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Although a trip to America’s original ‘Sin City’ of Las Vegas was once characterised simply by its staple attractions of gaming, late nights and lavish entertainment, this well-travelled destination now features everything under the sun for all types of visitors. Whether you’re looking for high-end shopping, unmatched spa treatments, family amusement rides, swanky nightclubs, slot machines, blackjack tables or the type of activities that ‘stays in Vegas’, you’ll find it here. Moreover, the Las Vegas area away from ‘The Strip’ (Las Vegas Blvd) is also a good choice for those that enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, fly fishing and boating as well as golfing at world-renowned courses. Hiring a car is a necessity for these types of Vegas trips and can also be advantageous for the typical visitor.
Who to Book With
There are rental car locations all over town, including many offices within major hotels on the Strip, including MGM Grand, Caesar’s Palace and Bellagio. The greatest selection of brands is at McCarran International Airport’s Rent-a-Car Center at 7135 Gillespie Street, where you’ll find the likes of Advantage, Thrifty, Dollar, Payless, Alamo, National, Budget, Avis, Hertz and Enterprise. Booking in advance with any of these names can save massive amounts time and money.
Best Time to Go
Las Vegas sees a nonstop flow of visitors year-round. Moreover, there are numerous short periods of higher demand due to popular holiday weekends, conventions and major events in town. For this reason, booking in advance online is essential, especially if you’re travelling over a holiday. For the You’ll generally find the lowest rates during the scorching summer months, when you’ll need to make absolutely sure your vehicle’s air conditioner is fully functional before driving away.
Need to Know Essentials
Bring the following documents to the Las Vegas rental counter:
- A valid driving license (International Driver’s Permit may be required with some companies for certain nationals)
- A second form of picture ID, such as passport
- The credit card used to reserve your car hire
- Your booking number
Driving in Las Vegas is on par with many medium- to large-sized cities in the United States. Vegas, in particular, features extra-wide roadways and plenty of parking (often free) almost anywhere you want to go, with the exception of Freemont Street in the old downtown area (although it is still available free of charge for casino goers). This makes renting a car more convenient than many major international travel destinations, especially if you’re headed to the outskirts of town or to the area’s terrific outdoor attractions.
However, traffic is generally a concern if you’re headed across town during peak hours and congestion in this fast-growing city has increased substantially in recent years. Due to the vast number of stoplights and pedestrians, getting up and down The Strip will always take longer than expected. Additionally, if you’re headed down Interstate 15 toward Los Angeles on a Sunday (or the opposite direction on a Friday), be prepared for queues that can stretch up to 100 miles.
Winter-ish conditions are almost always possible if you’re headed up to the high altitudes of the Spring Mountains and Charleston Peak in the cooler months, and if your trip occurs anytime between April and November, be sure to keep an eye on your vehicle’s engine temperature. It is not uncommon to see temperatures exceed 50 degrees Celsius during the summer in Las Vegas.
Most Las Vegas residents get around via private cars, meaning that public transport here isn’t the best for a city of this size, although it has improved in recent years. If you’re not leaving The Strip, it’s usually best to use your own two feet and taxis to get around, although if you’re heading farther afield you’d do very well with a rental car.
The Las Vegas Monorail remains the only train transit in Sin City and is useful for getting to and from a handful of destinations on and adjacent to The Strip. The line begins at the MGM Grand near the southern end of Las Vegas Blvd and makes stops at The Flamingo, the Las Vegas Convention Center, Caesar’s Palace and several other major hotels.
Las Vegas’ public bus network is operated by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC). These buses provide efficient – but slow – service to most of the city’s major landmarks including casinos/resorts, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Sam Boyd Stadium, the Las Vegas Convention Center, Freemont Street and McCarran International Airport. Be sure to check out the RTC website for a wealth of useful info including fares, schedules, tickets and maps.
There are always thousands of metered taxis readily available in Las Vegas, although for service you’ll need call ahead or wait at a taxi ranks located at a major landmark (such as a hotel). Flagging them down on the street is illegal and most drivers will ignore you. Queues can be quite long at McCarran International Airport and outside event locations such as the Las Vegas Convention Center and Thomas & Mack Arena at UNLV. Companies operating here include Lucky Cabs (702.477.7555), Checker/Yellow Cabs (702.873.2000) and Desert Cab Company (702.386.9102).
If you’ve grown tired of your casino resort and the crowds of Las Vegas Blvd, have no fear – there are plenty of excellent spots for a getaway here, many of which are often overlooked. To do so, you’re going to need wheels, although with the wealth of car rental firms and the low cost of petrol in Nevada compared to much of the world, it can generally be pulled off for a very reasonable price. Check our recommendations below for some ideas on daytrips.
Hoover Dam - One of the region’s most popular off-strip attractions is Hoover Dam, located less than an hour directly east of The Strip amid stunning desert views. This man-made wonder spans the Nevada-Arizona border and stands 726.4ft (221.4m) tall, providing stoppage for the Colorado River in the sunning Black Canyon to form the massive reservoir known as Lake Mead. Tours of the electric facilities here – which provide much of the energy needed for the bright lights of Las Vegas – are available almost every day, though can be crowded on the weekends; be sure to arrive early.
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area - In the opposite direction, Mount Charleston and the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area offers a polar opposite experience from the red-hot city of Las Vegas, though is only about an hour away by car. Here, visitors can ascend into cool (and often cold!) alpine wonders in the shadow of Charleston Peak, the snow-capped summit of which stands at 11,916ft (3,632m) above sea level. Great hiking trails and fishing opportunities abound, and in winter you can even opt for snowshoeing, sledding and the like.
Mesquite - Alternatively, head to the small town of Mesquite, Nevada on the Arizona border on Interstate 15. This mellow affair offers great low-limit gambling, cheap all-you-can-eat buffets, crowd-free resorts and some fantastic desert golf courses including Wolf Creek and Conestoga.