Las Vegas is a weird travel experience. It’s cheap enough (and if you’re on the West Coast, close enough) that doing a weekend there is pretty easy to pull off. But it also feels like another planet, so that even after just two days away from home, coming back is like returning from a weeks-long journey in a far off land.
My friend, Chris, met me in Vegas from London. This was his first trip to the States, and what a way to start off. As we walked around, I tried to make note of what things we saw were American, and what you would only see in Las Vegas.
For example: A Starbucks every 50 feet? American. But guys handing out flyers for escort services on every street corner? Vegas.
I spent far more than I expected to, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do Vegas on the cheap, or at least within a budget. A few tips:
See all the free shows and attractions. Not all of them will blow you away, but they’re fun, and the fountains at Bellagio are probably more entertaining than any Elvis impersonator you’ll find. The aquariums and flower gardens offer a peaceful break from the casino floors.
If you’re flexible about what shows you want to see, wait until you get there to book your tickets. Visit one of the half price ticket booths to see what they have available and you could save $50 or more from what you would pay online in advance. We saw Blue Man Group and loved it. (I’ll never look at a marshmallow the same way again.)
Don’t assume the buffet is the cheapest place to eat. If you want to consume mass quantities, then yes, it’s probably a good value per pound. But even some of the nicer restaurants on the Strip, like Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Caesar’s Palace, have lunch prices that are cheaper than the bigger buffets.
If you really want to save on food, pack your own snacks to bring from home (trail mix, nuts, granola bars), grab bottled water or soda from one of the cheap souvenir stores that are scattered between casinos (sometimes sold 2 for $1), and stick to the fast food options, where prices are low and no tipping is required.
The Strip is very long, and your feet will get very tired. Ladies, leave the cute footwear for the evenings, and wear your most comfortable shoes during the day. I would put a picture here of my poor, blistered, danced-off, cut up feet, but then you would never come back.
When you get tired of walking, take the bus. Taxis are much faster because they don’t stop every block or so to let people on and off, but they can cost you $12-$20 a ride, whereas the Deuce, the double decker bus that goes up and down the Strip, is only $3 a ride, or $7 for a 24-hour pass.
And the best way to save money? Leave your credit and ATM cards somewhere safe – like not in your wallet. Give yourself a set amount of cash to play with and when you run out, stick to the freebies.