Visiting Las Vegas:  Crash Course

Last update: May 28, 2024

Avg. High/Low Temps.



Jan.
57 / 37 14 / 3
Feb.
63 / 41 17 / 5
Mar.
69 / 47 21 / 8
April
78 / 54 26 / 12
May
88 / 63 31 / 17
June
99 / 72 37 / 22
July
104 / 78 40 / 26
Aug.
102 / 77 39 / 25
Sept.
94 / 69 34 / 21
Oct.
81 / 57 27 / 14
Nov.
66 / 44 19 / 7
Dec.
57 / 37 14 / 3

Contents

  1. When to Visit
  2. Getting to Vegas
  3. Where to Stay
  4. Getting to Your Hotel
  5. Get a cheap room upgrade when you check in.
  6. Your Vegas hotel experience will be different.
  7. Smoking: Get ready for it.
  8. Crime: Get ready for it.
  9. Sexual Commodification:  Get ready for it.
  10. Marijuana is legal but there's nowhere to smoke it
  11. Vegetarian Food
  12. Getting Around
  13. Things to Do
  14. Bargain Corner
  15. Visitor Statistics
  16. Old Vegas is gone

When to visit

Visit mid-week if you can!  Hotel rooms often cost three to four times as much on the weekends as during the week!  Plus, with weekend crowds you'll wait in line for everything.  Mid-week visitors save tons of money and have a much better time.

Slower times.  These are generally the cheapest times to visit.

  1. January after the first week
  2. July & August (because the heat is oppressive)
  3. The week before Thanksgiving
  4. December before Christmas

Busier times.  These are the most expensive times.

  1. Consumer Electronics Show (typically early January)
  2. Superbowl weekend (early February)
  3. March Madness (mid-March)
  4. Independence Day (July 4)
  5. Memorial Day Weekend (early Sept.)
  6. Halloween (Oct. 31)
  7. Formula 1 / LV Grand Prix (Mid-Nov.)
  8. National Finals Rodeo (early Dec.)
  9. Christmas/New Year's

Putting it into perspective:

Typical Strip Hotel Rates, per night

Slower times New Year's Eve Formula 1
Lowest $207
$339
$532
Average $459
$654
$927
Highest $850
$1189
$2324
Data from August 2023, from Vegas Advantage.
Rates include resort fees and taxes.

Summers will bake you.  Vegas rarely gets below freezing in winter, but it's an oven in summer with average highs of 100°F+ (37°C+).  See average temps above, or the forecast for the next week.  Note that most pools are closed from October through February (but they're heated and open at the toniest resorts, like Bellagio, MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, and Circa).


Getting to Vegas

Note that flying is a powerful contributor to climate change, which is why I stopped flying for years.  If you're flying anyway, then know that Skyscanner will get you the cheapest airfare most of the time.  Also, if you don't mind sitting in the unpopular row 13, you might get the row to yourself, or at least have to share it with just one other passenger instead of two.  For more tips see my guide to cheap airfare.

Here's a link to the Harry Reid Airport website to check flight times.  Alexa can also check flight times now.

Buses from Los Angeles take 5 to 7 hours and roundtrip prices start at $8 (Megabus), $10 (FlixBus & GoToBus), $55 (Greyhound).

Rideshares can be found on Craigslist.

Vegas isn't served by train, but Amtrak (the train company) lets you book a trip to Vegas on their site; they take you on a bus for the last leg of the trip.  The closest the train gets to Vegas is Los Angeles or Kingman, AZ, which are 6.5 and 2.5 hours away from Vegas by bus respectively.


Where to stay

The Strip is where most of the sights & sounds are, but it's a bit pricier than downtown.  Downtown has a fair share of attractions, and it's a quick bus ride from downtown to the strip to see everything there.  See my list of Vegas casinos (and/or my map) to see which hotels are on the strip, downtown, and elsewhere.

Know that just about every hotel in Vegas charges a "resort fee" of $15 to $52 per night that's separate from the nightly rate.

See my hotel deals page for more on discount lodging.

If this is a special/romantic trip and you want luxury, the classiest hotels are the Four Seasons, Bellagio, Venetian, and the Wynn.  But a better value is to get a suite at one of the lesser properties.  You can get a massive suite with a hot tub at places like the Luxor and the Strat for a fraction of what you'd pay for just a room at a high-end hotel.

Special-interest hotels:

  • Adults only (21+): (not in a naughty way, more like a "We hate kids" kind of way):
    • DOWNTOWN, W/CASINO:  Circa, El Cortez
    • DOWNTOWN, NO CASINO:  English Hotel
    • NEAR STRIP, NO CASINO:  Lexi
    • STRIP:  None. (Cromwell is no longer adults-only.)
  • Pet-friendly
  • Cannabis-friendly: Lexi
  • LGBTQ+ friendly: Queen Las Vegas at Thunderbird Hotel


Getting to your Hotel

UBER/LYFT. Slightly cheaper than taxis: $15-20, but they can't pick up at the terminal:  you'll have to walk to the parking garage.

TAXIS.  will run you about $17 to the Strip or $23 to downtown, plus the (recommended) 15% tip. See my guide to taxis.

THE BUS.  Various buses go from the airport to the Strip and downtown.  See my bus page for more.

HOTEL SHUTTLES.   Your hotel probably doesn't offer shuttle service, except to high rollers.  Here's a list of hotels that offer shuttle service.

SHUTTLE COMPANIES. The private shuttles are $6 (to the Strip) or $8 (to downtown) per person.  They're a great deal if you're traveling solo, a kinda good deal if you're traveling as a couple, but no cheaper than a taxi if there are 3+ in your party, since taxis are the same cost for 1-4 people.  To find the shuttles, go to the space between the two big baggage claim areas and face the direction of the escalators that are coming down from the second floor.  Walk past the escalators, walk out the door, and look left or right.  Note that your hotel likely doesn't have its own shuttle service, unless you're a high roller.

CAR RENTAL.  There's no need to rent a car.  Buses go up and down the Strip and to downtown 24/7, lots of stuff is within walking distance, you won't like driving on the congested Strip, and parking is inconvenient and expensive.  (Strip hotels generally don't offer free parking, even to guests, and it can sometimes take an hour to exit the parking garage.)  Also, the car rental place isn't actually at the airport, you have to take a shuttle to/from the rental place.

WALK.  Walking would take 50 minutes without luggage according to Google Maps, from Terminal 1 to the closest strip hotel, the MGM Grand.

BIKE.  I know no one else would do this, but once I disassembled a small bicycle and checked it as oversized luggage, then once in Vegas, re-assembled it and rode off.


Get a cheap room upgrade when you check in

When you check in, sandwich a $20 bill between your credit card and ID and casually ask if there are any complimentary room upgrades available.  Nine times out of ten you'll get it, and if you can't then the clerk will return your $20.  See FrontDeskTip.com for more.


Your hotel experience will be different

Vegas casino hotels are not like hotels elsewhere.

  1. They charge a mandatory daily Resort Fee.
  2. There's no free breakfast.
  3. There's no microwave or usable fridge in your room.  They want you spending money in their restaurants.  (If there's a fridge in your room, it's stocked with things they want you to buy.  If you remove their stuff to add your own, you get charged for the stuff you removed, because sensors somehow figure out that you removed their stuff.)

Smoking: Get ready for it

  1. Park MGM is the only non-smoking casino in the whole Vegas area.  All other casinos allow smoking and they're all quite stinky.
  2. Mandalay Bay has a non-smoking slots area as of early 2024.
  3. Sometimes some of the table games have no-smoking signs, but those are the exception and not the rule.  At Wynn/Encore and Venetian/Palazzo, there's an unwritten rule that you can ask for a table to be non-smoking.
  4. Besides the smoke-free Park MGM, the least-stinky casinos are the large megaresorts with high ceilings and modern ventilation, which is most casinos on the strip, and Circa downtown.
  5. Most poker rooms are smoke-free.
  6. The stench of marijuana is everywhere, even though it's not allowed in casinos, hotels, or public areas (only in private residences).  NV law allows possession of 2.5 oz.
  7. Smoking is back at table games at Venetian/Palazzo, which had banned it from 2021-23.
  8. Smoking at the games in grocery and convenience stores was banned in 2006.
  9. A non-profit maintains a directory of smokefree casinos in the U.S., but it's a little glitchy.  In Vegas, it lists Aces & Ales and Sand Dollar Lounge as commercial casinos, but they're actually just bars which are licensed to have no more than 15 machines.  The directory also doesn't list casinos that have smokefree areas; the whole casino has to be 100% smokefree in order to make the list.


Crime:  Get ready for it

Most crime rates in Vegas are much higher than the rest of the U.S., e.g.:

  1. Rape:  Twice as common
  2. Robbery:  56% higher
  3. Assault:  25% higher
  4. Burglary:  88% higher
  5. Theft:  9% higher
  6. Vehicle theft:  Twice as common (source)

Over a hundred visitors are murdered every year (2014 figures), including being shot and killed while being robbed in parking garages.  Don't expect casino security to protect you, their job is to protect the casino, not the customers.  When a man at Venetian threatened a customer with a gun, security staff did nothing; they didn't even call the police.  (The man shot the customer soon after.)  See my safety tips.


Kiosks with ads for prostitutes in Las VegasSex commodification: Get ready for it

It's everywhere in Vegas and you can't avoid it.  If this would bother you, know what to expect:  Trucks drive up and down the strip for no other purpose than to advertise strip clubs and call girls, with huge photo ads of scantily-clad women on both sides.  And of course there are billboards depicting the same.  Newspaper boxes offering free magazines of nothing but prostitute ads abound on the sidewalks, at toddler eye level.  Cosplay women wearing revealing clothing or almost nothing (e.g., a small strip of black tape over the nipples) pose for pictures with tourists for tips.  Provocatively-dressed prostitutes roam the strip and the casinos, and aren't shy about hitting up unaccompanied men.  Some casinos have a "bikini pit" where the female dealers wear skimpy swimwear.  Others have go-go dancers on top of the tables.


Marijuana is legal, but there's nowhere for visitors to smoke it

It's legal to possess up to 2.5 ounces of pot for those 21+, and there are 24/7 dispensaries (like Planet 13) but it's legal to smoke only in private residences.  That does not include hotel rooms, and there are no smoking lounges.  You can not smoke in hotels, casinos, public restrooms, restaurants, bars, stadiums, etc.  Your only option is if you're friendly with a local who invites you to his/her place. (source)  The Lexi hotel is cannabis friendly, but it still doesn't seem to be legal despite the hotel's policy.  Despite it being illegal to smoke in most places, people do anyway, and the stench in Vegas is now quite strong.


Vegetarian Food

As of 2021, veg*n food is finally readily available on the strip and downtown.  My vegetarian survival guide will make it a lot easier.


Getting around

Walking the strip is a viable option.  The whole strip is only four miles long and you could walk the entire thing in an hour and a half.  Cabs are expensive, and you often have to wait in a long line at the hotel to get one.  (They can't and won't stop on the street.)  Driving between casinos can be a chore since the Strip is often gridlocked, parking in the casino garage is often time-consuming, and then you've got to walk from the garage to the hotel/casino.  Save the car for visiting off-strip destinations like downtown.

The bus:  The double-decker "Deuce" runs up and down the Strip 24/7, every 15-20 minutes.  There's no such thing as a single-ride fare, you pay $6 for a two-hour pass, or $8 for a 24-hour pass, or $30 for a 3-day pass.  (Clock starts ticking from the time of purchase.)  See more about the buses on my Getting Around Vegas page.

Most hotels now have a staging area for Uber and Lyft.  I avoid them because of their long list of sleazy scandals, including getting the Texas legislature to overturn Austin's requirement that their drivers undergo fingerprinted background checks.

Up to four people can ride in a taxi for the price of one,  so if there are 3+ people in your party then a cab ride could be competitive with the bus.  I usually boycott taxis because so many of them drive so dangerously, because to them, time is money.  Taxis cost $3.30 to get in, $2.40 per mile, and a $1.80 surcharge for airport service.  See my taxis page for more.


Gambling

See my Gambling 101 article.


What is there to do?

See my massive list.


Bargain Corner

Discounted show tickets.  See how to get them.

Free things to do.  See the list.

Coupons. See my separate page on coupons.



Visitor Statistics

First-time:  20%  (repeat visitor 80%)

Nights stayed: 3.3 mean, 3.6 avg.

Adults in party: 2.4 avg.

Avg. nightly hotel cost: $109 (excluding comped rooms)

Stayed in comped room: 9%

Spent on shopping (83%) / shows (51%) / sightseeing (36%): $342 / $177 / $144
   (among visitors who spent in these areas)

Gambled:  76%

Gambling budget:  $500 median, $718 average

Hours/day gambled (among gamblers):  ≤2 median, 3 average

Average # of casinos:  Gambled: 3,  Visited: 6

Visited downtown: 53%

Some college or college graduate:  74%

Median household income:  $60-80k

From outside U.S.:  3%

From the Las Vegas Visitors Survey, 2021 (except I used 2019 figures for % who saw a show, because many shows were still closed in 2021 due to COVID.

Old Vegas is gone

If what you know of Vegas comes from TV/movies or visits long ago, that Vegas is gone.

  1. Single-deck blackjack.  There were over a hundred single-deck tables on the strip in 2011, down to only one in 2022.  And only three downtown casinos still have single-deck games.
  2. True 3:2 blackjack.  Until 2003, blackjack everywhere paid 3-to-2 on naturals (ten + ace).  That was replaced with 6:5 (worse for the player), which is now the dominant form.  The last 3:2 single-deck game on the Strip was at Riviera in 2011,(source) and then Riviera closed.  There are some multi-deck 3:2 games still on the strip in 2022, but table limits are higher, and sometimes only in the high-limit rooms, but some casinos don't offer 3:2 for any stakes.
  3. $5 tables.  The median minimum on the strip is $15.

Other stuff

Conventions. Here's a complete list of upcoming conventions.

West-side Hike & Bike Trails.  If you're staying on the west side of town (e.g., with a friend or in an Airbnb rental, or maybe you live here), then here's a nice map of exercise trails in west Las Vegas.



Other Vegas Guides

Here are other all-in-one guides cover all aspects of Vegas for visitors—gambling, dining, weddings, conventions, recreation, bookstores, you name it.


Fun stuff

News.  What's new and changing in Vegas.

Las Vegas on $19/day.  This isn't a how-to guide, it's an incredibly funny story of how two guys managed to spend less than $19 a day on their Vegas trip.  (The rest of their site has how-to tips for saving money.)  Note this is circa 2000, so lots in the story—like the prices—is rather dated, but still a blast to read.


Trivia

Most of the Las Vegas Strip technically isn't in the City of Las Vegas, it's in an unincorporated town called Paradise.  The postal addresses for the strip casinos use Las Vegas, though.


Practice gambling with play money

Before you throw down your hard-earned cash in a casino, PRACTICE FIRST!  Learn the games with play money where it doesn't cost you anything if you lose.  Seriously.

You can play Bovada's games (below) right away without registering for an account.  Most every other online casino makes you give up your email address just to play the fake-money games — ugh.  That's the main reason Bovada is the only online casino that gets advertising space on my site.  (When you see the registration box, you can cancel it and proceed to the game without registering.)

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