Las Vegas Tips
Sections on this page:
You have several options for getting from the airport to your hotel. Shuttle buses cost $5 to Strip hotels and $7 to downtown hotels per person (but it can take over an hour to get to your hotel). Taking a taxi will cost you about $15 to Strip hotels and over $20 to downtown hotels (but you will get to your hotel much sooner). Limousines cost $55 to $65. If you are in a group of six people (or you can get a group of six together from your flight while waiting at the baggage carousel), splitting this fee six ways comes out to about $10 a person. Note that all six people will have to be going to hotels in the same general area.
The ground transportation diagram on the Diagrams page will show you where the shuttle bus and limos are located at both airport terminals.
If you decide to take a cab to your Strip hotel, be sure to tell the driver "don't take the freeway." Some less-than-honest cab drivers will take a round-about freeway route which will raise your fare from less than $15 to over $20.
Top of page
If you're staying at Ballys, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, the Hilton, MGM Grand, New York New York, or Paris you can check into your hotel at the airport while you are waiting for your bags in the baggage claim area of Terminal 1.
There are two offices with registration desks just off the "Carousels 1-8" area. One handles check-ins for MGM Grand and New York New York (9 am to 11 pm), while the other handles check-ins for the Park Place properties (all the others mentioned above - 9 am to 1 am). You register and get your room key there and when you arrive at your hotel you can go straight to your room.
The location of these remote hotel registration desks are shown on the ground transportation diagram on the Diagrams page.
Top of page
Check-out time at most hotels is noon. However, most offer a "late check-out" option for a price. If your flight doesn't leave until the evening, using this late check-out option can give you another all-nighter at the tables or another day of sunning out by the pool. Simply ask a front desk clerk for check-out times and costs.
If you have a players card for the hotel because you were getting your play rated, ask about getting this late check-out as a comp.
Top of page
GOOD HOTELS FOR....
Vegas hotel room prices can fluctuate wildly. Prices depend on how many conventions are in town and how big they are. The big computer convention, Comdex, hits town close to Thanksgiving and it's almost impossible to get a room while it's there. Weekends with big sporting events like the Superbowl (January) and college basketball's "Final 4" (March) will also see a shortage of rooms. If you check room prices and they're high, check the prices for the following week or weekend. They very well could be lower. Rooms are also always higher on Friday and Saturday nights. Monday through Wednesday nights are typically the lowest (again, providing there's not a big convention in town). However, most limited engagement performers only have shows on Friday and Saturday night.
In addition to the normal "rack rate", most places also have a reduced "casino rate" for those who patronize their slot machines and tables. You may even be able to get your room for free. See the Getting "Rated" section on the Gaming page for information on how to take advantage of that.
- If you want to splurge on this trip and pamper yourself, get a room in the Palace Tower at Caesars Palace. Most of these rooms have two bathrooms, each having both jacuzzi tubs and showers. If the Palace Tower rooms at Caesars are all booked, try the all suites Venetian with their sunken living room areas.
- If you're on a budget, the Imperial Palace is your best bet. It's not the fanciest place in town but its' mid-Strip location, reasonable room rates, and low table minimums make it a great value. I really like the fact that they have walk-out balconies. Nothing like sliding open that balcony door and enjoying your morning coffee with a warm desert breeze blowing in. (The dinner buffets aren't all that great but the dealers are very friendly and helpful.)
Be careful what you ask for. It's temping to ask for a room with a view of the Strip. However, at the Imperial Palace, the rooms with a view of the Strip are right above Harrah's outdoor carousel stage. This stage has music from noon until 2 a.m. and closing the balcony door doesn't help. If you plan on trying to sleep in your room during these times you'll want to tell them you don't want a Strip-view room at check-in. However, if you don't mind the music, the Strip-view rooms on the upper floors will give you a view of both the Mirage volcano fountain and Bellagio fountain show from your balcony.
- If you don't want to splurge but you're not on a budget either, there are numerous options available to you. Bally's, Mirage, Monte Carlo, and Paris, are just a few. Your choice could depend on price, location, or amenities. If you're trying to decide on one of several candidates, you may want to check out the comments from past visitors on the Las Vegas On-Line Website (www.lvol.com).
- If you're taking kids along, check out Circus Circus, Excalibur, and Treasure Island. If you're taking kids along and you're on a budget, Circus Circus usually has the lowest rates of the three.
Top of page
Customer service positions are historically low-paying jobs and Las Vegas is no exception. The people you interact with count on tips for a decent living so don't forget them while you're on your trip. They often get stiffed or are treated rudely when people take their lousy luck out on them. I generally tip as follows:
Top of page
- At the Craps table: When the shooter's point is a six or eight I'll occasionally throw a dollar chip down on the layout and say "Hard six for the boys" or "Hard eight for the boys". It's a dollar bet that pays $10 if the next six or eight is thrown "the hard ways" (as doubles) and it's a way to not only tip the dealers but get them into the action. (Note that if the number your hard bet is on is shot easy, i.e. not as doubles, the dealers don't get the dollar, the house does, but the dealers still appreciate your getting them in the action.) Another way to get the dealers in on the action is to place a chip next to your chip(s) on the Pass Line. This is a Pass Line bet for the dealers. When you do this, the stickman will often say "Dealers on the line". (I usually do this when it's my turn to shoot the dice.) Another alternative is to simply throw about 5% to 10% of any winnings down on the layout "for the boys" as an out-right tip when you're ending your session.
- At the Blackjack table: I tip the dealer a buck or two out-right (when playing $5 or $10 hands) if they deal me a "natural" (ace and a ten-value card). If the dealer has been dealing me a good percentage of winning hands I'll occasionally place a $5 chip on the layout between my bet and the dealer. This is a bet for the dealer getting them into the action. You can also do the "end of session" 5% to 10% thing mentioned above.
- If you like playing the slots, ask the slot attendants (located in the center of a large carousel of machines) or roving change attendants which machines are "loose". They're around those machines all day and have no problem helping you get some of the boss' money. But be sure to tip them if you walk away a winner.
- Cocktail Waitresses: Drinks are free while you're gambling. I usually give the cocktail waitress a $1 chip or $1 slot coin each time she brings me a drink.
- Shuttle bus drivers: The standard for airport shuttle bus drivers is $1 or $2 a bag.
Tipping drivers of the free shuttles which run between hotels is at your discretion. They often have a cup near the front of the bus for the tips but I usually hand $1 to them directly.
The shuttle bus drivers for the various off-Strip activities will often return you directly to your hotel rather than to the central pick-up point so tipping them for this time-saving service would be appropriate also.
- Bellman: $1 to $2 a bag is the norm.
- Maid: I leave a $5 tip each day, mainly because I shower each day and that involves extra effort on the maid's part. Some guides say to leave one large tip at the end of your stay but I feel this is unfair. You may have several different maids during your stay due to their work schedules and assignments, and your tip could go to someone who didn't touch your room while you were there. Plus doesn't it make more sense to reap any benefits of your generosity (such as extra towels, etc.) while you're still there ?
- Room Service: $3 to $5 depending on how fast I get my order. Either write "Tip=$5." on the room check or they'll gladly take a chip from the hotel's casino.
- Buffet waiters/waitresses: The buffets usually have waiters or waitresses bring you your drinks, and refills are no problem. I tip $2 to $5 depending on how attentive they are.
- Don't try and hail a cab in front of a hotel/casino. The cabbies will only respond to doormen. Get your cab through them and tip them a buck or two (more for more people).
- Cabbies: 15% is the normal rate but you may want to add a couple bucks if you ask for advice on a good place to play or eat.
- If you're driving, valet parking attendants usually get $1 to $3 depending on how fast they are.
- If you're taking a commercial (non-charter) flight and things are so busy at the ticket counter that a sky-cap takes care of checking your bags at the curb, tip them a couple bucks per bag for speeding you to your gate.
What's On is a free magazine that lists (in most cases including times and cost) all of the shows, buffets, restaurants, shopping malls, recreation areas, etc. as well as contains plenty of ads for all of the helicopter and ground tours, sky-diving, glider rides, and oodles of other activities available in and around Las Vegas. Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and Death Valley are popular tours as well as local tours. It also contains numerous coupons for shows, restaurants, and other activities that can add up to quite a savings.
Hoover Dam Tour
If you are planning on visiting Hoover Dam, do not take a car. Take one of the tour buses as efforts are made to get them in and out faster and traffic near the dam tends to be very heavy. Early morning is the best time to go to try and beat some of the rush. Also, for security reasons no purses, camera bags, pouches, backpacks, or any other bags are allowed on the tour so leave those in your hotel room.
Copies of What's On are sometimes hard to find. Ask your hotel's concierge or front desk for a copy. There are racks with copies in different areas. On my last trip, racks were located in the Excalibur tram station and in the Desert Passage inside the Aladdin.
Top of page
SHOES & WATER
By far, the single best piece of advice I can give you about visiting Las Vegas is this:
Bring along soft, comfortable shoes!
You'll be glad you did. The resorts are huge and there is so much to see and do. Even with all of the trams, shuttle buses, limos, and taxis, you will do a lot of walking and nothing will dampen a good time faster than sore, blistered feet. Plan ahead. If you don't have a decent pair of soft, comfortable shoes and you need to buy a pair, do so several weeks before your trip and wear them frequently so they get "broken in". If you're not used to doing a lot of walking, you may also want to bring along some foot powder to help keep your feet dry and reduce chafing. (Information on free trams, shuttles, and buses is given on the Shuttles page.)
With even moderate walking you lose more fluid than you think due to the dry air (which makes your perspiration evaporate fast). Your next best friend to soft, comfortable shoes is water. Drink plenty of it. If you start to feel "not quite right" after a couple days you could be getting dehydrated. If so, buy a couple bottles of water (not juice or soda), drink them both down, and then lay down for an hour or two to let your body re-hydrate.
Top of page
HOW TO BE SAFE
The Las Vegas Strip is one of the safest places in the country. I have routinely walked the Strip at 3 or 4 in the morning without so much as a panhandler approaching me. However, every city has it's criminal element and you should take steps to protect yourself from it. In addition, due to attraction of the large volume of tourists, the thieves can just as easily have come in from out of town on a "business trip", staying at a hotel, as local residents. This doesn't mean you should be afraid or limit your activities. Just follow the same simple common-sense steps you'd use when visiting any large city.
Top of page
- A large crowd of tourists, money in their pockets, jammed together focused on the Bellagio Fountain Show or one of the other attractions, is enough to make a pick-pocket drool. ALWAYS be mindful of your purse or wallet. Keep your valuables well covered and don't drop your guard while checking out the attractions, gambling, shopping, at a buffet, at the pool, or even walking down the sidewalk. Shopping bags are nice but they're usually wide open at the top. You're better off with bags that you can fold the top over.
- Always use the additional dead-bolt lock when you're in your room. As fast as new key-cards and electronic locks are developed the thieves find a way to thwart them. Don't leave large amounts of cash or valuables in your room. The hotels will keep them in their safe as a free service. Moderate amounts of cash should be locked in your suitcase. The vast majority of maids and maintenance workers are honest, hard-working people trying to make a living. However, the only way the occasional "bad apple" can come to the hotel's attention is after guests have been victimized.
- When in a hotel/casino lobby or at the airport, always keep a hand on your luggage or set it in front of you. It only takes a second for a suitcase or bag to disappear. Thieves like busy places where people are rushing around. Hotel lobbies, casinos, and especially McCarran Airport, all fit this profile.
- Whatever you do, don't try to walk from the Strip to Fremont Street (or visa-versa). I can tell you from personal experience that it's no "leisurely stroll", and you pass through areas where there are not a lot of people, even during daylight hours.
- When you are walking, use the crosswalks. Jay-walking in Vegas carries a $95 fine. And when you're at the crosswalks, wait for the "Walk" light and don't step too far off the curb while you wait. The locals really fly down Sands, Flamingo, and the other streets that cross the Strip and the traffic lanes are close to the curbs. (The pedestrian bridges at Flamingo and Tropicana are helpful in this respect.) I've seen numerous posts in Las Vegas newsgroups which said that car/pedestrian accidents around the Strip happen a lot more often than the Convention and Visitors Bureau would like to admit. And often the people driving the car are themselves visitors with a rental who are sight-seeing while driving. Whether walking or driving, be extra careful around the Strip.
- You should always bring along a photo ID with your current address and something with your name and social security number on it. The IRS requires the casinos to get this information if you hit a jackpot at a machine or do extremely well at the tables. However, don't carry the document bearing your social security number around with you. If your name, address, and SSN fall into the wrong hands you could become the victim of "credit identity theft". (You shouldn't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse at all anymore because this applies everywhere, not just Las Vegas.) Leave your SSN document in your room, locked in your suitcase. If you do hit it big, the casino will be glad to hold onto your winnings while you go back to your room to get the document.
PACK & SHIP
With all of the stores and souvenir shops it's easy to end up with more items that can fit in your suitcase. Or you may see a larger item that you'd like to buy but don't want to have to lug it back on the airplane with you.
Luckily there's a UPS Store in the back of the Flamingo right next to the escalators going to the monorail station. They can box up and ship just about anything.
They're open until 7 pm weekdays and 5 pm weekends but if you want your package to go out the same day be sure to get there before 5:00. They also offer fax and copy services.
A tracking number for your shipment will be printed on your receipt. However, in order to use this tracking number to check the status and location of your package you have to go mbe.com (due to their Mail Boxes Etc. lineage), not the UPS Website.
Top of page
Vacation charter packages (air+hotel) are typically your best bet for your best price for a Vegas vacation. Whether going with a charter package or booking a flight on a commercial airline, keep in mind that much of the cost depends on your point of origin, and driving to a larger airport an hour or two away could save you a lot on the price of a package or airline ticket.
If your looking for a package for a "long weekend", choosing a package with a Saturday departure and Monday return will often be cheaper (sometimes significantly cheaper) than a package with the more traditional Friday departure and Sunday return. For longer stays, choosing packages that don't include the higher-priced Friday and Saturday night hotel stays may also lower your package cost.
The Mark Travel Corporation operates vacation charters under a lot of different names all over the country. Visit their Web site at www.marktravel.com and click on the "Vacation Brands" button to see if one of their units rings a bell. They typically put ads in the Travel section of your Sunday paper. Most of these units have their own Web site as well.
My area is served by the "Funjet Vacations" unit and Funjet's Web site has a "Hot Deals" page with some really great travel bargains that gets updated every Friday morning. Check for a Web site for the unit operating in your area and see if they have page similar to Funjet's Hot Deals page. You can see if Funjet also serves your area by going to their Hot Deals page and clicking on the "Select Your Origin" drop-down list on the right side of the page to see if a city near you is listed.
Top of page
At various places on the sidewalks along the Strip you will encounter people working for an advertising service trying to hand you brochures and cards which advertise escort services, "massage" parlors, and other sexually-oriented services. The owners of these adverstising services have defeated every legal attempt by the city of Las Vegas to stop or restrict the handing out of this material arguing that it is conducted on city-owned (public) sidewalks.
Simply IGNORE the people handing out brochures and cards. Don't take anything from them and especially don't talk to them to voice your opinion of their activity. The advertising service owners hire the cheapest labor they can find to hand these things out which, in many cases, means the people trying to hand you these things don't speak English.
The rules of business dictate that if enough people ignore the advertising it no longer becomes cost-effective and it will go away on its' own.
Top of page
"Casino" MOVIE TRIVIA
OK, so this may not be of any real value to you on your trip, but I thought it was an interesting piece of Vegas trivia. If you saw the Robert DeNiro movie Casino, you may be interested in knowing that the Tangiers hotel/casino in the movie is actually based on the Stardust (but interior casino shots were filmed at the Riviera). The Ace Rothstein character played by DeNiro is actually Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal who has a Website on sports betting at www.frankrosenthal.com. The bombing of his car actually happened in the parking lot of what is now Tony Roma's restaurant on Sahara (but was filmed near Main Street Station downtown). The character played by Joe Pesci, who was killed along with his brother outside of town, was actually Tony "The Ant" Spillotro. Mr. Rosenthal and Mr. Spillotro were often represented in court by defense attorney Oscar Goodman, who is now the mayor of Las Vegas.
Top of page