Las Vegas is the kind of city that barely requires an introduction, as its reputation precedes itself. The bright lights; the glitz; the opulent glamour; the excitement; the shows; the incredible desert surroundings… it’s no wonder that Las Vegas remains a hugely popular destination for millions of people every year. If you’ve never visited LV yourself, then here’s all the information you’ll need when planning a holiday to Sin City…
Best time to visit
Las Vegas is a dry, desert climate, and can become uncomfortably hot. During the summer months the heat can easily top 37°C, and temperatures over 28° may continue through September and October before dipping (though never becoming what could be considered cold) for winter.
As a result of the above, early spring is usually considered to be the best time to visit the city, with March and April particularly popular. The weather will be warm enough to be pleasant, but not overly hot – expect around 22-27°C.
As well as the weather, another factor to keep in mind when planning to visit Vegas is how busy the city will be. The summer months are, unsurprisingly, peak visitor times, but it’s also worth considering the dates of the major conferences that the city is home to before you book your trip. The city can become very busy during these conferences, so if you’re looking for a quieter experience, you should try to avoid a situation where you’ll be there at the same time as thousands of conference-goers.
You may have heard that Las Vegas is a destination that requires a big budget, and, unfortunately, there’s certainly truth in that. You will likely need to set a fairly generous budget for your dream getaway, saving well in advance or exploring options such as bad credit loans with a guarantor if a friend or family member is able to help contribute to the trip. It is technically possible to visit Las Vegas on a shoestring, but realistically, if you want the “true” Vegas experience then your budget will need to be generous.
You can fly directly to Las Vegas from two airports: Heathrow and Gatwick. You can also fly indirectly from most UK airports, with one of the two aforementioned airports used as a connection.
The total flight time is around 10 and a half hours if flying direct, and can be up to 14 hours if flying from Glasgow with a connection at Heathrow or Gatwick.
Travelling around Las Vegas
Walking is generally not recommended in the city. Many visitors have found that distances can often be akin to a mirage; everything seems to be far closer together than it actually is, and what appears to be a relatively reasonable distance away can actually take a couple of hours. This phenomenon combined with the temperatures found in the city means that it’s usually best to avoid walking unless you know exactly how far you have to travel, are wearing sunscreen, and have a few bottles of water to hand.
Thankfully, there are plenty of alternative options to setting out on foot: Uber and Lyft are available, and you can even rent a car if you prefer. In addition, the Las Vegas Monorail is a great choice, and while there’s no subway system, the CAT public bus service is efficient and should allow you to travel from place to place with ease.
Tips and taxes
Tipping is expected throughout Las Vegas; it’s safe to assume that if someone is providing a service, then you will need to tip. Cash is usually the preferred choice for tipping, so it’s helpful to make sure you have a few dollar bills on you at all times, though casinos are the exception to this rule; when playing, tip with casino chips rather than cash. In restaurants, it’s usually best to tip between 15-20% of the total cost of your meal.
You will also pay a sales tax for any items you buy in Vegas, and – unlike in the UK – this won’t be included in the price tag. The combined sales tax in the city is 8.25%, and there’s a handy calculator here that you can bookmark and use whenever you’re shopping in stores.
Las Vegas shows are legendary, so regardless of the length of your trip, you’ll want to try and ensure you see at least one during your time.
Cirque du Soleil is, of course, the most popular choice for those visiting Vegas, and there are a number of different options – at different venues – to choose from, though Mystere at Treasure Island and O at the Bellagio tend to receive particularly favourable reviews. Away from Cirque du Soleil, artists such as Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Aerosmith have (at the time of writing) Vegas residencies, so if you’re a fan, you’ll definitely want to catch a show during your stay. There’s also the world-famous Blue Man Group show to consider or if you’re a fan of magic and quick-fire jokes, Penn & Teller at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino will never disappoint.
Las Vegas has more attractions than you could ever possibly seek to experience in a single holiday (unless you’re willing to extend that holiday to six months or so!), so choosing exactly what you want to see and do can be tricky. However, there are a few particular highlights that are definitely worth including in your itinerary:
#1 – Las Vegas Natural History Museum
While not what one would consider a part of the classic Las Vegas experience, the Natural History Museum is a true hidden gem that can “round out” your trip and allow you to do something different. The museum is well-designed and endlessly intriguing, with exhibits focusing on Nevada wildlife, dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, and much more besides.
#2 – The High Roller
Observation wheels have always been a popular way to enjoy views over a bustling city, but – as one would expect – the Las Vegas version, the appropriately-named High Roller, is bigger and better than most. Currently the world’s highest ferris wheel at 550 feet, the High Roller is a great way to view the city from height – and if you visit late at night (the wheel operates until 2am) then you’ll be able to see the glittering lights of Vegas in all their glory.
#3 – Insanity
Few thrill rides have ever been so aptly named as Insanity at the Stratosphere. By itself, the ride is fairly tame: a giant mechanical claw holds five twin seats, which incline 70 degrees forward, and the claw then spins – which sounds like fairly standard fairground fare. However, the difference with Insanity is that the claw reaches out over the edge of the building, and the spinning takes place nearly 900 feet in the air. Not one for the faint-hearted, but a once-in-a-lifetime experience you can be sure you’ll never forget.
While Las Vegas is very much a destination in and of itself, it serves as a great base point for day trips to the following spectacular areas:
#1 – Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the US; a feat of engineering that sits located in the Black Canyon and holds back the might of the Colorado River, it lies just 30 miles from Las Vegas itself. Taking a day trip gives you the chance to see the dam in all its glory from the observation deck, and The Visitor Center and Exhibit Gallery provide the chance to learn more about the history of this iconic structure.
#2 – Valley of Fire
With a name like “Valley of Fire”, it’s impossible not to be intrigued by this amazing natural area, and your curiosity will be well-rewarded should you choose the visit. The valley’s name is related to the Aztec sandstones in the area and how they appear to be ablaze when lit by the sun’s rays; the effect is spectacular, and well worth the hour’s journey from Las Vegas itself. As well as having the chance to admire the scenery, you can also explore the multiple hiking trails through the valley and view the petroglyphs at the Mouse’s Tank or Atlatl Rock.
#3 – Grand Canyon
Although the Grand Canyon is a fair distance from Las Vegas itself, it has become a popular day trip for those wanting to combine all the excitement of the big city with the opportunity to see one of the world’s most awe-inspiring natural sights. There are numerous tour operators that organize trips and tours (including helicopter tours) from Las Vegas itself, or you could rent a car and make the drive yourself. If choosing the latter option, the South Rim is usually the better choice, as visiting this area takes you right into the Grand Canyon National Park.
Las Vegas has a big reputation, but you should find that your time in the city more than meets your expectations. Hopefully the travel guide above will help you when planning your trip, and you’ll be all set to enjoy all the wonders only Las Vegas can provide!
** This is a collaborative post