Las Vegas is both hilarious and insanely amazing…GOOD. LORD! If I had to write a tag line for this city it would be ‘like Disneyland for gamblers and alcoholics.’ And although I wouldn’t describe myself as either of those it was to my own astonishment that I was fully in my element when we arrived by airplane one March morning. After leaving the cool air of San Francisco we flew over mountains and desert, finally coming in to land over the bizarre turrets of our castle-shaped hotel- The Excalibur- and he Luxor’s pyramid and Sphinx. I never thought about how surreal the idea of all these massive Disneyland-esque buildings in the middle of the desert really is. One of the most surreal sights I’ve ever seen, actually. I’m still laughing. Nothing but rock for miles and miles, then suddenly- BAM- here’s a giant castle, the Statue of Liberty, and the Eiffel Tower smack bang in the middle of No-Man’s Land. WHAT. A. LAUGH. There’s something about Vegas that just makes you want to throw all your money in the air and have a party in it wearing an outfit made entirely of feathers and diamonds. But, what if you do not have a pile of cold hard cash and a tacky outfit to prance about in!? Fear not, pals. I’m here to help.
It’s always Ladies Night, somewhere in Vegas
You know…when the feeling’s right? We got an airport shuttle from the airport to our hotel, and the driver dutifully informed everyone on board which casinos are best for what…including, which night is ladies night, where. That means free stuff for ladies, and technically that’s what I am. So.
As a couple, it was just as affordable to stay in a hotel than in a hostel, of which there are many to choose from. (Hostels and hotels) The big hotels make a whole lot of money out of gamblers, so it’s generally in their interest to keep room rates affordable so that people throw more money onto the tables and into the slots. The cheeky devils.
After three weeks in hostel dorm rooms it was a right old treat to have our own bedroom and bathroom for a bit instead of bunks and a shared shower room; although it had been awesome meeting so many new people in the five hostels we’d stayed at so far on the trip, being sociable all the time does take it’s toll after a while. Apart from the comfyness of the bed, the privacy was highly welcomed. We chose The Excalibur because it was still a fairly budget-friendly option out of all the hotels on The Strip, although there are some awesomely-priced places further away in Downtown Vegas. The hotel is ginormous, and I spent the majority of my time there cracking up to the max that everything within it was castle themed.
We stayed for a few nights in The Excalibur and a few more nights in the HI Tod Hostel, which was once a candy-coloured motel near a drive-in chapel, but is now a hostel run by a heavily moustached man and his fluffy white cat which was given to him by an exotic dancer many years ago. True story. It was surprisingly quiet during our unexpected stay (due to money issues we were in the city a few days longer than we’d planned. Not due to gambling on the 1c slots, just because of a broken debit card) But more on that story and the incredible tales of the Tod another time.
I’m gonna be frank here my friends…most of the hostels in Vegas are known for their party atmosphere and roach-ridden hallways, so beware! Choose wisely, and if you don’t mind an extreme party vibe and all the bugs, you will find hostels galore awaiting your arrival.
I’m a real fan of free stuff in general, and upon checking in we were handed some drinks vouchers along with our room keys. This is the norm in Vegas, so although it sucks that breakfast is not provided a la Hostel Life, they make up for it at the hotel by plying you with alcohol. Alcohol, everywhere you turn.
Gamble with care and get even more free drinks while you’re at it!
Guys. I am not a gambler. It’s just not my style. But if you’re going to go to Vegas, I feel like you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t actually use the casinos for what they’re intended. Pretty much every casino in the city is a sprawling haze of flashing lights and cigarette smoke, with opportunities to gamble around every single corner; there are even screens built into the bars and tables in the restaurants so you can’t really escape it. So, in order to live it up like a truly professional high roller…I went on the slot machines. Yaaaaas! And I only went and won $12, didn’t I!? (I’m not pro enough to go on the real life games so I’ll just stick to my slots thanks very much, Eastbourne pier style) Also, even if you’re just sitting at a 1c slot machine you get free cocktails; essentially the prospect of free drinks drew me in more than the thrill of the gambling, so as long as you tip the roaming waitresses taking your orders (to be kind and also to prevent them spitting in your drinks), all is good in the hood.
Take a walk on The Strip
Although the hotels are big enough and entertaining enough to spend days in if you really wanted to, it’s definitely worth venturing outside for some real oxygen and a spot of people-watching. Like LA and San Francisco, it’s sad to realise the amount of homeless people living there, all with an assortment of accessories like cats dressed as Elvis or cardboard signs informing you they gambled all their money away. There was a guy who was possibly asleep, outside the Bellagio, wearing a giant, furry, dirty Goofy head and clutching a bottle of rum with a hat laid out for money. It looked like a life-size forgotten toy that had been trampled on and left in a puddle. He must’ve been sweating to the maximum level…I got sunburnt and we weren’t even outside that long. He was on to something though, because people obviously would want their picture taken with a rum-soaked half Goofy/half man hybrid. Very entrepreneurial guy, that one.
Also roaming the streets of Vegas are a tonne of people trying to hook you up with hookers, basically. I like to call them Hooker-Hooker-Uppers. They’re definitely not pimps because they’re obviously just laying the foundations- this is the pre-pimp stage of hooker hooking-up, I think. They have cards with pictures of half-naked girls on which they flick with their fingernails to make a sound kind of like a cricket. It gets kind of annoying after a while though cause they start flicking them in your face and before you know it you can’t see the pavement for Stripper Top Trumps cards.
Then there’s obviously the usual touristy types. Big guys in striped polo shirts and baseball caps who are still saturated with alcohol from the night before and feeling as if they’re starring in their own version of The Hangover. Also, a surprising amount of family groups. (I wonder what kids think of Vegas?? There are a lot of naked girls on display here.) Kids wanting to have their pictures taken with showgirls in fuchsia pink sequinned leotards and feathered headdresses (actually, everyone wanting their picture taken with dancers in sequinned leotards and feather headdresses). Probably 50% of people on the street have some form of alcohol or another in their hands…I think Vegas is one of the few places in America where it’s okay to openly drink alcohol in the street and in the middle of the day.
The Excalibur is all the way at one end of The Strip, and although we had been warned about the length of The Strip and that there is a bus that runs back and forth along the entirety of it, we still decided to walk it. In one way that was a brilliant idea because we didn’t miss anything…but on the other hand it actually is ridiculously long and we kind of forgot about the fact that we’re in the middle of a desert. So I got sunburned again. Typical.
Marvel at the Bellagio fountains
What a majestic sight for your eyeballs! I’ve seen it in films and it looked okay I guess; but in real life the Bellagio fountains are actually pretty full on awesome, almost like liquid fireworks really. Who’d have thought a bunch of water fountains could instill such a sense of amazement. The shows are set to music and occur at regular times throughout the day and into the evening.
Vegas food is a strange, strange thing. We had an all-you-can-eat, all day buffet, and oh my, I was so stuffed that I felt quite ill by the end of the day. You get given a wristband as if you’re at a food-themed theme park, and then you can go in certain hotels to eat whatever you want at any time of the day. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much in my whole life. The amount of wastage and general gluttony in those restaurants is unlike anything I’d ever witnessed before, although for us it was also a welcome break from cooking budget meals every day in our hostel kitchens.
My bf had been desperate to go to Hooters since arriving in the US, so one evening we actually went and did it. What a laugh…everything just seems so very orange in there you know. And they actually have a salad that involves absolutely zero nutrition at all. It blew my mind!! No vegetables. Just cheese, egg and bacon. They’re not fooling me, I know a salad when I see one. Cheeky little buggers. Personally I’d recommend Hooters for the retro weirdness of it and not definitely not the nutritional value of the food.
Alternatively you could check out somewhere like the terrifyingly named ‘Heart Attack Grill,’ where a man actually died after consuming a Triple Bypass Burger. Ick.
Wander the hotels
Every one of the casinos on The Strip has some form of gimmicky entertainment, be it circus acts, roller coasters, full on Venetian canals and ceilings that really rain, to gladiators (we’ve all seen Friends, you know the one), flamingos and pirate ships. Each hotel is so full on colossal that it’s highly probable that you’ll get lost and potentially never find your way out again- it’s a very real problem you guys, I’m sure of it.
- The Excalibur’s room rates start at around $30…and it’s definitely best to book through the actual hotel’s website so you can see any offers they might have going on. We got 3 nights for the price of 2 by booking directly via the hotel.
- It’s also (obviously) much cheaper to stay in a Vegas hotel midweek; in addition to get the best price it’s worth making sure there are no big conventions going on around the time you’re planning on visiting.
- Most hotels (and hostels) charge a daily resort fee on top of the actual room rate. Sneaky. It differs from one hotel to the next- double sneaky!
- The Deuce bus runs up and down the length of The Strip 24 hours a day, and is a life saver at those times when you realise the road is actually really really really long and in the middle of the Nevada desert. Duh. One 2 hour ticket costs $6, or an all-day one is $8.
- But…it’s also worth walking in the fresh air for some time. Don’t forget that it’s the desert and therefore you will probably burn (at least if your skin is normally translucent like mine).
- DON’T FORGET TO TIP! Otherwise everyone will hate you.
- This goes for everywhere in America- but taxes are not included in the price shown when you buy something. They can really catch you out that way, you know!?