So you’ve touched down after ten or more hours in the air and you’ve passed through customs and retrieved your luggage. I bet you’re glad you paid for that transfer from the airport to your hotel? No! Don’t do it.
When you were on your final descent you will have seen just how remarkably close McCarron Airport is to the Strip as the iconic buildings passed by on the right hand side of the plane. If that didn’t bring it home to you take a look at this local map of the Strip:
Look how close the airport (at the bottom) is to properties like Mandalay Bay, Luxor and Tropicana. You saw them just across the tarmac when the plane was taxiing to the terminal. You just don’t get this with most North American cities. Sure, it’s a decent scale map and you can’t walk to your hotel but it is just a short cab ride.
You should be able to get to any Strip hotel for about $25. That’s as low as $6.25 each if there are four of you. It takes ten minutes or so depending on the traffic and taxis are plentiful. Again, it’s a no-brainer unless you’re a high roller or feeling pretentious and want to take a limo. Same principle however, just a higher fare. You can book yourself a limo when you exit arrivals but there is sometimes a wait depending on demand.
Getting a cab is also easy. Turn left when you come out of arrivals and follow the signs. The cab rank will be either to the left of the second set of doors or out of those doors and further left along the concourse depending on the day and security state. Either way it’s not that far. There are a plentiful supply of taxis (ask any Vegas taxi driver and they’ll tell you there are far too many) and there’s usually a taxi marshal ensuring that first come is first served and that the taxi is big enough for your needs. More than four persons and you may need an SUV or van but these also come along regularly.
There’s one thing to watch out for. Some drivers operate a scam whereby they take you out onto the I 15 (on the left side of the map), along it then back onto the Strip. This is a longer journey and it takes the fare over $25. Unless you’re arriving at peak times when traffic near the Strip can be gridlocked simply say you don’t want to take the Interstate and they’re not allowed to take you that way. I prefer to take Harmon and Koval anyway as it’s more interesting and there’s more to see.
The exception to this is if you are staying Downtown (see the inset on the map above) when you will want to use the I 15 – more about the different areas of Vegas at Different Areas of Vegas.
Nearly every Vegas taxi is equipped with a card payment device if you haven’t sorted out your Dollars yet (see Foreign Exchange). They also tend to come with a TV screen playing adverts on a loop. All of them have a mute button. If you can’t see it ask the driver. He’ll be only too pleased for it to be turned off.
When you arrive at your hotel the driver will fetch the bags out of the trunk (boot to you and me) and dump them by the side of the cab. You can either manhandle them yourself or indicate for a porter to come and collect them (again depending on availability). Be prepared to tip him when he takes the bags away and also when they’re delivered to your room. You should tip the taxi driver between 10% and 20% depending on how friendly he’s been (also see Tipping).
At some casino properties someone in uniform may come and open the door for you. This is likely to be a version of a taxi marshal or doorman. My suggestion is that you don’t tip them on arrival unless they’re also handling your luggage.
When it’s time to leave for the airport at the end of your stay you’ll find a doorman / marshal at the head of the taxi line who asks you your destination and summons the next waiting taxi. Convention is to tip him for this service – I suggest $1 or $2 per person if you have luggage. These used to be among the highest paid jobs in the city but less people tip now than they used to, just ask one of them!
It takes very little time to get back to the airport from any Strip hotel. The driver will ask you which airline you want. Don’t bother telling him which terminal (you’re going to the new terminal 3) just say the airline and he’ll know. Make sure you say Virgin Atlantic not just Virgin as that’s a different airline leaving from a different place! You don’t generally need to allow more than 15 minutes it’s that close. Also you don’t want to get to the airport too soon as there is very little to do (see Leaving Day). The fare should be less on the way back because the driver can take a more direct route and doesn’t have to pay a fee to access the airport so expect $20 or so.
You can get free transfers from the airport to most major casino hotels and back again at the end of your stay. They are usually free, subject to any tips you choose to give the driver. I don’t use them because the taxi fare is so modest and there can be a lot of waiting around but if your trip hasn’t gone so well financially a free transfer might be just what the doctor ordered. Check with your hotel. Sometimes it’s just a case of getting in line where the bus pulls up, sometimes you have to make a reservation.