Though you could plump for an alternative – a motel, a hostel, even an RV park – the majority of visitors to Las Vegas stay where the action is: a hotel-casino.
These often-vast complexes that line the Strip and clutter Downtown are where most tourists spend up to 90 per cent of their time. All have casinos, restaurants, bars and assorted entertainments, alongside other amenities that range from pools and malls to zoos and rollercoasters. And all have guestrooms, from the 100 or so offered at the Golden Gate to the 6,000-plus at the MGM Grand. Facilities include phones, TVs (with cable), air-conditioning and free parking.
Anyone wanting to avoid the roulette wheels can stay in a normal non-casino hotel. Options include: Thehotel at Mandalay Bay and Trump International, both on the Strip, or at the other end of the scale... the cosy budget-friendly Sin City Hostel.
On the Strip
The vast majority of visitors stay on the three-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South that runs from the Mandalay Bay resort north to the Sahara, aka the Strip. Most never leave it.
The Strip is where you'll find almost all the city's most glamorous, upscale and eye-catching resorts, as well as a number of its best bargains. If you want to stay on the Strip, remember it's a long (and, in summer, debilitating) hike from one end to the other. It's not enough simply to stay at a property with a Las Vegas Boulevard South address; the street number is also crucial.
The range of properties on the Strip is not as huge as it was a half-decade ago: most historic mid-century hotels and motels have been levelled in the name of progress. However, there's still variety. Note that while some hotel amenities are off-limits to non-guests, many others are open to everyone (bars, restaurants, clubs, shows). Access to spas varies by hotel; most are open to the public, but a few limit access to their own guests.
Off the Strip
There are of course hotels in other parts of town. A handful of big resorts are located just off the Strip, chief among them the Hard Rock and the Palms. Downtown, the hub of Las Vegas until the 1950s, can't compete with the Strip in the glamour stakes, but you'll find bargains galore. Near the Convention Center sit hotels aimed squarely at the business traveller. And although the Station casinos are chiefly frequented by locals, a few of them – Sunset Station, Red Rock Resort and Green Valley Ranch – are well worth investigating.
Las Vegas has more rooms than anywhere in the world: roughly 130,000 in total, with the numbers still rising. However, with 40 million visitors a year, it needs them. Some weeks, bargains abound in even the poshest properties; at other times, you'll need to book way ahead if you want to avoid sleeping in your car.
Rates fluctuate wildly depending on the date: the same room can quadruple in price from one night to the next. You'll often find exceptional deals midweek and/or during off-season, when $200 rooms can go for a quarter of their rack rate. At weekends, though, prices skyrocket, and a two-night minimum is in effect almost everywhere. Steer clear of major conventions, too; for a full list, see www.lvcva.com.
For one night in a double room, expect to pay $40-$100 in a budget hotel-casino, $70-$200 in a mid-range operation, and $150 and up in a first-class property. In addition to these basic rates, rooms are subject to hotel tax (11 per cent Downtown, nine per cent elsewhere). You can book either by phone or online with almost every property in the city.
To escape the action: fed up with cards, chips and dealers? The Artisan, the Four Seasons, Thehotel at Mandalay Bay, the Platinum and the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas all lack casinos.
Head downtown for bargains: the cheapest rooms in town are Downtown. At the El Cortez, you can get a room for a mere $30; if you're prepared to really slum it at the Western, you may pay even less.
Treat yourself: for $100,000 you can get the special Ritz-Carlton package, including a helicopter trip, 14 dozen roses, two private dinners, use of a luxury car, a shopping spree at Neiman Marcus, Cristal champagne, body treatments, a butler, monogrammed pillowcases and personalised bathrobes, plus of course a whole two-night stay in the hotel's presidential suite.
Where a hotel also operates as a casino, restaurant, bar or entertainment venue we have included information about these in the hotel review.
While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.
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