The Beginner’s Guide To Las Vegas

Las Vegas tips for newbies

First Time Visiting Sin City?

Our Beginner’s Guide To Las Vegas is here to show you the ropes, velvet and otherwise. Use our tips to get the most out of your first trip to Las Vegas, and avoid unpleasant surprises. Please note, this guide is for leisure travellers only. Those about to attend their first Las Vegas work convention need a whole other set of survival skills!

While not completely necessary, we heartily recommend listening to Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas by Brandon Flowers while reading this blog. 

You Really Should See The Sights

Booze, shopping, gambling and clubbing cost money. You know what doesn’t? Checking out all those free attractions everyone tells you to see in Las Vegas. The Wildlife Habitat at The Flamingo. The gardens and dancing fountains at Bellagio. The Fremont Street Experience. The erupting volcano at The Mirage. The waterfall atrium at the Palazzo.That silly talking statue show at Caesars Palace. Unfortunately, the gratis ribald pirate show at Treasure Island is gone. But Vegas fans of a certain age will be happy to know that a desert rainstorm still breaks out indoors at the top of every hour at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. (Which makes no sense whatsoever. The indoor desert rainstorm started back when it was the Desert Passage at The Aladdin. So it was a little more sensical back then. But really, why split indoor desert rainstorm hairs?) One last free attraction a lot of people miss, simply because they don’t know where it is: the world famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign! It’s just a little south of Mandalay Bay and a quick cab ride from The Strip.

famous sign is part of beginner's guide to las vegas

See? It’s even fun in the daytime!

Seeing the sights is a lovely way to spend an afternoon or early evening, and it won’t cost you a thing. Bonus: you’ll get lots of exercise, which brings us to tip number two:

Nothing Is As Close As It Looks In Las Vegas

Grabbing dinner at the casino next door? Give yourself at least a half hour to walk there. I am not even kidding you. Getting from your room through the labyrinth of your casino to the front door can take ten to fifteen minutes in itself. Once you are out on the street, navigating through the throngs of tourists and people attempting to stick advertisements or mixtapes in your hand will take longer than you think. And you’ll soon find that you keep walking and walking, and that casino next door does not appear to be getting any closer. Throw in a few inconvenient escalators and overpasses and you are pushing a half hour before you even enter the casino next door where you, of course, have no idea where the restaurant is located inside.

Bally's entrance before face lift

A sudden lack of escalators can also cost one some time.

Exceptions to the half hour rule are few. Harrah’s and The LINQ are very close to each other, as are Excalibur and New York New York. The Venetian and Palazzo are actually connected, but rather cavernous and confusing, so it can still take quite a while to get where you are going.

Suffice to say, you will definitely get all your steps in when you visit Las Vegas. And you can do it with a cocktail in your hand! Yes, that’s right…

You Can Walk Around With A Drink In Your Hand, But There Are Rules

I once asked a twenty-two year old colleague what he was going to do on his visit to Las Vegas. He replied, “I’m just so excited to walk around with a drink in my hand!” Aren’t we all, twenty-two year old colleague. Aren’t we all. It does feel very liberating to walk out the door of an establishment with a libation in hand, 24/7. There are some rules, however. Even in Las Vegas. For example, you can’t have an open container within 1,000 feet of a church, school or hospital. That’s not likely to affect you on The Strip, of course. A rule that could affect you is the new-ish law outlawing glass containers on The Strip. Don’t worry, you can still drink the bottle of beer you just purchased from the casino bar. They’ll just put it in a plastic cup for you if you are planning to saunter outside. Same with your glass of wine or the contents of your highball glass. Be forewarned that some clubs and restaurants will not let you bring in your outside beverage, you will have to down it before entering. And if you are wondering if you can take your plastic cup into a cab or other vehicle, no you cannot. Unless it is a chartered vehicle such as a limo or party bus.

beginner's guide to las vegas includes public drinking rules

It’s hard to feel classy while walking around with a plastic cup, but whaddya gonna do?

One last rather confusing rule: you can buy alcohol twenty four hours a day in Las Vegas, even from convenience stores and drug stores. But you cannot drink that beverage you just purchased in the actual store. If you buy alcohol in a closed container, you cannot open and drink it within 1000 feet of the place where you purchased it. I have no idea why. I’ve been in some stores that seem to have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy where they mount a bottle opener right by the exit and look the other way when you leave. It’s all as curious as it can be, really.

Resort Fees Are A Fact Of Life

No Beginner’s Guide To Las Vegas would be complete without a resort fee warning. Resort fees, if you are unaware, are the fees Las Vegas hotels charge for things that are often free at your average Holiday Inn Express. Things like the fitness center, pool, local calls and wifi. I can’t count how many times I’ve stood in line waiting to check in at a hotel in Vegas, watching someone ahead of me go apopleptic about a resort fee he didn’t know about. And don’t get me wrong, I feel his pain. It is a truly disappointing moment when you find out that your $35 hotel room is actually approaching $60 per night, even before tax. Heck, I was probably one of those apopleptic people the first time I visited Vegas. But unfortunately, there is simply no getting around the resort fee in Las Vegas.
I did some research on resort fees, wondering if maybe they are the law in Vegas, or if they go toward some special tax or fund or something. They do not. Hotels in Las Vegas charge resort fees because they can. I don’t know if a bunch of casino owners got together in a smoky room somewhere under the cover of night to decide on resort fees, but that is what I am picturing.

dogs having a meeting

Actual photo from clandestine resort fees meeting.

Unfortunately, resort fees have gone up considerably in recent years. It used to be: the cheaper the hotel, the cheaper the resort fee. Not anymore. That $23 hotel room that used to have a $15 resort fee (I’m looking at you, Excalibur) is now most likely a $30 fee. It is important to note: resort fees are perfectly legal. Also, despite first timers claiming they didn’t know about the resort fee in advance, it is absolutely in the fine print on the hotel’s website and on your room reservation. Our advice? Just consider it part of the price of the room, and get on with your life. You’ll have to stay far off The Strip to avoid resort fees, and where’s the fun in that?

Most People Really Are Just Out To Have A Good Time

Coupon Puppet loves Las Vegas because people who are visiting are not bound by the constraints of how they have to act back home. Coupon Puppet’s husband hates Las Vegas for the same reason. This tip is not for people who think like Coupon Puppet’s husband.

People can be loud in Las Vegas. Raucus, even. People can be tipsy. Drunk, even. But you know what? They are overwhelmingly normal, everyday good people just out to have a good time on vacation. Use common sense and an appropriate amount of caution like you would while traveling anywhere. But don’t be afraid to engage your fellow travellers. On my first girls’ trip to Vegas, we spent almost an entire evening hanging out with three delightful people – two girls and a guy-  we will forever know only as “Cincinnati.” My last trip to Vegas, my husband and I hooked up with another couple in line for a Killers show, and we were fast friends, saving each other a spot on the floor, buying rounds of drinks, etc. You never know who you’ll meet in Vegas, so be open to new people and experiences!

Coupon Puppet's Beginner's Guide To Las Vegas

You may even run into this fella, and who wouldn’t love that?!

The Final Tip In Our Beginner’s Guide To Las Vegas…

Don’t. Gamble. Too. Much. In the words of the aforementioned Brandon Flowers…

Didn’t nobody tell you?

The house will always win.