Visiting Las Vegas: Crash Course
Last update: November 2021
|Avg. High/Low Temps.
||57 / 37||14 / 3
||63 / 41||17 / 5
||69 / 47||21 / 8
||78 / 54||26 / 12
||88 / 63||31 / 17
||99 / 72||37 / 22
||104 / 78||40 / 26
||102 / 77||39 / 25
||94 / 69||34 / 21
||81 / 57||27 / 14
||66 / 44||19 / 7
||57 / 37||14 / 3
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.
- January after the first week
- July & August (when the heat is oppressive, but then there's the heat)
- The week before Thanksgiving
- December before Christmas
- Consumer Electronics Show (typically early January)
- Superbowl weekend (early February)
- March Madness (mid-March)
- Independence Day (July 4)
- Memorial Day Weekend (early Sept.)
- Halloween (Oct. 31)
- National Finals Rodeo (early Dec.)
- Christmas/New Year's
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 at right, 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 to/from Vegas myself. If you're flying anyway, then note that Skiplagged 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 McCarran Airport website to check flight times.
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 its 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.
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.
I found a list of pet-friendly hotels.
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.) Also, the car rental place isn't actually at the airport, you have to take a shuttle to/from the rental place.
WALK. I don't know you'd do this, but if you want to, it'll take 50 minutes without luggage according to Google Maps, from Terminal 1 to the closest strip hotels, the Tropicana or MGM Grand.
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.
Smoking: Get ready for it
Every single casino in Las Vegas (except Park MGM) allows smoking and they're all quite stinky. Most poker rooms are smoke-free. Sometimes some of the table games have no-smoking signs, but those are the exception and not the rule.
Crime: Get ready for it
Most crime rates in Vegas are much higher than the rest of the U.S., e.g.:
- Rape: Twice as common
- Robbery: 56% higher
- Assault: 25% higher
- Burglary: 88% higher
- Theft: 9% higher
- Vehicle theft: Twice as common (source)
- If you have lots of credit cards, don't take all of them. If your wallet gets stolen you don't want to have to cancel all your cards. Take at least two cards so in case one gets declined you have a backup. For that matter, before your trip, let your credit card companies know you're going to Vegas so they don't shut off your card for suspicious activity.
- Don't leave anything valuable in your car. Cars are easily and frequently broken into, even in the parking garages of the nicest casinos.
- Don't carry large amounts of cash. Plan to use credit cards for most purchases. For gambling, wire your money to the casino cage ahead of time (or if you're already in Vegas, deposit your cash at the cage). If you have a safe in your room, leave half of any money you didn't deposit at the cage. (Hotel safes get robbed sometimes, so half in the safe and half on your person means you don't have all your eggs in one basket.)
- Put your wallet in your front pocket.
- Carry a decoy wallet with $100 and an unimportant credit card. If you get mugged, hand that one over.
- Bring a second cell phone and SIM card, and leave it in your room (in the safe, if there is one). If your phone gets stolen, you'll have a backup handy. Make sure your phone is backed up to the cloud so you you can easy load your data onto your backup phone.
- Don't walk the strip alone at night, or go to a parking garage alone.
- Don't leave the strip or the lively casino area of downtown. It starts getting really sketchy just a block or two from the strip.
- Don't accept a drink from anyone, especially at a club. It could be spiked.
Sex commodification: Get ready for it
It's everywhere in Vegas and you can't avoid it. 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.
If you're a vegetarian or vegan you're gonna be shocked at how little is available for you on the Strip. My vegetarian survival guide will make it a lot easier.
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.
See my Gambling 101 article.
What is there to do?
See my massive list.
Discounted show tickets. The "Tix 4 Tonight" counters all over town sell deeply-discounted tickets to most shows. The catch is that sometimes they offer discounts on only the pricier seats, and it can actually be cheaper to pay full price for a cheaper seat at the box office or online. (more...)
Free things to do. See the list.
Coupons. See my separate page on coupons.
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 there), 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.
- Las Vegas Advisor
- Las Vegas Online
- Official City of Las Vegas website
- Historical pictures of downtown & the strip
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.
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.