Las Vegas, Ultimate Las Vegas Guide

Las Vegas Scams and Tourist Traps to Avoid

ultimate las vegas guide scams pitfalls tourist traps

Like any other tourist hotspot, Las Vegas has its fair share of tourist scams and pitfalls to avoid. Don’t let “Sin City’s” reputation hold you back from booking a Las Vegas adventure! We can help you navigate Las Vegas’s most common tourist traps, from street hustlers and “long hauling” to avoiding slots and tables with unfavorable odds.

The golden rule for avoiding Las Vegas scams is to remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If that club promoter is offering you free VIP table service with line bypass and complimentary drinks all night at the Strip’s hottest nightclub, think twice. If you pass someone guaranteeing that you’ll double your bet, think three times. Common sense is king in Vegas.

Here are some of the most common hoaxes you might encounter:

1. Street cards

If you’re walking down the Strip, you’ll have a hard time avoiding people trying to pass you cards, often by making a snapping sound and putting the cards right in front of you, making them difficult to ignore.

These cards are usually “escort’ cards, advertising women you can pay to keep you company. Despite Las Vegas’s reputation, prostitution is illegal in Nevada. The fees on these cards indicate what you’ll pay just to have someone show up at your door—they aren’t advertising any additional illegal services.

This is one of the most common scams on the Strip, but it’s also one of the easiest to avoid—just keep walking and don’t take the card.

2. Street hustlers

Card slappers aren’t the only streetside hustlers you’ll come across in Las Vegas. You’ll also likely encounter people attempting to sell you night club passes or loop you into an illegal gambling game, like three-card monte (a version of the old-fashioned shell game).

None of these offers or games are legitimate. Real VIP club hosts won’t ask for money on the spot. Be sure you only buy items or passes from licensed sellers or vendors.

3. Slots at McCarran International Airport

slots at mccarran airport las vegas
Image Source: Jérôme via Wikimedia Commons.

Playing the slots at McCarran International Airport can be an enticing way to kick off your Vegas vacation, but these machines offer the lowest returns in the entire state, returning just 85% of your bet over time, compared to 90-92% on the Strip. McCarran’s video poker machines also offer the lowest returns you’ll find in the city.

4. 6-5 Blackjack

Blackjack is the most common table game in Las Vegas because of the low house edge and the ease of learning the rules. To take advantage of its popularity, some casinos have increased their house edge and now only pay 6-5 on blackjack games, rather than the traditional 3-2 odds.

COMPARE: With 6-5 odds, a $10 bet will win you $12. With traditional 3-2 odds, a $10 bet will win you $15.

The house usually has the advantage, but they have a bigger advantage at some places. Rules will be disclosed on the table felt or a placard, but if you’re not sure what odds a table is offering, ask the dealer. You can also ask the dealer or pit boss to direct you to tables with 3-2 odds. Some casinos only offer 6-5 odds, so you may have to travel to another casino.

5. Long hauling

“Long hauling”, which occurs when cab drivers take passengers on an unnecessarily long or circuitous route simply to drive up the meter, is a common problem faced by taxi passengers in many cities around the world. When you’re in an unfamiliar city, it’s easy to fall for this prevalent scam.

The Nevada Taxicab Authority is strict about ensuring passengers can be confident that their cabbies will take them safely along the quickest route to their destination, but the trip from McCarran to the Strip is still a common long-haul pitfall in Las Vegas.

PRO TIP: Ask your cabbie to take Swenson away from the airport instead of the tunnel—the tunnel can add an additional $10 to your fare. You could also consider taking Uber or Lyft so you can see the route your driver plans on taking.

If your driver asks if you’ve been to Vegas before, say yes, even if you haven’t. This simple tactic can help you avoid dropping unnecessary cash on a needlessly long cab ride.

6. Suggested stops

Cabbies sometimes get kickbacks for sending tourists to certain attractions, such as massage parlors or clubs, most of which are unregulated. Never allow your cab driver to convince you to go to a different destination than you originally intended.

7. Mini-fridge charges

Room charges may not be illegal, but they can rack up quickly if you aren’t careful. Many hotel mini-fridges now include electronic devices that monitor where things are placed in the fridge. If you move an item, but don’t remove it, you may still be dinged with a room charge. You can contest the charge when you check out, but there’s no guarantee that your hotel will reverse it.

8. "Official" photographers

The famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign is a must-see attraction for any first-time visitor. There are people who will claim to be an “official” photographer and who will charge you to take your photo, but there are no official photographers posted to the sign.

9. Free VIP club entry

When it comes to Las Vegas nightlife, you get what you pay for.

Deals offered by club promoters on the street are often more about getting people in line and in the door than connecting you with a good deal. Beware—free entry and line bypass deals won’t get you into the club if it’s already reached capacity, and free drink offers often come with qualifications regarding the number or type of drink you can order.

Never pay for a club pass on the street, and tip at your discretion. Club promoters always get a cut for getting you to the door.

las vegas sign photographer scam
Image Source: Paulo O via Flickr.

The Ultimate Las Vegas Visitor Guide

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 Las Vegas Visitor Guide!

Featured Image Source: Moyan Brenn via Wikimedia Commons.


About Ria Borja

Ria is a Customer Experience Manager at Canyon Tours and an avid lover of the outdoors. When she isn't helping other travelers check destinations and dream vacations off their bucket lists, she's busy exploring the Southwest. Her favorite place to visit is (unsurprisingly!) the Grand Canyon.