A guide to getting around Las Vegas

Las Vegas boasts a variety of transport services – everything from taxis, airport shuttles, limousines, the Las Vegas Monorail, buses and open-top sightseeing tours to rental motorcycles, bikes and scooters. How do you plan to get around town during your visit? Here are the basics on almost every way possible to travel within Sin City.

McCarran International Airport's new Terminal 3

Photo of Terminal 3 courtesy of McCarran International Airport.

Going to and from the airport
Located in the center of town, McCarran International Airport is comprised of two separate buildings: Terminal 1 (serving domestic flights) and Terminal 3 (serving both domestic and international flights). A free shuttle service is available between these two terminals.

McCarran International Airport is situated only two miles from the Strip and about 15 miles from downtown. There are five options for getting to and from your hotel: taxis, airport shuttles, limousines, rental cars and buses.

Taxis
If you want to get to your hotel quickly after a long flight, then it’s easiest to hop into a cab. At Terminal 1, the line for taxis is located on the east side of baggage claim, outside door exits 1 – 4. At Terminal 3, you’ll find taxis located outside on Level Zero.

There is no negotiating of fares in Las Vegas. When you set foot in a cab, the taximeter starts with an initial charge of $3.30. A $2 surcharge is also added by taxis originating at McCarran International Airport. After the initial “drop,” as it’s called, the taximeter assesses $2.60 per mile. If your cab is moving at less than 12 miles per hour, a waiting charge of 25 cents is incurred for every 30 seconds that passes. This is why you’ll see increases on the taximeter even when you’re sitting still.

Based on a sampling of hotels from different areas, here are some estimates of the average fares you can expect: Aria ($16.70), Bellagio ($18.45), Caesars Palace ($17.70), Circus Circus ($25.70), The Cosmopolitan ($18.65), Flamingo ($16.45), Golden Nugget ($26.40), Mandalay Bay ($16.75), MGM Grand ($13.20), The Mirage ($19.45), Paris Las Vegas ($17.50), The Quad ($18.18), Riviera ($22.40), Stratosphere ($20.60), The Venetian ($22.25) and Wynn Las Vegas ($18.50).

Yellow Cab

Yellow Cab is among the taxicab companies operating in Las Vegas. Photo by Renée LiButti.

At least 15 cab companies serve McCarran International Airport.
  • ANLV, Ace, Union, Vegas Western and Virgin Valley, (702) 888-4888.
  • Checker, Yellow and Star,  (702) 873-2000.
  • Desert, (702) 386-9102.
  • Lucky, (702) 477-7555.
  • Nellis, (702) 248-1111.
  • Whittlesea and Henderson, (702) 384-6111.
  • Western, (702) 736-8000.
  • Deluxe, (702) 568-7700. (Note: This company only offers drop-off service.)

There are a few things you should know about taxi travel in Las Vegas. Some cab companies don’t accept credit cards, so notify the driver how you intend to pay before you get in. The maximum number of passengers allowed in a taxi is five. This includes infants and children. Also, beware of a practice called “long hauling.” A taxi driver is always required to take the most direct route to your hotel, unless otherwise requested by the customer. Use of the I-215 Airport Tunnel is never the shortest route to Strip-area hotels and can add up to $10 to your fare. If a taxi driver takes you that way without your permission, it’s illegal.

Airport shuttles
Airport shuttles, which consist of vans and mini buses, offer door-to-door service to most of the major hotels on the Strip and in downtown. This will not be a direct trip because these vehicles make multiple stops and typically carry between six and 20 passengers at a time. The cost for airport shuttles is economical. It ranges from $7.50 to $13 (one way) and $14 to $38 (round trip), depending on which hotel you’re staying at and what service (standard or VIP) you select. Airport shuttles are available from Terminal 1 at the west end of baggage claim, just outside door exits 7 – 13 and from Terminal 3 on Level Zero at the west end of the building.

There are four airport shuttle providers at McCarran International Airport.
  • Airline Shuttle Corp., (702) 444-1234.
  • Bell Trans, (702) 385-5466.
  • Showtime Tours, (702) 895-9976.
  • SuperShuttle, (800) 258-3826.

Limousines
Want to start off your Vegas vacation with a touch of luxury? Try the airport’s walk-up limousine service. A fleet of sedans, stretch limousines and SUVs are ready and waiting to sweep you off your feet. They can usually accommodate between four and 10 passengers. The cost is not as high as you might imagine. The hourly fee for a sedan starts as low as $40 an hour.

In Terminal 1, limousines are available on the west side of baggage claim, outside door exits 7 – 13.  In Terminal 3, limousines can be found outside on Level Zero – domestic travelers should head to the west end of the building while international travelers will find them at east end.

A taxi stand at the Flamingo resort

A line of taxis at the Flamingo. Photo by Renée LiButti.

There are three limousine service providers at McCarran International Airport.
  • Bell Trans, (800) 274-7433.
  • Las Vegas Limousines, (702) 888-4848.
  • ODS Chauffeured Transportation, (702) 789-3098.

If you make arrangements for a limousine in advance, a driver will customarily meet you in baggage claim and carry your luggage out to your vehicle.

Rental cars
McCarran International Airport’s Rent-A-Car Center is a huge facility at Gillespie Street and Warm Springs Road, just south of the airport and near Las Vegas Boulevard. It’s open 24 hours. Free shuttles run continuously, transporting rental car patrons to and from the airport. In Terminal 1, this shuttle is located outside doors 10 and 11 at baggage claim. In Terminal 3, you’ll find shuttles on Level Zero outside doors 51 – 54 at the west end and doors 55 – 58 at the east end. Rent-A-Car Center houses numerous rental car companies including Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, E-Z, Enterprise, Firefly, Fox, Hertz, National, Payless, Thrifty and Zipcar.

Generally speaking, you must be at least 25 years old to rent a car. Most car rental agencies will require a driver’s license and a credit or debit card.

Buses
Although the most affordable way to get your hotel is using public buses, few hotels are accessible by direct routes from McCarran International Airport, so it tends not to be an appealing option for tired travelers. If you do want to navigate the routes, there are bus stops at Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, both on Level Zero. Routes 108 and 109 as well as the Westcliff Airport Express and the Centennial Express all serve the airport. Operated by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, you can get specific route information, schedules and fares in advance by visiting their website at rtcsnv.com.

Traversing the Strip and downtown
Las Vegas isn’t a very pedestrian-friendly city. Although you can explore downtown easily on foot, distances between hotels on the Strip are often much farther than they seem. And walking for even a short stretch in summer, when temperatures regularly top 100 degrees Fahrenheit, can be truly uncomfortable. So if you’re looking for ways to navigate these areas, here are five of your best bets.

The Deuce buses and taxis on Las Vegas Boulevard

The SDX and taxicabs are two popular modes of transportation for getting around Las Vegas. Photo by Renée LiButti.

Taxis
Cabs are speedy – as long as traffic is good – because they don’t have to make multiple stops, and no time is ever wasted with parking. Knowledgeable drivers also reduce your risk of getting lost. Just don’t try hailing a cab in Las Vegas. It won’t work. The only two ways to hire a taxi are to call for a pickup or to go to a taxi stand. You’ll find taxi stands at all of the major resorts in Las Vegas and at many popular attractions, like shopping malls. For more information about how fares are calculated or for a list of cab companies, see the section on taxis above.

Cars
Many visitors, especially those from California and Arizona, drive their own cars to Las Vegas. If you’ve flown in and didn’t get a rental car at the airport (see the section on rental cars above), there are numerous branches located around town. Some resorts even have rental car desks in their lobbies.

Parking is abundant in Las Vegas. Most hotels on the Strip offer free self-parking garages as well as free valet service – although a $2 to $5 tip is expected when your vehicle is returned to you. In downtown, it’s becoming more common to pay to park in the garages and on the street. Some resorts, like Binion’s, do still offer free parking, but require you get a validation stamp.

The Las Vegas Monorail

Photo of the Las Vegas Monorail courtesy of the Las Vegas News Bureau.

Las Vegas Monorail
For quick and easy transport to a majority of the Strip’s attractions, take the Las Vegas Monorail. It’s comprised of seven stations spread between Tropicana Avenue (at MGM Grand) and Sahara Avenue (at SLS Las Vegas, when it opens on Aug. 25, 2014). The other five stations are positioned at Bally’s, Flamingo, The Quad, the Las Vegas Convention Center and the LVH – Las Vegas Hotel. All of them are situated east of Las Vegas Boulevard. The Las Vegas Monorail begins operating at 7 a.m. daily and runs until midnight on Mondays, 2 a.m. on Tuesdays – Thursdays, and 3 a.m. on Fridays – Sundays. Trains arrive every four to nine minutes. Several types of tickets are available, including a single ride ticket for $5, an unlimited 24-hour pass for $12 and an unlimited seven-day pass for $56. Children ages 5 and under are allowed to ride for free. Tickets are sold at TVMs (ticketing vending machines) and Las Vegas Monorail customer service booths. Cash, debit cards and all major credit cards are accepted.

Buses
The cheapest way to travel along the Strip as well as to downtown and nearby vicinities is to jump on a bus. The RTC operates two partially overlapping routes that blanket these areas.

The Deuce traveling the Strip

The double-decker Deuce buses cover the Strip and downtown Las Vegas. Photo by Renée LiButti.

The Deuce, a glittering gold double-decker bus system reminiscent of the iconic red ones in London, has been cruising the Strip since 2005. It runs 24 hours a day and stops at most of the resorts between Mandalay Bay and downtown.

The RTC introduced the Strip & Downtown Express (aka the SDX) in 2007. These sleek articulated vehicles are designed to look and feel like trains. The SDX uses bus-only and high-occupancy vehicle lanes as well as bypasses much of the Strip in order to provide a faster “express” service. It operates from 9 a.m. – midnight daily.

All access passes on either route cost $6 for two hours, $8 for 24 hours and $20 for three days. You can only purchase these passes at TVMs, which accept cash and all major credit cards.

Service on The Deuce and SDX is reliable, but you also should be aware that it’s very popular. This means you may not get a seat on the first bus that pulls up to your stop – but don’t worry, there’ll be another one pulling up soon after. Buses run approximately every 15 minutes.

Big Bus Tours

Photo of a tour stop at the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign courtesy of Big Bus Tours.

Open-top sightseeing tours
Enjoy the best of both worlds – a sightseeing tour and a trustworthy mode of transportation – with Big Bus Tours. Offering hop on, hop off service on London-style double-decker buses with open tops, this company will take you to all of Vegas’ most famous landmarks. Its route consists of about 20 different stops, with tours lasting up to 3.5 hours. During the daytime, a guide is on board to offer up bits of history and share funny stories. Whenever you see a place you want to explore, simply get off. Another bus will be along to pick you up in approximately 30 minutes. Big Bus Tours is most appealing to Sin City newbies, but even a veteran Vegas visitor is sure to be enchanted riding around on the Panoramic Night Tour with the lights of the city twinkling overhead. Prices for tours start at $29 for adults and $19 for children ages 12 and under.

Using other forms of transportation in Las Vegas
If you want to have a unique experience when you hit the road in Sin City, forget about driving. Try one of these two-wheeled transport alternatives instead.

Motorcycles
Have an adventure in Vegas on the seat of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Whether you rocket along the Strip or voyage through nearby natural desert wonders, you’ll see spectacular scenery while feeling the air on your face. At Las Vegas Harley-Davidson, located at 2605 S. Eastern Ave., Ste. 100, four-hour rentals are available for as little as $100. You can select motorcycles from various model families including the Sportster, Softail and Touring. Each motorcycle comes equipped with a windshield, a crash bar, saddlebags and a sissy bar (i.e., a passenger backrest). Rentals also include 24-hour roadside assistance. All riders must be at least 25 years old, have a valid motorcycle operator’s license and know how to operate a heavyweight motorcycle. A credit card with room for a $1,000 security deposit is required too. For more information, call (877) 571-7174.

H-D Heritage Softail Classic

The Heritage Softail Classic is among the motorcycles available to rent at Las Vegas Harley-Davidson. Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson.com.

Early this year, ground was broken for a full-line Harley-Davidson dealership on the Strip. It will become the brand’s third location in Las Vegas. Set to open in fall, its address at 5191 S. Las Vegas Blvd. is just steps from the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. The 50,000-square-foot space will feature a dealership and a retail store as well as offer motorcycle rentals.

Bicycles
Although two-wheelin’ it isn’t common or even recommended on the busy Strip, downtown has become a hub of cycling activity. A network of green bicycle lanes has emerged over the past year or so. By the end of 2014, the RTC anticipates more than 60 downtown blocks will sport them.

If you’re interested in exploring downtown on a bicycle, go to the RTC Bike Center, which is located inside the Bonneville Transit Center at 101 E. Bonneville Ave. It’s open Mondays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. The RTC Bike Center offers all-purpose bikes, dual-suspension bikes and road bikes to rent by the half or full day for $25 and $30, respectively. A helmet, lights, a spare tube and a pump are included in the cost. Call (702) 875-4288 at least one day in advance. After providing your contact and credit card information, a bicycle will be prepared for you. You’ll just need to show official identification as well as sign a basic waiver and credit card sales slip (for the value of the bike purchase price) before you can ride off into the sunshine.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon has a 13-mile scenic loop that's revered by bicyclists. Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas News Bureau.

Bicycling enthusiasts will find plenty of recreational opportunities in Southern Nevada as well. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located 17 miles west of the Strip on Charleston Boulevard. There’s a 13-mile scenic loop to take a spin on here. Bicyclists have to pay $3 to enter the conservation area. Road and mountain bicycle rentals are available from nearby bike shops including Broken Spoke Bikes at 11700 W. Charleston Blvd., Ste. 190, (702) 823-1680; Las Vegas Cyclery at 10575 Discovery Dr., (702) 596-2953; and McGhie’s at 4035 S. Fort Apache, (702) 252-8077.

In the southeast corner of the valley, you can challenge yourself on the 35-mile River Mountains Loop Trail, which crosses through parts of Henderson, Boulder City and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Imagine pedaling away with the waters of Lake Mead shimmering in the background. Rentals are available from nearby bike shops in Henderson like McGhie’s at 19 S. Stephanie St., (702) 800-3636 and the River Mountains Bike Shop at 2310 E. Lake Mead Pkwy.,  (702) 564-3058.

Scooters
If you’re anxious about handling a motorcycle and don’t have the stamina required to power a bicycle, then a scooter may be your ideal choice. Scooter Up Rentals is located a few minutes west of the Strip at 3867 S. Valley View, Unit 27. For $59, you can spend 24 hours zipping around town on one. The price includes insurance, unlimited miles, a lock and a helmet (if desired). Delivery and pickup to the parking garage at your hotel are also offered at no charge. In addition to a $100 credit card authorization for a security deposit, all you will need to rent a scooter is a valid driver’s license. Call (702) 927-1636.

Comments

I’m a Las Vegas native. By profession, I write at Vegas.com. Mostly about the city’s hotels, but on other topics – gaming and transportation – too. I really love staying at hotels. And the ones here are among the biggest and best in the world. Some key things I’ve learned: Resort fees are inescapable (frustrating but true), a friendly attitude at the front desk may score you a great view and over-the-top room amenities – bath butlers, Japanese tea service, menus with “intimate” items – do exist. What else should you know about me? Well, I’m comfortable at a blackjack table. And I like eating late-night pancakes in hotel coffee shops. A lot. Follow Renee on Google+.