Ok Ok I’ll admit it, it’s tacky, it’s crazy, it’s about as far away from British culture as you can get, but oh my god I loved Las Vegas! It’s probably my favourite city I visited in America, and we had an absolute blast, topped off by our fabulous decision to spend 12 hours visiting as many casinos as possible before catching a nightbus back to LA… 2 days hangovers combined with jet lag and exhaustion are not the one, however. Best of all, it’s totally possible to visit Las Vegas on a budget, so we’ve put together our advice to help you see as much as possible and spend as little as possible.
Whilst we decided we’d put the strict backpacker budget to one side temporarily during our time here, we still had to be reasonably conscious of what we were spending – despite a friend’s recommendation to put the trip budget on black and hope for the best. We were pretty surprised to find that you can have a decent time in Vegas without needing to remortgage the house once you’ve finished with the gambling, drinking, shows and what have you, so here’s our top tips based on how we did it!
Budget Friendly Accommodation In Las Vegas
Top Tip: Go Mid Week to Stay on The Strip
After researching cheap AirBnBs in dodgy downtown Las Vegas, a friend at work recommended we take a look at prices for some hotels on the strip, particularly as we were visiting the city midweek (Monday – Thursday). I was pretty sceptical, but decided to take a look, and sure enough, the prices of some of the iconic hotels were wayyy below what we’d been paying for hostels in New York, LA and San Fran and well worth booking.
We payed £100 for 3 nights at The Luxor, rated as a 3* hotel directly on the strip just a couple of miles and a cheap uber ride from the airport. It was a little out of the way on the south of the strip, but we don’t mind walking a bit so it wasn’t too much of an issue, and it was positively luxurious compared to some places we’ve stayed!
As it stands now, a quick search on Booking.com suggests the following prices for a similar midweek 3 night break next week:
Circus Circus – £85
Stratosphere – £85
Excalibur – £101
Flamingo – £120
New York New York – £140
Lots of options for pretty reasonable budgets, although these are of course the more basic hotels on the strip, and certainly not in the league of places like The Wynn or The Bellagio – which will probably set you back at least 3/4 times these prices for their lowest grade rooms. I’d recommend taking a look at what’s included in your room price as they love to charge for any extras in Vegas, what food and drink places are in the hotel, and also try and find somewhere located as centrally as possible for easy exploring. All in all though you should be able to visit Las Vegas on a budget and stay on the strip!
NB. Don’t forget the resort tax – all hotels charge up to $38 per night ‘resort tax’ that gets added onto your final bill for the room. This is supposed to cover your use of things like free internet, sometimes gym use, and some other amenities your hotel has decided you should pay extra for…
Drink for Free (or very cheap)
The great thing about Vegas is that all the resort staff want to do is to keep you as happy (and drunk!) as possible, to try and encourage you to spend as much money as possible in the casinos and on other entertainment. It is indeed true that if you’re spending plenty of time gambling, the likelihood is that you’re going to be getting plenty of free drinks from the casino waitresses. It’s not only for high rollers either, we were typically on slots and other low value machines, and were brought drinks pretty consistently in most places we gambled.
However, free drinks are not a guarantee, we missed out in plenty of places including The Wynn, The Bellagio, Aria and a few others, despite spending a good amount of time and money on various slot machines.
So, as a back up option Las Vegas is notoriously well known as one of only a handful of places in the US where drinking on the street is legal – making it essentially the home of the road beer. Chains like CVS and Walgreens are located between hotels, as well as a couple of other liquor stores, where you can pick up cheap cans that you’re free to start drinking immediately and can even take into casinos. I was drinking some crazy margerita beer concoction at $3.79 a pop and 8%, handily sold in 25oz can – would definitely recommend.
Most people do want to enjoy a drink or two when they visit so scoring cheap or free alcohol is a fab way to help you visit Las Vegas on a budget.
Eat off the Beaten Track – Budget Food in Las Vegas
Hm, this one is more based on research I did before arriving as well as recommendations from other budget travel bloggers who have been to Las Vegas. As soon as we arrived, we pretty much ignored this and whilst still eating cheaply, basically ate complete crap for 4 days – McDonalds, Popeyes Chicken, Shake Shack Burgers, Pizza and some pretty grim ready prepared food from cheap supermarkets. So yeah, it was cheap but probably not something I’d recommend you do if you can avoid it! However, if you do get sucked into life in hotel casinos and end up too distracted to hunt out decent food on or off the strip, we spent a lot of time at The Excalibur food court – not my favourite hotel or casino but loads of budget food options and conveniently located next to The Luxor. New York New York was also pretty good – particularly for pizza and donuts… of course.
Some much better advice on budget food in Las Vegas below:
Get Bargain Show Tickets
This one crops up on plenty of blogs, but I genuinely can’t recommend enough that you spend any available budget you have on seeing some shows in Las Vegas. We only managed to see the one – Zumanity by Cirque du Soleil at New York New York – but it was absolutely fantastic. Definitely the best investment we made in Vegas and up there with our best spends in the US as a whole.
There are so many shows on that you could easily see different ones every night if you had the budget for it – from Cirque du Soleil to comedy to music, the options are pretty much endless and it really does add something to what’s already going to be a pretty awesome experience. It’s a must for anyone visiting Las Vegas on a budget!
For getting good prices on tickets there are a lot of websites selling them pretty cheap – we used one of these although I can’t remember which one and paid $77 per ticket. There’s also Tix 4 Tonight who have 11 booths on the strip where you can buy cheap tickets on the day – we went to one of these and unfortunately didn’t fancy anything they had on offer for that day, but can definitely recommend checking out availability as the prices are really great with massive discounts on advertised prices. Based on how much we enjoyed Zumanity, we’d definitely try and see more of the 7 Cirque du Soleil shows that are currently on in Vegas.
Splash out on a Grand Canyon Tour
I’ve mentioned it in our National Parks post as well, but I’d also definitely recommend trying to tear yourself away from the casinos and spending some time at the Grand Canyon while you’re in Vegas. It’s a pretty hefty drive – around 4 hours to the South Rim, but definitely worth the effort. We went on a day trip run by the Grand Canyon Tour Company, and would recommend them – at only $79.99 each (plus a tip for the driver) and including breakfast and lunch, they offer some great deals. Our bus driver / tour guide Brandon was amazing – had great knowledge of the local area and gave us tons of interesting facts and info to help liven up a long coach journey, as well as showing some decent documentaries on both the Grand Canyon and Vegas in general.
We took the tour to the South Rim based on numerous recommendations from our camping friends at Yosemite, and think we made the right decision despite the extra drive time. Based on reviews and word of mouth, we’ve not heard great things about the West Rim / Sky Walk area – although as we haven’t visited that part of the canyon we’re not really best placed to comment. On our trip we visited Mather Point first for pictures and a spectacular viewpoint, as well as spending time at the Bright Angel Lodge where there are some trails available and more great views. We also had a beer at the lodge itself, which is a Registered National Historic Landmark… although really it was just because we fancied a beer and were hiding out from a thunderstorm.
Las Vegas on a Budget – Our Favourite Casinos
And finally, we thought we’d round up our favourite casinos in no particular order rated on ease of cheap gambling, budget friendly things to do, free drinks, atmosphere and general impressiveness of interiors / design!
New York New York – the theming of this place is incredible and it’s just so much fun to spend time in, I mean, any hotel that has its very own rollercoaster has got to be onto a good thing right?! From bagels, donuts and pizza sold at fully themed mini New York streets to a really busy and fun casino with great atmosphere, we loved this place and were here a lot during our stay. It also hosts Zumanity, the show we chose to see and thought was fantastic. Can’t recommend this place enough!
Venetian / The Palazzo – on a slightly more classy note, The Venetian hotel and casino is seriously impressive with its pretty much life size replica of the Grand Canal in Venice, rows of designer shows and super glamourous casino. It’s pretty much twinned with the neighbouring Palazzo, and we had great fun exploring both – with low minimum bets in the casino it’s accessible despite being one of the posher destinations on the strip.
The Mirage – worth coming to see if only for the twice daily ‘volcano explosion’ that takes place just out the front of the hotel, we really enjoyed the casino here. It’s friendly with lots of waitresses wandering round to offer free drinks to us low rollers on the machines, and a large casino area with plenty of games and tables available. It was another one we liked due to it having a fun, welcoming atmosphere – and it also hosts the 1OAK Las Vegas nightclub if you’re into that kind of thing.
Paris – this was stunning from a design / theming perspective – with the casino located at the bottom of the replica Eiffel Tower, and the whole inside themed as a series of romantic Paris streets in miniature. I can’t think of anywhere that more clearly demonstrates the idea of Vegas as a ‘timeless’ place where there are no clocks and no distractions from having fun inside the casinos! There’s lots to do here as well with shops, restaurants, more top rated nightclubs and tickets on sale to take a trip to the top of the half size replica of the Eiffel Tower 46 stories high with great views of the strip.
The Luxor – now this one doesn’t appear too highly on many of the lists out there similar to this, but we really enjoyed hanging out here. Not only was it convenient as we were staying here, but we played lots of roulette with a reasonable level of success and had loads of fun, were looked after for drinks by attentive waitresses and generally thought the atmosphere was pretty great.
Ones that didn’t make the cut
Unfortunately we couldn’t include all of the 15+ casinos we visited, and possibly can’t quite remember them all, so there are a few that were pretty fab but didn’t make our top 5. If you’re looking for a classier gambling experience, I’d definitely recommend visiting the Wynn and the Bellagio – they are beautifully set out, full of designer shops and have top class restaurants and stunningly glamorous casinos.
As backpackers, they felt a little too classy for us to be honest, but I’d still recommend visiting – and everyone should take time to see the famous fountain shows which take place every half hour in the daytime and every 15 minutes in the evening – try to see both if you can! They’re not the best places to hang out if you’re trying to visit Las Vegas on a budget, that’s for sure.
We also enjoyed the Cosmopolitan and the Aria, which are both pretty new and very modern compared to some of the older hotels which could possibly be accused of being a little dated. We also met some people staying at the Aria who raved about how amazing the rooms were – with everything controlled by iPad and ultra modern features.
Ultimately, this is a crazy crazy town, and definitely not cheap – but it is possible to visit Las Vegas on a budget, especially when you can stay in world famous hotels for less than £50 per night! I’d recommend everyone comes here at least once, and if you do have money to burn, it’s probably one of the best locations I’ve been to have fun spending it – whether it’s on the shows, world class restaurants or just in the casinos, it’s pretty much a city build to have a great time.