10 Things Every First-Time Visitor to Las Vegas Should Know

The Las Vegas Strip
The Las Vegas Strip.

 Chris Hepburn / Getty Images

The first time you visit Las Vegas can be overwhelming. So many lights. So much to do. So much to explore. So many huge casinos awaiting. But a game plan made in advance can help you navigate the city, take in exactly what you want to see and do, and overcome the frustration of being a first-timer in a new place. Knowing how to get around, what to bring, and what to plan in advance cuts down on the insanity of Las Vegas. Here are 10 tips on how to make the most of your trip no matter what kind of adventure you want to have.

Everything Is Far Away

Bring comfy shoes if you plan to do any walking on the Strip, and add a bottle of water to hydrate. Those casinos are farther apart than they appear, approximately 4 miles from the north end of the Strip at Sahara Las Vegas to the south end at Mandalay Bay. Fortunately, you can walk indoors for much of the trip, or take a tram between the Mirage and Treasure Island or between the Excalibur and Mandalay Bay.

Should you choose to walk the Strip, keep in mind it can get busy with throngs of tourists doing the same thing. Escalators and walkways over the Strip make it easier to cross Las Vegas Boulevard and connector streets such as Sand Boulevard, Harmon Road, Flamingo Road, and Tropicana Avenue.

Take the Monorail

On the east side of the Strip, the Monorail runs from the Sahara Las Vegas to the MGM Grand, with stops in between at Westgate, the Las Vegas Convention Center, Harrah’s, Flamingo, and Bally’s. While the Monorail runs about 4 miles on the east side of the Strip, it does make it easy to hop on board and jump from one resort to the next. Tickets start at $5 for a one-way ride up to $56 for a seven-day unlimited pass.

Plan Your Day

While it’s fun to have nothing planned and a wandering attitude toward Las Vegas, planning helps you map out where to go and what to see. One way to get the lay of the land is through a trip on the Big Bus, a sightseeing tour of the city that you can jump on and off at more than 20 stops. The Strip tour runs from Circus Circus to the MGM Grand with stops in between, while a Downtown version swoops through the Arts District, the Golden Nugget, the Mob Museum, and more. Tickets start at $45 for a one-day pass.

Carry a Jacket

It might seem odd to recommend bringing along a jacket, but the casinos can get chilly in the summer with the air conditioning running. In the winter, temperatures drop, bringing a chill to the air. In an arid climate, even 70 degrees feels cool. A light jacket or sweater keeps that chill at bay.

Sign Up for a Players Club Card

Every casino in Las Vegas offers a players club, and many offer discounts on food, drink, shopping, and more when you spend money within the resort. Also use it as you gamble to rack up rewards. For example, the Total Rewards card from Caesars Entertainment includes discounts at restaurants, while MGM Resorts' M life Rewards gives users online discounts to hotel rooms.

Take Gambling Lessons

Many casinos offer lessons on some of the more complicated games, such as craps, roulette, and blackjack. The lessons include the basic rules of the game along with example hands with practice chips where the instructor shows different scenarios and how to play. You even get to play a few rounds with those practice chips to ensure you understand how to play. Novices then learn the odds for the game, along with payouts and some of the jargon for the game. Pros might even take a class to learn a different version of blackjack. Look for signs in the casino for these morning lessons, or ask the concierge desk.

Call an Uber or Lyft

One of the easiest ways to get around Las Vegas? A ride share program. Every casino has a specific area for pickups and since the apps let you know when the driver is arriving, you can walk straight into the car instead of waiting in long lines for a taxi.

Character Photos Cost Money

Those costumed characters you see along the Strip expect a tip or contribution if you want to snap a photo of one of them. So that photo op with Batman, Hello Kitty, showgirls, Alan Garner from "The Hangover" complete with a baby, and more will cost you. Speaking of buskers, do avoid playing three-card Monte, and try not to buy water bottles from people with a cooler on the Strip.

Make Dining Reservations in Advance

It can be tough to get a seat at a restaurant during peak times, especially if you don’t have a reservation. Some popular restaurants such as Gordon Ramsay Hell's Kitchen, the Sterling Buffet, Lotus of Siam, and Eiffel Tower Restaurant run out of reservations far in advance, so making those reservations early is a must. If you don’t make a reservation in advance through a site such as OpenTable, ask your hotel concierge to book a table for you.

Make Reservations for Shows Too

Same goes for shows, especially with some of the big names who perform in Las Vegas such as Lady Gaga or "O" by Cirque du Soleil. Those shows can sell out in advance, so buy tickets early, or ask your concierge to get you tickets. Sometimes shows drop additional tickets at the last minute, as well, so check back if you couldn't find a ticket. And if you would rather wing it, head to one of the discount show ticket sellers for a day-of deal on tickets.