You’re going to drive? Really?

OK, I’m being sarcastic. I ‘ve driven to Las Vegas many times but only once have I flown to Los Angeles (LAX), rented a car and driven the rest of the way. I don’t recommend it because it took a lot longer than flying direct, cost more and was far more stressful – getting out of LA towards Vegas is often a complete nightmare. Also it’s not a pretty drive, there are very few workable routes and it seems as if half of California is going there too.

What I have done successfully many times is to drive from Vegas on a road trip and then back again. This overlaps my post on Excursions from Vegas which is a lot more detailed but I’ll discuss some of the issues here.

I think we need to see a map at this point:


One of the problems is that Vegas is really in the middle of nowhere. Not for no reason is Area 51 nearby and why do you think they could see the nuclear tests at Los Alamos from the Vegas rooftops?

There are only two roads of substance in and out: the I 15 running NE to SW and US 95 running NW to S. If you’re coming from or going to the Los Angeles area you have little choice but to use the I 15 through Barstow. This can be a truly busy and unpleasant route. In the other direction the I 15 will take you across the tip of Arizona into Utah where there are some splendid national parks including Zion and Bryce Canyon but it’s a long drive from anywhere of substance. Unless you live in Southern California, Arizona or Utah I really can’t recommend you driving to Vegas.

If however you do, one thing you’ll have little problem with is parking. Depending on your needs there’s valet parking at the individual casinos and some other establishments. You just drive up, see the Valet, he gives you a receipt and off goes your car. You can leave it for an hour or a week. Unlike some other cities in the USA (Atlantic City comes to mind) it’s free. All you do is tip the Valet when you return, present your ticket and he brings you your car. $5 upwards is acceptable.

STOP PRESS! Free parking may be at risk. See Latest News. See also More about Free Parking.

Valet parking is usually available except at very busy times when it fills up and ‘full’ notices start to appear. Saturday evenings are an example.

If you can’t find or don’t want valet parking every facility of any note including the casinos have self park garages some of which are truly enormous. At the bigger properties such as the MGM or Venetian / Palazzo these car parks are bigger than anything you’ll find in the city centre back in the UK. You just follow the signs in and find a space. There are no meters, barriers or tickets because parking is free and unrestricted. Stay as long as you want. If you have an oversize vehicle you’ll need to look for signs to the ‘oversize parking’ but your truck needs to be very large for this to apply.

Because of the size of some of these structures it can be something of a trek to the casino floor or conference hall but they are generally very good in Vegas at not making the walk too long as they really want your business and average Americans really don’t like walking!

As for the traffic, Vegas is a big city and it gets very busy at the same times it gets busy where you live. Although its a 24/7 kind of place the traffic is worse at morning and afternoon rush hours and on Thursday and Friday afternoons when the majority of visitors arrive. There are six lane highways as you approach from some directions and driving is not for the faint of heart. The Strip can become hopelessly congested and is well-worth avoiding unless you just want to sight-see and you have plenty of time on your hands. See also Getting About in Vegas.

Written by eilv