TRAVEL | Las Vegas city guide: How to do Vegas on a budget

How to do Las Vegas on a budget

When you hear the words ‘Las Vegas on a budget,’ you’ll probably laugh. But I promise you, while the Nevada city isn’t exactly cheap, purse-friendly is doable.

My first trip to Sin City was an unusual one. For a start, it was the day after I turned 21 with my mum (yes, the best birthday present ever), and we were greeted by a blacked-out hummer limo as our airport transfer.
This basically set up the following five days – a lot of grandeur, a lot of booze, and a lot of spending.
The first thing to point out is, yes, it’s an expensive city. I personally think you CAN do it on a budget, but it’s not the sort of place you’d want to be counting your pennies in.
Having said that, there are certain ways you can save your money – while other things I recommend you not trying to do cheap…

CHEAP VEGAS ACCOMMODATION

Pictures you’ve seen of Vegas have probably been the sprawling strip compromising of neon lights and skyscraper hotels.  But because there are so many places to stay – with thousands of rooms altogether, you’re not short on finding somewhere to rest your head.
Most will opt for the main strip, where rooms at popular hotels such as The Cosmopolitan, The Venetian and Bellagio can set you back around $120-180 a night.
Cheaper options on the strip (but not always) are Flamingo, Circus Circus and sometimes even Mandalay Bay.

 

Downtown is certainly where the cheaper accommodation is at – but you also run the risk of being somewhere without a pool, which is basically the main activity during the day in Vegas. Except one… and the one we conveniently stayed at.

The four-star Golden Nugget, a.k.a Vegas’ oldest hotel is not only on the more affordable, downtown Fremont Street – it’s also home to its own casino, in-house restaurants, a spa, two pools AND a water slide through a shark tank (I told you, OTT).

 

 

But wherever you go – try and book as far ahead as you can. We noticed that a lot of Californians drive to Vegas for last-minute weekend trips so prices generally spike for short-notice bookings.

CHEAP EATS IN VEGAS

The obvious choice if you’re counting the pennies is to stick to cheap, chain meals (MacDonald’s, Starbucks etc.) But if you’re like me, you try and avoid chain-restaurants like the plague when you’re abroad.
But… you can eat cheaply – and there are a few restaurants I highly recommend in terms of cost.

Head to El Sombrero, Vegas’ oldest eatery for burritos and enchiladas, grab tasty soup dumplings at China Mama or scoff wood-fired pizzas at Settebello.

 

But if you’re on the strip, expect to pay the prices, or stick to hotel food courts. But one thing I urge you to splash the cash on is the famous buffet at The Wynn. Surprisingly, it’s not that expensive – around $40 per person for just eating, with an extra $19 for bottomless booze.

 

The buffet itself is out of this world – including 15 live-action cooking stations with everything from lobster to steak, to sushi to pasta – and the best dessert selection you’ve ever seen. Yes, it was way over the top (typical Vegas), but something you need to experience.
Breakfast is also a big deal there – and a great way to fill up right up until dinner.

I’m gutted to hear my favourite breakfast diner, Du-pars (home to the best omelettes and hash browns ever) has now closed. However, I’ve heard Black Bear Diner, The Peppermill and Coco’s are all good options.

CHEAP GAMBLING IN VEGAS

Gambling in Vegas can either make you super rich, or poor in a matter of seconds. I unfortunately experienced the latter one poker game in the Flamingo casino…
If you’re wanting to gamble but don’t have the budget, I recommend sticking to downtown casinos – and Fremont Street is your best bet. The minimum spend on tables there was around $5-10, while Caesars Palace on a Saturday night had tables starting at $100 (!!).
However if you’re not interested in playing the tables, but want to experience the casinos, the slot machines are your best bet. You sit there all evening easily pumping the machine with 1 cent coins. Trust me, it’s easy to forget what time it is in casinos thanks to the free booze and oxygen being pumped into the room.
And yes, I felt your ears prick up then at the sound of ‘free booze.’ Free drinks being handed out while you’re gambling is what Vegas is known for, you may tip your waitress a couple of chips or some dollars each time but it’s a good way to drink cheaply, and have fun.
However there have been reports that casinos are starting to crack down on people who play the video poker games, and the slot machines cheaply, just for the free booze.
According to the LA Times, both Caesars and MGM are experimenting with technology that allows you to track how much people are spending on casino games and then rewarding them with drinks tokens depending on their spend.
We definitely noticed this when we went. As I was sitting at a table playing roulette I was often being asked if I wanted a drink, while my mum on the slot machines was rarely asked.

OTHER THINGS TO SPEND YOUR MONEY ON

Like I said, there are things you should just splash your cash on, and have fun. Vegas is unfortunately not the place to go to if you’re wanting to have a cheap and cheerful holiday.

High Roller

The 550-foot tall is the biggest observation wheel in the world (bigger than the London Eye, yes) and is part of The Linq hotel.
It’s $22 in the day, $32 at night, but for an extra $15 you can get a bar rolled into your pod and drink for the half hour journey. We went late afternoon, early evening and it was just us and a Canadian couple so we were really lucky (and had a lot of booze)

Shows

Rod Stewart in Las Vegas
You can’t go to Vegas without seeing a show! We saw two in the five days we were there – Penn & Teller and Rod Stewart.
But no matter when you go, you’ll have someone good doing their residency there. I was gutted I missed Britney Spears, and Shania Twain wasn’t performing the week we were there.
But shows are an important part of the Vegas experience.

The Grand Canyon

 

Going to Vegas without seeing the stunning Grand Canyon is almost criminal. Yes, it’s an early start but wow – what an experience.

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While lots of people get the coach there, I HIGHLY recommend paying more and flying. Not only do you get to experience one of those tiny planes (the ones where they weigh you), but you also get there a lot earlier. This means that you beat the mass crowds, and beat the burning midday sun.

Shopping

If you’re getting tired of lounging by the pool all day (I don’t know why), then shopping is a good way to get out of the heat (hello air con!).
If you’re wanting to do some luxury shopping – Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, you get the gist – you’ll want to schedule some shopping time at Crystals and Via Bellagio.
For higher end but more affordable try The Forum Shops at Caesars.
And Vegas is home to two Premium Outlets (North and South). Las Vegas Premium Outlets – North is located in downtown Vegas and features more than 150 shops from Kate Spade to Burberry to Nike.

Las Vegas South (a bus ride away) has 145 stores including Michael Kors, Coach and Ralph Lauren. While some stores might cross over, it’s worth checking what has what and make time for a trip to the two of them.But more importantly – have fun, and make the most of it! We flew out for five nights (tiring but you can do it), while some will choose to add Vegas on to a longer West Coast trip. Whatever you choose, be prepared for a wild time in a city that’s always alive!

 

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