Nestled in the Nevada desert, only a bus ride away from the Grand Canyon and Death Valley National Park, Las Vegas is one of those cities that most people can only dream of exploring. Or so they think.
After working fifty hour weeks last summer, I had almost enough money to plan my trip of a lifetime. I am certainly not telling you to spend the last of your double SAAS on holidays instead of textbooks, but what I am telling you is that for me, it was an excellent decision.
On a September evening, just before term was due to start back, I found myself sat in the pub I used to work in, with some of my closest friends. After one too many gins, I found myself deep in conversation with my friend Chris. The topic? Is Las Vegas really a possibility?
I’m here to tell you that with a little hard work and summer savings, Las Vegas on a student budget is entirely possible. Here are my top tips on surviving a week in Sin City.
Don’t be a snob when it comes to your hotel
It is so easy to go all out on expensive upgrades and so tempting to book a luxurious penthouse suite at the top of the strip. The Bellagio and Mandalay Bay hotels are perfectly pristine on the inside but let us be honest, a bed is a bed, and you will spend very little time in your room if you do things right.
My friends and I stayed at the Stratosphere, one of the cheapest hotels on the south-end of the strip. We payed just over £600 in total for the flights and hotel combined. From the top of the Stratosphere hotel you can face your fear of heights by jumping off the city’s highest point, 108 stories above the ground.
There was a choice of smoking and non-smoking rooms. The cheapest way to travel was by taking connecting flights. We flew from Glasgow to Amsterdam, then on to Los Angeles before finally arriving in Las Vegas. It was a long journey, but it was worth it once we arrived at our destination.
Fremont Street is the original part of Las Vegas, the authentic old town. Here the drinks are cheaper and the atmosphere is electric. You really get the feeling that you have been transported back to the 1940s.
You can take advantage of the free live music and street performers. Among them were dancers, vocalists and contortionists. You can quite easily spend an evening here with very little cash.
Fremont Street is the old town, but in recent years has also become the hub for budget modern entertainment. You can zip-line down the main street, or brave the ‘Walking Dead Experience’ with real-life actors, for less than $40.
Know which bars and restaurants to visit
For anyone thinking about a holiday in Vegas, I would encourage you to join the Facebook group entitled ‘Las Vegas Fans UK’. It is free to join, and among other things, you can find a list of happy hours and two for one meal offers at different locations along the strip.
It always tempting to spend $30 dollars on an all you can eat champagne breakfast, but trying to live a champagne lifestyle on a lemonade wage just does not work (trust me, I have tried).
Also, the cocktail waitresses in the casinos bring you free drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) on the regular, if you are gambling. Even if you look like you are gambling, they will come over and take your order. If you tip them, they will come back quicker and keep you topped up.
My top tip is to buy a Fat Tuesdays cup. You buy one reusable cup at the start of your trip and fill them up with alcoholic slushies at several points along the boulevard for as little as $8.
Please gamble responsibly
It might sound boring, but if you want to spend more money on activities, then you will have to be satisfied with spending a small amount. The more you drink, the more likely you are to take your dollars and stick them all on red on the roulette wheel.
Some blackjack tables have minimum bets of as little as $3, so it is incredibly easy to enjoy yourself and soak up the atmosphere at a sensible price.
Walking is the best form of transport
I know what you are thinking. Who goes on holiday to exercise? However, the best way to explore the city is on foot. When on foot, you will come across hidden gems that you might not discover otherwise.
People watching is a cheap and relaxing way to pass the time. You can sit for hours at a bar near the Bellagio fountain watching the spectacular show by night, or sip on a refreshing cocktail in the sunshine.
Long story short, booking a holiday to Vegas perhaps was not the best idea in the middle of my third year of university, given that my favourite lecturer regularly brings it up in class and I have had to work harder than normal to catch up on my coursework.
However, it was all worth it.