Las Vegas insider tips

Hotels are great value in Vegas but other things here – not so much. Eating, drinking and navigating the Strip can all be hugely expensive, and the ticket prices for shows can be obscene. There are lots of discounts to be had – you just have to find them. Here’s some advice on keeping costs down.

Eating and drinking

Always ask at a restaurant whether they have any set menus or special deals, as there are always special deals doing the rounds.

If the restaurant you’re headed to is at a hotel, even if you’re not staying there, ask the concierge whether they have any discount coupons. And that doesn’t just apply to restaurants – I’ve got discounts for the Paris spa thanks to a friendly concierge.

Always ask for coupons when you check in. Most hotels have a couple of pages of the things, ready to hand out.

Lunch menus are usually cheaper and are served until around 4.30-5pm, so if you want a restaurant experience for less, try a late lunch or early dinner.

Drinks are obscenely expensive in hotels and cafes. It’s actually cheaper to buy a bottle of water from a hawker on the street (US$1) than it is from an official outlet.
Likewise, for any snacks memorabilia or anything supermarket-y, go to a Walgreens or CVS (drugstores) - there are a few along the Strip, and they sell supermarket items for much less than the hotels.

Tap water is fine to drink, and most restaurants will provide it iced, rather than expect you to pay for a bottle (if they don’t, ask).

Good tipping is expected here. I tend to do 20 percent, but the general rule is to double the tax on the bill. And remember, you’re tipping on the amount before tax, not the final total.

Getting around

If there are three or more of you, getting a taxi will probably work out cheaper than schlepping it on the monorail or walking. And the more people you can fit into the cab, the less it’ll be. Try and pal up with people in the taxi lines (you’ll have enough time) and ask for a people carrier rather than a car – the fare will be the same.

If you’re planning on using the monorail or the bus, a three day pass is definitely the best value.

Sights and attractions

National parks charge by the vehicle, not the person, so if you’re in a group, make sure you’re car-sharing.

You should rarely be paying full price to see a show (unless it’s Cirque, who are notoriously tricky – but even they had a “Cirque summer of love” deal this year which knocked tickets down to US$50). For starters, ask at the box office and the concierge of the hotel in question whether they have any deals - at the smaller shows, they’re likely to give you a two-for-one deal or something similar just for asking. Tix4Tonight booths around town (there’s one at Town Square mall, one in Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall opposite Caesars and another at Fashion Show Mall) sell tickets to same day shows for up to half off. And check out the shows’ individual Twitter and Facebook pages, where they post discount codes and vouchers all the time.

Other useful tips

Hotels are cheapest during the week, so always try to arrive before a Thursday – you have more chance of an upgrade, too.

I can’t stress this enough - Vegas lives on social networking and the easiest way to get discounts and freebies for restaurants, shows, even hotel rooms, is to follow the establishments on Facebook and Twitter, where they’re always posting deals, and check into places on FourSquare for freebies (for example, Payard offers a free coffee with the purchase of a cake).

It’s also worth signing up for – a free site which posts daily deals for the Vegas area. Most of them are only really good for locals (cut price massages at spas in Summerlin and the like) but I’ve scored half price meals and massages on the Strip, as well as show tickets. You can buy your “groupon” in advance and use it when you get here (check the expiry date coinicides with your holiday, though!).