Tuesday 18th April, 2017

Vegas 2017: Complete Travel Guide

By Mad Harper

As players ourselves, our team at MainEventTravel know more than most about how to get the most out of a visit to Vegas. We have been visiting ‘Sin City’ for more than 20 years, with more than 64 trips between us and direct experience of over 20 hotels.


 

Hotels | Getting aroundPlaces to visitTournament guide | Restaurants | Bars | Clubs | Shopping | Top tips

Not only do we understand the practicalities of visiting Vegas during the town’s busiest time of year, we also have the low-down on the best hotels, plus a wealth of other useful tips for players heading to the ultimate poker destination.

  • Uber – The popular taxi app is invaluable for getting around Vegas (and we have a special offer; check out our Uber offer in Transport section below)
  • Resort Fees – NEVER pre-pay these … if you play enough in the hotel’s casino, you could get these totally waived (see Hotels section below for more details)
  • Parking – most hotels on the Strip now charging for parking so bear this in mind when planning your stay (see Getting Around section below)
  • Smoking - Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you can smoke it! Even though Nevada has now legalized marijuana, smoking weed in any public space is punishable by a fine of up to $600. This includes casinos and your hotel room!
  • In-N-Out Burger – In-N-Out Burgers are now open on Strip! The iconic West Coast chain opened its Linq Promenade outlet in April.

Hotels
With our comprehensive experience of Vegas hotels and villas, we can offer sound and unbiased advice on the best places to stay in Vegas. Not only can MainEventTravel book you a hotel room or villa anywhere in the city, we can also advise you personally on the best option for you – given your budget, planned tourney schedule and any other requirements.

Must have a great pool AND a decent poker room? Want a place on the Strip but not too noisy? Just ask and we can help. We don’t want to boast but we really are experts and, as we’re players too, we are uniquely placed to find you the very best accommodation for your stay.

Between us, we’ve stayed in more than 20 different hotels and have already booked more than 2,500 hotel nights for Vegas-bound players this year – and there’s still some two months to go.

Here are just a few of the hotels we’ve stayed at: ARIA, Monte Carlo, Planet Hollywood, The Palazzo, Treasure Island, Palms Place, The Golden Nugget, The Venetian, Excalibur, Bellagio, the Wynn, Vdara, The Cosmopolitan, Palms, Encore, Luxor, MGM Grand, The Linq, Harrah’s, The Rio and The Flamingo.

This unrivalled breadth of personal experience means we really are very clued-up when it comes to knowing the best places to stay – and we’re also experts on those Vegas “tricks” that can crush your budget before you even know it.

Sales tax and resort fees
It’s important to know that many travel agents and websites (including major sites like bookings.com) don’t include Sales Tax in their quoted price for hotels – which can be a major shock when you come to check out and pay your bill. The Sales Tax is a whopping 13.38% and can’t be avoided.  At Main Event Travel, Sales Tax is always included in the price we quote you!

Resort Fees: No one likes paying Resort Fees and we can advise you on how to get these fees waived from your bill. Lots of travel agency rates have Resort Fees included and you won’t get your money back once you’ve paid up front. Let us help you avoid Resort Fees and have a cheaper trip to Vegas: a few hours spent in the hotel casino could get these fees reduced or waived completely. We will never add Resort Fees to your booking. Last year, many MET customers were able to level up their player loyalty cards and avoid resort fees completely.

Getting about – taxis and car rental
Tip 1 – Airport taxis: unless you’re staying Mandalay Bay or Luxor, don’t let your taxi driver take you ‘on the Freeway’, or ‘through the Tunnel’. It will add around $10 to your trip.

Tip 2 – Uber: Get a free cab ride on us! Enter the code 'uberMET123' when you download the Uber app and you’ll be eligible for a free ride up to the value of £10. Uber is now available throughout Vegas – including ride sharing – and most hotels and casinos now have dedicated Uber pick up and drop off areas.

Tip 3 – Arriving at the Rio: If you’re heading to the World Series at the Rio, ask your cab driver to take you to the Convention Centre entrance. It’s long walk otherwise from the main entrance to the Amazon Room.

Tip 4 – Car parking: if you’ve rented a car, beware resort parking charges that can cost up to $20 a day and have caught many players unawares. Most hotels used to offer free parking but Caesars, the Cosmopolitan and all MGM’s resorts on the Strip now all charge. This includes Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Vdara, ARIA, Bellagio, The Mirage and MGM Grand. Self-parking (rather than valet) remains free at the Rio, the Venetian, Wynn, Palazzo, Encore and Treasure Island.

Places to visit

On the Strip:

The Linq Promenade – The LINQ Promenade is an outdoor retail, dining and entertainment plaza offering several different experiences all in one place at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. The focal point is the High Roller, a 550-foot observation wheel -- the tallest in the world -- offering 360 degree views of the Las Vegas valley. There are more than 40 shops and restaurants – including a new In-n-Out burger joint along with O'Shea's Casino, Chayo, The Haute & Yard House.

Other popular free attractions include: Mirage Volcano, Bellagio Fountains, Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, The Fall of Atlantis at Caesars Palace Forum Shops, Flamingo's Wildlife Habitat, Miracle Mile Indoor Rainstorm, the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes and Streetmosphere performers.

 

Places to visit off the Strip/out of town:

Fremont East – Not the old casinos under the light show, but keep walking east and join in the party at The Griffin, Commonwealth, Beauty Bar or grab a bite in the Park. Fremont East is an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants and the arts.

Chinatown - Like most large cities, Las Vegas has its own Chinatown. Unlike most large cities, the name is misleading. Businesses are just as likely to be run by Japanese/Thai/Vietnamese/Korean/Mexican people as they are by Chinese locals. The area is made up of shopping centers where the traditional unattractive strip mall architecture is sometimes embellished with Asian touches, but make no mistake, good eats abound.

Red Rock Canyon – more and more poker players are discovering Red Rock Canyon, a stunning national park only 25 miles from the Strip. You can rent a car or arrange a shuttle trip using Lasvegas.com. The Red Rock scenic loop is 13 miles long and there are more than 10 easy hikes around the amazing natural rock formations. You can even gamble on your way there or back - at Red Rock Casino.

Downtown Container Park – this offbeat, family-friendly outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment attraction is just a few blocks away from Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. Made completely of shipping containers stacked upon each other, this unique venue shops, food outlets and a kids’ play area with 30 foot slide and water area. Various musical groups are featured on the outdoor amphitheater nightly.

 

Other popular free attractions and places to visit include: the Fremont Street Experience, the Rio’s hourly “Masquerade in the Sky” at weekends, Lake Mead.

Restaurants

Best High End Restaurants:

CUT – Ever tried real Japanese Wagyu Beef? We don’t mean from cattle that are ‘home grown’ whose great, great grandmother once sent milk to Japan. CUT serve probably the best imported Japanese beef in the world for you to sample, along with lots of other quality produce. It is in an easy to find location on the walkway between the Venetian and the Palazzo

Rao’s Las Vegas – This legendary New York restaurant is tiny and getting reservations has always been a next to impossible. Fear not, for a taste of Italian food cooked with love, head to Rao’s in Caesars Palace.

Best Regular Priced Restaurants:

Gordon Ramsay Brgr – America’s favourite fast food and the UK’s best known celebrity chef combine inside Planet Hollywood. There are some amazing concoctions that will not only satisfy your hunger, but you can also tick ‘eaten at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant’ from your Bucket List, for a bargain price!

Yard House – With Locations at the LINQ, Town Square and Red Rock Resort, Yard House is a road trip across America with flavours from all around the country. You also can’t forget that they have over 100 beers on tap from all over the globe.

Best Budget Restaurants:

In-n-Out – Pretty much an American West Coast institution. Cheap and tasty burgers from the simplest menu you will ever see. If you want to be adventurous, then look up the ‘Not so secret Menu’ and visit one of their many Vegas Locations including the new branch at Linq Promenade.

Hot’n Juicy Crawfish – Pick your favourite shellfish, your favourite flavourings, and they will boil it up in a bag and serve it to you, straight from the bag!

Best Bars:

Commonwealth - Commonwealth is basically three bars in one. There's the main bar that you see when you walk in, a rooftop bar, and a cocktail-only space called the Laundry Room. They tend to refer to the Laundry Room as a speakeasy. But if it openly exists, and you can make a reservation, it's not really a speakeasy, is it?

The Griffin - Despite a giant neon "cocktail" sign in front of the Griffin, there's no cocktail list at the bar. Small fireplaces are scattered throughout the western-meets-medieval space, making it a good choice on those shockingly cold Las Vegas nights (Ok, maybe not in July, but even then it still feels nice and cosy). When it's busy on weekends, a secret room in the back occasionally opens up for dancing and deep house music.

The Velveteen Rabbit - The dark South Main Street bar has velvet upholstered furniture everywhere, but it's the adventurous cocktail list that grabs people's attention. The "No Soup for You" (gin, dry vermouth, veggie broth, sweet potato puree, lemon, celery bitters, and a tomato water ice cube) sounds more like a meal than a drink.

Olive Hookah Lounge - Everything about Olive is weird. It's in a strip mall. It's a lounge. There's hookah. There's an adjoining Mediterranean restaurant. There's live music. What? But the small stage at Olive is where local musicians like to test out some of their new stuff before taking it to larger venues. The weirdly bohemian vibe gives it a coffee shop feel, whether there's a hip-hop act or Latin jazz on the stage. Olive can be found on East Sunset Road, just East of McCarran Airport.

Best Places to Party:

Hakkasan - Home to world-famous DJs Calvin Harris, Tiësto, Steve Aoki and Hardwell, Hakkasan in MGM Grand is one of the most exciting and successful nightlife designs ever conceived. Hakkasan Las Vegas is the bold evolution of the prestigious global restaurant brand into an all-encompassing nightlife experience. The nightclub offers a diverse nightlife experience with a variety of areas and atmospheres, cutting-edge technology and inspired design immersed in three levels of refined decadence.

Stoney’s - Cowboy boots, line dancing' and a whole lot of bull… riding.. Stoney's is back!. Located at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip in Town Square, and surrounded by restaurants and a Whole Foods, Stoney's has been rockin' the country scene for years. Live music hits the stage on the weekends as well as dance lessons to turn your 1.5 step into an all-out two. And all of that comes with some of the best deals you'll find in a Las Vegas bar.

Shopping
One of the great things about Vegas is the shopping! Don’t forget to visit the Las Vegas North Premium Outlet: the outdoor mall has more than 150 shops – ranging from high-end retailers to well-known name brand stores – with prices slashed to just a fraction of the usual cost.

 

Other great shopping venues ­­­– even if you don't buy anything – are the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, Fashion Show Mall and the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Specialist stores in Las Vegas include Hershey's Chocolate World, the Everything Coca-Cola Store, M&M’s World and the Zombie Apocalypse Store.

TOP TIPS

Cash & customs: International visitors can only carry in (or out) up to $10,000 in U.S. dollars or foreign currency; larger sums must be declared to U.S. Customs on entering or leaving, which includes filing form CM 4790 so do take advantage of MainEventTravel’s bespoke, personal Dollar Delivery service.

If you’re over 21, you can bring in 1 litre of alcohol, 200 cigarettes, 100 cigars (but not from Cuba) and $100 worth of gifts. Bringing fruit and veg is banned.

Disabled: Las Vegas is well equipped for disabled travelers with almost all hotels having wheelchair-accessible rooms & ramps throughout. However, the distance between hotels (particularly on the Strip) can make it strenuous and time consuming getting from place to place. If you have a disability, let us know and we’ll give you good advice on where to stay and how to get around.

Doctors: Most hotels can advise you if you need a doctor and Desert Springs Hospital (tel 702/388-4888; www.desertspringshospital.com) has a physician referral service. Hours are 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday; 9am to 3pm on Saturdays.

Drinking: You must be 21+ to buy or consume alcohol in Vegas. Proof of age is often required so always bring your ID when you go out. Never carry open containers of alcohol in your car or any public area (including the Strip and the Fremont Street Experience downtown). The police can fine you on the spot.

Electricity/adaptors: Like Canada, the United States uses 110–120 volts AC (compared to 220–240 volts AC in most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand). Downward converters and adaptors can be difficult to find in Vegas, so bring them with you.

Emergencies: Dial 911

Exchange rates/changing money: www.xe.com is the go-to site for up-to-the-minute exchange rates. Vegas has ATMs all over the place but, at $6+ per transaction, fees mount up, and that’s before whatever your bank charges.

Take advantage of MainEventTravel’s bespoke, personal Dollar Delivery service. Customs have a $10k limit for bringing money in or out so get in touch and we’ll lock down a competitive rate whenever you want – and then deliver the cash to you, reliably, in person – meaning you no longer have to worry about carrying loads of cash with you to Vegas. Just email lasvegas@maineventtravel.com and we’ll help you out. We give a special discount on our rate for everyone booking accommodation with us.

Health: Beware the Vegas sun! Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert so be careful you don’t get sunstroke or sunburn. Always wear sunscreen if you’re heading outdoors and carry a bottle of water with you.

Insurance: Traveler’s insurance is not required for visiting Las Vegas, and whether or not it’s right for you depends on your circumstances. But if you have prepaid a nonrefundable hotel package, it’s worth considering buying insurance.

Kids: Children under 18 are not allowed in casinos at all and, because you often to walk through a hotel’s casino to get to where you are going, this can be a hassle. Also kids younger than 18 are not permitted on the Strip without a parent after 9pm on weekends and holidays. Contact MainEventTravel to find the best places to stay if you’re with your family. There are plenty of places to take kids in Vegas including free attractions like the Bellagio Fountains and Downtown Container Park, not to mention specialist stores like Hershey's Chocolate World, the Everything Coca-Cola Store, M&M’s World and the Zombie Apocalypse Store.

Opening Hours: Casinos and most bars are open 24 hours a day; nightclubs are usually open late at night into the early morning hours; restaurant and attraction hours vary.

Safety: With lots of cash floating around town, pickpockets and thieves are predictably active in Vegas. Keep wallets well-hidden and handbags in full view. Restaurants and outdoor shows like the Bellagio fountains are also prime spots for getting pickpocketed. Unless your hotel room has an in-room safe, use your hotel’s safe-deposit box at the front desk.

Smoking: Most casinos and hotels now have strict smoking laws which prohibits puffing virtually everywhere indoors except in designated hotel rooms, nightclubs, bars, and on the casino floor itself.  Recreational marijuana is now legal in Nevada but not in public spaces or hotel rooms. Fines for smoking in hotel rooms can be hefty and smoking marijuana in public is punishable by fines of up to $600. Contact MainEventTravel and we’ll find you a hotel room with a balcony!

Sales Taxes: Sales taxes don’t appear on price tags. The sales tax in Las Vegas is 8.1% and is added to food and drink bills and taxes are also added to show tickets. Hotel rooms on the Strip come with a 13.38% tax.

Telephones: Vegas hotel surcharges on calls are usually astronomical; you can even be charged for making a toll-free or phone-card call so you’re better off using your mobile.

Many convenience groceries and other stores sell prepaid calling cards in denominations up to $50. To make calls within the USA and to Canada, dial 1 + area code + seven-digit number. For international calls, dial 011 followed by the country code, city code, and the number you are calling.

 Las Vegas local area codes are 702 and 725. Remember to dial the full 10-digit phone number – with area code – to get through.

For directory assistance, dial 411 for local numbers and national. For dedicated long-distance information, dial 1, then the appropriate area code plus 555-1212.

Time: Las Vegas is in the Pacific Time zone (PT) which is eight hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Tipping:  Many hospitality workers in Vegas rely on tips for their livelihood so don’t forget to allow for this. As a rough guide: cocktail waitresses $1/$2 per drink; dealers 5% of any big wins; bellhops $1 per bag; cleaning staff $3 to $5 per day (more if you’ve left a big mess); doorman/concierge only if they have provided some specific service (eg called a cab or got you theatre tickets); valet-parking attendant $2 to $5 each time; restaurants: 15% to 20%; cloakroom attendants $1 per item; cab drivers: 10%-15% tip (and they can get very bolshy if they don’t get it!)

Visas The U.S. State Department has a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allowing visitors from most European countries, Australia and New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea to visit without a visa for stays of up to 90 days. However you must register online via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) (at least 3 days before traveling). For visas, go to http://travel.state.gov/visa. Make sure your passport expires 6 months or more after the end of your visit.

Visitor Information: Vegas guides: The Las Vegas Review-Journal and Las Vegas Sun both have local news, weather, information, coupons and up-to-the-minute show listings. What’s On Las Vegas lists shows and restaurants including discount offers for attractions that could save you loads.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (tel 877/847-4858 or 702/892-7575; www.lasvegas.com) provides information, hotel reservation assistance, show guides, convention calendars, and more. Also check out www.vegas.com, www.vegas4visitors.com, and www.cheapovegas.com. Your hotel may also have its own mobile app with special information and offers.

Wi-Fi: Most major hotels in Vegas have free wifi included (sometimes public areas only, not your room) but many now charge extra (up to $20 a day). Let us advise you on the best hotels to stay in for free Wi-Fi access. You can also find free Wi-Fi at most stand-alone McDonald’s, Starbucks, and the Fashion Show mall.