Most people get to Las Vegas by taking an airplane, but lots of people drive into town, too. Regardless of which way you come in, there are some things you’re going to need to do before you do anything else. One of the first things is to get where you’re going now that you’re actually in Sin City.

Driving to Las Vegas

It’s impossible to drive to Las Vegas without driving through the desert. If you’ve never driven through the desert before, you need to keep some things in mind. The main thing is this:

You don’t want your car to break down in the middle of the desert. How do you prevent that?

Before you leave for your road trip to Vegas, take your car to a mechanic you trust. Ask them to give your vehicle a thorough going-over, and then ask the mechanic if he thinks it’s safe to drive through the desert. This doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid a breakdown, but it might help if something obvious is wrong with your car.

Be prepared for a potential breakdown anyway, though. You should have AAA or some other kind of roadside assistance plan. You also need a good spare tire—your mechanic should have looked at that for you. Keep some water in your car—at least a couple of gallons—just in case.

While you’re driving, make sure you have plenty of gas before you hit the desert. Don’t let it get below half a tank before you fill it up, if you can help it. Keep an eye on your other gauges, too. If you’re starting to have temperature problems, you might be able to stop somewhere before getting stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Taking a Bus or a Train to Las Vegas

Depending on where you start your journey, you might be able to come to Vegas on a bus or a train. If you’re from California, for example, you might be able to come in on the Megabus. Rates are low—less than $30 from Southern California, and you can get to Vegas in less than 6 hours usually.

Greyhound is another option. I’ve had bad experiences dealing with the company, so I don’t recommend them at all. You can take your chances with them if you want to, though. Their website runs incredibly slow, and that’s only the least of the company’s problems. When I tried to look up fares, the search box indicated it was working for almost 2 minutes, and then I got a “site is undergoing maintenance” result instead of rates. I wasn’t surprised.

The Vegas X Train says it’s coming soon. You might check the website to see if they’ve started operating yet. The plan is for the train to bring people to and from Vegas for Los Angeles.

Flying to Las Vegas

If you’re flying into Las Vegas, you’re almost certainly going to arrive in McCarran International Airport. As airports go, it’s smaller than most, but it’s also easy to navigate. Just follow the signs. You might have to walk a long way to get to baggage claim, so if your stamina is low, start a walking program now so that you can build your stamina up before getting there. (I’m having to do this.)

Getting to Your Hotel or Vacation Rental

I don’t recommend renting a car in Las Vegas unless you’re planning to spend a lot of time in some of the surrounding areas—which is a legitimate thing to do, by the way. My tendency is to stay in Vegas while I’m in Vegas, so I never rent a car there.

You can get to your hotel or vacation rental in several ways:

  • Limousines
  • Ride sharing
  • Shuttle
  • Taxi

Limousine service is the most expensive way to go, but it’s fancy, comfortable, and fast. You can spend between $50 and $150 on a limousine, although at that lower price range, it’s probably not a true limo. You’ll just be riding in a big fancy automobile.

Ride sharing services include Lyft and Uber. (I list these in alphabetical order, as I have no preference. I do have a friend who’s worked for both companies, and she preferred Lyft, at least from a driver’s perspective.)

Most people are familiar with such services already, but if you’re not, you can think of them as an opportunity for freelancers to operate their own taxi service from their own vehicles. Such services are usually more affordable than taking a traditional taxi cab.

To use one of these services, get your luggage first, then open the app on your phone. You’ll choose which terminal you’re at. The app will give you directions to where pickups for Lyft and Uber are made.

When you’re taking Lyft or Uber, the Strip hotels don’t pick you up or drop you off at the main entrance. Instead, they usually go to the valet parking area.

Using Lyft or Uber is often half the price of using an actual taxi. Tipping is optional, but I always try to tip anyway.

Shuttles offer trips to and from the more popular destinations in town. You’ll often share a shuttle with other passengers, so it might take you longer to get to your destination. You’ll save money, though—a shuttle, like the ride sharing services, usually cost about half the price of a taxi.

You’ll find 2 different shuttle companies to choose from:

  • Bell Trans
  • SuperShuttle

There are counters for those services in Terminal 1 near baggage claim. There are also counters for shuttle services just outside Terminal 3.

Taxis are the traditional mode of transportation from the airport to the hotel in Vegas. Depending on traffic and which hotel you’re going to, it will cost between $15 and $35 to get to the Strip. Downtown is a little further and will cost between $35 and $45.

It doesn’t matter which taxi service you use. The prices are regulated by the local government, so they’re all the same. Be prepared to pay with cash. Most taxis don’t accept credit cards.

You can get a cab from the curb. If the city is busy, you’ll probably have to wait in line. It’s customary to tip a cab driver, by the way.

Here are some resources on the internet that can help you with these options, in order of importance:

Renting a Car

If you do decide to rent a car, take the courtesy shuttle to the McCarran Rent-A-Car Center. It’s 2 miles from the airport itself. You’ll find that shuttle just outside of terminal 10 and 11. If you’re not sure how to get there, ask anyone working at the airport.

You used to be able to rent a car right from the airport and take that company’s shuttle to your car. Those days are behind us now. Everyone uses the same shuttle to the Rent-A-Car Center. The shuttle leaves every 5 minutes, and it takes about 10 minutes (give or take) to get there.

This also means that the counters get busy because everyone gets there at the same time. If you’re determined to rent a car, you might be able to sign up for a membership at the company you’re renting from. They’ll give you preferential treatment in line.

Don’t wait until the last minute for this, either. You’ll need your membership, so give them a month or 2 to get your membership processed and mailed to you if you can.

Also, you can expect to pay a whole lot of fees when renting a car in Las Vegas:

  • Airport Access Fee 10.5%
  • Customer Facility Charge 14.7%
  • Rental Tax 13%
  • State Tax 9%
  • Vehicle License Fee 5.9%

All told, that’s 53.5% in additional fees on top of your rental price. (Thanks to The Unofficial Guide to Las 2018 for the price list.) You can avoid some of those fees by renting a car at your hotel, instead, but they might charge you a higher rental fee. Six in one hand, half a dozen in the other.

Car rentals often have limited availability in Las Vegas, so be prepared for that, too—especially during convention periods. It’s probably a good idea to book your car in advance, just like you did your airfare and hotel stay.

You can save money on car rentals (sometimes) by going through a consolidator like,, or You can also sometimes find deals on the internet by typing in the brand name of the car rental company along with the phrases “coupon codes” or “promo codes.”

One piece of advice I read in The Unofficial Guide to Las 2018 was to always book the smallest, cheapest car available. You can often upgrade for free when you get there, but even if you can’t, it’s cheaper to upgrade when you arrive than it is to book something bigger beforehand.

You can rent a car from any of the following companies:

Keep in mind that it’s illegal in Las Vegas to talk on a cell phone while driving. This is even true if you’re using a hands-free device. The best way to avoid a fine is to keep your phone in your pocket or your glove box the whole time.

You’re also supposed to refill the tank before you return the car. The car rental companies decide how much to charge you per gallon if they have to fill it. That can get expensive. The price for refilling the gas tank will be somewhere in the rental agreement, but save yourself the trouble of reading it. The price they charge you will always be too high compared to what you’d spend if you just filled it yourself.

I recommend taking the optional insurance on your rental car even if you have coverage from your credit card. Just make sure your regular car insurance policy also covers rental cars. Some policies do; others don’t. Inspect your rental car carefully when you get  it, because if there’s damage, they could claim that you did it when you had the car.

You might have trouble seeing well depending on the parking lot or garage where you pick up your car, making it harder to inspect the car when you get it. You can use the flashlight function on your phone, but you can also just move the car to a well-lit place before inspecting it.

Tipping in Las Vegas

The economy in Las Vegas is largely service-oriented. You can expect to tip for various services when you’re in town, but you’re not obligated to tip if the service is bad. Here are some general tipping guidelines, but you can always be more generous:

  • Tip a cab driver like you would a waiter or waitress at a restaurant—15% or 20% of your fare. If you take the cab an exceptionally short distance, tip at least $5 regardless of the tip. He could have been working on a larger fare in the time it took to pick you up and drop you off.
  • Lyft and Uber drivers have a “no tipping necessary” policy, but it’s still polite to tip—especially if your driver provided good service. I prefer to tip them with cash rather than through the apps, although I might be paranoid.
  • You should tip porters at least a dollar per bag, more if some of your bags are extra-heavy. (You know who you are.) This is about the right tip to leave for the bellman at the hotel, too.
  • Before you check out of the hotel, leave a tip for the maids. $5 per day ought to do the trick if you weren’t too messy. If you make a bigger mess, leave a bigger tip.
  • Valet parking has a fixed cost at most hotels and casinos. You can expect to pay $15 to $25 to valet. You should tip the valet $2 to $5 when you pick your car up. If the valets are busy, and if you’re in a hurry, if you give a valet $20, he’ll get your car a lot faster.
  • Tipping waiters and waitresses in Las Vegas is the same as the rest of the country—15% to 25% is standard. But there are some considerations in Las Vegas. Cocktail waitresses who bring you comp drinks should get at least a dollar per drink. I like to tip $5 when I get my first drink to make an impression and make sure I get good service all night. Then I scale back to a dollar. Waiters and waitresses at buffets only warrant a couple bucks per diner, though. All they’re doing is refilling your drinks.


When you arrive in Las Vegas, you have some things to do before you get to your hotel or casino destination. For one thing, you’ll need to find transportation to and from your lodging. Luckily, you have lots of options. I prefer to just take a cab, but your mileage, of course, might vary.

If you rent a car, re-read the guide to renting a car in Las Vegas carefully. It can be a lot more expensive than you expect if you’re not careful.

When you know what to expect before getting to the hotel or the casino, it’s easier to relax and enjoy yourself once you arrive.

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