Bitterwallet Travel Guide to Las Vegas # 1: Welcome to Sin City
Las Vegas may be known for its high roller casinos, never-paying slot machines and not-so-talented strippers, but living like a baller in Sin City does not necessary require splurging all your cash.
In our recent first ever trip to Vegas, we managed to stay in a Caesars Palace Augustus Tower Suite overlooking the Bellagio fountains for under £60 a night, fly over the Grand Canyons on a private helicopter tour for under £135, watch Cirque Du Soleil’s ‘Mystere’ show for free with front row exclusive seats, and eat an unlimited supply of the best international foods in the world for under £20 per person per day.
In part 1 of this guide are six tips to get you familiar with Vegas. This includes getting there for under £300 from the UK, tips and tricks for roaming around LV for close to nothing, how to protect your gambling money, and getting picked up in a limo to getting married for under £40, like the smart local Nevadan in disguise that you are.
1. How to get the best priced flight from the UK to Vegas
Before buying a round-trip ticket from London Gatwick (LGW) to Las Vegas (LAS), make sure you read the introductory Bitterwallet Travel Guide (Part 2). But beyond that, call up some local nearby travel agencies in the UK. For example, we got to Vegas as part of a round-trip stopover to Seattle plus Los Angeles for under £440 per person, by using a company in London called Skyjet.
Compared to booking at the very last minute online, travel agencies have targets and quotas to meet, so you may find that at certain times of the month (usually towards the end) when you may be able to leverage that to your advantage to knock an extra £30-£40 off your fares. Also, FareDetective.com may also be worth a look. A roundtrip LGW-LAS ticket from US Airways cost £316 for late January / early February as we speak. If you sign up for the site's platinum membership, this will be reduced to £303 by means of a £13 in rebate, which will show up on your credit card bill after approximately 2 month’s time.
2. Getting around Vegas for Less
Getting around “The Strip” will require a vehicle of some form. Taxis are the most common mode of transport for tourists, but also tend to work out the most expensive especially during peak traffic. Finally, for car rentals, consider making reservations through Hotwire.com. Rent a vehicle for as low as £9.40 a day for an Economy Car like a Chevy Aveo or Hyundai Accent, or a Compact Car like a Chevy Cobalt or a Ford Focus. There is also the Las Vegas Monorail. It stops at the Las Vegas Convention Centre and back entrances of several major casinos and hotels. A one-way ticket costs £3.40, while a return ticket costs about £6.
3. Get around Vegas for Close to Nothing
Double-decker buses service the Strip regularly and cost about £1.35. You can also board the cheaper Citizens Area Transit, which covers the majority of Vegas routes. A day pass can be obtained from the driver also for £3.40. There is a slight wait, due to the 10 minute break at every bus stop. Finally, consider a month-long pass which costs about £20 if you’re staying around for a while. But if you really don't want to spend for a ride, you can catch the free shuttles which run on specific routes at regular intervals and are offered by different hotels and casinos. You can check with your hotel for exact pickup areas and schedules.
4. Choose How You Gamble
The Vegas experience won’t be complete without gambling, but always remember the house advantage, and never get emotional with your gambling. Stick to your budget purely for the experience, and never gamble what you can’t lose. And once you’re at a table, make sure you make the most of the benefits. As you're playing in the casino, whether it be a 5 cent machine or a no limit poker table, you are entitled to a ‘free’ drink (it is customary to tip the waitress at least about £.70 per drink). For the risk averse, increase your odds by playing games which give the house the least advantage. According to professional gamblers, these would include dice (craps) with full odds, and blackjack that pays 3:2 vs 6:5 and poker (given you're good). Avoid games with a big house advantage, such as slot machines, roulette, craps bets (propositions and hardways), and the lottery.
5. Watch Your Winnings
As a British foreigner, the IRS is entitled to deduce 30% of your winnings. But don't worry. You can reclaim the deduction by completing a 1042-S form. Obtain one from your casino. You can also get your Casino Tax Rebate from the different Refund Management Services in the UK. Also, the massive gambling activity in Las Vegas means that plenty of crooks are watching you. If you want to play safe, you can ask the casino to temporarily hold your winnings in its safety deposit or request a cheque instead. You can also request for hotel security personnel to escort you (just hope it’s not the basement rooms without CCTVs).
6. Getting hitched in Vegas
If you plan on getting married in Vegas, you will need valid ID (passport or driver's license.) It costs approximately £38 per couple. Chapels are open from 9am – 12 midnight, seven days a week. While chapels can conduct weddings in a heartbeat, it would be better to make a reservation. Most chapels also provide courtesy limos for those with reservations from your hotel to the chapel and back.
So that’s a very basic run through of a few tips for Vegas. In part 2, I'll delve into how we got upgraded to a Augustus Tower Suite room for under £60 a night, and how you can maximize your chances of doing the same. In part 3, we will talk a bit more on the coolest things you can do on a budget in Vegas. Also, remember to check out the travel deals section on HUKD.
Share your further thoughts/tips/comments below. Rock n’ roll!