Hotel Casino on the Las Vegas Strip © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The Luxor on the Strip is one of the older Hotel Casino’s where you may find some great deals if you visit during the off-peak times.

The newest, greatest, and most popular casinos are located right on Las Vegas Boulevard at the southern part of "the Strip".  Naturally, they tend to be the more expensive hotel rooms.  The older casinos located at the northern end of Las Vegas Boulevard in "downtown" and the casinos located off the strip usually offer less expensive accommodations.  Sometimes they even offer some unbelievably inexpensive rooms just to entice more gamblers to their establishments.

Las Vegas City Transportation

On a map of the Las Vegas Strip it looks like all of the casinos are close to each other, so walking between them should be easy.  This is an illusion.  Most of the larger casinos are up to 500 meters wide, thus walking between casinos can involve some extensive hiking.

The newer Las Vegas Monorail connects many of the casinos along the southern end of Las Vegas Boulevard.  It does not extend as far as downtown to the north or as far as the airport to the south.  Tickets cost $5 for an individual ride   and $12 for an all-day pass.  On the opposite side of the Strip, three short monorail lines connect some of the adjacent casinos.  They are all free to ride.

Bus transportation along the strip is very good with rides every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes in the night.  The "Deuce" goes from downtown all the way to Mandalay Bay Casino at the southern end of the strip.  The "Gold Line" extends even further to the outlet malls at both ends of the strip.  A single ticket costs $5 and an all-day pass costs $7.  Neither line goes to the airport terminal.

Las Vegas Car Rental Tips

Competition among the various car-rental agencies is rather brisk in Las Vegas, so you can usually find reasonable prices.   All of the casinos provide free parking in their attached garages, and valet parking is also free.  Often, the most convenient way to commute between casinos is by simply driving to the front door and handing your keys to the parking valet.  It will only cost you a modest tip of a few dollars.  If you want to visit some of the scenic attractions outside of town, a car is an invaluable asset.  Be sure to tell the rental agent that you will be driving in other states.

Las Vegas Shows

The top Las Vegas shows can be quite spectacular and very entertaining, but they are relatively expensive.  Some of the lesser-known shows may not be quite as spectacular, but they can be just as entertaining for half the cost.  Even better bargains can be found in the discount ticket shops at various locations along the strip.  They normally offer surplus tickets to the less popular shows on the day of performance for discounts of up to 50%. 

Entertainment sign of the MGM Casino on the Las Vegas Strip © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The casinos have big neon signs advertising their top entertainment acts. The most popular shows can be found at the casinos on The Strip.

The best bargains of all are the free performances offered at some of the casinos.  Rio provides a free sky show above its main concourse several times each evening.  Sam's Town produces a Western Stampede Show and the outdoor concourse at Fremont Street offers its spectacular ceiling light show every hour in the evening until midnight.  Strolling along the strip, you can see the fountain show at Bellagio, the erupting volcano at Mirage and the Pirates Cove Show at Treasure Island.  Free musical and disco performances are available at numerous bars and clubs throughout the various casinos.

Local Tours in Las Vegas

There are a number of interesting natural attractions in the vicinity of Las Vegas or within a few hours drive.  You can take commercial tour to most of these attractions.   The tour operators will pick you up right at your hotel in early morning, take you to the attraction, and then return you to your hotel the same day.  If you have a car, you can drive to the local attractions.

Red Rock Canyon is less than an hour from the strip.  It is a great place to see the unspoiled desert landscape or to hike in some of the mountain canyons.  The Valley of Fire is within a two-hour drive.  It offers some strange volcanic geology.  Death Valley National Park is within three hours and provides a glimpse of a most extreme desert landscape.  The Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world, and you can drive to the South Rim Visitors’ Center in less than five hours or to the slightly less spectacular West Rim in less than three hours.  Zion National ParkBryce Canyon National ParkSedona and the largest preserved sections of old Route 66 are all within a half-day drive of Las Vegas.

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All-You-Can-Eat Buffets

The all-you-can-eat for one price buffet restaurants are an old traditional feature of the Las Vegas Casinos and most gambling establishments still offer them.  If you are looking for bargains, go to the less popular casinos or the more isolated casinos not on the strip.  Some offer buffets for unbelievably cheap prices.  If you are looking for the best quality buffets, go to Bellagio, Paris, Planet Hollywood or Wynn.  If you love seafood, Rio offers the best seafood buffet in town.  Naturally, these higher quality buffets cost a bit more than the bargain buffets.

If you prefer a gourmet dining experience, Las Vegas provides a great many choices.  Some of the most famous chefs from the greatest restaurants in New York, Paris, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong have opened restaurants in Las Vegas.  These fine dining establishments are typically located in the grand casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

Get the free "Comps"

If you just play the slot machines in any Las Vegas casino, you will soon notice that one of the scantily-clad waitresses will bring you drinks and refreshments free of charge.  You are only expected to give them a modest tip. If you spend any time playing at one of the gaming tables, and decide to go eat, the dealer will often offer you a coupon for a free buffet at the in-house restaurant.  These little amenities are designed to keep you from venturing out of the casino where you might choose to spend your money elsewhere.  They are called complimentaries or "comps".

The best way to insure that you get your fair share of the many comps available is to register for a "player’s card" in any casino.  Just go to the registration desk in the casino and fill out the application.  They will present you with a plastic player’s card that resembles a credit card.  It costs nothing.  Use that card every time you play a slot machine in that casino.  Every time you play at a gaming table, hand the card to the dealer, so they can register your gambling.  This will entitle you to an array of comps including everything from a free tee shirt or a free buffet meal to a free hotel room, a free limo ride or even a free airplane ticket to Las Vegas.  Naturally, you must be gambling with larger amounts to be eligible for the larger comps.

Shopping in Las Vegas

Nearly every casino in Las Vegas offers an array of shops selling a variety of merchandise.  The Forum Shops in Caesar’s Palace and the International Market in Planet Hollywood have a wide selection.  Many of these shops offer high-priced luxury items.  You can even buy a Ferrari in the Wynn Casino.

Fashion Show Mall on the Strip
The Fashion Show Mall is easy to recognize with the UFO-like design on it's exterior.

For bargain selections, visit one of the larger shopping malls.  The Fashion Show Mall and the Palazzo Mall are located along the strip while Las Vegas Premium Outlets is located adjacent to the north end of the strip and Town Square Mall is located along Las Vegas Boulevard a bit south of the strip.

If you prefer something a bit more unique, you can visit the Gambler’s General Store on South Main Street for everything from a selection of thousands of different varieties of poker chips, cards and dice to a full sized roulette wheel or a slot machine.  For the ladies, a visit to Strings, the Rainbow Feather Company, or Serge’s Showgirl Wigs can help you achieve your fantasy of dressing as a Las Vegas showgirl.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: Las Vegas Strip