Popularized by both movies and hit songs ever since its creation, the bright flashing lights of Las Vegas has been tempting travelers from all over the world for decades. In a normal non-COVID year, Vegas welcomes around 40 million tourists.
While it may be one of the world’s most tourist-friendly cities, the mix of craziness, excitement, and sheer amount of choice Vegas presents can prove a bit overwhelming for first-time visitors looking to break their Sin City virginity.
If you’ve always dreamt of visiting the gambling and entertainment capital of America and wish your experience to live up to the fun and magic you had envisioned, I’ve compiled a list of essential Vegas travel tips you need to know as a first-time visitor.
The Vegas Strip may offer something for anyone on nearly any budget, but avoiding rookie Vegas tourist mistakes will ensure your visit is a memorable one for all the right reasons.
Essential Las Vegas Travel Tips for First Time Visitors
Learn How to Gamble
It’s no secret that the odds are against you in Vegas when it comes to gambling. Vegas is after all designed to make money.
While you may not be able to defy the odds, you can at least give yourself the best chance of winning by learning how to play the various table games and learning which games offer up the best odds.
If you’ve never gambled before, it may be wise to get some practice online first with Oddschecker. Not only will this allow you to get a feel for the various games you’ll encounter in Vegas, but as a new online player you can also take advantage of generous bonus offers such as deposit bonuses and free spins to maximize your practice playing time and reduce any potential losses.
Vegas dealers may even be willing to teach you various table games during quiet periods. Slots may be less intimidating, but be warned that the odds are usually stacked heavily against you so you’ll need to have quite a bit of luck on your side.
Signing up for a players club card may be a good idea if you plan to gamble a lot. These free cards will score you points every time you gamble in Vegas, which you can then redeem for reduced rates on rooms, shows, and food. Whether you’re playing table games or pulling up a seat at the slots, you can use your players club card to earn points.
Oh, and don’t forget that cocktail waitresses roam the casino offering free drinks, so don’t hit the bar before you gamble so that you may offset any gambling losses with free alcohol.
We do however urge you to drink and gamble responsibly and understand that the very reason free drinks are given out is to keep gamblers playing (and spending) longer on the floor.
When to Travel to Las Vegas
Vegas can be enjoyable at any time of year, but certain periods may be more appealing to you depending on what your budget is and what activities you wish to enjoy while you’re there.
If you’re working with a limited budget, your best bet is to avoid weekends and holidays and maybe book your stay during the heat of summer. Summer can be extremely hot, but it’s a great time to take advantage of the refreshing resort pools and summer travel can save you a lot on Vegas flights and hotels.
Winter is more ideal for walking the Strip during the day, but at night it can get quite cold. It’s also worth mentioning that not all Vegas hotels and resorts heat their pools year-round, so you may have to rethink your pool party during the winter months where it can actually get quite chilly.
If you simply plan on focusing your attention on gambling and shows, you don’t really need to worry about the outdoor heat since the casinos keeps things well air-conditioned.
The key is to avoid popular events such as sports finals and exhibitions which will have you paying a premium for nearly everything in addition to needing to book everything from show tickets to dinner reservations well in advance.
A good option for first timers wanting ideal weather without being too overcrowded is to travel during the spring and fall months. These periods are also perfect for exploring the popular natural areas around Las Vegas.
Choosing a Vegas Hotel
There’s definitely no shortage of options when it comes to booking Vegas accommodation. Because it’s so competitive along the Strip, there are often some great deals and extras offered by Vegas resorts and casinos in an effort to have you stay with them.
Keep an eye out for cheap weekday rooms in some of the fancier Strip hotels, where you may be further enticed by free spa credits, free show tickets, free daily breakfast or buffet passes, or even a limo ride to and from airport.
One thing to be aware of, however, is hidden resort fees which are mandatory and allow you to be able to use various facilities within a Vegas hotel or resort. Not paying attention to resort fees can lead to a bit of shock when you go to settle your bill at checkout.
Resort fees are almost never included in the quoted room rate so you need to do a bit of research to know what exactly your total stay cost will be. Resort fees at some higher-end Vegas hotels can actually be more than the room rate, which with tax included can be over $50 per night for the resort fee alone.
It’s always a good idea to choose a hotel which offers close access to the casinos and shows you are most interested in so you won’t have to walk or hitch a ride everywhere. If you’re unsure of what you want to see and do along the Vegas Strip, choose a hotel that’s centrally located.
What’s Legal in Vegas?
Vegas may be known as sin city but there are still a number of laws you need to be aware of. They say “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, but engaging in some activities may see you staying in a Vegas for longer than you intended as you suffer in the discomfort of a jail cell.
The Vegas Strip offers up crosswalks and bridges for pedestrians to safely cross roads, and failure to use them can see you slapped with a decent fine.
Having open containers containing alcohol are allowed on the Vegas Strip but only when transiting from one casino or hotel to the next. You’re not allowed to simply sit on the street and drink or party with alcohol.
You must catch taxis from designated taxi stands, as it is illegal for them to pick you up from just anywhere along the Vegas Strip. And don’t think about stuffing an extra bread roll from the buffet in your pocket to feed the local pigeons, as feeding them will land you a warning on the first offense and possible fines or jail time after that.
Another surprise to many is that prostitution is technically illegal in Vegas despite the reputation it has and regardless of all the countless people on the street handing out flyers and cards with naked women plastered all over them.
You can legally hire an escort in Vegas so long as they don’t advertise any guarantee of sex, however, most are willing to accept cash for special extras despite it not being publicly promoted per say.
You can either test your luck with paying for sex in Vegas or simply head to another nearby county within Nevada where prostitution is in fact legal via a number of state licensed brothels.
Gambling Laws in Vegas
There are also a few gambling laws that can vary from one casino to the next. It should come as no surprise that you are always being watched whether you’re playing slots or table games.
Casino security is constantly keeping an eye out for cheaters or anyone that may be doing something to tip the odds in their favor, so don’t even attempt any tricks whether it’s bending or counting cards.
You must have your phone turned off or to silent in casino sports books and at table games. You may very well be hastily escorted from the casino if you make or take a call while gambling at either. About the only place you can use your phone while gambling is at the slots.
The legal gambling and drinking age in Vegas is 21 without exception and you can be arrested if found engaging in either if you’re underage. You should also know that Vegas has some of America’s most strict drug possession and selling laws.
Taxis and Ridesharing vs Renting a Vehicle
Another big decision to make is how you’ll get from the airport to the Strip and how you plan to get around after that. There are a number of ways to get to the Strip from the airport including a taxi, private or standard airport shuttle, or by bus. You can also rent a vehicle.
If you plan on sticking solely to the Vegas Strip, you probably won’t need to hire a vehicle. Having your own vehicle really comes in handy for those wishing to explore the surrounding area and its many attractions including Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Area 51, or Death Valley.
Not many realize how long the Vegas Strip actually is. At over 4 miles in length, it can take you well over an hour and a half walking from one end to the other.
For instance, if you wish to visit the Welcome to Vegas sign for a selfie and are staying at the Venetian, get ready for a bit of a trek. When you do need to get around on the Vegas Strip, you thankfully have many options besides walking including taxis, the monorail, and ridesharing.
Both Uber and Lyft operate in Vegas, with both often tempting riders with special promotions. Do be aware of peak-time surge costs with ridesharing apps, most notable Uber. Ironically, many drivers drive for both companies and it often doesn’t make much of a difference which company you book with.
If you do believe you’ll need to catch a bunch of lifts along the Strip or again wish to freely explore the surrounding area, it’s often more economical to rent a car, but avoid doing so at the airport. Hiring a car at an off-airport location avoids the added taxes and fees and can save you roughly 20% or more.
As an added bonus when renting a vehicle, a number of Vegas hotels provide both complimentary valet parking and self-parking to guests. Another option is to simply rent a car for the days you want to do day trips instead of for your entire stay.
These top tips will go a long way to making your first Vegas visit safe and more rewarding. While I can’t guarantee you’ll come away a winner at the craps table, you hopefully will now at least be able to save some money on your first Vegas vacation and enjoy much of what you hope to experience.
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