Taxis in Las Vegas
Sample fares, How to not get ripped off, how much to tip, and more
Last update: July 2020
Yes, taxis are still a thing
Uber and Lyft are still far away from killing off taxis. By the end of 2018, taxi ridership had decreased only 15%. So this page is still relevant—and most of the stuff below applies equally to Uber/Lyft. Personally, I avoid Uber/Lyft because of their long history of sleazy scandals, most notably lobbying the Texas legislature to overturn Austin's law requiring their drivers to undergo fingerprinted background checks.
Taxis from the airport
Flat fares from the airport started in Dec. 2019, after years of complaints of cabbies overcharging. Also, this makes them more competitive with Uber/Lyft, which always give the price up front. Below are the fares for each hotel, and here's the map from the NV Taxicab Authority. If your cabbie charges more than this, call the NVTA complaint line at 702-668-4005. You'll need the taxi number, taxi name, and name of the driver (which should be displayed in the taxi).
$19 for South Strip
Alexis Park • Delano • Desert Rose • Excalibur • Four Seasons • Howard Johnson • Luxor • Mandalay Bay • MGM Grand • Motel 6 Tropicana • OYO • Tropicana • Virgin
$23 for Mid-Strip
Aria • Bally's • Bellagio • Cosmopolitan • Elara • Grand Chateau • Jet Luxury • NY NY • Orleans • Paris • Park MGM • Planet Hollywood • Polo Towers • Signature • Travelodge • Vdara
$27 for North Strip
Artisan • Caesars Palace • Circus Circus • Convention Center • Courtyard • Embassy Suites Convention Ctr. • Encore • Flamingo • Gold Coast • Harrah's • Hilton Grand Vacations • Linq • Marriott • Mirage • Palace Station • Palazzo • Palms • Residence Inn • Resorts World • Rio • Sahara • SpringHill Suites • Strat • Treasure Island • Trump • Venetian • Westgate • Westin • Wynn
~$33 downtown, not flat
There's no flat-fee taxi pricing from the airport to downtown. The trip will cost around $33. The bus is much cheaper, but it takes an extra half hour. (About 20 minutes by taxi, 50 minutes by bus, including walking to/from the bus stop.)
Other taxi fares
Las Vegas taxi rates are the same for up to five people (though most taxis seat a maximum of four). So if you've got four people in your party, it will probably be cheaper than the bus or a shuttle.
- $3.50 to get in the cab
- $2.00 surcharge for airport dropoff or pickup
- $2.76 per mile (charged as $0.23 per 1/12th mile)
- $0.27 - waiting time fee, charged every 30 seconds when the cab
is moving less than 8-12mph ($32.40/hr)
- 3% tax
Going along the Strip, you'll pay about $10 to travel half the Strip, and $16 to go from one end to the other, or to go from mid-Strip to downtown. You'll pay more when there's lots of traffic because then you'll get hit with the waiting fee.
How much to tip
I suggest at least 15%, rounded up to the next dollar. Note that you're not tipping because of the great service you got, you tip because cabbies don't make squat otherwise. Now, if your cabbie ran red lights or was otherwise reckless, or if your cabbie long-hauled you or tried to steer you, feel free to not tip and tell the driver why you're not tipping. But as long as my driver wasn't dangerous and took a direct route, I always tip even if the service was nothing special.
In Vegas, all cabbies make a percentage of the meter (often ~40%) This differs from most other places where the driver effectively rents the cab from the cab company, and is in the red at the start of every shift. In Vegas there's no renting, the cabbies just get a cut of the meter. And that's it—they don't get any kind of hourly wage in addition. Cabbies also pay for some or all of the gas. So it's tough for them when it's slow and they manage only one trip every hour or two.
Incidentally, cabbies do pay taxes on their tips. In fact, the IRS assumes cabbies get a certain amount of tips, so cabbies pay taxes on those tips whether they actually receive them or not.
Taxis in general
I generally boycott the Vegas taxis because many (most?) drive so dangerously, running red lights, talking on cell phones, and speeding everywhere, not only putting their passengers at risk but killing pedestrians like this one. When buses and shuttles are an easy alternative I usually prefer not to subject myself to a cab. If I do take a taxi and my driver runs reds lights or drives recklessly in other ways, I don't tip and I tell him why. For those who want to take taxis in Vegas, here's what you need to know.
First, don't expect to pay by credit card. Some
accept cards, but some don't, because the Taxicab Authority won't
let them. Go figure. If you want to pay by card,
ask before getting in the cab whether that's okay.
Know that you can't hail taxis from the street! This isn't New York. That's why they're passing you by. Taxis aren't allowed to stop on the street and they don't want to risk the ticket for doing so. Besides, there's good reason for not stopping on the street -- there's no extra space on the sides of the Strip and stopping there would clog up traffic (and run the risk of the taxi getting rear-ended...possibly right when you're trying to get in it). To get a taxi on the Strip, go to the nearest hotel and get in the taxi waiting line. If there's a long line and a lot of traffic, walking or taking the bus could be faster. If you're not on the Strip, you can hail a taxi on the street as long as there's a parking lot or driveway they can turn into to pick you up.
Common problems are the cabbie "long-hauling you" (taking a
longer route in order to jack up the fare), or steering you to some
club you didn't want to go to, because the cabbie gets a kickback
from the club by taking you there. We'll cover these in more
detail later on.
If a cabbie is talking on a phone, I'll ask them to stop while they're responsible for my safety, and I recommend you do the same. Studies have shown that cellphone use is just as dangerous or worse as drunk driving -- even if they're headset phones.
You're required to wear a seatbelt in a Vegas taxi, though
in reality few do. You can't drink alcohol in the cab.
(You used to be able to, but the law changed.)
Always jot down the cab number & company name when you get
in. If you want to make a complaint to the company or
the taxicab authority, it's useless without a cab number.
Also, if you leave something in the cab (like your phone or camera),
having the cab # could help you get it back (though it's not
guaranteed -- your item might be stolen by a subsequent passenger or
even by a rogue cabbie).
All cabs are equipped with cameras by law, but the images are downloaded only in the case of crimes. Incidentally, I read one case where a cab company refused to let the customer see the video so they could find out who took the phone the customer accidentally left in a cab. (The company said it wasn't their problem.)
Avoid getting long-hauled
Vegas cabbies are notorious for taking you the long way to jack
up the fare. Of course they're required to take the
most direct route, but they'll use a couple of tricks to get you to
give them permission to take the longer way. The most common
is to ask you, "Do you want to take the fastest way?", because who
wouldn't want to get there faster? But the fastest route could
be more expensive because it's longer, and it might not even be
faster, anyway. Another trick is to ask you something like,
"Do you want to take the boulevard or Paradise Road?" Since a
tourist probably doesn't know the city well, they'll likely answer,
"Whatever you think is best." That gives the cabbie the right
to take you whatever route they want. And sometimes, cabbies
will take you the long way anyway without getting your permission.
But long-hauling isn't as terrible as it sounds. First, going the long way might actually get you to your destination faster, because the traffic on the Strip is often gridlocked. Second, the longer route could actually be cheaper, because when the Strip is gridlocked you would have been hit with waiting time charges. Finally, if you do get long-hauled, it's unlikely to cost you more than $5 extra. So don't obsess about long-hauling too much. There are worse things in life.
Before the economy tanked, it was easy to get mad at cabbies for
long-hauling, but these days it's not so simple. Some
cab companies actually pressure their drivers to scam their
passengers, or risk getting fired. In a city with 14%
unemployment, many otherwise honest folks are desperate to hold onto
their jobs and may cave to the pressure. Many cabbies are
honest people and are really stressed out that they have to choose
between cheating their customers and putting food on the
table. And even if the cabbies don't get heat from their
bosses, the temptation to cheat is still there, because these days
cabbies aren't making squat unless they do cheat. It's
easy for a cabbie to go an hour or two with only one fare. So
while I certainly don't condone long-hauling customers, it's not at
the top of my list of complaints, given the unique nature of the
economy. (Topping my list is driving dangerously.)
Because of the pressure to long-haul in a bad economy, I abandoned
my plan to take a bunch of trips from the airport, pretending to be
a first-time tourist, and seeing what companies long-hauled me the
most. Maybe I'll revisit that idea once the economy improves.
After years of complaints about long-hauling, the in Dec. 2019
the Nevada Taxicab Authority finally implemented flat zone pricing
from the airport to the strip. Prior to zone pricing,
if your cabbie took the tunnel to a south strip or mid-strip hotel,
you got long-hauled. The proper route from the airport to
south or mid-strip is Swenson or Paradise and then heading straight
west to your hotel. (See our maps.)
If you're going downtown, taking the tunnel will increase the fare
(because the route is longer), but because you're taking the highway
you'll get there a lot faster. Your call.
Once you're at your hotel and you want to go somewhere else,
avoiding longhauling is tricky. First, if there's tons
of traffic on the strip, remember that going the long way could
actually be cheaper because you probably won't get hit with waiting
time charges. And even if you don't save any money by going
the long way, you might save some time. The problem is that
the cabbie may ask you whether you want to take the "faster" way
every time, even when it's not faster. It's hard for you to
know whether the long way is really faster or not. But here's
a rule of thumb: If your trip is more than two miles long (see
our map) and it's between 5pm-11pm weekdays or 1pm-midnight on
the weekend, then the longer way is probably faster. If you're
having a hard time making up your mind, ask, "How much time will it
save and what will the total fare be?" You might not get the
most accurate answer, but it'll give you something to go on,
and if the price seems like a decent rate then you should be happy
with it even if it's a couple of bucks more than the direct
route. And of course, if the fare turns out to be higher than
the cabbie suggested, you can tip (less) accordingly.
By the way, without too much traffic, you'll pay about $10 to travel half the Strip, and $16 to go from one end to the other, or to go from mid-Strip to downtown.
Finally, don't let the cabbie know it's your first time in Vegas. Be suspicious if it's the first thing they ask you. If they do ask, lie. If you're riding in the front, and this wouldn't embarrass you, you can also make sure the cabbie sees you writing down the cab number. That helps keep rogue cabbies honest.
Getting sold like cattle
Cabbies get kickbacks from clubs and restaurants by taking you
there. So that's why your cabbie might be insistent that
he take you to a specific one. When I asked one cabbie to go
to a certain restaurant, he actually said, "Oh, that place isn't so
good. We'll go to this better restaurant I know
instead." He didn't give me a choice, he just told me he was
taking me there and started going that way. I had to insist on
my original destination, and at the end I didn't tip, and I let him
know why. When you ask to go to a certain place, be aware that
your cabbie might actually (falsely) tell you that it burned down or
that it went out of business. If that happens, then look at
the bright side: You'll still get to your destination (because
you'll insist that you go there anyway), and when you see that it's
still in business, you'll save money because you don't have to tip.
The problem of steering customers to certain places is much more
likely with topless bars, since those places can afford bigger
kickbacks than restaurants can—often around $100. In
fact, the strip clubs pay cabbies so much that sometimes cabbies
even bribe their passengers, by offering them a free cab
ride and a few bucks if they'll go to some certain strip club.
(Of course, if you want to go to a strip club and aren't
particular about which one you go to, you can milk this to your
advantage. More on this from the Las
Vegas Sun.) And because cabbies have more potential for
the $100 kickback with male passengers than female passengers,
cabbies often pass up women in favor of men, making it hard for
women to get a cab. An attorney did an experiment with hired
actors and confirmed the problem. (The link to the local news
story about it is now dead.)
Hotel doormen are in on this action, too. (These are the guys who provide the useless service of holding the door open for you as you get into the cab.) Before the taxi pulls up they'll ask where you're going, and if it's a place that offers kickbacks they might pull you out of the taxi line and put you in a free limo, with the limo driver giving a kickback to the doorman, and the limo driver getting a bigger kickback from the club.
Finally, taxi companies have been accused of not taking customers to the clubs which refused to pay the bribes. (Las Vegas Sun)
A-North Las Vegas (ANLV)
Here's the current list from the Nevada Taxicab Authority.
Nevada Taxicab Authority
This government agency sets rates and regulates the taxi industry. Here's their website. You can make complaints about cabbies there.
Note that your email address isn't safe with them. I used a unique address for the complaint I made to them (I didn't use that address for any other purpose), and after I sent my complaint about a reckless Vegas cabbie, the spam started coming in. It could have been a rogue employee selling addresses, but it also could be that their systems aren't secure and spammers just stole the address. For whatever reason, I'm glad I used a disposable address when I wrote to them—and you should too.
Many Vegas cabbies have websites or blogs. Here's a sample.
Chronicles. Andrew Funk's blog. Of interest is his
case about being convicted of picking up passengers on the street
(which isn't allowed in Vegas). He made a valiant and
eloquent attempt to show that he didn't violate the letter of the
law, but was ultimately unsuccessful. Hasn't been updated
since 2011, though.
- Taxi Cab Confessions. This blog is nearly illiterate but it's certainly the most entertaining, telling stories of prostitutes and celebrities and whatnot. Unfortunately it hasn't been updated since 2006.
- Las Vegas Sun article. A local paper gets a cabbie to share his interesting stories.