Getting around Las Vegas
Last update: November 2021
You don't need to rent a car
Most visitors don't need to rent a car. In fact, a car might just slow you down. Between gridlocked traffic and distant parking (you can't park directly on the strip—you have to go to a parking garage and then walk), taking the bus or just walking is often competitive on time, and a lot less stressful. Not to mention cheaper, even before we consider that casinos now tend to charge for parking, even for hotel guests.
Even if you're going to Hoover Dam, a tour bus is often a better option. It's cheaper, safer, less polluting, more relaxing (you can sleep on the bus), and your driver will point out interesting things about the places you pass, which you wouldn't know about if you were driving yourself. There are places along the strip and downtown that sell the cheap Hoover Dam bus tours. A friend and I took one of them and it was definitely more fun going with a group.
Also, you can't even rent a car right at the airport any more. The car rental place is now three miles from the airport.
A rental car is a good idea only if you plan to venture far from your hotel frequently. Other than that, I'd skip the car rental.
Walking the strip is a viable option. Cabs / Uber / Lyft 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.) The bus is cheaper but it's often not much faster than walking. Renting a car is often a big waste—traffic on the Strip is often gridlocked and you have to park so far away that you'll wind up walking anyway. Finally, you'll discover lots of interesting stuff when you walk that you'd miss in a taxi. Walking is my preferred way of getting around the strip. The whole thing is only four miles long and you could walk the entire strip in an hour and a half.
But walking isn't a perfect option. First of all, the Aria/Cosmo/City Center monstrosity is absolutely hostile to pedestrians. In that area you can't cross at street level, and the detours to the walkways are lengthy and laborious. You could walk on the other side of the street, but that area of the south strip is packed with people so walking is slow-going. Another annoyance are the guys who constantly thrust ads in your face for call girls. Finally, walking is the summer often means braving 100°F+ heat. Still, I walk if I'm going only a mile or two. For longer distances, I take the bus.
By the way, please wait for the green light when crossing! Tourists seem to have no regard for the traffic signals, and many of them pay the ultimate price for that lack of judgement. Vegas is twice as dangerous as the national average for pedestrians. It's the 6th-most dangerous city for walkers in the U.S. A ped gets killed here about every four days. Pay attention and obey the signals!
Bus: The Deuce
The double-decker "Deuce" bus runs up and down the Strip, 24/7, every 15-20 minutes. It's great for short distances or if you're not in a hurry, because going the whole distance (Mandalay Bay to downtown) could take nearly 1:23 hours because of traffic and all the stops. On a good day it'll take only 40 minutes. (There used to be an awesome express bus ("SDX"), but it was discontinued in Oct. 2020 due to a drop in funding.) The normal and (reduced) fares are:
- $6 ($3) for a 2-hour pass (no, you can't buy a single trip for less)
- $8 ($4) for a 24-hour pass
- $20 ($10) for a 3-day pass
Reduced fares are for veterans, young 'uns (6-17, or K-12), and seniors (60+).
Nice things about the bus:
- Passes are good on every bus in the city. You can buy your pass on any bus in the city.
- If you can snag the front seats on the 2nd level, it's a great, cheap way to see the strip.
- You can buy tickets on the bus, or at the kiosk at the bus stop, or with the app.
- The air conditioning is good and it gets you out of the heat.
Times for Mandalay Bay to Downtown, 5.7 miles:
- 40 minutes: Deuce bus on a good day
- 51 minutes: How fast it took me when I ran the Las Vegas Marathon.
- 1:23: Deuce bus on a bad day
- 1:44: Estimated time I could walk it. (Walking fast, and respecting the traffic signals.)
Express bus trivia. Before RTC eliminated the express bus in Oct. 2020, for years they constantly tinkered with the name. First it was the #302 route. Then it was the Ace. Then it was the Gold Line. Finally it was the "Strip & Downtown Express" (SDX). Now it's extinct.
Free Strip/Downtown Bus
The "Free Downtown Loop" bus runs between the Strat (north Strip) and Circa (the downtown casino area), stopping at the Pawn Stars pawn shop along the way (as well as some other places). It runs 11-6pm Sun-Thu, and 3-10pm Fri/Sat.
Some casinos run their own private trams between their properties. These trams are fast, free, and run from 9:00am to 10:30pm, every 8 minutes. The only downside is they don't take you very far. Trams run between:
- Treasure Island <> Mirage
- Park MGM <> Aria <> Bellagio
- Mandalay Bay <> Luxor <> Excalibur
Las Vegas Monorail
The monorail is a joke, and fairly useless for traveling the Strip. It runs behind the strip hotels, and it's a fair hike to get to and from it. It's also too expensive, has too few stops, doesn't run late, and doesn't go the whole length of the strip. It's often much faster (and cheaper) to take the bus or walk.
Now, if you're going to or from the Convention Center or Westgate it's great. Otherwise, you probably won't find it very convenient.
Tickets are $5 for a one-way ride or $13 for a day pass (vs. $8 for a day pass on the bus). You can see the stops on my Strip map.
There are some hotel
shuttles that go from casino to casino. The most popular
is probably the one that goes between Bally's and Rio,
which leaves Bally's every 30 minutes between 10am to 1am.
Convention Center Loop (Elon Musk's tunnel)
Attendees at the Las Vegas Convention Center can ride the LVCC Loop (in Tesla electric cars) from one side of the convention center to the other, for free. That turns a 25-minute walk into a 2-minute trip. If you're not attending a convention and want to just check it out, it's supposed to be available only to convention-goers, but I don't think they card.
Uber / Lyft
Most hotels have staging areas for Uber/Lyft, but there aren't as many staging areas for them as it does for traditional taxis. They can't stop on the Strip itself, because there's nowhere to stop.
I boycott both because of Uber is an incredibly ethically-challenged company, and because in my hometown of Austin, Uber & Lyft refused to comply with local regulations, then paid for a "grassroots" election to try to override local laws, and when voters defeated their measure, the companies then lobbied the Texas state government to cancel Austin's law, which it did. None of us should want a world in which corporations bully and bribe the government in order to get favorable treatment.
I generally boycott the taxis because most drive so dangerously, threatening pedestrians and bicyclists, and because buses and shuttles work fine. Taxis also aren't as convenient as you might expect, because they can't and won't stop on the street; you have to wait in the line at the hotel, and sometimes those lines are long. Here's more on taxis in Vegas.
The trolley is a bus which looks like an old streetcar. It's only $2, but it's super, incredibly slow. That's because it stops at every casino on the Strip, and not on the street, either, but rather it pulls in to the casino's loading/unloading area. I took this thing once. Never again.