Frommer's EasyGuide to Las Vegas 2017 (Easy Guides) (2016)

10

PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO LAS VEGAS

Whether you are visiting Las Vegas for the first time or the 50th, planning a trip here can be an overwhelming experience—as overwhelming as the city itself. With more than 150,000 hotel rooms, nearly as many slot machines, thousands of restaurants, and dozens of shows and attractions, there are seemingly endless ways to lose or waste your money. This chapter is designed to help you navigate the practical details of designing a Vegas experience that is tailored to your needs, from getting to and around the city to advice on the best times to visit and more.

Lots of people, both from the U.S. and abroad, believe that Las Vegas is the way it is portrayed in movies and television. For the most part, it isn’t. Well, okay, you are more likely to run into a random showgirl or Elvis impersonator here than you are in say, Wichita, but they aren’t in the background of every photo opportunity. International visitors, especially, should pay close attention to the material that follows in order to prepare for the most common non-showgirl issues you may encounter in Las Vegas or on your way here.

GETTING THERE

By Plane

Las Vegas is served by McCarran International Airport, 5757 Wayne Newton Blvd. (www.mccarran.com; Black-Phone_bphone 702/261-5211, TDD 702/261-3111), just a few minutes’ drive from the southern end of the Strip, where the bulk of casinos and hotels are concentrated. The airport is known by the code LAS.

Most major domestic and many international airlines fly into Las Vegas, and the city acts as a major routing point for low-cost Southwest Airlines.

The airport has two terminals. Terminal 1 serves mostly domestic carriers with four sets of gates. A and B gates are accessible to the main ticketing area and baggage claim by (very long) hallways, while most of the C and all of the D gates are reached by tram. The ultramodern Terminal 3 primarily services international and some domestic carriers like United with its 14 gates.

In case you’re wondering what happened to Terminal 2, it closed when Terminal 3 opened. Why they didn’t re-number things is a mystery.

Each terminal has its own baggage-claim facility and services such as dining, shopping, and traveler assistance, along with ground transportation areas for taxis, buses, and shuttles to the rental-car facility.

And yes, all of the terminals and baggage claims have slot machines just in case you want to lose a few bucks while you’re waiting for your luggage.

By Car

The main highway connecting Las Vegas with the rest of the country is I-15; it links Montana, Idaho, and Utah with Southern California. The drive from Los Angeles is quite popular and can get very crowded on weekends as revelers make their way to and from Las Vegas.

From the east, take I-70 or I-80 west to Kingman, Arizona, and then U.S. 93 north to Downtown Las Vegas (Fremont St.). From the south, take I-10 west to Phoenix, and then U.S. 93 north to Las Vegas. From San Francisco, take I-80 east to Reno, and then U.S. 95 south to Las Vegas.

Vegas is 286 miles from Phoenix, 759 miles from Denver, 421 miles from Salt Lake City, 269 miles from Los Angeles, and 586 miles from San Francisco.

International visitors should note that insurance and taxes are almost never included in quoted rental-car rates in the U.S. Be sure to ask your rental agency about these. They can add a significant cost to your car rental.

For information on car rentals and gasoline (petrol) in Las Vegas, see “Getting Around: By Car,” below.

By Bus

Bus travel is often the most economical form of public transit for short hops between U.S. cities, but it’s certainly not an option for everyone. Though getting to Vegas this way is cheaper, especially if you book in advance, it’s also time consuming (a 1-hr. flight from L.A. becomes a 5- to 8-hr. trek by bus) and usually not as comfortable. So you need to figure out how much time and comfort mean to you. Greyhound (www.greyhound.com; Black-Phone_bphone 800/231-2222 in the U.S.; Black-Phone_bphone 001/214/849-8100 outside the U.S. without toll-free access) is the sole nationwide bus line.

The main Greyhound terminal in Las Vegas is located Downtown next to the Plaza hotel, 200 S. Main St. (Black-Phone_bphone 702/383-9792), and is open 24 hours. Although the neighborhood around it has improved dramatically, it is still a busy bus station and so normal safety precautions should be taken in and around it.

Megabus (Black-Phone_bphone 877/462-6342; www.megabus.com) operates coaches from Los Angeles to the Regional Transportation Commission’s South Strip Transfer Terminal at 6675 Gillespie St. near McCarran International Airport. From there you can easily transfer (hence the name) to many of the city’s bus routes, including those that travel to the Strip (see “Getting Around: By Bus,” below).

By Train

Amtrak (Black-Phone_bphone 800/872-7245; www.amtrak.com) does not currently offer direct rail service, although plans have been in the works for years to restore the rails between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. We’ve been hearing these reports for so long now, they just make us roll our eyes.

In the meantime, you can take the train to Los Angeles or Barstow, and Amtrak will get you to Las Vegas by bus, which takes 5 to 6 hours depending on traffic.

GETTING AROUND

It isn’t too hard to navigate your way around Vegas. But do remember: Thanks to huge hotel acreage, often very slow traffic, and lots and lots of people—like you—trying to explore, getting around takes a lot longer than you might think. Heck, it can take 15 to 20 minutes to get from your room to another part of your hotel! Always allow for plenty of time to get from point A to point B.

Getting into Town from the Airport

Getting to your hotel from the airport is a cinch. You can grab one of the roughly nine gajillion cabs that are lined up waiting for you (see “By Taxi,” p. 264), summon your favorite ride share service such as Lyft or Uber (designated pick up areas are in the parking garages of each terminal), or you can grab a shuttle bus. Bell Transportation (www.bell-trans.com; Black-Phone_bphone 800/274-7433 or 702/739-7990) runs 20-passenger minibuses daily (3:30am–1am) between the airport and all major Las Vegas hotels and motels. The cost is $7 per person each way to hotels on the Strip or around the Convention Center, and $8.50 to Downtown and other off-Strip properties (north of Sahara Ave. and west of I-15). Several other companies run similar ventures—just look for the signs for the shuttle bus queues, located just outside of the baggage-claim area. Buses from the airport leave every few minutes. When you want to check out of your hotel and head back to the airport, call at least 2 hours in advance to be safe (though often you can just flag down one of the buses outside any major hotel).

Even less expensive are Citizens Area Transit (CAT) buses (www.rtcsnv.com/transit; Black-Phone_bphone 702/228-7433). The no. 109 bus goes from the airport to the South Strip Transfer Terminal at Gilespie St. and Sunset Rd., where you can transfer to the Strip and Downtown Express (SDX) or Deuce line that runs along the Strip into Downtown. Alternately, the no. 108 bus departs from the airport and takes you Downtown. The fares for buses on Strip routes are $6 for adults for 2 hours or $8 for 24 hours. Other routes are $2 for a single ride. Note: You might have a long walk from the bus stop to the hotel entrance, even if the bus stop is right in front of your hotel. Shuttles and taxis are able to get right up to the entrance, so choose one of those if you’re lugging lots of baggage.

If you have a large group with you, you might also try one of the limos that wait curbside at the airport and charge $45 to $65 for a trip to the Strip. The price may go up with additional passengers, so ask about the fee very carefully. The aforementioned Bell Transportation is one reputable company that operates limousines in addition to their fleet of shuttle buses (call in advance).

By Car

If you plan to confine yourself to one part of the Strip (or one cruise down to it) or to Downtown, your feet will suffice. Otherwise, we highly recommend that visitors rent a car. The Strip is too spread out for walking (and Las Vegas is often too hot or too cold to make strolls pleasant); Downtown is too far away for a cheap cab ride, and public transportation is often ineffective in getting you where you want to go. Plus, return visits call for exploration in more remote parts of the city, and a car brings freedom, especially if you want to do any side trips at your own pace.

You should note that places with addresses some 60 blocks east or west of the Strip are actually less than a 10-minute drive—provided there is no traffic.

Having advocated renting a car, we should warn you that traffic is pretty terrible, especially on and around the busy tourist areas. A general rule of thumb is to avoid driving on the Strip whenever you can and give yourself plenty of extra time during rush hour to get where you want to go (see p. 265 for some helpful tips on how to get around the worst of the traffic).

When it comes to parking, it used to be that Las Vegas was where you could park on the most expensive real estate in the country for free. And that’s still true—depending on where you want to park. In June 2016, MGM Resorts properties (Mandalay Bay, Delano, Luxor, Excalibur, MGM Grand, Aria, New York–New York, Bellagio, Vdara, The Mirage, and Monte Carlo) instituted parking fees for both valet and self-parking. You’ll get 1 hour free at all of the above. For Circus-Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, and Monte Carlo, self parking is $5 to $8 (except for Circus-Circus, which remains free) and valet is $8 to $13. At Aria/Vdara, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay/Delano, MGM Grand, The Mirage, and New York–New York, self-parking is $7 to $10 and valet is $13 to $18. During events at T-Mobile Arena, all that might go out the window, with possible surge pricing going into effect as well as refusal of entry, even if you’re trying to park at your home hotel. Your best bet to avoid a parking headache is to leave your car where it is.

Parking at the rest of the Strip properties, for now, remain free. When it comes to valet, for mere $2 to $5 tip, you can park right at the door, though the valet usually fills up on busy nights and is restricted at some hotels to elite players’ club members. In those cases, you can use the gigantic self-parking lots that all hotels have. Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons are the exceptions to this rule, as both only offer valet parking at $30 and $22, respectively.

If you’re visiting from abroad note that insurance and taxes are almost never included in quoted rental-car rates in the U.S. Be sure to ask your rental agency about these. They can add a significant cost to your car rental.

At press time, in Nevada, the cost of gasoline (also known as gas, but never petrol) is around $2.88 per gallon and tends to vary unpredictably. Taxes are already included in the printed price. One U.S. gallon equals 3.8 liters or .85 imperial gallons. Fill-up locations are known as gas or service stations. Las Vegas prices typically fall near the nationwide average. You can also check www.vegasgasprices.com for recent costs.

RENTING A CAR

All of the major car rental companies have outlets in Las Vegas, as do E-Z Rent-A-Car (www.e-zrentacar.com) and Payless (www.paylesscarrental.com).

Rental policies vary from company to company, but generally speaking you must be at least 25 years of age with a major credit or debit card to rent a vehicle in Las Vegas. Some companies will rent to those between 21 and 24, but will usually charge extra ($20–$30 per day) and will require proof of insurance and a major credit card; also, they may restrict the type of vehicle you are allowed to rent (forget those zippy convertibles).

All of the major car rental companies are located at a consolidated facility at 7135 Gilespie St., just a block off Las Vegas Blvd. near Warm Springs Rd. and about 21⁄2 miles from the airport. When you arrive, look for the signs for BUSES AND SHUTTLES in the baggage-claim area and follow them outside, where you’ll find blue-and-white buses marked MCCARRAN RENT-A-CAR CENTER. It takes about 10 minutes to make the trip, although it’s worth noting that the lines for buses and at the car-rental counters can be long—budget some extra time if you have somewhere to be right after you get to town.

The rental-car facility is modern and easily navigable, and just in case you resisted while at the airport, there are slot machines next to the rental counters as well. Welcome to Vegas!

When exiting the facility, take three right turns and you are on the Strip, about 2 miles south of Mandalay Bay.

Car-rental rates vary even more than airline fares. The price you pay depends on the size of the car, where and when you pick it up and drop it off, the length of the rental period, where and how far you drive it, whether you purchase insurance, and a host of other factors. Finding the answers, online or at the counter, to a few key questions could save you hundreds of dollars:

bullAre weekend rates lower than weekday rates? In Vegas this is usually true, although holiday or special events weekends can be more costly. Ask if the rate is the same for pickup Friday morning, for instance, as it is for Thursday night.

bullIs a weekly rate cheaper than the daily rate? Even if you need the car for only 4 days, it may be cheaper to keep it for 5.

bullDoes the agency assess a drop-off charge if you don’t return the car to the same location where you picked it up? Is it cheaper to pick up the car at the airport than at a Downtown location?

bullAre special promotional rates available? Terms change constantly, and reservations agents are notorious for not mentioning available discounts unless you ask.

bullAre discounts available for members of AARP, AAA, frequent-flier programs, or trade unions? If you belong to any of these organizations, you may be eligible for discounts of up to 30%.

bullAre there additional fees? In Las Vegas, expect to add about 35% to 40% on top of the rental fee, including a $1.60-per-day vehicle license fee, a $3.75-per-day facility fee, a 10% concession fee, and about 20% in taxes and state government surcharges. Ouch.

bullWhat is the cost of adding an additional driver’s name to the contract?

bullHow many free miles are included in the price? Free mileage is often negotiable, depending on the length of the rental.

Some companies offer “refueling packages,” in which you pay for an entire tank of gas up front. The price is usually fairly competitive with local gas prices, but you don’t get credit for any gas remaining in the tank; and because it is virtually impossible to use up every last bit of fuel before you return it, you will usually wind up paying more overall than you would if you just filled it up yourself. There are several gas stations within a few blocks of the car-rental center, including three at the intersection of Las Vegas Blvd. and Warm Springs Rd. You may pay a few extra pennies at them than you would at stations elsewhere in town, but in the long run it’s still a better deal.

Many available packages include airfare, accommodations, and a rental car with unlimited mileage. Compare these prices with the cost of booking airline tickets and renting a car separately to see if such offers are good deals. Internet resources can make comparison-shopping easier.

SURFING FOR RENTAL CARS

For booking rental cars online, the best deals are usually found at rental-car company websites, although all the major online travel agencies also offer rental-car reservation services. Priceline (www.priceline.com) and Hotwire (www.hotwire.com) work well for rental cars; the only “mystery” is which major rental company you get, and for most travelers, the difference between Hertz, Avis, and Budget is negligible.

DEMYSTIFYING RENTAL-CAR INSURANCE

Before you drive off in a rental car, be sure you’re insured. Hasty assumptions about your personal auto insurance or a rental agency’s additional coverage could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars—even if you are involved in an accident that was clearly the fault of another driver.

DRIVE IN STYLE

If the idea of tooling around Las Vegas in a pedestrian rent-a-box just doesn’t sound appealing, you can always indulge your fantasies by going with something more exotic.

Las Vegas Exotic Car Rentals (www.vegasexoticrentals.com; Black-Phone_bphone 866/871-1893 or 702/736-2592) has a fleet from makers such as Lamborghini, Bentley, Ferrari, and Lotus, plus a stable of classic American muscle cars like the Chevrolet Corvette. They even feature an Aston Martin, if you want to work out your inner James Bond while buzzing between casinos. Rates start at about $300 per day and go up from there—sometimes, way up. At press time, the Lamborghini Murcielago roadster was $1,895 per day, or roughly what you’ll pay for a week in a suite at a nice Vegas hotel.

If you already hold a private auto insurance policy in the United States, you are most likely covered for loss of, or damage to, a rental car, and liability in case of injury to any other party involved in an accident. Be sure to find out whether you are covered in Vegas, whether your policy extends to all persons who will be driving the rental car, how much liability is covered in case an outside party is injured in an accident, and whether the type of vehicle you are renting is included under your contract. (Rental trucks, sport utility vehicles, and luxury vehicles may not be covered.)

Most major credit cards provide some degree of coverage as well—provided they were used to pay for the rental. Terms vary widely, however, so be sure to call your credit card company directly before you rent. If you don’t have a private auto insurance policy, the credit card you use to rent a car may provide primary coverage if you decline the rental agency’s insurance. This means that the credit card company will cover damage or theft of a rental car for the full cost of the vehicle. If you do have a private auto insurance policy, your credit card may provide secondary coverage—which basically covers your deductible. Credit cards do not cover liability or the cost of injury to an outside party and/or damage to an outside party’s vehicle. If you do not hold an insurance policy, you may want to seriously consider purchasing additional liability insurance from your rental company. Be sure to check the terms, however: Some rental agencies cover liability only if the renter is not at fault; even then, the rental company’s obligation varies from state to state. Bear in mind that each credit card company has its own peculiarities; call your own credit card company for details before relying on a card for coverage. Speaking of cards, members of AAA should be sure to carry their membership ID card with them, which provides some of the benefits touted by the rental-car agencies at no additional cost.

The basic insurance coverage offered by most rental-car companies, known as the Loss/Damage Waiver (LDW) or Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), can cost $20 per day or more. The former should cover everything, including the loss of income to the rental agency, should you get in an accident (normally not covered by your own insurance policy). It usually covers the full value of the vehicle, with no deductible, if an outside party causes an accident or other damage to the rental car. You will probably be covered in case of theft as well. Liability coverage varies, but the minimum is usually at least $15,000. If you are at fault in an accident, you will be covered for the full replacement value of the car—but not for liability. In Nevada, you can buy additional liability coverage for such cases. Most rental companies require a police report in order to process any claims you file, but your private insurer will not be notified of the accident. Check your own policies and credit cards before you shell out money on this extra insurance because you may already be covered.

It’s worth noting that rental-car companies seem to be pushing the extra coverage especially hard these days. Doing your research on what types of coverage you do and do not need will allow you to smile politely and decline if it is appropriate. Don’t let them pressure or scare you into spending extra money for items you don’t need.

By Taxi

Because cabs line up in front of all major hotels, an easy way to get around town is by taxi. Cabs charge $3.30 at the meter drop and $2.60 per mile after that, plus an additional $2.00 fee for being picked up at the airport and time-based penalties if you get stuck in traffic. A taxi from the airport to the Strip will run you $15 to $23, from the airport to Downtown $18 to $25, and between the Strip and Downtown about $12 to $18. You can often save money by sharing a cab with someone going to the same destination (up to five people can ride for the same fare).

All this implies that you have gotten a driver who is honest. Long-hauling—the practice of taking fares on a longer route to the destination to increase fares—is rampant in Las Vegas these days. A 2013 audit by the state found an estimated $15 million in overcharges and nearly 25% of all fares from the airport were charged too much.

The simplest way to avoid this is to always know where you are going and roughly how much it should cost to get there. Use the maps on your phone or online to gauge the distance and calculate the approximate fare or let a website like taxifarefinder.com do the math for you. When you get into the cab and state your destination, don’t be afraid to add something like “that will cost about $20, right?” It puts the cabbie on notice that you are not a hapless tourist ready to be taken for a metaphorical ride.

If you suspect that you have been long-hauled, call the taxi company to complain and be sure to file a report with the Nevada Taxicab Authority at taxi.nv.gov.

If you just can’t find a taxi to hail and want to call one, try the following companies: Desert Cab Company (Black-Phone_bphone 702/386-9102), Whittlesea Blue Cab (Black-Phone_bphone 702/384-6111), or Yellow/Checker Cab/Star Company (Black-Phone_bphone 702/873-2000).

TRAFFIC TIPS

Traffic in Las Vegas can be frustrating at times, especially near the Strip on evenings and weekends. Here are a few tips to help you get around the worst of it:

bullSpaghetti Bowl: The “Spaghetti Bowl” is what locals call the mess where I-15 intersects U.S. 95. The latest billion-dollar construction overhaul, called Project Neon, has added to the ongoing traffic congestion and is supposed to be completed in November 2018. Avoid it if you can.

bullDo D.I. Direct: Most visitors seem to get a lot of mileage out of the Strip and I-15. But if you’re checking out the local scene, you can bypass both of those, using Desert Inn Road, which is now one of the longest streets running from one side of the valley to the other. Plus, the 2-mile “Superarterial” section between Valley View and Paradise zips you nonstop over the interstate and under the Strip.

bullGrin and Bear It: Yes, there are ways to avoid traffic jams on the Strip. But at least these traffic jams are entertaining! If you have the time and patience, go ahead and take a ride along the Strip from Mandalay Bay to the Stratosphere. The 4-mile drive might take an hour, but while you’re grinding along, you’ll see a sphinx, an active volcano, a water ballet, and some uniquely Vegas architecture.

bullRat Pack Back Doors: Frank Sinatra Drive is a bypass road that runs parallel to the Strip from Russell Road north to Industrial. It’s a great way to avoid the traffic jams and sneak in the back of hotels such as Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and Monte Carlo. On the other side of I-15, a bunch of high-end condo developers talked the city into re-christening a big portion of Industrial Road as Dean Martin Drive. From near Downtown to Twain, Industrial is now called Sammy Davis Jr., Drive, and it lets you in the back entrances to Circus Circus, Treasure Island, and others. It’s a terrific bypass to the Strip and I-15 congestion.

bullBeltway Bypass: The 53-mile 215 Beltway wraps three-quarters of the way around the valley, allowing easy access to the outskirts while bypassing the Resort Corridor.

By Uber or Lyft

On-demand car service companies Uber and Lyft finally won their long battles to operate in Las Vegas. As in other cities, you can order either service via mobile app to come collect you and take you wherever you need. Rides are slightly cheaper than taxis, though price surging still happens on busy nights and will wipe out any savings. An Uber or Lyft from the airport to the Strip will run you $11 to $19, from the airport to Downtown $21 to $38, and between the Strip and Downtown about $12 to $21. Hotels now have designated ride share pick-up areas near valet.

By Monorail

The 4-mile monorail route runs from the MGM Grand, at the southern end of the Strip, to the SLS Las Vegas (formerly the Sahara), at the northern end, with stops at Paris/Bally’s, the Flamingo, Harrah’s, the Las Vegas Convention Center, and Westgate along the way. Note that some of the actual physical stops are not particularly close to their namesakes, so there can be an unexpected—and sometimes time-consuming—additional walk from the monorail stop to wherever you intended to go. Factor in this time accordingly.

These trains can accommodate more than 200 passengers (standing and sitting) and make the end-to-end run in about 15 minutes. They operate Monday from 7am until midnight, Tuesday through Thursday from 7am until 2am, and Friday through Sunday from 7am until 3am. Fares are $5 for a one-way ride (whether you ride from one end to the other or just to the next station); discounts are available for round-trips and multiride/multiday passes.

For more information visit the Las Vegas Monorail website at www.lvmonorail.com.

By Bus

The Deuce and SDX (Strip to Downtown Express) buses operated by the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC; www.rtcsnv.com/transit; Black-Phone_bphone 702/228-7433) are the primary public transportation on the Strip. The double-decker Deuce and double-carriage SDX run a route between the Downtown Transportation Center (at Casino Center Blvd. and Stewart Ave.) and a few miles beyond the southern end of the Strip. The fare is $6 for adults for 2 hours; an all-day pass is $8 and a 3-day pass is $20. There are no discounts for children or seniors. CAT buses run 24 hours a day and are wheelchair accessible. Exact change is required.

Although they are certainly economical transportation choices, they are not the most efficient as it relates to time or convenience. They run often but are usually very crowded and are not immune to the mind-numbing traffic that clogs the Strip at peak times. Patience is required.

There are also a number of free transportation services, courtesy of the casinos. A free monorail connects Mandalay Bay with Luxor and Excalibur; another connects Monte Carlo, Bellagio, and CityCenter; and a free tram shuttles between the Mirage and Treasure Island. Given how far apart even neighboring hotels can be, thanks to their size, and how they seem even farther apart on really hot (and cold and windy) days, these are blessed additions.

fast_fact LAS VEGAS

Area Codes    The local area codes in Las Vegas are 702, 775 and 725. The full 10-digit phone number with area code must be dialed to complete the call.

Business Hours    Casinos and most bars are open 24 hours a day; nightclubs are usually open only late at night into the early morning hours; and restaurant and attraction hours vary.

Customs    Every visitor 21 years of age or older may bring in, free of duty, the following: (1) 1 liter of alcohol as a gift or for personal use; (2) 200 cigarettes, 100 cigars (but not from Cuba), or 3 pounds of smoking tobacco; and (3) $100 worth of gifts. These exemptions are offered to travelers who spend at least 72 hours in the United States and who have not claimed them within the preceding 6 months. It is forbidden to bring into the country almost any meat products (including canned, fresh, and dried-meat products such as bouillon, soup mixes, and so forth). Generally, condiments, including vinegars, oils, pickled goods, spices, coffee, tea, and some cheeses and baked goods are permitted. Avoid rice products, as rice can often harbor insects. Bringing fruits and vegetables is prohibited since they may harbor pests or disease. International visitors may carry in or out up to $10,000 in U.S. or foreign currency with no formalities; larger sums must be declared to U.S. Customs on entering or leaving, which includes filing form CM 4790. For details regarding U.S. Customs and Border Protection, consult your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, or U.S. Customs (www.cbp.gov).

For information on what you’re allowed to take home, contact your home country’s Customs agency.

Disabled Travelers    On the one hand, Las Vegas is fairly well equipped for travelers with disabilities, with virtually every hotel having wheelchair-accessible rooms and ramps and other requirements. On the other hand, the distance between hotels (particularly on the Strip) makes a vehicle of some sort virtually mandatory for most people with disabilities, and it may be extremely strenuous and time consuming to get from place to place (even within a single hotel) because of the crowds. Even if you don’t intend to gamble, you still may have to go through the casino, and casinos can be quite difficult to maneuver in, particularly for a guest in a wheelchair. Casinos are usually crowded, and the machines and tables are often arranged close together, with chairs, people, and such blocking easy access. You should also consider that it is often a long trek through larger hotels between the entrance and the room elevators (or, for that matter, anywhere in the hotel), and then add a crowded casino to the equation.

For more on organizations that offer resources to travelers with limited mobility, go to www.frommers.com.

Doctors    Hotels usually have lists of doctors, should you need one, or you can use the physician referral service at Desert Springs Hospital (www.desertspringshospital.com; Black-Phone_bphone 702/388-4888). Hours are Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm and Saturday from 9am to 3pm except holidays. Also see “Hospitals,” below.

Drinking Laws    The legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages is 21; proof of age is required and often requested at bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, so it’s always a good idea to bring ID when you go out.

Beer, wine, and liquor are sold in all kinds of stores pretty much around the clock in Vegas; trust us, you won’t have a hard time finding a drink in this town.

Do not carry open containers of alcohol in your car or any public area that isn’t zoned for alcohol consumption, which includes the Strip and the Fremont Street Experience downtown. The police can fine you on the spot. And nothing will ruin your trip faster than getting a citation for DUI (driving under the influence), so don’t even think about driving while intoxicated.

While walking around on the Strip with an alcoholic beverage is generally safe (provided you’re of age, of course), don’t tempt fate by walking around with glass bottles. You’ll see plenty of folks stumbling around with large, novelty-size yards and boots, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to act like a total fool when out in public. If the drink you ordered in the hotel came in a glass, you can ask the bartender to transfer it to a plastic cup so you can take your roadie to go.

Electricity    Like Canada, the United States uses 110–120 volts AC (60 cycles), compared to 220–240 volts AC (50 cycles) in most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Downward converters that change 220–240 volts to 110–120 volts are difficult to find in the United States, so bring one with you.

Emergencies    Dial Black-Phone_bphone 911 to contact the police or fire department, or to call for an ambulance.

Family Travel    Family travel can be immensely rewarding, giving you new ways of seeing the world through smaller pairs of eyes. That said, Vegas is hardly an ideal place to bring the kids. For one thing, they’re not allowed in casinos at all. Because most hotels are laid out so that you frequently have to walk through their casinos to get to where you are going, you can see how this becomes a headache.

Note also that the Strip is often peppered with people distributing fliers and other information about decidedly adult entertainment options in the city. Sex is everywhere. Just walking down the Strip might give your kids an eyeful of items that you might prefer they avoid. (They don’t call it “Sin City” for nothing!)

On top of everything else, there is a curfew law in Vegas: Kids younger than 18 are not permitted on the Strip without a parent after 9pm on weekends and holidays. In the rest of the county, minors can’t be out without parents after 10pm on school nights and midnight on the weekends.

Although still an option at most smaller chain hotels and motels, the major casino-hotels on the Strip offer no discount for children staying in your room, so you may have to pay an additional fee ($10–$40 per person per night) to have them bunk with you. You’ll definitely want to book a place with a pool. Some hotels also have enormous video arcades and other diversions.

Health    By and large, Las Vegas is like most other major American cities in that the water is relatively clean, the air is relatively clear, and illness-bearing insects and animals are rare. However, in a city with this many people coming and going from all over the world, there are a couple of specific concerns worth noting:

bullFood Poisoning    Food preparation guidelines in Las Vegas are among the strictest in the world, but when you’re dealing with the sheer volume that this city is, you’re bound to run into trouble every now and then. All restaurants are required by law to display a health certificate and letter grade (A, B, or C) that indicate how well they did on their last Health Department inspection. An A grade doesn’t mean you won’t get food poisoning, but it does mean the staff does a better-than-average job in the kitchen.

bullNorovirus    Over the past few years, there have been a few outbreaks of norovirus at Las Vegas hotels. This virus, most commonly associated with cruise ships, is rarely serious but can turn your vacation into a very unpleasant experience of intestinal illness. Because it is spread by contact, you can protect yourself by washing your hands often, especially after touching all of those slot machines.

bullSun Exposure    In case you weren’t paying attention in geography, Las Vegas is located in the middle of a desert, and so it should come as no surprise that the sun shines particularly bright here. Heat and sunstroke are dangers that all visitors should be concerned about, especially if you are considering spending any amount of time outdoors. Sunscreen (stick to a minimum SPF 30) is a must even if you are just traveling from one hotel to another, and you should always carry a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated even when temperatures are moderate. The low desert humidity means that your body has to work harder to replenish moisture, so help it along with something other than a free cocktail in the casino. The good news: Low humidity means it’s hard to have a bad hair day.

Hospitals    The closest full-service hospital to the Strip is Sunrise Hospital, 3186 Maryland Pkwy. (www.sunrisehospital.com; Black-Phone_bphone 702/731-8000), but for lesser emergencies, Harmon Medical Urgent Care, 150 E. Harmon (www.harmonmedicalcenter.com; Black-Phone_bphone 702/796-1116), offers treatment from 8am until 5pm Monday through Friday. Additionally, most major hotels in Las Vegas can provide assistance in finding physicians and/or pharmacies that are well suited to your needs.

Insurance    Traveler’s insurance is not required for visiting Las Vegas, and whether or not it’s right for you depends on your circumstances. For example, most Las Vegas travel arrangements that include hotels are refundable or cancelable up to the last moment, so insurance is probably not necessary. If, however, you have prepaid a nonrefundable package, then it could be worth considering insurance.

For information on traveler’s insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, please visit www.frommers.com/planning.

Internet & Wi-Fi    Most major hotels in Vegas offer wireless access as a part of their nightly resort fee, although some still require an additional fee that can run upward of $20 per day. Some hotels offer free, advertiser-supported Wi-Fi in public areas, meaning you won’t have to pay to surf the Web when you’re hanging out at the pool, but you’ll have to put up with banner ads on your browser. In Las Vegas, you can find free Wi-Fi at most stand-alone McDonald’s, Starbucks, and in the Fashion Show mall.

Most major airports have Internet kiosks that provide basic Web access for a per-minute fee that’s usually higher than hotel prices. Check out copy shops, such as FedEx Office, which offer computer stations with fully loaded software (as well as Wi-Fi).

Legal Aid    While driving, if you are pulled over for a minor infraction (such as speeding), never attempt to pay the fine directly to a police officer; this could be construed as attempted bribery, a much more serious crime. Pay fines by mail, or directly into the hands of the clerk of the court. If accused of a more serious offense, say and do nothing before consulting a lawyer. In the U.S., the burden is on the state to prove a person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and everyone has the right to remain silent, whether he or she is suspected of a crime or actually arrested. Once arrested, a person can make one telephone call to a party of his or her choice. The international visitor should call his or her embassy or consulate.

LGBT Travelers    For such a licentious, permissive town, Las Vegas has its conservative side, and it is not the most gay-friendly city. This does not manifest itself in any signs of outrage toward open displays of gay affection, but it does mean that the local gay community is largely confined to the bar scene. See listings for gay bars in chapter 8.

Mail    At press time, domestic postage rates were 34¢ for a postcard and 49¢ for a letter. For international mail, a first-class letter of up to 1 ounce or a postcard costs $1.15. For more information go to www.usps.com.

Always include a zip code when mailing items in the U.S. If you don’t know a zip code, visit www.usps.com/zip4.

The most convenient post office to the Strip is immediately behind Circus Circus at 3100 S. Industrial Rd., between Sahara Avenue and Spring Mountain Road (Black-Phone_bphone 800/275-8777). It’s open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5pm. You can also mail letters and packages at your hotel.

Mobile Phones    Just because your mobile phone works at home doesn’t mean it’ll work everywhere in the U.S. (thanks to our nation’s fragmented mobile phone system). Whether or not you’ll get a signal depends on your carrier and where you happen to be standing when you are trying to make a call. Hotel rooms and casinos are notoriously bad places to be if you want to chat with someone back home on your cellphone, but step outside and things usually improve dramatically. Note that if you can get a signal in a casino, don’t try to use your phone while sitting at a gaming table—that’s a big no-no.

Once you leave Las Vegas proper, you are in the wilds of the Nevada desert, so unless you are near a major byway (like I-15), expect to get very few, if any, bars on your phone.


THE VALUE OF THE U.S. DOLLAR VS. OTHER POPULAR CURRENCIES

US$

Aus$

Can$

Euro (€)

NZ$

UK£

1

A$1.31

C$1.24

€.90

NZ$1.42

£.65


Money & Costs    Because Las Vegas is a town built on the concept of separating you from your money, it should come as no surprise that gaining access to money is very easy—sometimes too easy. There are ATMs (also known as “cash machines” or “cashpoints”) conveniently located about every 4 feet (okay, an exaggeration, but not by a lot); and check cashing, and credit card–advance systems are omnipresent. Note that using any of these to access your money will cost you money; ATMs charge upward of $6 per transaction, and that’s before whatever fees your bank will add.

And while Vegas visitors used to require a great deal of change in order to play the slots and other gaming machines, few, if any, still accept coins. Gone are the once-prevalent change carts. All machines now take bills in most denominations, and you get “change” in the form of a credit slip that appears when you cash out. You then take this slip to the nearest cashier’s cage to exchange for actual money.

So getting to your money isn’t a problem. Keeping it may be.

Las Vegas has grown progressively more expensive, with the concept of a cheap Sin City vacation a distant memory. The average room rate on the Strip on weekends is over $200 a night, those formerly cheap buffets have been replaced by $40-a-person lavish spreads, and top-show tickets easily surpass $100 a head. And then, of course, there are the casinos, a money-losing proposition if there ever was one.

But there are Las Vegas vacations available for just about any budget, so pay (no pun intended) close attention to chapter 4, “Where to Stay,” and chapter 5, “Where to Eat,” which break down your choices by cost.

Beware of hidden credit card fees while traveling. International visitors should check with their credit or debit card issuer to see what fees, if any, will be charged for transactions in the U.S.

Newspapers & Magazines    The Las Vegas Review-Journal is the major daily periodical in the city, which is now partnered with the Las Vegas Sun, its former newspaper rival. Both offer the latest news, weather, and information and can be valuable resources for coupons and up-to-the-minute show listings.

LVM is a local magazine usually available in-room, listing shows, restaurants, and more, and it often features discount offers to attractions that could save you some dough.

Packing    Most Las Vegas hotel rooms are fully stocked with basics—shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion, mouthwash, and in some cases things like sewing kits and cotton swabs. If you don’t have allergy or skin sensitivity issues to contend with, you may want to consider leaving those types of sundry items at home to free up some room in your suitcase. The same goes for your travel iron, as most rooms have a full-size iron and ironing board or they are available by request through housekeeping.


WHAT THINGS COST IN LAS VEGAS

US$

Taxi from the airport to the Strip

15.00–25.00

Taxi from the airport to Downtown Las Vegas

18.00–27.00

One-way Las Vegas monorail ticket

5.00

All-day Deuce or SDX bus pass

8.00

Standard room at Bellagio, Fri–Sat

175.00–400.00

Standard room at MGM Grand, Fri–Sat

150.00–300.00

Standard room at Bally’s, Fri–Sat

100.00–200.00

Dinner for two at Guy Savoy, prix fixe

580.00

Dinner for two at Pizza Rock

45.00

Wynn Las Vegas buffet, weekend champagne brunch

35.00

Main Street Station Garden Court buffet champagne brunch

12.00

Ticket to Cirque du Soleil’s O

109.00–180.00

Ticket to Mac King (comedy magic show)

30.00

Domestic beer at Light

10.00

Domestic beer at the Double Down Saloon

5.00


Comfortable walking shoes are a must for Las Vegas as you’ll be doing a lot of it. Yes, your Jimmy Choo’s will look fabulous for your night out at the party spots, but do you really want to navigate the crowds across a 100,000-square-foot casino in them?

Checking the weather forecast before your trip can provide you with guidance on what types of clothes to bring, but packing a light sweater or jacket even during the summer months is not a bad idea. It gets windy in Las Vegas and there can be a chill in the evenings, plus many of the casinos and showrooms set the air-conditioning on “Siberia,” so light layers that you can peel off when you go back outside into the heat are recommended.

If you are bringing your computer or other mobile devices, don’t forget to bring your power cords, and chargers.

Lastly, consider safety when packing by tossing in a small flashlight. During an emergency, this could become invaluable in helping you navigate your way out of a 4,000-room hotel.

Police    For non-emergencies, call Black-Phone_bphone 702/795-3111. For emergencies, call Black-Phone_bphone 911.

Safety    CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a popular U.S. TV show, may turn up new corpses in Vegas each week, but the crime rate in real-life Vegas isn’t higher than in any other major metropolis of its size.

With all that cash floating around town, pickpockets and thieves are predictably active. At gaming tables and slot machines, men should keep wallets well concealed and out of the reach of pickpockets, and women should keep handbags in plain sight (on laps). If you win a big jackpot, ask the slot attendant to cut you a check rather than give you cash—the cash may look nice, but flashing it can attract the wrong kind of attention. Outside the casinos, popular spots for pickpockets and thieves are restaurants and outdoor shows, such as the volcano at the Mirage or the fountains at Bellagio. Stay alert. Unless your hotel room has an in-room safe, check your valuables into a safe-deposit box at the front desk.

When in your room, be sure to lock and bolt the door at all times and only open it to hotel employees that you are expecting (such as room service).

A special safety concern for women (and even men occasionally) centers on behavior at nightclubs. Do not ever accept a drink from a stranger no matter how handsome he is, and keep your cocktail in your hand at all times, even while on the dance floor. Instances of people getting something slipped into their drink are rare but they have happened—singer John Popper of the band Blues Traveler was drugged and robbed in 2014—so it’s best to take precautions.

Senior Travel    One of the benefits of age is that travel to most destinations often costs less—but that’s rarely true in Las Vegas. Discounts at hotels, shows, restaurants, recreation, and just about anything else you want to do are rare. About the only discounts offered to seniors are at some of the local attractions, which will give a few bucks off to those over 62 or 65 (see chapter 6).

Members of AARP (www.aarp.org; Black-Phone_bphone 888/687-2277), get discounts on hotels, airfares, and car rentals. But be sure to check them against the discount websites we recommend earlier in the book, because sometimes these “special discounts” aren’t as good as the normal ones.

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) offers an America the Beautiful—National Park and Federal Recreational Lands Pass—Senior Pass. You’ll find it useful for some of the day trips covered in chapter 9. The pass gives U.S. residents 62 years or older lifetime entrance to all properties administered by the National Park Service—national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas, and national wildlife refuges—for a one-time processing fee of $10. The pass must be purchased in person at any NPS facility that charges an entrance fee. Besides free entry, the America the Beautiful Senior Pass also offers a 50% discount on some federal-use fees charged for such facilities as camping, swimming, parking, and tours. For more go to www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm.

Smoking    Vegas is decidedly no longer a smoker’s haven. Increasingly strict smoking laws prohibit puffing virtually everywhere indoors except in designated hotel rooms, nightclubs, bars, and on the casino floor itself. Because it’s frequently hard to tell where a casino ends and basic public area begins, don’t fret too much about stepping across some invisible line. Hotels still have dedicated floors for smokers and nonsmokers. There is a significant charge, approximately $300, for smoking anything in a nonsmoking room.

Taxes    The United States has no value-added tax (VAT) or other indirect tax at the national level. Every state, county, and city may levy its own local tax on all purchases, including hotel and restaurant checks and airline tickets. These taxes will not appear on price tags.

The sales tax in Las Vegas is 8.1% and is added to food and drink bills. Hotel rooms on the Strip come with a 12% tax, while those in the Downtown area carry 13%. Taxes are also added to show tickets.

Telephones    Generally, Vegas hotel surcharges on long-distance and local calls are astronomical. You are often charged even for making a toll-free or phone-card call. You’re better off using your cellphone since pay phones are almost nonexistent these days. Some hotels are adding on an additional “resort fee” to the cost of the room, which sometimes covers local calls (as well as using the pool and other elements that ought to be givens). The fee can range from $3 to $25 per day.

Most long-distance and international calls can be dialed directly from any phone. To make calls within the United States and to Canada, dial 1 followed by the area code and the seven-digit number. For other international calls, dial 011 followed by the country code, city code, and the number you are calling.

Calls to area codes 800, 888, 877, 866, and 855 are toll-free.

For reversed-charge or collect calls, and for person-to-person calls, dial the number 0 then the area code and number; an operator will come on the line, and you should specify whether you are calling collect, person-to-person, or both. If your operator-assisted call is international, ask for the overseas operator.

For directory assistance (“Information”), dial 411 for local numbers and national numbers in the U.S. and Canada. For dedicated long-distance information, dial 1, then the appropriate area code plus 555-1212.

Time    The continental United States is divided into four time zones: Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST), and Pacific Standard Time (PST). Alaska and Hawaii have their own zones. Las Vegas is in the Pacific Time zone, 8 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), 3 hours behind the East Coast, and 2 behind the Midwest. For example, when it’s 9am in Las Vegas (PST), it’s 7am in Honolulu (Hawaii Standard Time), 10am in Denver (MST), 11am in Chicago (CST), noon in New York City (EST), 5pm in London (GMT), and 2am the next day in Sydney.

Daylight saving time (summer time) is in effect from 1am on the second Sunday in March to 1am on the first Sunday in November, except in Arizona, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Daylight saving time moves the clock 1 hour ahead of standard time.

Tipping    Las Vegas is a hospitality-driven economy, meaning many of the people you encounter depend on tips for their livelihood. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to tip more than you would anywhere else, but average tips in other cities can be viewed as somewhat stingy here.

In the casinos, it’s common to tip cocktail waitresses $1 to $2 per drink and to tip dealers 5% of any big wins.

In hotels, tip bellhops at least $1 per bag ($2–$3 if you have a lot of luggage) and tip the chamber staff $3 to $5 per day (more if you’ve left a big mess to clean up). Tip the doorman or concierge only if he or she has provided you with some specific service (for example, calling a cab for you or obtaining difficult-to-get theater tickets). Tip the valet-parking attendant $2 to $5 every time you get your car.

In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip service staff and bartenders 15% to 20% of the check, and tip checkroom attendants $1 per garment.

As for other service personnel, tip cabdrivers 15% of the fare; tip skycaps at airports at least $1 per bag ($2–$3 if you have a lot of luggage); and tip hairdressers and barbers 15% to 20%.

Toilets    In Las Vegas, you are almost always near a bathroom as long as you are in one of the tourist areas, with the casinos being the most obvious example. All have multiple facilities and they are usually among the cleanest you’ll find in any public location. One small annoyance is that many hotel restaurants do not have their own restrooms, meaning you may need to go into the casino to find the nearest one.

Large hotels and fast-food restaurants are often the best bet for clean facilities. Restaurants and bars in resorts or heavily visited areas may reserve their restrooms for patrons.

Visitor Information    The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (www.lasvegas.com; Black-Phone_bphone 877/847-4858 or 702/892-7575) provides information, hotel reservation assistance, show guides, convention calendars, and more.

Other popular Las Vegas travel websites include www.vegas.com, www.vegas4visitors.com, and www.cheapovegas.com.

Many hotels have their own mobile apps that you can download for special information and offers.

Water    Ongoing drought conditions mean water is a concern in terms of its long-term availability, but for now it is plentiful from faucets, drinking fountains, and endless bottles of the stuff. As in most of the United States, the drinking water is considered safe and there have been no reported instances of sickness from it. Still, bottles of water are often free in the casinos, so you might as well pick one up.

Women Travelers    Thanks to the crowds, Las Vegas is as safe as any other big city for a woman traveling alone. A woman on her own should, of course, take the usual precautions and should be wary of hustlers and drunken businessmen. Many of the big hotels have security guards stationed at the elevators at night to prevent anyone other than guests from going up to the room floors. If you’re anxious, ask a security guard to escort you to your room. Always double-lock your door and deadbolt it to prevent intruders from entering.