I think that any backpacker doing the US travel loop has Las Vegas on their plans. Many people look at it right away as a budget killer. This, of course, is the place that has left people broke, battered, and outright destroyed. However, it is completely possible to have an amazing time in Las Vegas without breaking the bank. I made an effort to see how strict I could be on my budget in Vegas and still have a lot of fun. I was shocked to find out that Las Vegas, as long as you don’t gamble, can actually be one of the cheapest destinations all of North America.
Time Needed: 3-4 days
Backpacker’s Budget: $40-75 a day
Things to do For Cheap or Free
Las Vegas isn’t famous for its daytime activities. There aren’t a lot of museums worth visiting or galleries to see. That being said, in many ways Las Vegas is a working museum. If you’re not looking to get out of the city, one could easily spend two days just wandering around town exploring the casinos and hotels. There is, of course, no cost to that. If you’re looking to get out of town a bit, well, that will cost you a bit more. However, if you’re looking to save some money I highly recommend you just rent a car. Gas is cheap in America, and if you can convince even one person to split the cost with you the price would be cheaper than doing a tour.
- Grand Canyon Tour: You can book a tour to the Grand Canyon from your hostel. There are helicopter trips as well as bus tours. Personally, I think you should rent a car for two days and head to the canyon for a little bit more time. But the option of a day trip is available if need be.
- Hoover Dam: This is free if you have wheels and don’t really care do go inside to see the workings of the place. If you don’t have a car, booking a tour to Hoover Dam is very easy in Vegas.
- Desert Adventures: There are lots of tours offered to head out into the desert and do things like drive ATVs. They are a little bit over priced but they are good fun.
- Last Minute Show Tickets: You’re not likely to see Cirque du Soleil las minute like this, but there are plenty of good acts to see. If you walk down the boulevard there are loads of places offering good last minute ticket prices on all sorts of shows.
How to Drink for Cheap
I was in Las Vegas for 3 nights and managed to go out each night and wake up without having spent a fortune at all. The tricks to drinking on the cheap are well known to the locals, however most tourists spend a fortune in the nightclubs here. If you’re wanting to drink but you’re on a budget here are some tips.
- Hostel Pub/club Crawls: Hostel get great deals because they organize groups nightly. Most club crawls cost about $15-20 and you get free entry and a drink at a couple great spots. The value is great and it’s a really good way to meet people.
- Statosphere Bar: This is an event run by Hostel Cat each week Wednesday. You pay $20 for a trip up the stratosphere and all you an drink mojitos at the bar up top. Believe me when I tell you that the mojitos are strong, and you might never make it to another place that night!
- Play the penny machines in the casinos: Drinks are free while gambling in Vegas. So if you want some cheap drinks find a penny slot machine take a seat with a bucket of pennies and play. Every time a waitress/waiter comes around ask for another drink. Be sure to tip them a dollar or two each time so they keep coming back. It’s basically like a dollar drink special.
- Go mid-week: Vegas fills up on the weekends with Bachelor/Bachelorette parties and weekend getaway folk. Thus, the prices go up as well. If you book mid-week you an get great deals on hotel rooms, nightclubs, and everything in between.
How to Eat on the Cheap in Vegas
Las Vegas has some of the world’s best restaurants. Top chefs from all over the world come to Vegas to serve up their dishes. That being said, if you’re on a budget you’ll likely never get a taste of their food. You are much more likely to find yourself stuffing food in your pockets at one of the famous buffets.
Groceries: There’s no way to better way to save money in America than buy groceries. Head to the grocery store and make some cheap meals at the hostel, or maybe just buy some stuff to make sandwiches. Your costs will be cut enormously.
Buffets: There are buffets all over Vegas and most are dirt cheap. If you want a big feed on the cheap this is the way to go. Sure they aren’t exactly healthy, but as long as you have some will power this is a good way to save money.
Where to Stay
There are actually three hostels in town. Other than the over-priced HI-Las Vegas, the two hostels (Hostel Cat and Sin City Hostel) are beyond a bargain. I’m sure that they make most of their money in commissions from tours rather than in room rates, but regardless the prices are so low it leaves you money to do the other things. In general, I think it’s actually quite easy to find affordable hotels in Las Vegas. Even if you want a really nice pad, there are almost always good deals since they make so much off the gambling and tours. Book during the week for the best rates.
- Hostel Cat: I stayed here and had a great time. There is WiFi in the main building, the dorm rooms are simply but clean and all have lockers and private ensuites. There are also plenty of private rooms which are also great value. It’s about a 15 minute walk to the Strip or there are plenty of buses that leave from right in front of the hostel.
Getting out of Town
Las Vegas is connected by the international airport which has connections to almost everywhere in North America. If you’re travelling by bus, the greyhound will take you anywhere in the region. The most likely destinations of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Phoenix all have regular buses.
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