Las Vegas on a shoestring

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Let’s face it - Vegas is all about excess. Don't have a million to spare? Here’s how to live it up in Sin City without spending a ton.

Sleeping

Shop around online months ahead, as rates fluctuate dramatically, depending on demand (Vegas hosts a lot of conventions) and day of week. If you can't get a good deal on a center Strip (Las Vegas Blvd) place like Caesar's Palace, head downtown. Golden Nugget is a great bargain bet, or go off-strip - Red Rock Casino Resort Spa is worth the 30-minute shuttle ride to the Strip. The overall best bets for budget lodgings are reviewed in our Hotels & Hostels section. Vegas hostels are not recommended.

Eating

Lunch menus at the mega-resort celebrity-chef restaurants are cheaper than dinner, but to really save those pennies, head off-Strip or downtown for all the fun of low-brow buffets, 99¢ shrimp cocktails or deep-fried Oreos …umm, you get the picture. But hey, what happens in Vegas….

Entertainment

If gambling's your thing, leave the glitz of the Wynn and Bellagio behind and saddle up at downtown's has-been casinos for $5 blackjack tables and nickel slots. (Bless them – in Vegas, cocktail waitresses will bring you free drinks whether you’re betting your mortgage payment or playing 25¢ video poker.)

For daytime fun without the pricetag, lounge at over-the-top pools (don’t miss the Nugget’s three-story waterslide through a shark tank), head to Slots A’ Fun for cheap beer and cheesy fun, pose under golden lions at the MGM, walk through a jungle in the desert or watch clowns perform and play air hockey at Circus Circus.

At night, you can catch free shows on the Strip like the Sirens of TI at Treasure Island, the fountain light show at the Bellagio and the volcano explosion at the Mirage.  Watch flair bartenders mix fiery cocktails and dance to DJs outside Harrah’s or gaze up at the Fremont Street Experience - a dazzling light show cast across the encompassing roof.

The nightclubs of the moment will have steep cover charges, pricey cocktails and boring lines. Buck the masses and go to clubs in the less-popular casinos like Polly Esther’s in the Stratosphere, which are more laid-back and cheaper, if not free.

Big shows like Cirque du Soleil are expensive and sell out early, but if your heart isn’t set on a particular show, you can get same-day discounted tickets at a Tix 4 Tonight booth.

Transportation

Having your own car can spell gridlock on the Strip and valet charges. Instead take the 24-hour buses that run along the Strip (the double-decker Deuce is $2 or the monorail is $5 one way).

Other tips

  • Check casino hotel reception areas for coupon books which will often have discounts on spas, two-for-one meals etc.
  • Check out cheapovegas.com for budget advice on all things Vegas, while lasvegasweekly.com and lasvegascitylife.com offer arts and entertainment listings.