ultimate guide visiting las vegas first time visitor

You only get one first visit to Las Vegas! If you’ve never stepped foot in Sin City, it can be difficult to plan what to pack, where to go, and how to make the most of your visit. To help you make sure your first Las Vegas adventure goes off without a hitch, we’ve compiled a list of tips for first-time visitors.

Here we go:

1. Things are further away than they seem.

The Strip is four miles long, and it can take between 15-30 minutes just to reach the next casino-resort on foot. Plan accordingly and leave enough time to walk between locations or catch a cab, and be sure to wear good walking shoes.

If you want to avoid the heat, look for indoor walkways between resorts, or consider taking the monorail.

2. Allow time to wait for cabs.

Plan an extra 30 minutes to catch a cab outside your hotel, or even up to an hour during peak dinner times between 6 and 8 PM.

3. You don’t necessarily need to rent a car.

Many first time visitors rent a car when they visit Las Vegas, but it isn’t always necessary depending on what you plan on doing during your stay. Deb from Aroundusty Roads shared her story with us:

The one thing I wish I had known as a first time visitor is the ease of getting around Las Vegas without a rental car. By my 3rd visit I’d learned that most tour companies pick up at or near the major hotels and there are lots of options besides walking for daily sightseeing…the hop on hop off bus or even just the Las Vegas public transportation system. Of course there’s also the monorail that is worth riding just for fun.

If you’re traveling alone or plan on sticking to the Strip and downtown Las Vegas, you likely won’t need to rent a car – it’s easy to get around Vegas without your own vehicle. It may also be cheaper to book a guided tour than renting a car and driving yourself to one of the many nearby attractions like the Grand Canyon or the Hoover Dam. If you’re planning to explore beyond the city limits or are traveling in a group, then you may wish to consider renting a car.

4. Choose a hotel in the middle of the Strip.

That way, you can get around easier and your home base will be more centrally located.

las vegas strip aerial

5. It’s not always hot.

Take Hannah and Adam’s word for it:

Realize that Las Vegas does have seasons and it’s not always hot there. In fact, many of the hotels close the outdoor pools during winter. During the summer it is crazy hot in Vegas; we enjoy May & October weather the best.

6. Sign up for player’s clubs, even if you don’t gamble.

It’s free to sign up, and you’ll get free stuff for joining, as well as discounts on show tickets, food, and more. If you gamble, you’ll get even more free stuff – just make sure you gamble at casinos that are part of your player’s club:

Players Club (MGM Resorts International)
  • MGM Grand
  • Bellagio
  • Mirage
  • Treasure Island
  • New York New York
  • Circus Circus
  • Excalibur
  • Luxor
  • Mandalay Bay
  • Delano
  • Vdara
  • Monte Carlo
Total Rewards (Caesar’s Entertainment Corp)
  • Harrahs
  • The Cromwell
  • Caesars
  • LINQ
  • Ballys
  • Planet Hollywood
  • Flamingo
  • Paris
  • Rio (off-Strip)

7. If you’re gambling or going out, don’t buy drinks at the bar.

Instead, sit down at a slot machine or your table of choice and wait until the cocktail waitress approaches you – this way, you’ll get drinks for free.

Don’t buy drinks in the casinos before you start playing – drinks are free all the time you’re playing on the slots and tables. You may wait a little longer but hey…Suzanne, The Travel Bunny

Make sure you tip your waitress so she keeps coming back! A $5 tip on your first round is standard, followed by $1-2 for additional rounds.

8. Carry a light jacket.

las vegas gambling casino floor

It’s hot outside, but resorts blast the air conditioning indoors, and it gets cooler at night than you might expect. For more packing tips, check out our Las Vegas packing guide.

9. Bring water everywhere.

Las Vegas is in the desert, and the climate is very dry. You’ll dehydrate quickly if you don’t pack a water bottle, especially if you’re walking or spending a lot of time outdoors. If you need a refill, try Walgreens on the Strip – it’s likely your cheapest bet.

10. Your room rate does not include resort fees.

Resort fees cover amenities and extras like free wifi, gyms, and newspapers. Almost every resort charges a resort fee, up to an additional $30-35 per night.

Here are the resort fees you can expect to pay at 10 of the most popular Las Vegas hotels, as of March 1, 2017:

Hotel
Resort Fee (per night)
Hotel
Resort Fee (per night)
Excalibur$30Cromwell$37
Monte Carlo $30Paris$37
Rio$30Planet Hollywood$37
Bally's$35Aria$39
Flamingo$35Bellagio$39
Harrah's$35Caesar's Palace$39
The Linq$35Palazzo$39
Vdara$39
Venetian$39
Last updated: February 6, 2018. Resort fees via LA Times.

Resort fees via LA Times.

Get our tips for choosing a Las Vegas hotel.

11. You can drink on the street, as long as it’s in plastic.

If you’re ready to head to your next location but aren’t finished your drink, ask your server for a plastic to-go cup. Glass and bottles are not allowed on the street.

12. Don’t skip downtown Las Vegas.

Downtown Las Vegas, home of the Fremont Street Experience, features a variety of bars and casinos, often with cheaper prices and lower table minimums. You can also take in the Viva Vision light show, soar over the crowd on a zip line, and explore a number of weird and wonderful Las Vegas museums.

Fremont Street. Image by John Phelan via Wikimedia Commons.

Learn more about visiting downtown Las Vegas.

13. ATMs are really expensive.

The standard ATM fee is $5.99 per transaction, so if you want to avoid exorbitant fees, make sure you bring enough cash with you. If you’re an international traveler, your bank’s exchange rate might be better if you use your credit card. It pays to do a little research to figure out the best way to reduce your bank fees before you hit the Strip!

14. Smoking is allowed indoors.

Casinos attempt to mask the smell using sophisticated air filtration systems and signature scents, so the smell of cigarette smoke isn’t overwhelming. However, if you’re sensitive to the scent, you may want to consider staying at a hotel that doesn’t have a casino, such as the Signature at the MGM Grand or the Vdara Hotel and Spa.

15. Explore beyond the city limits.

Las Vegas is within easy reach of a number of iconic sights, including the Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, Death Valley, Valley of Fire, and the Grand Canyon. Get to know these Southwest hotspots in our guide to exploring beyond the city limits.

16. Set a budget.

Las Vegas is a land of temptation. Between gambling, clubbing, and eating, spontaneous spending can get out of control. James from Escaping Abroad suggests that first-time visitors set a budget for their visit:

Vegas is a place where it’s easy to get out of control with your spending. Come with a set budget and stick to it.

Using cash instead of a card can help keep your budget on track. Get more tips for visiting Las Vegas on a budget.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Las Vegas

Find answers to all your questions about Las Vegas in our Ultimate Guide!

Special thanks to all the expert travelers who contributed their tips to the Ultimate Guide to Visiting Las Vegas!