Guides

Visiting Las Vegas on a budget

Bellagio fountains, Las Vegas Strip, Nevada USA

Las Vegas probably isn’t most people’s idea of a budget destination. Even if you’re not blowing your cash gambling on the casino floor, you could easily spend up a fortune in the city’s five-star hotels, A-list nightclubs, Michelin-starred restaurants and designer boutiques. But you don’t need to rob a casino – Ocean’s Eleven style – to enjoy a trip to Las Vegas. Sin City is still doable if you’re on a budget. I spent ten days in the city last spring so had to maximise the fun without spending too much. So here are my top tips for saving money in Las Vegas on everything from entertainment and transport to food and nightlife.

More budget city guides: London, Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Copenhagen, Madrid, New York
New York New York casino, Las Vegas Nevada USA

Las Vegas meets NYC at New York New York

Things to see and do

You can easily keep yourself entertained just wandering the Strip – watch gondoliers on the canals at Venice, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge at New York New York, see the pyramids at the Luxor, visit the indoor botanical gardens at the Bellagio, check out the vintage neon on Fremont Street or pose by the Las Vegas sign (south of Mandalay Bay on the Strip). There are also free attractions inside the casinos, like the Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat, with exotic birds and fish in 15 acres of gardens, the huge tropical aquarium at the Silverton Casino (complete with mermaids) and the P3 art studio at the Cosmopolitan.

Away from the casinos, the Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame is free to enter and you just pay 25–50¢ per game. Or if you’re in the city on the first Friday of the month, Downtown Las Vegas’ art district hosts a First Friday event. Local artists display and sell their work on the streets and there’s also live music, street performers, food carts and art lessons for kids. The event runs from 5pm–11pm and there’s parking nearby plus a shuttle bus service which connects it with Fremont Street.

If you plan to do a lot of the paid attractions, it might be worth investing in a Power Pass. They cost $85 for one day up to $170 for five days and cover 30 attractions, including Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden, the Mob Museum, Stratosphere observation deck, Voodoo zipline, Bellagio art gallery and Madame Tussauds. It also includes trips out of Vegas to the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon West and a Lake Mead cruise.

The Venetian casino, Las Vegas, Nevada USA

Gondoliers outside the Venetian

Entertainment

Vegas is famous for its shows, whether that’s Cirque du Soleil or big-name music performers like Britney Spears. Advance tickets can set you back hundreds of dollars, but you can pick up discounted tickets from one of the eleven Tix4Tonight outlets spread along the Strip and downtown. They only sell tickets for performances that day, so you don’t know what will be available, but you can save up to half price. Get there when they open at 10am for the biggest selection of tickets.

If that’s still too pricey, then check out some of the free shows at the casinos. The most famous is the Bellagio Fountains, with over a thousand fountains choreographed to music every 15 mins from 8pm–midnight and every 30 mins in the afternoons. There is also the volcano outside the Mirage which erupts at 8pm and 9pm (plus 10pm at weekend) and a free circus show featuring acrobats and clowns every half hour from 11am–midnight at Circus Circus. Downtown at the Fremont Street Experience there’s a free light show on the hour from dusk until midnight and you’ll often find live bands playing. There’s also live dueling piano shows every night in bars at Harrah’s, Paris and New York New York.

When it comes to saving money on club entry, it’s easier if you’re a woman. You’ll often be handed discount flyers on the street or approached by club promoters who can get your name on the guest list. You need to get there by 9pm though, but can often get your hand stamped so you can go out and come back in again later. Otherwise you can skip the queue and sometimes get a discount if you’re staying at the resort or get free entry when you eat at an attached restaurant, like Tao at the Venetian.

Neon signs in Old Las Vegas, Fremont Street

The nightly free light show at Old Vegas’ Fremont Street

Top city views

The city’s tallest point is the Stratosphere tower’s observation deck – entry costs $20 per person, with discount packages available if you want to do any of the crazy rides at the top while you’re up there. For a more central viewpoint head up to the top of Paris Las Vegas’ Eiffel Tower. It costs $11.50 during the daytime (which includes up to 7.15pm so you can still get up there in the dark) or $16.50 at night, with a discount for children and over 60s, and free admission if it’s your birthday (bring photo ID).

The city’s newest viewpoint is the High Roller ferris wheel at the LINQ – a shopping and entertainment district between the Flamingo and The Quad. At 550 feet tall it’s the world’s tallest ferris wheel, taking 30 minutes to do a full rotation. It’s not cheap, with tickets costing $26.95 up until 7pm or $36.95 at night, but there are special offers like the ‘Happy Half Hour’ with an open bar from $37 during the daytime.

There are also great views for the price of a drink at Las Vegas’ high-rise bars. There are bars at the top of the Stratosphere and Eiffel Tower, or try the Skyfall Lounge at the Delano Mandalay Bay (open from 5pm), the Ghostbar at the Palms (open from 8pm, entry from $10 women/$20 men) and the VooDoo rooftop nightclub at the Rio (open from 9pm, entry costs $20, or $30 for men at weekends).

The Las Vegas Strip from the top of The Stratosphere

The view over Las Vegas from the top of the Stratosphere tower

Eating and drinking

For cheaper dining head off the Strip or downtown. You can also find good-value pre-theatre menus if you’re happy to eat early. Pick up restaurant discount coupons in the booklets you get in hotel rooms or cabs, or you can buy meal deals from places like Tix4Tonight (see above) or Groupon.

If you’re hungry, a casino buffet is good value. They’re usually cheaper for brunch or lunch rather than dinner and you can often upgrade for unlimited drinks. Or if you’re seriously hungry, try the Buffet of Buffets, where $59.99 gets you 24 hours unlimited access to the buffets at seven casinos (including Paris, Caesars Palace and the Rio). You can also save a few dollars by signing up to Caesars Entertainment’s free Total Rewards programme, which also gets you a discount in some of their other restaurants.

Bottled water and snacks from the casino shops can be expensive, so head to a supermarket to stock up – there’s a Walgreens near Planet Hollywood and a CVS near Monte Carlo on the Strip. They also sell alcohol so you can have a few drinks before going out (or even drink on the street with Las Vegas’ liberal liquor laws). You get free drinks on the casino floor if you’re gambling – though stick to low-value games if you want to actually save money doing this and make sure to tip your waitress. Also check out this site for details of happy hours across town with discounted food and drinks.

Caesars Palace casino, Las Vegas Nevada USA

Italian restaurant next to the ‘Trevi fountain’ at Caesar’s Palace

Travelling around

The Strip is surprisingly close to Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, but the heavy traffic means taxis can be pricey. The cheaper option is an airport shuttle minibus which will drop you at your hotel. There are several companies but all leave from outside baggage reclaim and charge around $10 each way.

It’s easy to get around the Strip on foot, but distances are bigger than they look, so if you need a rest hop on the Deuce bus. These double-decker buses run the length of the Strip and up to Fremont Street 24 hours a day, up to every 15 mins. A 24-hour pass costs $8 or a three-day pass $20. There’s also the Las Vegas Monorail which runs between the former Sahara and the MGM Grand. Tickets cost $5 per ride or better value is the 24-hour pass for $12. There are also three smaller monorail trams which are free and run from the Mirage to Treasure Island, Bellagio to Monte Carlo and Mandalay Bay to Excalibur.

Monorail outside the Luxor casino, Las Vegas Nevada USA

The Mandalay Bay–Excalibur monorail passing by the Luxor

So those are my tips for seeing Las Vegas on a budget – do you know of any more Vegas bargains or have any money-saving tips?

Related: Staying on the Las Vegas Strip – whatever your budget

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Las Vegas isn't most people's idea of a budget destination. But you don't need to rob a casino – Ocean's Eleven style – to enjoy a trip to Sin City – ontheluce.com

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65 Comments

  • Reply
    Katie MacLeod
    March 10, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Great advice! I’ll have to come back to this for my next trip 🙂 I loved Mix Lounge at THEhotel, the view was amazing!

  • Reply
    Jen
    March 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Great tips Lucy. I’m really looking forward to hopefully hitting up Vegas next year so these will all come in very handy. While doing some research on hotels in Vegas recently I came across some really good deals. The best i found was for the MIrage in May @ $59 per night mid week. I checked out all the big name hotels direct on their websites and while didn’t find anything else this cheap I did find that most of them offered reasonable prices.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 10, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      Hope the tips come in handy on your trip. I have a post coming up later this week with some accommodation recommendations too, with some good budget options. There are some great deals to be had!

  • Reply
    Kirsten Joelle
    March 10, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    I usually stay at Planet Hollywood, which is generally pretty cheap! If I stay for longer than a couple days (I used to live in San Diego and it was a relatively short-ish drive there – which meant many weekends going to Vegas!), I would stay at Harrah’s for a night or 2. It’s right in the middle of the strip and can be as low as $20/night for a 2 queen bed room!

    You’re definitely right about clubs being easy to get into if you’re a female – you’ll get approached by dozens of promoters offering bottle service for free! It’s good to get on good terms with them (i.e. going to one of the not-so-popular clubs first like they might ask) and then you’ll be able to get hooked up for more nights after that! Great post 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 10, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      Thanks. I ended up staying in five different places while I was there so have some hotel suggestions coming up, but those are two more great ones to add!

  • Reply
    bridget pigott
    March 10, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    We spent a short time in Las Vegas a couple of years ago and found plenty to amuse us by just wandering along the Strip and going into hotels, taking a cup of coffee for a rest and a sit in air-conditioning when we were tired.
    We stayed at the Mirage with a good deal found online but really noticed they want you to go on the floor and play. You don’t have to. The day we left I thought I ought not to leave without playing something so I put a quarter in a machine. I didn’t win. We had watched some of the high stake poker playing which was fascinating, though we weren’t allowed very close. I believe Las Vegas is despairing over people like us who just go for free entertainment, so grab the chances before they charge!
    We did pay for Cirque de Soleil which was stunning, but saw a free show by them in Montreal which was also superb.
    Bridget

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 10, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      I was another annoying non-gambler too! But even without it there was more than enough to do and see to keep me occupied, and as you say watching the high stakes stuff is really interesting, there can be crazy amounts of money involved!

  • Reply
    Andi
    March 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Great tips!

  • Reply
    Ayla
    March 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    This is brilliant Lucy! It’s a couple of years off yet but I’m planning on taking Alex there as a surprise for his 30th birthday so I’ll be coming back then and making a proper note of all of this! Did you do the ride at the top of the Stratosphere? I think I would probably chicken out of that one it looks terrifying!

    Great tips and pics 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 10, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      Thanks, hope it comes in useful and you have a great trip, it’d be a fab place for a 30th! We stayed at the Stratosphere for a couple of nights so went up to watch people on the rides but no chance of getting me on there!

  • Reply
    amaatk123
    March 10, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    It just looks incredible. Only the Americans could create something like this and make it so GOOD. If you know what I mean. 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 10, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      It’s a crazy place! I know a lot of people don’t like it but if you embrace it for what it is – an unreal, fun town – then you can have a great time there.

  • Reply
    memyselfandatlanta
    March 10, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    This is fab Lucy thank you!! Loads for us to do there…I’ll have to make sure our chief planner Becky takes a look!!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 10, 2014 at 8:23 pm

      Excellent, hope it comes in useful and you all have a great time out there!

  • Reply
    Melody Leary
    March 10, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Hi!
    I translated your article into french on my blog, I hope you don’t mind! (I said it was your article and put the link of your blog in it)
    Melody

  • Reply
    Beth Berger
    March 10, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Great tips! As a budget-livin’ gal, I’ve never thought Vegas was doable for me. You’ve definitely changed my mind!

  • Reply
    thegrownupgapyear
    March 11, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    My favourite thing on this entire list is the Buffet of Buffets – only in Vegas! Some fab tips here though:)

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 12, 2014 at 10:10 pm

      It would be way too much for me, a normal one-off buffet finished me off for the day!

      • Reply
        beth
        March 3, 2015 at 9:49 pm

        Thanks for all the tips! I’m going in less than 2 weeks and we’ve looked at Buffet of Buffets. We thought it was too much food for 24 hrs but then thought if we even ate light off of it a few times or snacked off of it that it would still be less than what we would pay for 3-4 meals anyway. Haven’t decided yet but just a thought. What do y’all think?

  • Reply
    Karen Johnson
    March 12, 2014 at 2:22 am

    Great post! I lived there one summer during my legal clerkship and learned how to enjoy Vegas on a very tight budget. I had a blast because there are a lot of free things you can do there!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 18, 2014 at 11:03 am

      Definitely – the casinos are all trying to attract people in so there’s a lot to see and do!

  • Reply
    mfryan
    March 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    This is a really useful post, thank you for this. Las Vegas on a budget seems like a bit of an oxymoron, but you’ve pulled it off!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 12, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      Thanks so much – Vegas definitely has the reputation for being a pricey place to visit but it really doesn’t need to be!

      • Reply
        mfryan
        March 12, 2014 at 11:46 pm

        Totally! 🙂

  • Reply
    mfryan
    March 12, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Reblogged this on Gracefully Global Blog and commented:
    As a Southern California native and a frequent visitor to Las Vegas, I have a love/hate relationship with the city. Expensive, commercial, hot, and crowded, it is also a destination laden with treasures and beauty that you don’t find everyday. A fellow blogger put together this fabulous Vegas guide, and I am reblogging this post because it is so rich with information regarding finding those treasures in Vegas but not spending a fortune. Hope you’ll also find it useful!

  • Reply
    atravelingb
    March 13, 2014 at 2:25 am

    Wow, you made it 10 days in Vegas? That is impressive! It is definitely an interesting place. I really enjoyed my time there and found a lot that did not just involve gambling and drinking. Looks like you did the same – what an extensive list. I will definitely refer to this when I return. I love a good rooftop bar, especially in Vegas, there is so much to look at!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 16, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      Yes 10 days is quite a long time! My husband had to be out there for work so it was longer than I’d have done otherwise – didn’t have too much trouble finding things to keep me busy.

  • Reply
    Aggy (@dewtraveller)
    March 17, 2014 at 5:27 am

    I don’t know when I’ll be in Vegas – but your advice is definitely useful for those who will be going there. It does seem like an expensive place, so many temptations to spend your money on! Thanks Lucy for the handy tips!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 18, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Thanks Aggy, it’s an easy place to spend a lot of money, but if you steer clear of the gambling floors and expensive clubs it’s possible to have a great time there without blowing the budget!

  • Reply
    Pola (Jetting Around)
    March 20, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Not a huge fan on Vegas, only in small doses… But I’d go for the city views and food (the best part about the place, in my opinion). Buffets are a great deal for sure. Good tips here!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 20, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      I think small doses is probably the best way to do it! I did mix up my 10 days with a bit of working by the pool and a couple of trips out so I didn’t get over-Vegas’d.

  • Reply
    Mike
    March 21, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    I’ve never been to Vegas, but am in the beginning stages of planning a trip there in June. Thanks for all the great advice!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 22, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      Hope it comes in useful – and have a great trip!

  • Reply
    Cathy Sweeney
    March 21, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    I enjoy a getaway to Vegas every once in a while and it’s easy to spend a lot of money there before you know it. Great ideas here. The Bellagio fountains are one of my favorite free things to do. Also fun to get off the Strip and take a hike at Red Rock Canyon.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 22, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      Red Rock Canyon was lovely – such a contrast from the man-made landscapes of the Strip!

  • Reply
    Hanneke
    March 23, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Reblogged this on On the road.

  • Reply
    arlene
    March 24, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Try Carmine’s at the Forum Shops in Caesar’s. Very economical if you’re with a group.

  • Reply
    Maddie
    March 31, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Whenever I talk about Vegas people always say comment how expensive it must be, they nearly fall on the floor when I tell them that we’ve never paid more than $40 a night for hotel rooms. Aside from the flights, if you’re visiting from Europe, you really needn’t spend much money. I always say that the best part of Vegas is just the spectacle of it all and just gawking at everything costs nothing. Great post Lucy 🙂

  • Reply
    Newly Wed, Not Dead
    April 23, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    This may sound silly, but to save money, my husband and I brought a few bottles of booze. Every afternoon, we’d head up to our room and have a few drinks while getting ready. We knew we wouldn’t be driving, so we got a little bit of a buzz feeling before heading out — we probably saved $500 on drinks alone!!

    Alexa — http://www.newlywednotdead.com

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      April 24, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      That’s a great idea – it’s a lot cheaper to have a few drinks before going out, though that does remind me of being at university as we used to do that then too!

  • Reply
    jessica
    April 30, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    You have left the best most detailed advice! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      May 1, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks so much – hope it comes in useful sometime!

  • Reply
    sabinecausey
    August 28, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Getting married is only like 40 Bucks – just saying.. Also if you drive around a littel further off the strip you can find small food places like the “Viva las Arepas”. They serve awesome tasting Venezualian food.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 1, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Haha, funnily enough when I visited I was in the midst of wedding planning so it was quite tempting to just do it there and then and save the cost of a big wedding!

  • Reply
    bailemma56
    October 1, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Cool post.Las Vegas is not just about Gambles and casinos.There are lots of other things to do in Vegas so that is dam true that if you not going to spend your money on casinos then you can surely able to make an awesome trip to Vegas in a budget.People always just think about the gamble and casinos when they heard the name of Las vegas.So when people will read your post they will get to know that there are so many things they can enjoy in Vegas.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 1, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Thanks, yes there is so much more to do than just gambling – even with almost 10 days there I didn’t get bored!

  • Reply
    Becks Cato
    January 9, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Thanks for a great post Lucy 🙂 Las Vegas is on my list for 2015, and I’m a non gambler so I found lots of useful info here!

    • Reply
      Vegas Veteran
      May 5, 2015 at 2:02 am

      The High Roller was my favorite and Im not a big gambler either but I did find this link where I was able to purchase tickets in advance for all the clubs and pool parties we wanted to go to! We walked right in past everyone with our tickets!!
      http://ticketdriver.com/amg/buy/tickets?afc=AOATOEI3

  • Reply
    Heather (The Flip Flop Wife)
    May 29, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    These are some great tips. We go to Vegas every year to get our annual Vit D. 🙂 And, we do it on a budget and aren’t gamblers, so we always look for cheap stuff to do when we aren’t lazy-ing at the pool. We scour the hotel we love for deals and tend to stick to the same restaurants. The one tip we have, for people that love buffet food and think they will eat at several in a 24-hr period, is the Buffet of Buffets. This year it is $55+taxes. (It goes up every year.) It may seem like a lot of money, but given it covers most of the Harrah Hotel buffets (including the Rio Carnival), and most buffets are $25 per person minimum, it can save you a lot of money. You can go in and out of any of the buffets on their list as many times as you want in that 24-hr time slot. We’ve timed it in the past to cover four full meal times (e.g. starting with a really late dinner so your end time is later in the day the next day). If you are a Total Rewards member it is a couple dollars cheaper. Only do this, though, if you love buffet food and have the time to hit all the good buffets. During peak hours the lines can be long, and if your time stamp on the ticket expires while you are standing in line they won’t let you in on that ticket. Oh, and if you are staying at the MGM Grand, The Rainforest Café is great for breakfast. We get the Pie of the Viper ($12) – breakfast pizza – and it is large enough to feed me and my husband and still have some leftover.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      June 5, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Thanks so much for the tips!

  • Reply
    Mashup
    June 2, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Excellent post Lucy, my brother, son and I we love going to Vegas. Recently we’ve been travelling twice a year (from London UK), it’s an amazing place! It’s not even about the gambling, it’s everything else. From the fountains at the Bellagio, to the people watching, Clubs, food portions, chilling pool side, drinking, okay and maybe a flutter at blackjack and you don’t have to break the budget either. We’re back in T minus 12 days and counting for our first dose this year and cannot wait!!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      June 5, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Vegas is such a fun city, there is always something going on! Hope you have a great time.

  • Reply
    tahliaskaines
    June 22, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    your blog is wonderful! i began my blog yesterday and yours is definitey inspiring. even more excited to travel to the US in the coming months now!!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      June 22, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Thanks so much – best of luck with your new site and enjoy your trip to the US!

  • Reply
    myhiddenparis
    August 14, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    It’s my dream city. I dream of getting married in Las Vegas as it’s widely known as best romantic place to get married.

  • Reply
    Suzan Hall
    October 24, 2015 at 7:47 am

    Vegas is really a beautiful but expensive place to visit. Nice to have these budget tips. I am a big fan of Las vegas.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 31, 2015 at 8:44 pm

      It’s such a fun place, I really enjoyed my trip!

  • Reply
    listerino
    October 30, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    This is awesome!!! Thanks so much for these great tips.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 31, 2015 at 8:42 pm

      You’re very welcome – hope they come in useful!

  • Reply
    Ray
    June 20, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    If your budget allows, then rent a car for 1 – 2 days and do a self-drive tour of Death Valley and/or Red Rock Canyon. Hoover Dam is also just a 25 minute drive from the Strip, so having a car rental is a lot more economical than booking with a tour group. My advice is to rent at the airport versus your hotel resort as you can save a bit of money that way, as well as avoid the nightmarish traffic jam along the Strip.

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