Renting a car in Las Vegas can be an expensive endeavor. It can be especially draining for your wallet if you rent a vehicle you don’t need. So, it makes sense to ask the question: Do you really need a rental car?
Renting a car in Las Vegas is unnecessary, unless you plan on leaving the strip. Most tourist attractions are on the strip, making it easy to get around without a vehicle. There are plenty of cheap alternatives to rental cars including the Las Vegas Monorail, taxis, buses and ride-sharing apps.
Traffic on the Las Vegas strip is really bad, making driving a huge pain. So in most cases I would advise against getting a renal car. But there are some instances where a rental does make sense. In this post I cover the pros and cons of rental cars in Vegas, and offer some cheap alternatives that will make your life a lot easier.
Here are a few ways to get around Las Vegas without a car:
Rental Cars In Las Vegas
Most people who are visiting Las Vegas will not need a rental car. A majority of the activities you’ll be doing in Vegas are either on the strip, or slightly north of the strip on Fremont Street. This includes most of the major casinos, nightclubs, pool parties, convention centers and daytime attractions.
The only time I would recommend getting a rental car is if you plan on doing something off of the strip. There isn’t a long list of things to do off the strip but they include:
- Going to Lake Mead
- Touring the Hoover Dam
- Visiting Lake Las Vegas
- Driving to the Grand Canyon
- Hiking at Red Rocks Canyon
- Going to Las Vegas Motor Speedway
- Airplane and helicopter tours
You’ll notice that many of the things that you’ll need a car for are outdoor-type activities. Most people aren’t visiting Las Vegas to go hiking. Also, some of the companies that do these activities have shuttle buses, or complimentary pickups, so a rental car isn’t even required.
Rental Car Costs
In my experience, and after getting a number of quotes online, I have found that most rental cars cost about $35-$40 a day. This is for your average small to medium sized vehicle. If you plan on renting for the week, you’ll get a small discount. You’ll be charged about $185 for the week, or around $25-$30 a day.
When you go to pick up your rental, keep in mind that the rental car center is not located at the airport. At the baggage claim, you’ll have to follow rental car signs that lead you to a bus stop. Once there, you’ll be required to take a 10 minute shuttle to the McCarran Rental Car Center. A majority of rental companies operate out of this location including:
In addition to the cost of the car, most hotels charge between $15-$30 a day for parking. This also applies to hotel guests, at most resorts. There is only a short list of locations on the strip that offer free parking:
- Planet Hollywood
- Treasure Island
- Fashion Show Mall
If you want to avoid fees every time you park your car, I recommend using these parking garages. However, depending on your final destination, this may make for a long walk.
Rental Cars: Pros vs Cons
Some people are definitely going to need a rental car. But before you make a decision, let’s quickly walk through some of the pros and cons of having a rental:
- Go wherever you want off of the strip
- Convenience of having your own vehicle
- Traffic in Las Vegas is horrible
- Rental cars are expensive
- Parking is expensive
- It can be hard to find parking in some places
- Some self-park garages have long walks to the casino
- The strip can be hard to navigate (lots of one-way roads and hidden entrances)
- You can’t drive if you’ve been drinking
Like I said before, if you’re doing activities off of the strip you’re going to need a car. But notice how short the list of pros is, compared to the cons. I live in Las Vegas, and unless I’m leaving the strip, it’s hard to justify having a car.
Driving a vehicle in the city can be confusing and stressful (I still have a difficult time navigating some areas). The traffic alone is a strong deterrent. Not to mention aggressive drivers and intoxicated pedestrians wondering into the streets.
There are just too many alternatives available to justify needing a rental car. Many of these other options are more convenient, cheaper and provide an overall better experience. I’ll cover the best of these alternatives below.
Rideshare (Uber and Lyft)
Rideshare apps, like Uber and Lyft, are the fastest and most convenient way to get around Las Vegas. There are cheaper options (like the bus system that I’ll cover later), but the level of freedom and the speed of service make these apps the best transportation option in Las Vegas.
If you’re never used one of these apps before, it’s essentially a taxi on demand. You have the choice sharing the vehicle with several riders, or having the whole car to yourself. In my experience using Uber and Lyft in Las Vegas, it only costs a dollar more to have the entire vehicle to yourself.
Most rides to places on the strip are going to cost about $12-$15, and sometimes even less. A 10-15 minute ride to a destination off of the strip doesn’t usually cost more than $20.
The only downside to rideshare apps is “surge pricing” (Uber) and “prime time” (Lyft). During these brief periods of increased demand, the app will raise prices. However these instances are rare, and only occur when hundreds of people order rides to the same place at the same time (for example picking people up outside a stadium when a concert ends).
Wait times for Uber and Lyft are extremely low, and normally less than 5 minutes. If you’re on the strip, a wait time of 2-3 minutes is more likely. Uber does seem to have more drivers than Lyft, and therefore decreased wait times, but the two are very comparable.
Pretty much every casino and attraction in Las Vegas has designated pickup areas for Uber and Lyft, making it easy to catch a ride. And when your ride ends, you’ll typically be dropped off at the main entrance to the hotel, which is extremely convenient.
- Fast and convenient
- Know the cost of your trip beforehand
- Relax in the back seat
- Increased prices when demand surges
Prices for Uber and Lyft are about the same, so I recommend both. Rideshare apps are my personal favorite transportation option in Las Vegas, and one I recommend for most people. You can’t beat the convenience and pricing offered by these apps.
Taxi cabs are comparable to rideshare apps when it comes to speed and convenience. But, cabs fall short when it comes to customer service and price.
It’s true that you can’t beat the convenience of a cab line. It’s easy walk out the front door of your hotel, and into the back of a taxi. But you can only do that on the strip. It’s hard to grab a taxi anywhere off of the strip, especially since you can’t wave down cabs in Vegas. This can cause serious issues when visiting attractions off the main strip.
Additionally, cabs get expensive. In my experience, taxis are 20-30% more expensive than ridesharing apps when taking the same route. Rideshare apps tell you the price up front, but taxi drivers keep the meter running the entire time you’re in the car. You’ll see the meter go up, even when the vehicle is stationary at a light or in slow traffic. I find most cab rides to locations on the strip cost between $15-$20.
Cab drivers in Las Vegas are notorious for taking advantage of tourists by taking longer routes than needed. I also find cab drivers to be more rude than Uber and Lyft drivers, who are rated after each ride and therefore on their best behavior.
- Fast transit
- Plenty of taxis on the strip
- Not many taxis off the strip
- Poor customer service
The combination of higher prices and bad customer service are making taxis harder to recommend. But, taxis are still extremely convenient and not all drivers are bad. I recommend taking a cab if you’re in a hurry, but ridesharing apps should be your go-to.
There are a couple tour bus companies with different routes around the strip, but the Las Vegas Deuce is the best. The Deuce is the city bus for Las Vegas, ran by the Regional Transport Commission. This bus makes frequent stops at many of the hotels and major attractions up and down the strip.
The Deuce sells 2-hour passes ($6), 24-hour passes ($8), and 3-day passes ($20), easily making it the cheapest mode of transportation in Las Vegas.
You can purchase tickets at vending machines found on the strip, on the bus itself or by downloading the rideRTC app. It should be noted that exact change is required if you purchase a ticket on the bus itself.
The Deuce runs every 15-20 minutes, and it’s open 24 hours a day. You won’t have to wait too long to catch a ride. However, since the bus does make frequent stops, it could take a while to travel all the way up the strip. I wouldn’t recommend the Deuce for long trips unless you don’t mind spending large amounts of time on the bus (although the bus air conditioned and is pretty comfortable).
- Extremely cheap
- Makes frequent runs
- Covers most of the city
- Comfortable ride
- You’re on a bus with a bunch of other people
- It can be slow if you’re traveling longer distances
The Deuce is by far the most cost effective way to get around town. You can easily tour most of Las Vegas on the bus, getting off at the major stops. But I would only recommend using it if you’re on a really tight budget.
Monorail And Trams
Monorails and trams both travel on rails above the strip, and therefore do a great job avoiding traffic. However, these two modes of transportation have some key differences. Trams travel on the west of the strip and are free, while the monorail costs money, and travels up the east side of the strip.
Monorail: East Side Of The Strip
The monorail goes up and down a 4 mile stretch on the east side of the Las Vegas strip. It goes back and forth between the MGM Grand (on the south end) and Sahara Las Vegas (north end). Trains arrive every 4-8 minutes and makes stops at 7 stations:
- SAHARA Las Vegas
- Westgate Station
- Las Vegas Convention Center Station
- Harrah’s and The LINQ Station
- Flamingo and Caesars Palace Station
- Bally’s and Paris Station
- MGM Grand Station
The train opens at 7 am everyday and runs until either 12 am or 3 am, depending on the day. You can purchase tickets at vending machines at each of the stations, or online on the Las Vegas monorail website. Here are the prices:
You’ll save 10% by purchasing a mobile ticket online, directly from the website. You just scan the barcode at the gate, when entering the station.
- Avoid traffic
- Fast if your destination is one of the stations
- Comfortable ride with a view
- Only operates on the west side of the strip
- Doesn’t stop at every major hotel
- Some stops require you to walk from the station to the hotel
The monorail is a fast and cheap way to travel up the west side of the strip. If one of the stations is your primary destination, this is the best way to travel. But unfortunately it doesn’t stop at all major resorts, so you may have to make a lengthy walk after you get off the train.
Trams: West Side Of The Strip
There are 3 trams that operate on the west side of the strip. They aren’t officially connected like the monorail, but you can hop from one to another to travel from Mandalay Bay (south end of the strip) to Treasure Island (north end of the strip). The best part is all of these trams are free. These are the 3 trams and their stops:
- Aria Express Tram: Park MGM, Shops at Crystals, Bellagio
- Mandalay Bay Tram: Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur
- Mirage-Treasure Island Tram: Mirage, Treasure Island
Aria Express Tram: This tram has 3 official stops, but it connects a number of attractions including: Park MGM, Aria, Vdara, Bellagio, Cosmopolitan and Shops at Crystals. It runs everyday from 8 am – 4 am. Trams arrive at each station about every 15 minutes, and is about a 6 minute ride from end to end.
Mandalay Bay Tram: The Mandalay Bay Tram only makes stops at the south end of the strip at Mandalay Bay, Luxor and Excalibur. It runs from 9 am – 12:30 am, Sunday-Wednesday. Thursday-Saturday it runs 9 am – 2:30 am. The entire circuit takes about 5-7 minutes to complete. New trams arrive about every 5 minutes.
Mirage-Treasure Island Tram: This tram only goes back and forth between The Mirage and Treasure Island. The ride is less than 5 minutes long, and new trams arrive about every 10-15 minutes. It operates everyday from 9 am – 1 am (it’s open until 3 am on Friday and Saturday).
- Completely Free
- Fast Transit
- Avoid traffic on the strip
- Comfortable Ride
- The 3 trams aren’t connected and require some walking
I definitely recommend using these trams to travel between hotels that are close to each other. It will save you 15-20 minutes in walking time. But since these trams aren’t connected, it’s difficult to travel the entire length of the strip quickly.
You can definitely walk the Las Vegas strip. It’s cheap and there’s something to be said for taking your time sightseeing, as you walk by each hotel. But what new visitors to Las Vegas don’t know is that the strip is deceptively long.
The main part of the Vegas strip (formally know as Las Vegas Boulevard) is a total of 4 miles in length, making for a brutal trek in the intense summer heat. There are also some attractions on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, which is another 4 miles away.
There’s a lot to take in on the strip that you wouldn’t otherwise see if you weren’t walking, like the Bellagio Fountains, the High Roller at the Linq Promenade, the Mirage Volcano Show or the many street performers. These attractions make it worthwhile to do some exploring on your feet.
If you have to go from one end to the strip to the other, your feet will thank you for taking another mode of transportation. The strip is pedestrian friendly, but it takes over an hour to walk from one end to the other.
- Walking is free
- There are plenty of sights to see
- It takes over an hour to walk the length of the strip
- It gets extremely hot in the summer
I only recommend walking to hotels on the strip that are close in proximity. Walking more than 2 or 3 hotels down can easily take 20-30 minutes. And you can forget about walking anywhere that is off of the strip. Any of the transportation options mentioned in this article will get you to your destination much faster.
Best Way To Get Around Las Vegas
The best way to get around Las Vegas depends on your budget, and where you plan on going. Most people will be best off taking Uber/Lyft rides around the strip, and walking to destinations that are really close by. Many of the major hotels are physically connected, making walking the fastest option.
Others, who are planning activities far off the strip, may want a rental car. It doesn’t make sense to take a $75 taxi ride to Lake Mead, and then take another equally expensive one back.
If you’re on a really tight budget, you can definitely get by taking the bus, monorail and tram systems. They are designed to transport you quickly and cheaply.
How much do Las Vegas nightclubs cost? You can get into Las Vegas nightclubs for free using the guest list. Women can get free entry at every club, while men are required to have an even ratio of women in their group (or a greater number of women than men). Although, not all nightclubs require ratio.
How much does an entire vacation to Las Vegas cost? A trip to Las Vegas costs between $200-$300 a day. However, you can lower your costs dramatically by splitting a hotel room with a friend (most Vegas hotels rooms have 2 beds). I wrote an more in depth article about the cost of a Las Vegas vacation here.