Having been told various stories from people who had visited in the past and even more from people online, I knew that Vegas was going to be a trip to remember!
In September ’19 myself and 4 other good mates spent 8 days in Las Vegas and had an absolutely superb time! As a group we had spent quite a bit of time researching, planning and booking and as a result we managed to really make this trip a trip of a lifetime that we will be definitely be talking about for years to come!
In a way of ‘giving back’ to the community of sites that we got some great tips from, here are 25 tips of mine for if you visit Las Vegas!
#1 Get some dollars before you go and a travel card
Although there are plenty of ATM’s scattered throughout the various hotels, casinos and even stores down the main strip, they all charge a fee for withdrawing cash (we found it to range from as low as $3, all the way up to $8 per transaction!)
I personally recommend taking half of your spending money in cash (from your local currency exchange place) and the other half either budgeted for on a credit card or loaded onto a pre-paid travel debit card… like a Revolut or Monzo card
If you are lacking a travel card, then now is the best time to get one! Click here on my referral link for your own Revolut card as well as a £10 free signup bonus that goes straight into your account!
Be aware that debit cards are not really a big thing in the US and some places may have trouble making a transaction with them, I found this when trying to pay for a few drinks in Caesars Palace.. but it worked out fine in nearly every other place!
#2 Book all or most of your planned excursions before arriving and make a loose day to day plan of what to see and do
I am going to go into detail of what some good activities and excursions in Vegas are to do in another post, but be sure to book what you want to do before you travel to Vegas!
It is possible to arrange some activities while you are in Vegas either by doing it online or through your hotel concierge, but if you know you are definitely wanting to do something it allows you to structure your trip a lot better and there is also less chance of it booking up on a specific day!
Also try and make a plan (either written down or just memories) of what you are going to visit and see and on what days, it does help you make sure you get the most out of your time in the place and what you have seen everything you want to see, anything else is a bonus!
#3 Flying direct from the UK? Prepare for the flight and the time difference
Las Vegas and the state of Nevada is located in the western continental US timezone (Pacific Time) and so is 8 hours behind the UK. The day we flew from Manchester direct from Vegas we were awake at 5am (9pm the previous evening in Vegas) to get to the airport and then we flew at 9am (1am Vegas time) and 11 hours later landed in Vegas at 12 noon Vegas time (8pm in the UK)
The trick to trying to adjust to the local time is to try and stay up for as long as you can once you land in Vegas and try and go to bed that night close to your normal time as possible, luckily we had booked a dinner at Gordon Ramsey’s Hells Kitchen for 7:30pm so we kind of had something to stay up for. The first night we got to bed about 9pm Vegas time (5am UK time) and so we had been awake for a full 24 hours!
#4 Download Uber and use it to get around
Taxis can be quite expensive and have a tendency to rip you off, especially to and from the airport. My recommendation for getting around is using Uber, compared to taxi quotes we found it a lot cheaper and reliable in the city (if the other public transport in the city, like the Monorail and busses can’t get you there easy enough!)
Nearly ever hotel is set up for Uber (or Rideshare Apps as it may be known) and will have a dedicated pick up and drop off point, so familiarise yourself with where it is before booking your Uber as you may have a bit of a walk before you meet your car!
If there is a group travelling, one good tip is for 1 person to download the app and pay for all the rides throughout your stay and just divide the total cost of all the trips by the number of people and get that back off everyone when you get home, it worked great for our group!
#5 When checking in at your hotel, don’t forget about the resort fee and security deposit
When you check in at most hotels in Vegas you are required to pay upfront a resort fee and also pay a security deposit. We stayed at the MGM grand and the resort tax was $294 per room, and the security deposit was $400 per room.
The resort fee is said to cover the use of several of the facilities in the hotel, such as the pool and gym area as well as give you access to things like a free newspaper every morning. In my opinion the cost charge is extremely high for very little you are getting, however the fee is non-negotiable.
The security deposit is just a charge that is held on a bank card in case of any damage to the room and/or theft of any of the rooms articles. It is refunded at the end of your stay provided the room is vacated in an acceptable state.
My tip would be to pay this security deposit on a credit card if possible as it is meant to be refunded a lot quicker, I paid it on my debit card and it took a week after getting back to get the funds back in my account. However for both payments just be sure to factor this in to your overall trip costs!
#6 Also when checking in, try and blag a free buffet pass or two
All the hotels on the strip have a buffet somewhere on site and they all offer a really good spread, what is on can obviously change throughout the day depending if it is breakfast, brunch or dinner but they can usually be quite expensive depending on what time of the day you go (upwards of $40pp!)
When you are checking in ask if it is possible for a couple of buffet passes be thrown in for free! Depending on who serves you at checkin you may well get these without asking like we did!
#7 Prepare to be awake early on your first morning
Following on from #3, it is quite likely that you will be awake early on your first full day in Vegas if you are arriving direct from the UK or Europe the previous day. As a group we were all awake by 4am-5am the first morning.. my tip if you are awake is to get up and go have a bit of a wander.. you can always catch up on a bit of sleep either by the pool or up in the room for an hour to 2 later in the day!
Expect to have a couple of days with a disrupted sleep pattern and plan for it when booking stuff etc.
#8 Don’t touch the minibar in your hotel, or else! ($$$)
Like most big hotels, there is a minibar in your hotel room (or there was in the rooms in the MGM Grand). To avoid any surprises upon check out just don’t touch it, pretend it is not there! You will get charged for taking anything out of it and you can also be charged for putting anything in it! The container that the items on the top of it and held in has a sensor in it that will alert housekeeping it is has been taken out, so don’t do it!
#9 There is sales tax on everything
In the US, sales tax (VAT as its known in the UK) is added onto everything and all label prices that you see in stores and restaurants do not include the tax like they do in the UK, its only when you come to pay you will see the real cost. The rate varies between states and can change significantly, however in the state of Nevada it is 4.6% (at the time of writing this article) so factor this in when making any spends as the cost could be greatly different from what you thought by time you reach the checkout or get the bill!
#10 Bring your ID out with you, you are going to need it
Non just specific to Las Vegas but the whole of the US really, unless you look about 80, the chances are you are going to be ID’d when buying an alcoholic drink, going in a club or even sitting down at a casino table, to name a handful of things.. just be sure to bring your ID out with you at all times!
The UK driving license was accepted everywhere that we went when in Vegas, however if you are from a less known country visiting then you may have to use your passport as a form of ID.
#11 Don’t under estimate the distances of the strip
Even though the Vegas strip does not look that big on a map, the distance between the MGM Grand and Freemont Street is actually about 7 miles and commuting between the when driving up the freeway takes about 20 minutes in a car. Even when walking between city block or around a hotel, it takes a long time to get anyway in Vegas. Be sure to factor the distances on things in if you have to be anywhere at a certain time!
#12 You can drink on the street but…
Quite surprisingly for the United States where ‘open container’ laws are quite strictly followed in most places, you can drink any kind of alcoholic drink on the main strip. The important rule to follow with this is that whatever it is you are drinking, is in a plastic cup or tin can (no glass!) and it is advisable that you don’t wonder too far away from the strip with it. Not that we tried it but apparently you can still get into trouble by police and if you walking around with a drink a few streets back from the main strip.
#13 Stock up at Walgreens or 7-Eleven
There are a couple of Walgreens and 7-Elevens scattered around the main strip, as well as some smaller local independent shops. When you get there I recommend getting a load of drinks and snacks from there for the room and when out and about as it is a lot cheaper than the hotel on site shops (we could get the big Bud Light Orange beers for about $3 each in the Walgreens near to the MGM Grand compared to about $8 they cost in the hotel shops)
There is also an ATM in most Walgreens, with a low withdrawal fee of about $4!
#14 Be sure to use the monorail to get about but buy a multi-day pass
Although it only has 7 stations and only gets you half way up the strip if you want to get to Freemont Street, we found the LV Monorail really handy and a good way for getting between some of the hotels and sites down the strip, especially in the 40deg heat!
Although it may seem like a lot of money at first, buy a multi day monorail pass! You can get a 7 day pass for $56 or a 3 day pass for $29, which although may seem a lot at first, if you use it a lot you can very easily get your moneys worth through out your stay!
If you want to use it to progressively get up to Freemont Street, one suggestion is to ride the monorail to either Westgate station or the station near the Strat, have a couple of drinks in either and then get an Uber from there up to Freemont Street?
#15 Go for a ride on the High Roller, but go before 1am if you want a bar in your pod!
It takes just short of 30 minutes to do a full revolution of the High Roller big wheel. You can get a drink from the bar on the ground and take it onboard with you, or you can pay a fee for an unlimited bar and server.
If you want a pod with a bar in you need to get to the High Roller before 1am, after that the bar pods stop serving which we unfortunately found out when we got to the High Roller too late. Drink or no drink I highly recommend experiencing the High Roller, especially at night as the views are incredible and if you time it right you can see the Bellagio fountain perform its water display
#16 Get up the Stratosphere for their happy hour!
The Stratosphere has a very good happy from 4pm-7pm every day at the very top in the 107 Lounge, we found the drink prices during the happy hour to be the cheapest we found when out throughout our entire stay in Vegas, they were pretty much the same as what we would pay at home for a bottle of beer (about $4 each!)
If you keep your bar bill, after a 2 drink minimum show it to the elevator attendant and you can also visit the observation deck at no extra cost and get some great views of the entire city!
#17 After a good beer? Get to the Yard House
If you want a wide selection of good beers go down to Yard House, its right next to the entrance to the High Roller, you cannot miss it! Yard House has around 100 different beers on tap. Poured beer can be a bit hit and miss in Vegas (and the whole of the USA really) but every drink we got in the Yard House was poured great and a good quality.
We went during the afternoon where it was quiet and we got served very quickly but according to the bartender it can get very busy of an evening!
#18 Watch the casino table minimums of a weekend
Pretty much every hotel casino changed its table minimum stakes of a weekend, for example a table with a minimum of $5 during the week could well be $15 during the weekend (and thats just the normal tables, not what is in the high limit area)
If you are playing just to enjoy the experience more than what you could potentially win then playing during the week will make your money last longer!
#19 Go down Freemont Street for lower stake tables
Following on from #18 we also found that the table minimums were also a lot lower overall in the Freemont Street area, regardless of whether it is the weekend or a bank holiday (we happened to be out in Vegas for the Labour day weekend)
#20 Be sure to properly experience Freemont Street
As a group we overall preferred Freemont Street to the main strip, generally we spent most evenings in Freemont Street then moved down to the main strip afterwards.
Generally we found Freemont Street bars were a lot cheaper for drinks than on the main strip, also the servers pours are a lot more generous! What also made Freemont Street really good for a night out was the various bands that were playing at the different stages throughout the length of the street. Even if live bands are not your thing, be sure to get down Freemont Street at least one night during your stay!
#21 For some bars and all clubs be aware of a dress code
Some of the hotel bars turn into small clubs of a weekend and carry a similar dress code for men that the super clubs have, basically smart casual (long pants, shirt etc.)
Some of the these bars also have lines and an entrance fee of an evening also, we actually didn’t find any of these in the MGM, however a couple of neighbouring New York, New York’s bar did of an evening!
#22 Planning a pool party? planning on getting a table?
Unfortunately we had a bit of bad luck with our planned pool party reservation at WetRepublic which meant that we had to miss it in the end. We tried to get in to WetRepublic on Labour Day Sunday, one of the USA’s biggest bank holidays which meant that it was very busy (we noticed this even in the hotels)
We also arrived late that meant our reservation was given up to a bigger group, we were a group of 5 and the other group that had it was 10, which is what the table was actually for.
My advice if you are thinking of getting a table at one of the pool parties, especially on a major US bank holiday is to get as many people (as recommended on the clubs website) you can going to it, get there early so there is less chance of your reservation being given up to a bigger group, that will also be more profitable to the club as they will naturally spend more! Another recommendation is if you make a table booking, you will be most likely given a contact for a promotor at the club, be sure to contact them in the morning and make sure that everything is cool before heading down!
#23 If you are planning on getting a sun-lounger by your hotel pool, get down early!
Although the pool(s) in the MGM Grand are large the area still fills up by late morning, so if you wanting a sun-lounger by the pool be sure we get down early! We went down around 9am the first morning we were in Vegas and there was next to no one down by the pool area!
Another thing to be aware around the pool area is that you get any bag you have on you searched before going into the pool area. You also cannot bring any outside drink (water is OK) into the pool area, but there is another shop down by the pool area!
#24 Tip what YOU think is deserved for your room attendant/cleaner(s)
A lot of sites and even the hotel concierge (when checking in) state an expected tipping amount for your room attendant/cleaner at the end of your stay, but give what YOU think they should get.
Luckily for us the cleaner(s) we had in the room for our stay did an excellent job and we left them a big pile of cash at the end. They even made the effort of keep the place tidy as well and not just simply making the beds and cleaning the bathroom.
#25 Allow 3 hours if departing from McCarran International airport
Although the main airport in Vegas is right next to the main strip, still allow plenty of time to get over to the terminal. Although checkin was quite quick and relatively empty for us, TSA was very busy and like all US airports you are asked to take off your shoes and get all electronics out of your carry on, my advice would be pack your carry on so you can do this quite quickly when it is your turn to go through. Like the UK but unlike the EU, the USA doesn’t not have any passport exit controls (hence the reason you don’t get an exit stamp in your passport!) so you don’t need to worry about any queues for that like you do in some countries!)
The departure area of the main terminal is huge and has a lot of shops, places to get something to eat and even more slot machines! If you buy any duty free, depending on what it is (spirits, tobacco etc,) you may have to collect it at the gate, just keep your receipt!
I hope you have found these tips and advice useful for a trip you may be planning or have coming up to Las Vegas! It really is a great city to visit and somewhere I can personally imagine visiting again at some point, there is just so much to see and do that you can’t see it and experience it all in one trip!
What are your tips and suggestions for visiting Vegas? Let me know in the comments below!