AOL Travel

Las Vegas Transportation

Getting There

Every major domestic carrier and several global airlines serve McCarran International Airport (LAS), situated just off The Strip (arrive at night for birds eye view of the neon as you land). The departure gates ring with the last-chance symphony of more than 1,000 slot and video poker machines, banked under palm tree filigree rendered in aluminum, a well-considered homage to the city’s history of cheesy ornamentation. The Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum, open 24/7 on the baggage claim esplanade, traces airplane history in Southern Nevada, from the first flight in 1920, including some of Howard Hughes' personal items. Terminal corridors come lined with last-minute souvenir shopping options: Area 51 stuffed aliens, Ethel M chocolates, Elvis plates. If you don’t like gambling, shopping, or browsing the timelines of Nevada’s flight history, step into the in-house gym for a workout. You can also use the President’s Club on the D Concourse if you’re carrying a full fare economy ticket or better.
Greyhound is the only bus line with regularly scheduled Las Vegas transportation routes, now that discounters like Mega Bus have discontinued service from California and Arizona. Coach America offers charter service and also operates the local Gray Line sightseeing tours of the city as well as surrounding attractions like Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Chinatown Bus shuttles between Los Angeles and Las Vegas via Bravo Travel for $30 one-way ($50 RT).
The last Las Vegas-bound Amtrak train between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City left the station in 1997. City fathers continue to banter about ideas for a high-speed train between Las Vegas and Anaheim or Las Vegas and Victorville, whatever will attract special “study” funds that disappear into pockets and the ether of highway dust.

Getting Around

Taxis have maintained a powerful hold on Las Vegas transportation and its politics for the last half-century, which may be one reason a city with 35 million visitors a year and an airport a mile away from the central destination area cannot come up with a plan for expedient public transport. Taxi lines at the airport range from a few minutes to an hour on peak Friday hours and taxi queues at hotels can be just as daunting no matter what kind of greenback you show to the valet manager. As cities go, Las Vegas's transportation fares are reasonable. Standard fares are $3.30 at meter drop and $2.40 per additional mile, tacking on $1.80 for airport pickups, as well as time-based penalties ($30 per hour) while stuck in traffic. Airport to Strip fees typically run $12-$20, to Downtown $15-$20, and between the two action hubs $10-$15. Ensure the driver knows the traffic shortcuts: Paradise Road—not the Airport Tunnel (the not-so-scenic route costs roughly $10 extra)—from Strip to Airport, and the north-south parallel routes of Koval Lane and Dean Martin Drive, respectively, for routes between Strip hotels. What appears to be the shortest distance between two points on the Strip can become a long, pricey, frustrating vacation-buster depending on congestion. Save money by cab-sharing (up to five people ride for the same fare). When in doubt, walk. You’ll likely get there at the same time or even before a taxi—and you will get there. Recommended cab companies include Desert Cab (702-386-9102) and Yellow-Checker Star Transportation (702-873-2000), whose eco-friendlier fleet uses propane fuel.

Las Vegas has its rush hours, but these are most evident at times of shift changes: midnight, 8AM and 4PM. Certain streets are a problem: most pointedly, Las Vegas Boulevard, unless the point is to cruise through it at 5 mph watching the neon and the continual show flowing past on the sidewalks: Strip-walkers, fanny brigades, fried-out families, wedding parties and babbling bachelorette parties all doing it up in Vegas. If your method of Las Vegas transportation is a car, be careful not to get lost as you navigate the Strip and surrounding areas. Useful bypass routes include Koval Lane, which runs north to south, parallel to Las Vegas Boulevard starting at Sahara  Avenue. Dean Martin Drive starts at Southern Highlands Pkwy south of the Strip and just west of the I-15, easily accessible from most exits off the freeway. It becomes Industrial Road at Spring Mountain Road and continues to trace the Strip on the east side going north toward Charleston Boulevard. Desert Inn is an important east-west bypass artery that runs from Paradise Road to Arville Street skipping the density of the Strip. The I-15 freeway offers ramps onto Las Vegas Boulevard at Mandalay Bay, Tropicana, Flamingo, Spring Mountain, Sahara, Charleston and Downtown, where it meets Highway 95.

Rental cars run around $30 a day and can be picked up in a central rental car facility near the airport. And as for parking, it is nearly always free, whether self or valet and there is always plenty of it.

Public Transit
You can dicker with the Citizens Area Transit (CAT) public bus system (702-CAT-RIDE or 228-7433,) if you have nothing but time on your hands and don’t mind waiting 20 minutes to an hour in the heat for a bus to arrive. Bus routes ply the Las Vegas Valley, though none run directly from the airport to the Strip; all require exact change. The city is trying to pump up its public transport persona with some “premium” services. The modern, double-decker “Deuce” operates continuously along The Strip (approximately every 12 minutes 9AM - 11PM and every 15-30 minutes 11PM - 9AM). The ACE Gold Line (bullet-shaped, eco-friendly hybrid vehicles with limited stops and continual service) more rapidly connects Downtown, the Strip, Las Vegas Convention Center, and Town Square. Premium two-hour fares cost $5, $2 for reduced fares (reduced fares apply to those over the age of 60 or between ages 6 and 17); the all-day $7 pass permits unlimited boarding on all bus routes

The four-mile Las Vegas Monorail traverses the Strip’s east side behind the resorts (hardly a sightseeing tour); the entire trip takes 15 minutes in safe, air conditioned comfort that does afford some views—the Flamingo Pool, for one. The route runs from the MGM Grand to the Sahara, stopping at Bally's/Paris, Flamingo, Harrah's/Imperial Palace, Convention Center, and Las Vegas Hilton and operates 7AM-2AM (until 3AM Friday-Sunday). Pricey one-way fares cost $5, but an unlimited day pass goes for $12, a good idea if you plan to use Las Vegas transportation throughout your daily excursions. The station platforms, however, are located in the back of the hotel properties they service and require a good half-mile of hoofing from the Strip sidewalk.

Free people movers also roll between neighboring sister casinos, often deceptively farther apart than they appear. One tram connects Mandalay Bay with Luxor and Excalibur. Trams run between The Mirage and Treasure Island, and between the Sahara and MGM Grand. Another shuttle connects the Monte Carlo and Bellagio with new CityCenter’s glitzy shops, eateries, and hotels. All have indoor or covered waiting areas, often equipped with cooling misters.


Useful information about the Monorail:

You can purchase tickets online or at on site vending machines

Both Rio and Sam’s Town hotels and casinos offer free shuttles from the Harrah’s stop on the Monorail line.

Look for discount coupons on the monorail web site and discount monorail promotions in free city publications.