03 Sep Broke-Ass Vegas: How to do Las Vegas on the Cheap
Las Vegas on a budget? Yeah you heard me. On the surface, Vegas is all about spending money on gambling, food and drinks, but for the frugal traveller, Vegas also has many cheap deals that you use to your advantage…
Over my 2 month trip around the USA this summer, I spent a grand total of 19 days in Las Vegas! By the end of those 19 days in Vegas I had walked up and down the strip countless times, I knew where every hotel was, where every restaurant was…basically I knew the place like the back of my hand.
To be quite honest, Las Vegas is more fun the more cash you have to spend. The drinks by the pool, the cabanas, the fancy restaurants, the shows, the entry to clubs, the drinks inside the clubs…it all costs money.
In order to spend 19 days in Vegas though, I also had to be frugal with my money. I couldn’t splash the cash as if I were on a crazy weekend away with friends. I treated myself to a few nice dinners and drinks, but generally I was always on the lookout for cheap deals!
So if you’re a broke-ass traveller and you wish to do Las Vegas on a budget, here are my top tips…
Cheap hotels in Las Vegas
Choosing your hotel wisely
If it’s your first time in Sin City and you want the proper Vegas experience, I would advise you to stay at a nice casino hotel directly on the Strip- we’re talking Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, Aria, The Cosmopolitan, Bellagio, Planet Hollywood, Caesar’s, The Mirage, The Venetian, The Palazzo, Wynn etc.
However, if you’re not too fussed about your accommodation (after all it’s only a place to rest your head right?) then try some of the cheaper hotels on the strip such as Excalibur, Luxor, New York New York, Monte Carlo, Paris, Flamingo, Harrah’s, Bally’s, Imperial Palace etc.
If this is a repeat visit to Vegas, you’re on a tight budget and you just want a bed to sleep in, I recommend Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall– not only does it offer some of the cheapest rates in Vegas, it’s also slap bang in the centre of the Strip, opposite Caesar’s Palace. It doesn’t have a swimming pool or the facilities of a resort hotel, but you can use the pool next door at the Flamingo.
Of course you don’t have to stay on the Strip if you don’t want to. You can get some great rates if you stay Downtown at hotels such as The Golden Nugget, The Gold Spike, the Fremont Hotel etc.
Weekend or Mid-week?
The weekends in Vegas are the most expensive, while mid-week the prices can drop significantly. If you are willing to stay mid-week then you can get a good deal, but all the great pool parties, club nights and events tend to happen on a weekend. Keep this in mind when booking your trip.
Booking your hotel online
When booking your hotel, search online using comparison sites and booking engines to find the best deal. For comparisons, I like using Expedia. Go to the hotel’s website, and check to see if it is cheaper to book with them directly. Sign up for their newsletter– often they will send you great deals only available by email. Some hotels are are also using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to offer discounts and offers, so make sure you check their Twitter feed!
Look out for offers and package deals, such as free buffets or discounted shows with your hotel stay.
Vegas Resort Fees
Just a little word about resort fees. Some hotels- mainly the MGM Resorts properties- charge a daily resort fee payable at the hotel. The Caesars Entertainment properties don’t. To me, the resort fee issue is a double-edged sword. Adding a daily resort fee onto the price of your hotel can soon add up, but it covers the cost of things such as Wi-Fi, use of the pool and gym, printing and local phone calls. Hotels that don’t charge a resort fee still charge extra for using these things, so you end up paying anyway.
Finding Cheap food in Vegas
Las Vegas is full of incredible restaurants and many star-chefs have moved onto the Strip. But eating out in the hotels is also very expensive.
One way to save money but still fill up on great food is by eating at one of the many Las Vegas buffets! The Buffet of Buffets is a great deal- you get spend $44.99 and you get to access the buffets at the Caesars hotels for 24-hours. That’s 4 meals for $44.99 and you get to eat as much as you like!
The price of buffets varies in Las Vegas depending on which hotel you go to, and the better ones such as The Buffet at Wynn or The Bellagio Buffet can actually be on the pricey side. But you get to eat as much as you like and there is so much choice- think live carving stations, crabs legs, all kinds of cuisine and yummy desserts! If you love seafood, then you can get your money’s worth at the Seafood Buffet at the Rio.
Your other option is to eat from the Food Courts where you’ll find your standard fast food joints. Sometimes all you want is a burger or a slice of pizza. The Food Court in Fashion Show Mall has lots of choice, and many of the hotels also have their own food courts, including MGM Grand, Flamingo, The Venetian and Monte Carlo. There’s a Food Court outside on the strip next to Harrah’s, featuring a McDonalds, a Panda Express, a Chipotle and Pizza by the slice.
Often when you check into your hotel you are presented with a coupon booklet- don’t throw it away. Take a look through it and see if there are any good restaurant deals inside.
For late night dining I had the Steak and Eggs Special at Bill’s Gamblin Hall a couple of times- at $6.99 between 11pm and 6am it was cheap and hit the spot!
In Las Vegas, the casinos reward you for your loyalty. When you arrive at your hotel, sign up for the rewards scheme and you will receive points every time you spend in the hotel or any of the hotels belonging to the scheme. These points can be redeemed for more stuff and discounts!
Vegas Show tickets
The best place to find cheap last minute show tickets is at Tix4Tonight. There are Tix4Tonight stands at Downtown, Circus Circus, the Fashion Show Mall, Casino Royale, Bills Gamblin’ Hall, Giant Coke Bottle, Town Square, Slots of Fun, Hawaiian Marketplace and Showcase Mall. How it works is they have a TV screen with the discounts for shows, dining and tours available that day. The lines are often quite long, so it’s best to get there early in the morning when they open if you want to get your first choice. Otherwise you can purchase tickets for shows and tours online at BestofVegas.com.
Drinks in Vegas- even soft drinks- are expensive in the hotels. Why pay $4 for a bottle of water?! Head to the supermarket to stock up on water and soft drinks. There’s a Walgreens next to Planet Hollywood, and one next to the Venetian. There’s also a great little store on Flamingo Road behind Bill’s Gamblin Hall called Stage Door Casino. Here there’s a grocery store selling cheap liquor, snacks and soft drinks. I would often buy a few bottles of water in here then head to the pool.
If you want to pre-drink before you party, there’s a place called Strip Liquor at the top end of the strip where you can buy cheap alcohol. It’s up past the Wynn just before the Riviera hotel. Remember, you can drink in the street in Las Vegas, so it’s quite easy to fill up a plastic container and walk around with drink in hand!
Of course, the cheapest booze you’re going to get in Vegas is in the casinos. If you gamble, you get free drinks (remember to give the waitress a tip though!). But gambling just to get free drinks isn’t the best idea, because it’s likely you’ll lose more money than the drink would have cost. Still gambling in moderation can be lots of fun, and it’s part of the Vegas experience!
Transport on the Strip
Using taxis in Vegas can be expensive and you end up stuck in traffic a lot of the time. When you arrive at Las Vegas McCarran airport, use one of the shuttle services, which will cost you around $6 or $7 one-way to the strip. You can find the shuttles outside baggage claim and buy your ticket there. Yes you’ll have to drop other passengers off at their hotels, but it doesn’t take very long at all.
As for getting up and down the strip you have three options- the Deuce Bus, the Monorail or walking!
There are two deuce buses- Deuce on the Strip and The Strip and Downtown Express (SDX). The Deuce on the Strip runs 24 hours from the Fremont Street Experience to Mandalay Bay, stopping at nearly every hotel. The SDX operates 9 am to 12:30am, connecting Downtown Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Las Vegas Strip. For route information, times and ticket prices for the Deuce bus, click here.
The Las Vegas Monorail stops at Sahara Station, LVH Station, Las Vegas Convention Center, Harrah’s/Imperial Palace, Flamingo/Caesars Palace, Bally’s & Paris, and MGM Grand. It runs 7am-2am Monday to Thursday, and 7am-3am Friday-Sunday.
If you don’t want to spend any money at all in Vegas, then walk! I wouldn’t advise you to walk up and down the Strip during the hottest part of the day, but it’s nice to take a stroll in the early morning or evening. There’s alway plenty of people watching to be done, and it’s nice to gaze up at all the hotels. I loved walking along the Strip taking photos of Vegas at night. A word of warning though: the hotels may look close together, but it’s actually quite far!
Free things to do in Vegas
There are actually a number of things to do in Vegas that won’t cost you a penny. Don’t leave without seeing the Bellagio Fountain Show– a regular dancing fountain extravaganza set to music. Then there’s the Mirage Volcano, which erupts on the hour every hour.
Make sure you pay a visit to the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Vegas so see the spectacular light and sound show.
Vegas Clubs and pool parties
Vegas is easier if you’re a girl. The fact of the matter is, if you’re a young, attractive female, chances are you might be able to get in for free to pool parties and clubs. It also helps to know people in Vegas!
If you walk through any of the casinos at night time, there are guys that will give you a wrist band which gets you free entry to the bars/clubs and even free drinks. Beware though, if you’re with guys they will usually have to pay!
So that’s it, your guide to Las Vegas on a budget! Do you have any budget tips you’d like to share?! Leave a comment below…