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Old 10 Oct 08, 02:54 PM  
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Diamonddog2801
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Join Date: Nov 07
Location: Wallingford, UK
Question Las Vegas "All You Need To Know!"...

PART 1

First things first - a quick description of Las Vegas for those of you yet to visit.

Where is it and how big is it?



Las Vegas is the largest city in the state of Nevada, with a metropolitan population of 2 million people (including Henderson etc). It's still one of the fastest growing cities in the USA, being the largest US city founded in the 20th century (actually 1911). It is situated near the southern most tip of Nevada.

Situation & Major Road Connections
It's approximately 280 miles from Los Angeles, 300 from Phoenix, 330 from San Diego, 420 from Salt Lake City, 450 from Reno and 570 from San Francisco. Two major freeways - Interstate 15 and Interstate 515/U.S. Route 95 - cross in downtown Las Vegas.
I-15 connects Las Vegas to Los Angeles and San Diego, California, and heads northeast to and beyond Salt Lake City, Utah.
I-515 goes southeast to Henderson, beyond which US 93 continues over the Hoover Dam towards Phoenix, Arizona.
US 95 connects the city to northwestern Nevada, including Carson City and Reno.
US 93 splits from I-15 northeast of Las Vegas and goes north through the eastern part of the state, serving Ely and Wells, and US 95 heads south from US 93 near Henderson through far eastern California.

Climate & Weather
Las Vegas has an arid, desert climate - it is, after all, situated in the Mojave Desert. In essence, this means very hot summers, mild winters, abundant sunshine year-round, and very little rainfall.

Las Vegas is surrounded by high mountains, variations in temperatures can be pretty amazing even on the hottest days. Summers are hot in the low desert, yet cool in the mountains. Winters are comfortable in the low desert with mild spring-like days for most of the season, yet in higher elevations there are some great snow skiing and winter sports, however some extreme high country wilderness areas are closed due to snow and ice. Indoor activities abound and are a great relief during the hottest summer days. The spring and fall are probably the most ideal times for a Las Vegas visit, with little rain and lots of great temperatures. Las Vegas is an ideal year-round destination for some fabulous fun in the sun and loads of indoor entertainment.




How to get there (from the UK)

Las Vegas is just over 5200 miles from London. Flight times are about 10 1/2 hours direct. You could book a package deal, including flight, hotel & car, from any high street travel agents. They'll get you there, but are highly unlikely to get you the best deal. So, what are your choices?

Las Vegas is poorly served by direct flights from the UK to McCarran International in Vegas. As I'm aware, only three companies offer direct flights to Vegas, those being:

Virgin Atlantic
Fly daily from Gatwick to McCarran.

BMI
Currently fly from Manchester on Tuesdays/Thursdays/Sundays in summer months and Thursdays/Sundays only in winter. They quite often codeshare this service with Air New Zealand, I believe?

****EDIT*****
BMI have announced "from April 2009, unfortunately our Manchester-Caribbean and Manchester-Las Vegas services will end".
****EDIT****


****EDIT***** As from October 2009, British Airways now fly direct to Las Vegas from Heathrow ****EDIT****

****EDIT***** As from October 2012, British Airways now fly direct to Las Vegas from Gatwick three days per week:

Mon, Wed & Sat
LGW-LAS dep 1130 arr 1405
LAS-LGW dep 1555 dep 0945



Thomas Cook
Fly from Manchester on Wednesdays/Saturdays in summer and Wednesdays only in winter. They were previously known as My Travel,of course.

A couple of things to bear in mind - Virgin Atlantic has a monopoly of London services to Vegas. For this reason, they operate their old 747's on this route. Whilst not bad, they are nowhere near as good as the A320s they operate to cities such as Orlando. So you may be slightly disappointed if you are used to the normally excellent Virgin Atlantic services.

Secondly, Thomas Cook flights quite often stop in Belfast or Glasgow for more passengers. This makes them no better than an indirect flight with a stop in the US. When you book, please make sure you know if your flight is scheduled for this -and ask for flight times with that taken into account.

There are too many operators to list for indirect flights to Vegas - it has so many 'gateway' cities, the list is endless. Please just be careful of connection times - anything under two hours is very risky, because of US customs & immigration (which can take minutes, but can also be hours). If you get a two hour connection time, you will still be looking at aproximately 13 hours in total. Please study the connecting flights and take into account the time differences (Vegas is 8 hours behind the UK).

Finding good fares is not as easy as it would appear, with all that choice. Things you need to consider:

Avoid Weekend Flights
Travelling mid week (really Mon-Thu) saves money and can be less crowded .
Booking Early
Start looking into your flight up to 11 months before you fly (most sites only allow up to 330 days prior for bookings) - seriously!.
Time of year
The majority of us Brits like to take holidays June till September - the prices will (generally) be higher.
First hand advice
Asking advice from regular visitors to Vegas, both in the 'real world' and regular posters on DIBB .
Offers & Sales
Airlines don't just put prices out on a whim - they know when people start looking to book for certain destinations. Keep looking at airline websites for deals & offers.
Johnny Come Latelies
Sometimes you can get great deals by waiting until the last moment - but there's no guaranteees, and it's exceptionally difficult if you are booking for a family etc. I wouldn't recommend it now, but I did get some astonishing deals in the mid 90s doing this.

Some websites to use:

www.virginatlantic.com
www.flybmi.com
www.thomascook.com

www.opodo.co.uk
www.expedia.co.uk
www.ebookers.com
www.netflights.com
www.lastminute.com
www.travelbag.com
www.flightcomparison.co.uk
www.justtheflight.co.uk
www.orbitz.com
www.kayak.co.uk
www.flightcentre.co.uk
www.skyscanner.net
http://www.mobissimo.com/search_airfare.php
www.travelocity.com

as well as all the other international carriers, that are too many to list here. This is not a comprehensive list - please feel free to add (or pm me with additions) if you think they're worthy of inclusion.


Getting into the USA
Before booking anything you should check that you qualify for entry to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) . Also from January 2009 you will need to obtain a ESTA ( Electronic System for Travel Authorization ) to board a flight to the USA .

http://www.usembassy.org.uk/cons_new/visa/niv/vwp.html

http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id...a/esta_faq.xml

https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/esta.h...0-CA27E9D323C5

Accommodation



Las Vegas is entirely different to any other city when it comes to booking rooms. Firstly, when you book for other places, you try to find the best place for sightseeing etc. In Vegas, the hotels are the attractions! Secondly, it is the most volatile market in the world. Prices can range from $50 per night (let's say, a West Wing room for two at the MGM Grand in midweek July) to $300 (the same room at the MGM Grand during a big fight weekend in mid December). Okay, that's unusual, I think you'd agree? What makes it even more difficult to predict is that the prices can be flip flopped if the stay in July is on an Independance Holiday weekend, and there's no big fight in mid December. You have to attempt to learn your way around the peculiarities of Vegas hotel accommodation - but, a word of warning, it's an ever evolving talent!
One thing is certain - weekend prices double, if not treble. If you can avoid a Friday and Saturday stay - do so. Simple as that. Some hotels will not let you start your stay on Saturday nights either. And it gets seriously busy as well.

Things that can affect prices:

i) Conventions.

The CES convention in January puts 140,000 delegates into Vegas. It doesn't take much working out what effect that has on room prices. Use this link:
http://www.lasvegastourism.com/conventions_jan.htm
to avoid big conventions if you can.

ii) Public Holidays.

2008
1 Jan New Year's Day.
21 Jan Martin Luther King Day.
18 Feb Presidents' Day.
26 May Memorial Day.
4 Jul Independence Day.
1 Sept Labor Day.
13 Oct Columbus Day.
11 Nov Veterans' Day.
27 Nov Thanksgiving Day.
25 Dec Christmas Day.

2009
1 Jan New Year's Day.
19 Jan Martin Luther King Day.
16 Feb Presidents' Day.
25 May Memorial Day.
4 Jul Independence Day.
7 Sept Labor Day.
12 Oct Columbus Day.
11 Nov Veterans' Day.
26 Nov Thanksgiving Day.
25 Dec Christmas Day.

iii) Large Sporting Events/Occasions



The obvious ones like Superbowl weekend (now first week in Feb, used to be last weekend in Jan). The less obvious ones like National Finals Rodeo in December (a huge event). Any big boxing match - in the mid 90s, I stayed in Ballys. On Friday night, Julio Cesar Chavez fought on Friday night at The Mirage. Oscar De La Hoya fought on the Saturday night, at Caesars Palace. These are virtually opposite Ballys. We could not get out of our hotel on either night! Seriously, the crowds were absolutely vast - it was easier to go out of the back of Ballys and walk parallel to The Strip on a less busy street. That is how Vegas can get - worth bearing in mind!

iv) Popular Times for UK vistors

This is mainly caused by the weather & school holidays. July and August are often avoided because of the intense summer heat - you can pick up amazing deals for rooms at this time, smack bang in the middle of the summer holidays. January and December are also quiet months - yet you have two of the most expensive weeks in that period (CES Convention & Rodeo week). It's difficult to generalise. Las Vegas is a year round destination, but (for instance) pools normally close from the end of October until March, so going at that time is completely different to going in the warmer months.
Many would say the most pleasant months are April, May, Sept and October. I wouldn't necessarily disagree with this. However, if you're a real sun worshipper, you cannot beat July & August (where temps regularly get up to 110F!) Prices for UK flights in the traditional UK holiday months of June to Early Sept (the six weeks in July & August that constitute school holidays are another price ratchet up) always seem much more expensive than April or May (excluding bank holidays and Easter of course), yet April and May may be better times to visit Vegas. However, the rooms may be more expensive than in July/August? By not going in the UK holiday season/summer holidays , you could save a considerable amount of money on your flight, meaning more money to spend on your hotel - but the rooms may be more expensive! There is no hard and fast rule. You have to be prepared to research and ask questions, and judge the balance yourself.

There are three main areas of accommodation :
a) The Strip
b) Downtown
c) Everywhere else!

Before I start, please use this page:

http://www.vegas.com/resorts/

to give you a general idea of the situation, amenities and size of any of the hotels. It will save alot of time if you have some idea what you are needing in your hotel (ie- pool area, situation, whether you need a casino -alot of the newer developments are non casino hotels !-, budget etc) before you start looking at any price saving tips.

There isn't a bad hotel/room on The Strip - the worst would comfortably be a
3* in the UK. Some of the high end hotels are behemoths of opulence and splendour you are unlikely to get (for that price) anywhere else on the planet very easily!

The Strip is the 4.5 mile part of Las Vegas Boulevard South (from The Stratosphere - although many say it really starts at The Sahara- to Mandalay Bay) that most people think of as Las Vegas. This area sprung up in the mid 1940s (with Mafia money, mostly), and has just grown and grown! As it stands now:



Downtown is the 'old' part of Vegas - it's situated just northwest of Las Vegas Blvd. From mid strip, it's about a $15 cab trip.



'Everywhere else' in Vegas is all the hotels that have sprung up just off of The Strip, further away than that still and alot of the 'locals' casins, that are used (primarily) by Vegas citizens, who don't need the 'buzz' of The Strip & neon, because they get it 365 days of the year anyway! These locals casinos can, sometimes, offer fantastic value -but it comes at the cost of easy accessibility to the Strip sites.

I shall deal with the individual areas now:

The Strip:



The mega resorts. 16 of the largest 20 hotels on the planet are on The Strip. Until you have seem them, you simply cannot believe how vast they are. Some of them are very tasteful, some scream at you! Some cater for families (kind of), some positively frown upon kids! Some will let you gamble for reasonably low stakes ( a $5 bet on a blackjack table on The Strip is low stakes). others won't entertain anything less than $15 a pop! Some have many excellent restauarants, some believe in piling it high and dolloping it out! Some have buffets that defy description, others have buffets that should have warning signs! But they are all big (the Strip Frontage of The Bellagio & Caesars Palace is over half a mile, by themselves!), and they all have their own 'theme' - normally given away by their name!

I will give a separate account of the major Strip hotels later on - but it cannot be comprehensive. Each persons opinion of each hotels pros and cons is subjective.

Take a look at the map, then at the hotel info, see what catches your eye, and then use these links to get an idea of price:

www.mgmmirage.com
www.harrahs.com

It's worth pointing out here that the MGM Mirage group own the following hotels:

Bellagio
MGM Grand (and The Signature at MGM)
Mandalay Bay
The Mirage
Excalibur
New York New York
Monte Carlo
Treasure Island (or 'TI at The Mirage' as they like it to be called!)*
Circus Circus
Luxor
City Centre ( the massive complex of 5 hotels, due to open mid '09/start of '10)

****EDIT*****
Treasure Island was bought by Phil Ruskin at the end of '09, and is now not part of MGM Mirage - but I believe the players card points etc still work & accumulate there!
****EDIT****



And Harrahs/Caesars Group own:

Caesars Palace
Harrahs
Paris
The Flamingo
Ballys
Imperial Palace
Rio (west of The Strip).

****EDIT**** Harrah's acquired Planet Hollywood recently and it's Rewards Scheme is fully up and running there now. ****EDIT****

The above two websites will allow you to compare all of their hotels with eachother (the Harrahs one is easier to use).

Another site for Harrahs/Caesars is their 'Specials' page:

http://www.harrahs.com/reservations/...p?propCode=CLV

that can throw up some really good packages.

Also to view:

http://www.venetian.com/
http://www.palazzolasvegas.com/
http://www.planethollywood.com/
http://www.saharavegas.com/content/home
http://www.stratospherehotel.com/
http://www.billslasvegas.com/
http://www.rivierahotel.com/
http://www.wynnlasvegas.com/
http://www.encorelasvegas.com/ (due to open early 2009)


All of the above will give you access to everywhere on 'The Strip'. Just go to 'Reservations', put your dates in, and compare.

Downtown:



This is the older part of Vegas. The casinos are much smaller and the rooms are (generally) smaller & less glamorous than their Strip counterparts. They tend not to have the same facilities as the megaresorts either (a swimming pool is a rarity, for instance). However, many will say it's a much friendlier atmosphere downtown (which is true, I think), you can walk 10 yards across Fremont Street to get from one to another, and the room rates can be absurdly cheap! It's also a fact that you can drink, eat & gamble for less downtown - so it has its advantages!
Take a look at the map, then at the hotel info, see what catches your eye, and then use these links to get an idea of price:


www.fourqueens.com
www.goldengatecasino.com
www.fitzgeralds.com
www.vegasclubcasino.net
www.fremontcasino.com
www.mainstreetcasino.com
www.thecal.com
www.hotelscombined.com
www.goldennugget.com/home.asp
www.plazahotelcasino.com/

Everywhere Else!



Casinos have sprung up all over Las Vegas, just off of The Strip, close to the I-15, the Convention Centre and even further afield than that! It's impossible to list all of them here - I'll give some of the more prominent ones, and two further 'Groups' of casinos, whose hotels (generally) fit into these categories:

http://www.coastcasinos.com/
http://www.stationcasinos.com/

http://www.trumplasvegashotel.com/
http://www.palms.com/
www.hardrockhotel.com
www.lvhilton.com
http://www.ellisislandcasino.com/
http://specialoffers.starwoodhotels... 040908_NAD_FM

As I have said, this is less than comprehensive. It would be easier for you to enter 'off strip casinos in Las Vegas' into a search engine and go from there!


There are big advantages to booking direct with the hotels - they all offer virtually the same refund/cancellation policy (normally cancelling up to 72 prior to arrival means a full refund of the deposit, which is normally the cost of the first nights stay), and also that you cut out any middle men and can talk to the hotel directly. However, please check this, especially if you are booking a package or an offer - the terms may be different.

However, there are also other sites that deal with Vegas hotels - these normally just direct you to the Hotel direct anyway:

http://www.vegas-promotions.com/
http://www.vegashotelhunt.com/

Another site that appears to throw up some really good deals is:

www.roomsnet.com

Of course, you can always book with the giants like Expedia, Orbitz (as shown in the flight companies list above) etc, but you'll rarely get the best rates.

Two other sites to consider, if you are looking for up-to-the-minute deals:

http://www.vegashotelspecial.com/ (a great site for promo codes, as they become available)
http://www.fatwallet.com/t/63/704925/10193203#m10193203 (a truly marvellous site, with a list of hotels on page one too)

And these too:

http://www.vegas-hotels-online.com/
http://casinotripreports.com/smf/ind...3e&topic=57.90
http://www.openvegas.com/vegas/forum...splay.php?f=17
http://www.vegasmessageboard.com/for...splay.php?f=13
http://www.earlyvegas.com/promo_codes.html
http://www.smartervegas.com/
www.lasvegasinsider.com
www.vegas.com

And other big sites:

www.hotels.com
www.tripres.com
www.cityandshow.com

One thing to be careful of when booking Las Vegas hotels, if more than two of you are staying in the room - some of these sites will show you a price, and then (only on the confirmation page, and sometimes not that easy to see either) add on costs for third & fourth occupants! Beware - it is, I am convinced, done so as to catch you out (the last three sites are particularly bad for it), so please study your reservation before confirming!

Lastly, you can try using Hotwire & Priceline - these are 'opaque' sellers, meaning you only find out which hotel you have 'won' after you pay for it. It sounds very 'dodgy' but, if you are prepared to do your homework, you can come up with some truly astonishing deals. There is always an element of risk involved with these sites though (you cannot guarantee a particular hotel) so, if you aren't prepared to take that risk, don't use them!.

www.hotwire.com
www.priceline.com

And please read this site:

www.betterbidding.com

and also this one:

www.biddingfortravel.com

to find out each sites inherent risks, advantages and quirks. Please, look at Betterbidding (who I rate higher) fully before committing - they will help you if you have questions to ask - and I strongly advise you to do so before you start bidding on rooms! Both sites require you to pay in full, upfront and are non-refundable!

A couple of tips:

1) Sign up for the hotels email offers - this way you can get in front of others and snap up deals that can go incredibly quickly!
2) It can be advantageous to become a member of the hotels 'slot club' - some deals actually require you to be a slot club member.
3) It's true that most deals start to come out about three months before your departure date, so start really looking three months in advance - but don't be afraid to look much earlier than that.
4) Some people appear to think that turning up in a Vegas hotel, on the day, is the best way to get a decent room rate (the logic being that, if they have rooms left, they'll accept anything to fill them). IT IS NOT. There's every chance the hotel will be sold out (believe me, these places run at an average occupancy of 90+%, that means they are truly sold out on busy days - even the 4000+ room establishments), you may only be able to book the more expensive rooms/suites (the standard rooms tend to sell out first) and, if there are rooms, you'll get 'rack rate' - that's just about the most expensive rate you can get! Don't do it, please?

Upon Arrival & Checking In



(*ps - yes, there are slot machines in the airport, of course!*)

McCarren Airport runs adjacent to the Strip (most people are normally amazed just how close it is, when they first arrive in Vegas). A view from the airport, looking at The Luxor :

The airport has improved greatly over the years and is now very easy to navigate around.

Shuttle Buses operate to all the main casinos. However, a taxi (they sit just outside the terminal, on the 'sidewalk') is by far the most convenient way to get to your hotel. Use this:
www.taxi.state.nv.us/FaresFees.htm
to get some idea of the potential cost to your hotel. Our taxi to the MGM was $12.50 this year, so it's quite accurate!

All hire car firms now use a central, offsite hire centre. You get an easily available shuttle to & from:
http://www.mccarran.com/03_carrentals.asp
From my experience, this works superbly.

If you really want to 'push the boat out' why not rent a Limo from the airport , they cost around $70 a hour - if you're sharing with three others, it can work out not much more expensive than a taxi.
Here's some limo rental companies:
http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/refer...cfm?type=Limos



Some hotels allow you to check in at McCarran Airport, which can save time with queues in the hotel itself.
When you check in (either at the hotel lobby, or the airport) your check in clerk will will assign you a room number. Some rooms of the same standard are definitely more desirable than others - Strip Views are always more eagerly sought after, as are corner rooms or rooms that overlook a known casino attraction (the volcano at The Mirage, for instance). You will, almost certainly, pay more for these rooms (I was asked to pay $45 more, per night, for a Strip View Suite at The Palazzo this July, for example). Also, you'll find that it's often very difficult to get high level rooms, because everyone wants them, for the best views.
Other things to consider - do you want to be close to the elevators (easier on the feet, less distance to walk) or away from them (much quieter)? Do you want the vending or ice machines on the same level as you (easier, but noisier) or would you prefer to be on a different floor to them (less people and/or machine noise)?
Whatever, do as much research on your individual hotel rooms as you can - clerks will often ask "Anything in particular you're looking for?" and knowing if, for instance, you want a pool or Strip view can make it much easier to obtain what you'd like.


A couple of things:

1) The longer your stay, the harder to get upgrades,
2) The busier the hotel, the more difficult it is to upgrade
3) Be realistic - don't ask for an upgrade to a $3000 per night suite, when you've only booked a $70 standard room to start with. You may get offered that suite (it has happened!), but it's more likely to get a curt 'no' from the clerk.
4) Ask nicely - it's amazing what a little civility can achieve!

Regardless , if you are not happy with your room , let the front desk know and ask for something different. You will normally be accommodated.



Still to come (in Parts 2-5, below):

Transport
Eating & Drinking
Shows & Nightlife
Coupons
Attractions
Shopping
Gambling

And maybe more!

Last edited by Michelle; 28 Jul 13 at 08:16 PM.
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Old 11 Oct 08, 09:43 PM  
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#2
Diamonddog2801
Thread Starter
Imagineer
 
Join Date: Nov 07
Location: Wallingford, UK
PART 2

So, you've had your flight, you've got to your hotel and checked in...
What next?

Transport



If you hire a car, it's almost certainly cheaper to pre-book it in this country. When you gauge prices, please make sure you include all the insurances you will need (and that is, at the very least, Collision Damage Waiver and/or Loss Damage Waiver level), and any add ons (extra drivers, under 25 surcharge). I would also strongly advise paying in advance for a 'free' tank of fuel - it means you can return the car empty. If you do not, you will have to fill up just before returning the car (which can be a real pain) or paying massively over the top for the hire company to 'top up' the tank. Weekly hire rates are almost always cheaper than daily rates.

The best company I know (and I've used them for many years now, without any problems, and they provide the best 'platinum package' insurance) is:

www.netflights.com

Also other sites:

www.usrentacar.co.uk
www.holidayautos.co.uk
www.carhire3000.co.uk

to name a few. There are also the major firms themselves:

www.dollar.co.uk
www.avis.co.uk
www.alamo.co.uk
www.hertz.co.uk
www.budget.co.uk

And more besides. If you strongly feel any other companies need to be listed here, please let me know. Most of these offer hire/drop off from multiple casinos/sites in Vegas. You will normally need both parts of your UK Driving Licence (if you only have the old paper licence, they look at you awful funny sometimes!) and your rental agreement to get a car.

A few things about driving in Vegas. Parking is normally free if you do it yourself, or you can get a valet to park it for you. Nominally this is free, but you normally give the valet a tip when he returns the vehicle for you. It works like this:
You pull up in the line marked 'valet drop off' or just 'valet'. A valet will come along (and call someone to unload your vehicle if you require this), take the keys from you and give you a 2 part ticket in return. This ticket is the only way you will be able to get your car back, so please do not lose it!. They will then park your car. When you next need it, go to the 'valet pickup' window and present your ticket. The clerk will (usually) rip the top piece off and give that to a valet, who will collect your car and pull it up to the valet pickup area. You present the last part of the ticket to them (and your tip!) and they open the door for you and you're away!

The advantages of valet pickup/drop off is that you do not have to walk huge distances from self parking (find out how far the MGM Grand car park is from the casino!), the car is parked safely by the valet, and it's returned to you with the air con already working!



Another question I'm often asked is "Do you need a car in Vegas?". The answer is 'no' - you can get around in other ways. To the question of "Whether it is desirable to have a car in Vegas?" the answer is "Yes, for a part of your stay, at least", if you ask me. Some things are just easier with a car - other things are just lazier! You pays your money and takes your choice!

Here's a brief description of easier ways to navigate the areas in and around The Strip, avoiding the real 'bottlenecks' (courtesy of www.lasvegasadvisor.com):

It's best to avoid the Strip and take the following shortcuts at prime times -- from 5 till midnight every night and 24/7 over the weekends. The shortcuts run parallel to the Strip (north-south) and across the Strip (east-west).

There are two good alternate north-south routes west of the Strip. The new road since '04 is Frank Sinatra Drive, which runs between I-15 and the parking lots/garages of Mandalay Bay, Luxor, New York-New-York, Monte Carlo, Bellagio, and Caesars Palace. It connects with Russell Rd. to the south and Dean Martin Drive (formerly Industrial Road to the north. (To get off in between, you have to drive through parking lots.)

Speaking of Dean Martin Drive, this service road also runs parallel to the Strip, but it's west (on the other side of) the freeway. It continues far south of the tourist corridor, but the most useful stretch is from W. Hacienda (where a bridge crossed I-15 and delivers you right to the Mandalay Bay parking garage) up to Sahara. North of there, you can make a quick dogleg on Wyoming (right) to Main Street (left) and continue north all the way to downtown.

On the east side, you should learn the Koval-Paradise parallel route from Tropicana to Sahara avenues. Go east on Reno Avenue (it intersects the Strip between Luxor and Excalibur), then follow it around to the north (left) onto Koval. You can hit the back doors of all the casinos on the east side of the Strip from the MGM Grand to the Venetian. Where Koval ends, do a dogleg right (east) on Sands Avenue, then left on Paradise, from which you can access the entrances to all the casinos from the Riviera to the Stratosphere.

Crossing the Strip on east-west thoroughfares can be brutal. The fastest way to get from one side to the other without touching it is to make use of the three-mile Super Arterial, which connects Paradise on the east to Valley View on the west via the six-lane no-lights Desert Inn Road. This shortcut is extremely convenient if youre going from the Orleans, Gold Coast, Palms, or Rio to the Las Vegas Hilton or Hard Rock.

The second best option for crossing the Strip is Spring Mountain Road (west) and Sands Avenue (east) between the Fashion Show Mall and Treasure Island. Spring Mountain Road is often five times faster than trying to cross the Strip at Flamingo Road. And its only a long block away, the next large street over (north).

Tropicana Avenue is also preferable to Flamingo for crossing the Strip. Sahara is a good way to cross the north Strip.




Taxis are an obvious form of transport - and they do have their uses. However, they are more expensive than other forms of transport, and you cannot 'flag them down' - you have to get them from designated areas in casinos or other pick up areas, or get the casinos or establishments to call them for you. Also beware of being taken along The Strip- it can be mindnumbingly slow, and may well cost a small fortune. Most taxis will, where possible, use the arterial roads either side of The Strip to get you from A to B -it may seem longer, but it is almost certainly quicker (and cheaper).

Las Vegas Taxi Firms:

A-Cab Co. (Dark green skirting-White roof) 702/365-5686
Ace Cab Co. (White body-Red roof) 702/736-8383
A-North Las Vegas Cab Co. (White body-Blue roof) 702/643-1041
Checker Cab Co. (White body-Checkered fenders) 702/873-2000
Deluxe Cab Co. (Grey fenders-White roof) 702/568-7700
Desert Cab Co. (White body-Orange roof) 702/386-9102
Designated Drivers 702/456-RIDE (7433)
Henderson Taxi (White body-Yellow roof) 702/384-2322
Lucky Cab Co. (White body-Magenta fenders) 702/477-7555
Nellis Cab Co. (White body-Metallic blue fenders) 702/248-1111
Star Cab Co. (White-body-Green roof) 702/873-2000
Union Cab Co. (Black fenders-White roof) 702/736-8444
Vegas Western Cab Co. (White body-Lavender roof) 702/736-6121
Virgin Valley Cab Co. (White body, Purple roof) 702/737-1378
Western Cab Co. (White body-Brown skirting) 702/736-8000
Whittlesea Blue Cab Co. (White body-Red roof) 702/384-6111
Yellow Cab Co. (Yellow body-Black bumpers) 702/873-2000



The Deuce is the local double decker bus firm that travels up an down The Strip, and also go onto Downtown. It's cheap ($5 gets you a 24 hour pass, unlimited use in that time) and stops most everywhere. Because of this, however, it can be breathtakingly slow (it took us over an hour to get from downtown to the Monte Carlo once!) and they are nearly always extremely crowded. If you can get on in the first place, that is!



The Monorail runs from The Sahara to The MGM Grand. A full list of prices and times are available here (these change frequently, so check regularly) :
http://www.lvmonorail.com/ride/ticket_info/



The major disadvantage to the monorail is that (besides being quite expensive) the stations on The Strip are all at the back of the casinos and generally involve a long walk to The Strip itself (normally through the packed casino). It's very quick, air conditioned and very clean - but is really only a great idea if you have over half of the total trip to travel (in my opinion).

There are also two monorails that cost nothing. One connects The Mirage with Treasure Island. The other one connects The Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay. The latter one has a interesting trip sequence - if you catch it at The Excalibur it does not stop at the Luxor heading south towards Mandalay Bay. The casino owners want you visiting Mandalay Bay, so it only stops at the Luxor on the return journey north, from Mandalay Bay. The distance of the other (Mirage-Treasure Island) is so small, it barely seems worth the wait to queue (and I can be lazy!).

There are a few free shuttles, run by the casinos themselves, that take you to other casinos/properties. Here's a link to an up-to-date list:

http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/refer...ree%20Shuttles

You can of course, walk. The distances involved can be very deceptive, and in the searing summer heat, you are likely to start hyper-ventilating if you walk in the heat for more than 15 minutes! But, for short distances, it's almost certainly quicker (and healthier, hyper-ventilation excluded, of course... ).

Eating/Drinking



Las Vegas provides such a huge variety of food choices (from top level chefs through to cheap buffets) that it's impossible to give a full insight here. The array of different eating places is huge too - so, where does one choose to eat?

There are literally hundreds of choices. Many of you will choose to stay in your own hotel - as some of them will have up 15 (or more) different food establishments under their own roof, it is possible to go somewhere different every night for a fortnight and never eat outside of your own casino! The days when nearly all casino eateries were 'loss leaders' is a thing of the past, however, so it's well worth considering the non-casino options too (in many cases, they will be cheaper - and quicker). There are many fine reference books on the subject, these probably being the best: "The Unofficial Guide To Las Vegas 2009" by Bob Sehlinger and "Brit's Guide to Las Vegas 2008-2009: And Day Trips in Arizona, Utah and California" by Karen Marchbank & Richard Evans. Both give great insight into current dining options. It is also worth referencing this website:
www.restaurant.com
for some great food deals and tips. And this one:
http://www.forbestraveler.com/food-d...rintslide.html
will give you an idea of some of the higher echelon restaurants.
However, restaurants are in an incredibly 'cut throat' market in Vegas. They open and close very rapidly - it is best to get an up-to-date list just before you travel.



Food wise, Las Vegas is most famous for the 'all you can eat' buffet. It has evolved over the years, and has got more expensive with that evolution too! However, for just pure variety, some of the buffets are quite amazing and offer choices from around the globe, and one really should partake of at least two or three in the space of your visit. The ones that seem to consistently get high ratings from punters are:

Mirage Cravings Buffet
Rio Carnival World Buffet (my own personal favourite)
Planet Hollywood's Spice Market Buffet
Bellagio Buffet
Paris Le Village Buffet

Also worthy of a mention is the Wynn Buffet - at around $38 a go, it should be good!. All of the above are mentioned as Dinner Buffets - they normally start around 4 in the afternoon (check the times though). I'm sure the breakfast and lunch buffets are decent too. Other personal favourites of mine are the Monte Carlo Buffet - both for lunch and dinner, and Harrah's Flavor Buffet, for dinner.

On the downside, I would suggest avoiding the buffets at The Excalibur, Imperial Palace and Circus Circus, which seem to get consistently poor reviews. I would also add, to many peoples surprise I'm sure, the Cafe Lago Buffet at Caesars Palace - we ate there this year and it was the worst meal I've ever had in Vegas. You have been warned!



Alcohol is incredibly easy to get in Vegas. More so, free alcohol is also available as long as you meet 2 basic criteria within a casino:
A) You are playing any casino game, and
B) You are not in a state where you are considered 'drunk'.

If you stay within those parameters, obtaining a free drink is a simple as saying " another large gin, please, waitress". The definition of playing is simply participating in any gambling at the casino (although casinos have been tightening up on slot players and people in sports books - you may have difficulty, depending upon the time of day and/or individual drinks servers). Cocktail waitress's make regular rounds and ask anyone if they would like a drink (the normal call is "Cocktails?"). As long as you're not asking for anything too outlandish (a request for Dom Perignon will not be honoured, most likely) the casino will happily give you a 'free' drink to keep you playing/losing money. 'Free' is not strictly true though, as the waitress relies on tips (and, believe me, in some cases that is their only wage), so she is unlikely to be in a hurry to ask or serve you again if you don't give her a tip. A dollar a drink is acceptable/normal, but you should tip a bit more if you have a group order and/or will be using her services regularly (this is, though, strictly your choice - you get the service you pay for, however). If you are having difficulty locating a waitress, by all means ask the dealer to call one, or search for one yourself . Here is a site that gives information on the subject
http://www.cocktaildoll.com/



As the minimum age for gambling and drinking are both 21, ordering drinks from bars etc can be difficult, if you are or appear to be around that age. Most establishments will ask for photo ID of anyone they suspect to be underage, so if you plan on ordering any alcohol, always have some ID with you. Your passport will be fine, but a photo driving license is much easier and not a total disaster should you lose it, whilst out partying!

Nightlife(clubs)



Like restaurants, there are an amazing array of nightclubs in Las Vegas, catering for all types of clientele. And, just like restauarants, they come and go like the wind - it's an incredibly ephemeral scene, relying wholly on fads, fashions and word of mouth recommendations. (As a 'for instance', The Palazzo has been open less than a year and its headline club was 40/40, a joint project with Jay-Z -who is a massive record producer/artist, if you were unaware. This closed down last month, and is now being converted into a sports book/bar!). Nightclubs are also not my specialist subject, I must say! So I'll just post this link :
http://www.vegas.com/nightclubs/
and hope you can find something to satisfy your wildest desires!

One thing I must include - some of these clubs have recently been heavily criticised for being involved in the systematic 'shaking down' of male customers in the queues to gain admittance. This included such practices as charging extortionate amounts for 'front of the line' passes, indiscrimate intimidation of patrons unwilling to part with their money for such 'services' (leading to the breaking of a leg of one such unfortunate innocent) and allowing outside security firms virtual carte blanche in the running of admission policies at the clubs. It's not all of them, and it may have ceased, but please bear it in mind.

Shows

A staple part of the Las Vegas scene, the diversity of shows means you'll always have a large choice of entertainment. It also, unfortunately, means that it's very difficult to pick the wheat from the chaff. There are many different ways of getting tickets for top shows, which I'll go into below. It's probably worth mentioning that most big music tours now take Las Vegas in on their travels (generally booked in the The House Of Blues at Mandalay Bay, The Garden Theatre At MGM Grand, The Joint at Hard Rock and The Theatre For Performing Arts at Planet Hollywood), so it's now a contemporary scene as well as the established comedian/magic/production line/all rounder shows I'm sure we all associate with Vegas.

If you're ahead of the game and know which show you'll want to see, it's easy to book via the hotels own website, or through other ticket agencies (such as Ticketmaster). You'll pick the tickets up on the day of the show - you still, however, pay a service/postage charge (!). The hotel/show websites seem to go on sale about 4 months before the sho night - but this does vary, so do a little research yourself for individual acts.

There are two other companies worthy of mention:

www.goldstar.com
www.travelzoo.com

who do great, upfront deals on certain shows. For instance, you can get Penn & Teller at The Rio tickets with Goldstar for about $52 at the moment - the retail price is more like $82. So they are certainly worth signing up for email notifications, and keep comparing them to the hotel website.

Prices have risen dramatically for all Vegas shows in the past ten years, however. It may be that you are prepared to wait and take a chance when you're actually in Vegas itself? There is a way to save big:



Tix4Tonite (www.tix4tonite.com) are a company with a few outlets on The Strip (inside the big green bottle next to the Harley Davidson Cafe, outside the Fasion show Mall and next to The Riviera) that sell heavily discounted (up to half price) tickets on the day of the show, for certain Las Vegas shows. It is impossible to predict what the shows will be - but, if you just want to see a show for the experience, while not being too worried what that show is, this may well be the way to go for you. After buying tickets, you'll get a voucher at shows that have assigned seating. You then go directly to the shows Box office to get your tickets and seats booked.

You're likely to find a far larger choice of shows on weekdays rather than at weekends, and some shows have/will never appear(ed) at these outlets. Of course very popular shows will sell out quickly, so you may need to queue before opening time to secure the tickets you want. The staff at these place are generally quite helpful and should be able to tell you if a certain show will require you get there early to buy tickets the next day. There are 2 lines at the Tix4tonite booths - one regular and one VIP. You can get a VIP Pass by bringing previously purchased ticket stubs with you . VIP customers are served before Regular customers.

The best selling, and sometimes most highly rated, shows in Vegas change regularly. However, the following seem to regularly get particularly favourable reviews:

Ka (Cirque De Soleil) at MGM Grand
La Reve at Wynn
Blue Man Group at The Venetian
LOVE (Cirque De Soleil) at The Mirage
Jersey Boys at The Palazzo
Danny Gans at The Mirage
Chris Angel 'Believe' at The Luxor

amongst many others. I've only ever seen one Vegas show - "Ka" this July. It was, I must confess, sensational - I highly recommend it! There is a Cirque De Soleil website:
http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/Cirque...en/default.htm
which allows you to sign up to their email notifications (once you become a member). This does get you regular reductions off certain shows, so it is certainly worth the effort.

Again, the subject is so vast, I can't even begin to touch the surface on here. Do some research, use sites like :
http://www.vegas.com/shows/
and take your choice!

Last edited by Diamonddog2801; 26 Aug 11 at 02:46 PM. Reason: Additions, editing & typos!
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Old 11 Oct 08, 10:12 PM  
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Join Date: Nov 07
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Attractions

Most of the hotels on The Strip are experiences all by themselves - well worth a visit, with many warranting more than just a casual glance.

Top Free Attractions

Bellagio Fountains :



The Bellagio Fountains are, in my view, easily the best free attraction on The Strip. They 'dance' every half hour from 3pm weekdays and 12pm weekends and then every 15 minutes after 8pm. You'll need to get there reasonably early to get a great view, but none are really poor. You'll get to see the fountains perform to various different tracks - some modern music, some classical, some opera, something for everyone! It is still one of the shows that will make you stop and watch it, even if you have seen it many times before. I viewed them from the top of Eiffel Tower Experience at Paris (as in the picture above) at night - it's a marvellous sight! Just a word - the Eiffel Tower is not free!

Mirage Volcano :



The main feature of The Mirage when it exploded on the scene in October '89, the volcano has been remodelled and will 'resume' in December this year, '08. No one is quite sure what it's new schedule will be, but rumour has it that it's due to be every half hour, after 6 at night. It is supposed to be a huge improvement on the previous 'explosion', so it may well be worth your while making a point of seeing it when you next travel.

The Sirens Of TI :

Used to be the Pirate Ship Battle at Treasure Island. Was, undoubtably, better as that - as the now cheesy 'battle' between dolly birds & a cast of male dolts really stretches idiocy to new levels! Still, it's free and it's still quite a spectacle to see the ship move around for the 'attack'.

Lion Habitat at MGM Grand :



A real favourite with kids (but adults enjoy it too), the habitat is inside the MGM Grand, in the Rainforest Cafe area. As it's made of perspex, the habitat can be viewed (safely) from below too. It opens at 11 am, and stays 'open' until 10 pm (depending on the lions, of course). If there are cubs around, you can have your photo taken with them :
http://www.lionpics.us/

Fremont Street Experience :



This is how Downtown decided to try and entice people back down to the area. It's a massive awning/canopy that covers Fremont Street and explodes in a spectacular light and sound show.

The Downtown casinos themselves paid for the experience. It does appear to have brought people back to Downtown. It runs each night from 7 pm till midnight - I think you can enjoy about 5 to 6 shows in that time (they are all different).

Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens :



Walk past the lobby area and you'll come to the conservatory. It's a wonderful spectacle of botanical brilliance! The theme changes every two or three months (currently it's "Harvest show" until November 28, after which I'm sure it will be a Xmas extravaganza). The flowers, trees and plants are beautifully arranged and highlighted - the attention to detail is quite stunning (when I visited in July, we had a mini Bellagio & lake, and a glorious bonsai Mount Rushmore). Well worth a stroll in, before or after the fountain show.

The Masquerade Show In The Sky at The Rio :



Plays daily at every hour from 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m inside the Rio casino, west of The Strip.
It basically involves a lot of brightly lit floats weaving their way around the roof of the Casino, with plenty of performers and dancers 'doing their thing' on the floor.

It is supposed to a very energetic show that seems to impress all that see it.

Top paying attractions

Secret Garden at The Mirage :

Where you can see the dolphin habitat and many types of big cats. Costs $15,
opening hours 11am-6pm, every day. Here's the link:
http://www.mirage.com/attractions/secret-garden.aspx

The Stratosphere :



The Stratosphere is an attraction in its own right (including the stunning aerial view of The Strip and everywhere else in Las Vegas ). It has four rides on the top of it. Standing at 1149 feet it is the tallest building in the USA, west of the Mississippi. The Observation deck costs $10.95 to enter and the rides are $9 each (although a multi-ticket is discounted). X-SCREAM (above) is one of those rides - many call it the mildest!
The tower also has the "Top Of The World Restaurant" inside it - highly recommended by many for a romantic view of The Strip at night (but very expensive). The tower is open from 10am till 1am (2am weekends) daily. Despite being closer to Downtown than most parts of The Strip, it's a very popular attraction, so be prepared to queue.

Eiffel Tower Experience at Paris :



From here, you get a quite stunning view of The Strip and (in particular) the fountains at Bellagio - especially at night. For tickets, visit the Eiffel Tower Box Office (inside Paris itself) from 9:30 am to 12:30 am every day.
I must say when we visited last year ('07) we had an attendant (you have to go up the tower in groups, in an elevator) who had obviously quit charm shool very early. Indeed, there was hint of a rebellion at one stage, so upset were paying customers (myself included) at being treated as poorly as common criminals and idiots of the highest order. It may have been a one-off, but you have been notified!

Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay :

A massive aquarium, filled with various kinds of sea life - and sharks. Opens from 10 am - 11 pm, costs $15.95. It is good, but whether it's worth the cost is a bit of a quandary, to be honest.

Gondola Ride at The Venetian :

For those of you who are having a romantic time in Vegas, this is a must do (and kids enjoy it too). Be serenaded by a singing gondolier (and they really can sing, believe me).



Hours of operation: Sunday - Thursday, 10 a.m. - 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. - midnight.
Cost: $16 per person and $8.50 for children ages 3-12. Children 2 years old and younger are free. A private, two-passenger gondola ride is available for $64. Prices apply for both indoor and outdoor gondola rides.
Reservations: Ticket sales open at 9 a.m. and can be purchased only for the same day.


Finally, because nothing can follow this...

Grand Canyon :

Whilst in Las Vegas, you really should (at least once) visit one of the most incredible sights anywhere on earth - The Grand Canyon National Park.



no photos ever do it justice - you really do have to see it close up, with your own eyes, to understand the full majesty of this incredible natural wonder.

There are many ways to visit - by car, by plane, by coach, or by helicopter. You can visit the west rim (which is closest and has the skywalk) or the north rim (not aseasy to get to) or the south rim (which is where most end up going). I cannot give detailed information here - it's something you do need to research yourself and base your own decision around time, cost and comfort.

Here's some sites to view:

http://www.destination360.com/north-...nyon-tours.php
http://www.nps.gov/grca/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Canyon
http://www.grand.canyon.national-park.com/

or just enter "Grand Canyon" in a search engine, and you'll find masses of info.
Really, it's something you need to plan yourself, because of the myriad ways you can visit it. But, as I have said, it really is something you should do at least once during your stay. It is unforgettable, once experienced.

This page will give you an idea of other, less spectacular, attractions in and around Vegas:
http://www.vegas.com/attractions/


Shopping

There is no lack of 'retail therapy' available in and around Vegas. On The Strip itself, you have the magnificent Forum shops at Caesars Palce:



which is an experience in itself. Others to consider : Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood , Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian and The Fashion Show Mall (opposite Treasure Island and Wynn). You will also find shopping at Mandalay Bay, Mirage, TI, Bellagio, MGM Grand, as well as most of the the other large strip casinos. You will find a wide range of stores here - some big chains, other independent.

There are several outlet malls close to The Strip - you'll find large discounts on high street brands.



Las Vegas Premium Outlet which is just north of the strip
http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=58

We've visited the Premium Outlets a few times, and there are some astonishing bargains to be had - particularly at the Nike, Levi and Vans stores. At least half price, and many times a lot less than that.

Las Vegas Outlet Center which is south of Mandalay Bay
http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=61

We found this to be inferior to Premium Outlets. Of course, you may view it differently.

Las Vegas Fashion Outlet which is actually a good 30-40 minutes drive south of the strip in Primm (you pass it coming from LA). You can ride one of the world's longest roller coaster's at Primm http://themeparks.about.com/cs/lasvegas/a/desperado.htm

Apparently eating there is what can best be described as 'dodgy'!

http://www.fashionoutletlasvegas.com/

And there's also the Boulevard Mall and Meadowns Mall too.

To be honest, alot of these malls offer pretty much the same choice of stores. I happen to really like the Premium Outlets, but that may just be familiarity? You can't really go wrong. One thing I would say is that you are going to pay in a Strip Casino shopping outlet - the floorspace is just so unbelievably expensive, they have to recoup it somewhere. It's almost certainly cheaper at an off strip, non casino location - but it isn't as convenient, is it? You pays your money...

Last edited by Diamonddog2801; 26 Aug 11 at 02:57 PM.
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Old 11 Oct 08, 10:13 PM  
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Join Date: Nov 07
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Coupons

'Couponomy' is a Las Vegas tradition. You can save a lot of money by taking advantage of coupons. You will often find coupons in your check in welcome pack from your hotel (certainly this year, The Palazzo, The Flamingo & Caesars Palace had coupons for food discounts and gaming tokens). You may also get coupons for buffets and rides etc, simply by signing up for a players club card. You can also find coupons on most casino floors - normally by the check in/check out lobby, concierge or vehicle rental units. You may also get pestered by timeshare people trying to entice you with coupons - if you are being offered discounted trips to the Grand Canyon (for instance), you can pretty much bet it's in exchange for a two/three hour visit to a timeshare property. You may be prepared to do this - just beware of what you're getting into. The worst place for Timeshare sales people is around the Excalibur and Luxor,as I recall .

It is, generally, a good idea to pick up all free magazines you see. You can often find these in taxis, monorail stations, and hotel lobbies. (You used to be able to get a decent booklet in the shuttle to the Manor rooms at Circus Circus, for instance - is this still the case?). The show deals coupons in these magazines can usually be undercut by going to the half price ticket outlets mentioned earlier, however - if they are selling tickets for the same shows, that is.

If you really want to save some serious money (and who doesn't?) it's a good idea to invest in one of the following :



The Las Vegas Advisor Pocketbook of Values (POV) will pay for itself very quickly just by making use of one or two of best coupons . By joining LVA for a years online membership of $37 (I think it's $43 if it's posted to the UK) you get one book of values. You can have the book delivered for a charge or pick it up free from the LVA offices in Las Vegas . Here is a list of what coupons it has in it

http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/whyjoin-povdetails.cfm


The 2 for 1 coupon for the excellent Jubilee show at Ballys(which does not appear at tix4tonite either) will save you $88 alone! And the 2 for 1 buffet at the fantastic Carnival World Buffet at The Rio is another $26 saving. You also get Daily deal coupons from the LVA website and more information on Las Vegas than you could ever really need (being a member gives you full use of the site www.lasvegasadvisor.com, others only get partial use) - you also get to print out the monthly bulletins (16 pages, filled with great insider info) as part of your membership. It's a no brainer, really.



The American Casino Guide (above) is not specifically targetted on Las Vegas - it has coupons for all over North America. Nonetheless, it has some really powerful coupons (an $86 bus tour to the Grand Canyon, normally costing $150, for instance), so it may be worth having this as well as the POV. Have a look at the coupons:

http://www.americancasinoguide.com/S...ons-2008.shtml

and see which would be useful to you (and aren't in the POV).

You can buy it direct st:

http://www.americancasinoguide.com/Store/general.shtml

or from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/American-Cas...0578886&sr=8-1

Just be careful you are buying the year you need, in both cases.

Lastly, these are free and can be printed off and exchanged for a booklet of coupons at certain Vegas shopping malls:

http://www.lasvegas-nv.com/las-vegas-coupons.htm

I'm sure there are others - just let me know, please?

Gambling



I thought I'd leave this to last because, despite all of the above, the reason Las Vegas is what it is, is because of gambling. This is unavoidably the truth. However, and this is really, really important - you do not have to gamble in Las Vegas. There, I've said it, because so many that haven't visited Vegas before, feel a bit (how can one say?) silly about asking the question. Now you know. You do not have to gamble to enter a casino either. You can legally enter any casino in Las Vegas (as long as you are over 21) and stay as long as you want, without once placing a bet of any type. So, that's that out of the way!

In the great Vegas film "Casino", Robert De Niro's character gave a speech that should stick in everyones mind:

"What do you think we're doing out here in the middle of the desert?
It's all this money. This is the end result of all the bright lights and
the comped trips, of all the champagne and free hotel suites, and all the
broads and all the booze. It's all been arranged just for us to get
your money. That's the truth about Las Vegas"




And don't you forget it! The opulence, the extravagance, the sheer overwhelming ridiculousness of some of the spectacles (which also make Las Vegas what it is) is because of one thing - THEY WANT YOUR MONEY! Whilst the proportion of profit that gambling contributes to the overall casino operation has gone down in recent years (being replaced by rooms, shopping and food/drink increases), a casino still aims for at least 50% of its operating profit to come from gambling. Never lose sight of this, please?!

To give you an idea of the kind of money we're looking at - when The Mirage opened in October '89, it was declared that it needed to clear $1 million per day! Now, that's staggering, but... when Wynn opened recently, it has to clear $15 million, every day! These are the type of numbers we are dealing with - it makes it all seem just a little clearer when you look at these super-plush palaces and think "Why do they do that?!"...



So, if you are going to gamble, what's the best way to walk out a winner? To answer that, we need to understand a little thing called "house edge". The house edge is the advantage the casino holds over the player in any game - it ranges from less than 1% with blackjack (indeed, played perfectly, blackjack is virtually a theoretical tie), to over 20% with games like the 'wheel of fortune', with roulette sitting at just over 5%. What that % means is that, over a period of time, for every $100 invested at roulette, you will only get just under $95 back. It doesn't sound like much, but if you think of how much is played in a casino over the course of a day, you can see how these places are paid for - and by who!

So, how does one overcome 'house edge'? Follow these rules:

a) find a game with a low house edge (blackjack & craps, or some video poker, for instance),
b) find casinos with decent rules - there are some subtle differences in rules that can make huge differences in expected payouts (a common one is paying less for a blackjack in video poker ($6 win for a $5 stake - as opposed to $7.50win for a $5 stake - the first is a 6/5 jackpot machine, the second a full pay jackpot machine), so it is worth doing a bit of homework, once you've decided which game you want to play.



Once you've done that, what else can you do to improve your chances of winning - or, at least, minimising your losses?

The house edge is, in essence, the mathematical certainty of the inbuilt advantage the casino has. It has this over the course of its trading. What the casino cannot do is expect to win on every hand of cards - it wins some, it loses some. But it will, over time, win just slightly more than it loses. And it will win slightly more when it wins, than it loses when it loses. That's how it ends up winning - it grinds out its advantage. So, the best way to beat it, is to play for as short a time as possible, and hope you get lucky within that timeframe. Believe me, sitting at a blackjack table for 8 hours, trying to grind out a win, is absolutely no fun. I've been there and done that! So, the secret is to try and maximise your winnings over a short period of time.



a) set yourself a strict budget and stick to it. Do not take more money with you than you are prepared to lose - it is too much of a temptation. There is nothing worse than 'getting in over your head'. It's a sure way to ruin what could be a once-in-a-lifetime holiday.
b) when fortune favours you, be prepared to walk away. It is an idea to set yourself a winning limit, as well as a losing one. Be realistic - you are highly unlikely to change $100 into $1000. But $100 to $250? Yes, that is possible. So try to be disciplined, when both up and down.
c) do not play whilst drunk. The casino gives those drinks away for a reason, you know - and it isn't because they're a charitable trust!
d) Join the Players club. Every casino has one (many are linked together, like the MGM Group) and you usually get freebies just for signing up. Also, it puts you on the Casinos mailing list for future offers, and will give you 'comps' if you gamble enough.



Comps are what the casino rewards or gives you back for your play. By offering incentives like free shows, meals etc, it keeps you returning, enabling it take more of your money. The % given back is based on the rating of your expected loss - it depends upon which game you play, what your average bet is and how long you play for. It is returning a part of what the casino expects you lose, for your level of play. If, however, you win - you still get the comps - because the odds were still the same on you losing. You just bucked the trend, that's all!

Most casinos offer 'beginners games' where you can go and play against other 'novices' and learn how to play certain games. The stakes are much lower than is normal, so you can play without risking 'breaking the bank'. If you have the time, they are a great way to get over any inhibitions you may have about casino gambling.




You can find endless sources of information on gambling on the internet or in books etc. I would politely suggest that blackjack, poker and craps are the best table games, and some video poker machines are the best form of machine gambling. It's probably best to play 'Off Strip' to be honest - the big casinos rules are getting tighter each year (they don't have to be as generous - they're always full, right?), but I understand that's not always practical. Stick to the rules above, and your gambling can be fun - even if you lose. But don't think you're going to be the one to 'break the bank' - that way leads to rack and ruin, my friend!

Try reading this:

http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/games.cfm

to give you an insight into Las Vegas gambling, and the different games available. It may help your next stay be just a little cheaper and just a little more fun!

--------------------------------------------------------

Well, that's it for now everyone.

I'm sure I've made mistakes - point them out to me, and I'll correct them.

If there's anything else you think I should have included, let me know.

If you want to just add info yourself, feel free to do so (as some of you already have - thanks).

I have one 'vacant post' left - I think I'll include a quick summation of some of the casinos in there. It may tak a bit of time - but I think it will be worth it.

Again, thanks to you all for your messages of support, both on here and via pm's. They're very much appreciated. I hope everyone can take a bit away from the series of posts - it may just make you interested enough to visit, for the first time. It may help you choose where you're going to stay. It may give you an idea of where and what you want to gamble. It may suggest you're better off shopping! Whatever it does, I hope it works for you - and stay lucky!

Last edited by Diamonddog2801; 26 Aug 11 at 03:04 PM.
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Old 11 Oct 08, 10:13 PM  
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Old 11 Oct 08, 10:16 PM  
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Hope I am not causing a problem posting here as I don't want to disrupt the thread but great info. We are due in about 9 weeks for our first visit so over the next few weeks I will be checking out the detail thoroughly. Thank you!
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Old 11 Oct 08, 10:27 PM  
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You've put a lot of work into that ! Great job.
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I'll be back ,we go to LV next March so I've got plenty of time to read up.
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Originally Posted by Diamonddog2801 View Post
Las Vegas is poorly served by direct flights from the UK to McCarran International in Vegas. As I'm aware, only three companies offer direct flights to Vegas, those being:
Virgin Atlantic
Fly daily from Gatwick to McCarran.
BMI
Currently fly from Manchester on Tuesdays/Thursdays/Sundays in summer months and Thursdays/Sundays only in winter. They quite often codeshare this service with Air New Zealand, I believe?
Thomas Cook
Fly from Manchester on Wednesdays/Saturdays in summer and Wednesdays only in winter. They were previously known as My Travel,of course.
... Thomas Cook flights quite often stop in Belfast or Glasgow for more passengers. This makes them no better than an indirect flight with a stop in the US. When you book, please make sure you know if your flight is scheduled for this -and ask for flight times with that taken into account.


Johnny Come Latelies
Sometimes you can get great deals by waiting until the last moment - but there's no guaranteees, and it's exceptionally difficult if you are booking for a family etc. I wouldn't recommend it now, but I did get some astonishing deals in the mid 90s doing this.
Diamond Dog,
Absolutely brilliant post.

Just a few points.
When looking for flights to Las Vegas, direct will take you there, but often people are trying to achieve non-stop. Just because the service is listed as direct doesn't mean it is non-stop.
( I know you know this ).

The BMI flight so far as I know may be a code share with US Airways, and is sometimes cheaper through them rather than with BMI itself.
The BMI website states " Please note we offer a direct service to Las Vegas on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and offer a connection via Chicago for the remaining days of the week. "
Even BMI do not make it obvious " direct " isn't automatically " non-stop ".

Thomas Cook Airlines flies from Manchester to Las Vegas on Wednesdays / Sundays / not Saturdays.
Sometimes it is cheaper to book a Thomas Cook Fly-Drive, rather than a Flight Only, you can then choose the no hire car option and make your own arrangements.
GM Card users can save themselves 9% by using GM Card Thomas Cook Travel Service, and there is no credit card charge.
The flight prices vary - even on the same Thomas Cook Airlines flight, by looking on the Direct Holidays / Airtours / My Travel / Thomas Cook websites. Check each of them before booking.

Regarding Johnny Come Latelies, totally agree about not leaving it to last minute, but if brave enough, Thomas Cook begin reducing flight prices around six weeks before departure. If you take a look three weeks before, they drop substantially, then a week before they hit their lowest - or disappear. ( For instance, this coming week, you could book @ 318, to fly at the week-end. Four weeks ago, this was 499, six weeks ago it was 590, beforehand it was 729. )

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