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Las Vegas is served by one major airport and a smaller reliever airport, as well as several regional bus lines.
Visitors who fly into Las Vegas will probably arrive at McCarran International Airport. Numerous local, national and international airlines provide service here, as do nearly a dozen rental car companies. It is located just a couple miles south of the Las Vegas Strip and a couple miles further south of downtown.
The airport can be heavily congested particularly at weekends, so arrive in plenty of time for a departing flight. If possible, try to take a flight that arrives early in the morning and departs mid to late afternoon or very late at night, since the airport will be less crowded then.
Henderson Executive Airport is a reliever airport that serves corporate jet traffic, a good alternative for business travelers. It is a few miles south of McCarran.
There is no Amtrak rail service to Las Vegas. The closest train stations are in Needles (CA) and Kingman (AZ). Check for updates on the charter services from those stations to Las Vegas.
If you are coming from a nearby state, regional buses are another option. The bus station is at 200 South Main Street. Greyhound runs buses from Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Los Angeles. Amtrak also runs buses to Las Vegas, as does Luxbus and Starline Tours.
Las Vegas is within a six-hour drive of several cities including Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego. San Francisco is about nine hours away by car, and Reno and Salt Lake City are about seven hours away.
Las Vegas is on Interstate 15 between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Visitors driving in from other directions will be following state roads through some pretty remote areas, so be sure to get food, water and gas before setting out into the desert. Those coming from Arizona will cross the Hoover Dam at the border, which may increase driving time due to tourist traffic there.Getting Downtown
Visitors can navigate from the airport to the city via buses, cabs, shuttle buses or car rentals.
Buses run from the McCarran Airport to the South Terminal, where you can transfer to a public transportation bus called the Deuce that traverses the Strip and continue as far as Binions on Fremont Street..
*More public transit details listed below.
A cab is certainly the best way to travel to and from the airport. Taxis are readily available outside of the terminal, and though lines seem long during peak hours, they typically move fast. You’ll have to pay a $1.20 additional airport surcharge, but prices to nearby hotels are not bad (about $10 to South Strip, $15 to Center Strip and $20 to downtown). To save a few dollars on your cab ride to your hotel, ask the driver not to take the tunnel.
A variety of shuttle/limousine services are available at McCarran, and are located on the west side of baggage claim, outside door exits 7-13. Shuttles to hotels on the Strip are about $6 one-way and $12 roundtrip, while those to downtown hotels are $8 one-way and $15 roundtrip. It is advisable to call in advance for shuttle arrangements, since sometimes the wait is an hour or more.
Note that most hotels and casinos do not offer shuttle services back to the airport.
Car rental is a smart option for getting around Las Vegas as long as you do not mind the traffic, have knowledge of the area and plan on avoiding alcohol. Hotel valet parking is free.
You can rent cars from several locations, but it is usually cheapest and most convenient to rent from the airport. The rental agencies at McCarran will shuttle you to their off-site location for free, though there may be a fee of $3 per day charged in your rental contract. When dropping off your car, you return to the same building, and a common shuttle bus returns you to the airport.
Las Vegas’ downtown area is home to hotels, casinos and the “Freemont Street Experience,” a pedestrian mall lined with more casinos. Starting with Main Street to the west, numbered streets run north/south.
The famous Strip is south of downtown. A north/south street with more large casino-hotels, the Strip starts with a casino section to the north that’s marked by the tall Stratosphere tower. Frequent shuttle buses traverse the Strip and connect it to downtown.
Southeast of the Strip you will find the airport, and east of the Strip is the convention center and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
Walking along the Strip is a fun and convenient way to explore the city and get a feel for Vegas. Many resorts are located within walking distance of each other, and each has a unique flavor that can even be enjoyed by passing by on foot. That said, the sheer size of the hotels makes getting around on foot difficult and tiring, especially when glammed up.
First-time visitors who walk the Strip should be prepared for a couple local quirks: many sidewalk vendors attempt to distribute adult material and advertisements to passing pedestrians, and it’s common to see people walk by with open containers of alcohol. There is no legal prohibition against public drinking in Las Vegas, though it’s not allowed on buses.
Fremont Street is another fun place to stroll past shops and casinos that lie under the overhead canopy that becomes an enormous screen for regular audio and video shows at night. At night you’ll find professional live entertainment at one or more of the intersections in the 4-block long area.
A word of caution – cross the Strip ONLY in designated pedestrian crosswalks. There are a number of crosswalks as well as overhead pedestrian bridges that will make life much easier for you. Drivers can be aggressive, traffic can be a nightmare, and jaywalking carries a stiff fine.
The city’s Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) has 51 bus routes. These buses are more accessible than taxis, which are not allowed to pick up passengers on the street.
The Deuce, a modern double-decker bus that traverses the Strip, is the least expensive way to get around. It runs from the South Strip Transit Terminal (near McCarran Airport) to the Downtown Strip Transit Terminal (which as been moved to a location at or about 105 Casino Center Street/Avenue/Drive - can't remember exact designation, a few blocks south of Fremont Street), stopping at virtually every hotel and casino along the way. Stops are spread every half-mile or so, and marked with signs or by bus shelters. Strip routes (the Deuce and 301) run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can use your Deuce pass on other city buses.
A second route that runs along the Strip is the Strip & Downtown Express, which offers services between the Las Vegas Premium Outlets and the South Strip Transfer Terminal via Fremont Street, the Strip and the Las Vegas Outlet Center. The service is offered 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. and operates every 12 to 15 minutes during most hours, with less frequency during early morning hours. Strip & Downtown Express buses stop only at particular stations along the Strip.
The newest express route to serve the Strip is the Westcliff Airport Express, which provides fast and convenient service between downtown Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Premium Outlets, the Strip at Tropicana and McCarran International Airport. The line operates every 20 minutes during the morning peak period and every 30 minutes during the afternoon peak period, and hourly during all other hours between approximately 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. The service is available seven days a week.
Fare for the Deuce and Strip & Downtown Express is $5 for a two-hour pass and $7 for a 24-hour pass. Fare for the Westcliff Airport Express is $2 one way. You can buy tickets on the bus, but only if you have exact change. Otherwise, purchase a transit pass at a ticket vending machine before boarding.
For additional information on public transit fares visit the RTC Fare Information Page.
With valet service at virtually every location in town, getting from the Hard Rock to Caesar's Forum Shops then down to the Bellagio in your own rental is actually inexpensive, as long as you don't mind waiting to retrieve your car from the valet during peak times. If you then go to dinner somewhere other than at a restaurant in your hotel, you quite possibly could spend more on taxis than on a day's rental and a $1 or $2 valet tip at each stop.
If expenses are really a concern, skip the valet and use the free self-parking garages each large casino provides. These garages will allow you to miss much of the Strip's bumper-to-bumper traffic, since they’re usually located at the back of the properties, reached by the streets paralleling the Strip. Most casino garages on the Strip’s east side can be reached by Koval Lane, and the ones on the west by using Dean Martin Drive.
Taxis are a popular way of getting around Las Vegas, along the Strip and to and from downtown and the airport. A steady flow of taxis come in and out of the taxi stands available in front of all major hotels and casinos. You may have a short wait in line during busy times, but often you can simply step outside of any hotel’s main entrance and a taxi will be immediately available. Note that taxis cannot legally pick you up or drop you off on the street.
Cab companies currently charge a $3.30 “drop” fee to hire a cab, $2.40 per mile, a special $1.80 fee if the trip includes a pickup or drop at McCarran International Airport and a waiting time fee of $30 an hour whenever a cab is stuck in traffic (assessed whenever the cab moves at less than 12 mph). In April 2011, Nevada Taxicab Authority approved a 20-cent-per-mile fuel surcharge to compensate companies and drivers stung by the rising cost of gasoline.
If you’re not in a hurry, hop on the Las Vegas Strip Trolley. It seems faster than the Deuce because it takes back roads behind the casino, but it stops at almost every major hotel. It’s much slower than the Monorail, but also less expensive.
There are three main trolley routes that go in a continuous loop. The Vegas Strip loop goes from Stratosphere to Mandalay Bay; the South loop goes from Mandalay Bay to Grand View; and the Downtown Las Vegas loop goes from the downtown bus terminal to the outlet mall. You can transfer easily between routes. Trolleys run every half hour. Check signs or ask the driver to determine which hotels the trolley will stop at.
Buy tickets on the trolley from the driver. Cost is $2.50 for a one-way ticket, $12 for a three-day pass and $20 for a four-day pass. Although you cannot buy an all-day pass, a $4.25 pass lasts from 8:30am to 5pm, and for the same price you can buy a pass that lasts from 5pm to midnight.
Of late, the Trolley service has not been too dependable, so it is not really recommended.
The Las Vegas Monorail provides service along the Strip, running from 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Thursday and until 3 a.m. Friday-Sunday. Stations are located at MGM Grand, Bally's, Flamingo, Harrah's, Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas Hilton and Sahara. Trains arrive about every five to 10 minutes.
The Monorail is quick, clean and safe, with security guards on duty at each station at night. The downside to the Monorail is that it was completely paid for by the casinos and all the stations are located at the back of the casinos, thereby forcing you to traverse the casino to get to and from the Strip to the station.
Pricing options include single fares for $5, day passes for $15 and three day passes for $40. Additionally, there are passes that may be shared by more than one rider: $9 for a two-ride pass and $35 for a 10-ride pass. Tickets can be purchased at any monorail station using cash, debit cards or credit cards.
There are also several free trams available, mainly on the western side of the Strip. These trams typically connect properties under common ownership (e.g. MGM Mirage). The first tram connects Excalibur with Luxor and Mandalay Bay to the south. From Excalibur, the tram runs express southbound to Mandalay Bay. On the northbound trip, the tram makes a stop at Luxor before returning to Excalibur. There are also two other trams available: The CityCenter tram connects the Crystals Mall to Monte Carlo and Bellagio. Another tram connects Treasure Island with The Mirage.
Some resorts provide regular shuttle service along the Strip, free to all riders who do not mind waiting 30-40 minutes during peak times. The most extensive is the purple bus that leaves the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino hourly between 10a.m. and 7 p.m., stopping at various resorts along the Strip.Sam’s Town and Boyd Gaming hotels also offer complimentary shuttles to and from Sam's Town. That shuttle also picks up and drops off from several major hotel/casinos on the Strip, including Harrah's, the Flamingo and Tropicana, for example.