#UKLizi: Vegas on a Budget.
#UK Lizi hits Vegas
By Lizi Woolgar
Vegas really is one of those places you have to see yourself to believe. The moment I stepped off my NY→ Las Vegas flight, I was greeted by flashing lights, grating tannoy announcements and… no… surely not… gambling machines? Oh yes, there were slot machines inside the actual friggin’ airport! What is this madness?! After a timid wait in an airport corner, I met up with my travelling pals and we headed to our home for the next few days: the Wild Wild West Motel. Ooh, even the name just oozes class. On the way, we learnt 2 important lessons from our friendly shuttle bus driver which I’d like to share should you care to listen. Firstly, never trust Vegas cab drivers; they will (apparantly) NEVER go in a straight line in order to royally rip you off. Secondly, upon our questioning as to whether liquor stores would now be open, his response was, “HA-Awhh man, you can drink 24/7 heeere”. Welcome to crazyville.
We only stayed in Vegas for 2 days, but that really is all you need. There are pretty much zero daytime sights; all the bright lights, glitz and glamour only come out to play at night. Pass by Caesar’s Palace – ‘The Hangover hotel’ – on your way to a night out, for a friendly reminder of that godawful film. We headed to club Chateau on day 1 which was disappointing; boring music, nonchalant bar staff and with pretty much every area seemingly blocked off as VIP. You hear about the tricks of the Vegas casinos to keep users hooked and we witnessed it first hand. The ceilings were disorientatingly painted as a daylight sky so you couldn’t tell what time of night/morning it was, nor could you ever find your way back out to reality. Horrific. Similarly, smoking seems to still be legal in every Vegas casino – including hotel casinos – so you conveniently never need to even leave your seat for a ciggy break. Terrifying the ways they entice you in; yet scarily understandable how easily you might get hooked. (N.B. I of course didn’t gamble once. I don’t have the money for that. Plus have no idea how to play poker.)
We trundled down to Pure nightclub on day 2 which I highly recommend if youre looking to save some pennies. If you get yourself on the guest list, entry is free and drinks are absolutely free from 10-12pm. No catch. No small print. Nope, I couldn’t figure out how it worked either. But with decent r’n’b music and a varied crowd of attendees, its definitely worth a visit. I’d picked up a few tips in my first few days from both my friends and the Las Vegas hotel and bar staff. Most of you will probably know this, but it came as a total shock to me: you have to tip for everything. Its customary. I’m talking even tipping for a bar drink. I find it bizarre that you can’t simply pay for what you ordered, but understandably, it is important to respect the cultural customs, whatever they may be.
The second lesson I learned concerned tax. You will never pay the price on the tin. It’s something I ignorantly failed to consider. But now I know to not bother counting out my change to the last penny for an item, only to be told the tax-added value was in fact what I was required to pay. Boo.
Finally, although still a dull topic, if you are looking to save money this is a useful tip. If you open an American bank account, you’ll be charged pretty much everywhere to withdraw cash apart from your own bank. Your own bank charges you every time you draw out cash from a bank that isn’t yours (almost a Judas-like disloyal punishment if you ask me) and if the ATM is owned by the building it’s contained within, you’ll incur an additional cost on top of your Judas cost! Ouch, American banking.
After a couple of daytime chill sessions, we decided to sign up for a Grand Canyon tour for our final day in Vegas, as we’d read about many others doing just this. For a reasonable fee of $85, we booked onto the Grayline Canyon South Rim tour (free lunch included) under the painful promise we would be ready for pickup at 6am. Now, once our (late) coach turned up, we were quickly informed that we had to visit a security centre first, where they confiscated our backpacks for some reason and insisted upon taking a horrific 6.30am photo of us against a green screen. Presumably, this was so we could be later superimposed upon the Grand Canyon. Would have perhaps made sense if we were not about to actually visit the Canyon – and the real backdrop – ourselves.
Finally, by about 8am, we actually set off to the Grand Canyon (via the Hoover Dam stopoff). Naturally, as three 21-year-olds exhausted from Vegas, we were hoping to catch a few winks on the 4 hour drive to the Canyon. Oh we were so wrong. Lorenna, our tour guide, was queen chatty pants for the entire duration of our 16 hour day! In retrospect, we really should have figured out that booking a day tour would involve more than just hours sleeping on a coach.
The views at the park were absolutely stunning, but we only got about 2 hours in total to look around the South Rim on foot and spent half of this frantically chasing the bus we needed to get back to Vegas. Overall I would not recommend a day tour from Vegas. The journey is far too long to cover in one day (6am -10.30pm) and you have to choose between the South or West Rim tour, where I would have loved to do both. The South Rim entails the world-famous ‘picture postcard’ views BUT the West has the petrifying Skywalk, which I’ve wanted to do as long as I can remember (and still haven’t!). So, as we tumbled off the tour bus cream-crackered, we could only sit on a street corner and await the next portion of our money-saving initiative. An overnight Megabus ride to L.A. (to save us paying for another night in a hostel). Talk about living on a budget hey!