Driving in Las Vegas
Tips on parking and using the roads in Las Vegas
If you’re based on the Strip, a mix of buses, taxis, monorails and feet will get you to most places. However, automobile rental is affordable in Vegas; a car is recommended if you’re staying away from the Strip or are keen to visit off-Strip attractions, and essential if you’re planning to visit any out-of-town destinations.
The Las Vegas streets get very congested in the morning and evening rush hours (7–9am, 4–6pm), as well as at weekends, when traffic is horrific in tourist areas after 4pm. The Strip is slow-going most of the time and turns into a virtual car park when the town is busy.
The nearby parallel streets—Industrial Road and Frank Sinatra Drive to the west, Paradise Road to the east—move faster, and provide access to several casinos. For north–south journeys longer than a block or two, it’s often worth taking I-15, which runs parallel to the Strip. If you’re trying to get east–west across town, take the Desert Inn arterial, a mini-expressway that runs under the Strip and over I-15 (though there are no junctions at either). Because Las Vegas is constantly tearing itself down and rebuilding itself, there’s usually a great deal of road construction going on on I-15; for road conditions, call 1-877 687 6237 or see www.nevadadot.com/traveler/roads.
Speed limits vary in Nevada. In general, the speed limit on freeways is 65mph; on the highway, it’s either 65mph or 70mph. Limits on main urban thoroughfares (such as Tropicana Avenue) are 45mph; elsewhere, limits are 25mph, 30mph or 35mph. Look for signs in construction zones and near schools, which often enforce a reduced limit.
Unless otherwise specified, you can turn right on a red light, after stopping, if the street is clear. U-turns are not only legal (unless specified) but often a positive necessity given the length of the blocks. In case of a car accident, call 911; do not move the cars involved in the accident until the police ask you to do so.
In Nevada, you can be arrested for driving under the influence if your blood alcohol level is 0.08 or higher (or 0.02 for under-21s). If you’re pulled over, the police can give you a drink-driving test on the spot. If you refuse, you’ll be taken to jail for a blood test, which will be taken by force if necessary.
Gas is far cheaper than in Europe, but pricey for the US. There are gas stations by Circus Circus and across from Mandalay Bay; stations abound on (among others) Paradise Road, Maryland Parkway, Tropicana Avenue and Flamingo Road. For mechanics and full-service gas stations, see "Automobile repair" in the Yellow Pages.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) provides maps, guidebooks and other useful information. They’re free if you’re a member or belong to an affiliated organization, such as the British AA. The main Vegas office, open 8.30am–5.30pm during the week, is at 3312 W Charleston Boulevard; call them on 415 2200 or see www.aaa.com for more details.
Most car-hire agencies are at or near the airport. Call around for the best rate, booking well in advance if you’re planning to visit over a holiday weekend or for a major convention. When business renters are scarce, though, you should get a good rate, and maybe—if you ask nicely—an upgrade.
Almost every firm requires a credit card and matching driver’s licence; few will rent to under-25s. Prices won’t include tax, liability insurance or collision damage waiver (CDW); US residents may be covered on their home policy, but foreign residents will need to buy extra insurance. UK travelers should note that while rental deals struck with the UK offices of the major firms include insurance, it’s often cheaper to rent the car from the US office and rely for insurance on the good-value, year-long policy available from www.insurance4carhire.com.
National US: 1-800 227 7368, 263 8411. UK: 0870 400 4581. Both: www.nationalcar.com.
Eaglerider 876 8687, www.eaglerider.com.
Harley-Davidson of Southern Nevada 431 8500, www.lvhd.com.
Most hotel-casinos have valet parking, which is convenient, safe and free (apart from the $2–$5 tip on your way out). If you see a sign saying the valet car park is full and you’re in a luxury car, stay put: chances are the valets will find a spot for you. Hotel guests also get preferential treatment; when the attendant asks to see your room key, $5–$10 will often substitute. Self-parking is free and abundant in the multilevel parking structures at every Vegas resort (Downtown casinos require a validation stamp), but the convenience of lots is variable.