Las Vegas is built upon consumption and extravagance, and you will find things to spend your money on around every corner. However, visiting the city on a tight budget doesn’t have to equal staying in your hotel room all day, and lots of the fun in Las Vegas is actually free.
Where to eat?
The Strip is seriously lacking reasonably priced grocery stores and some hotel rooms do not have a fridge, so storing milk and other breakfast supplies may be quite a challenge. However, most rooms have water boilers, so buy some of those “just-add-water”-oatmeal cups from 7Eleven or one of the pharmacies, and you’ve got yourself a cheap and filling breakfast.
Regarding buffets, lunch is less expensive than dinner, and do not attract the huge crowds that line up in front of the buffet at dinnertime. My advice is therefore to make lunch your main meal of the day. Some buffets are open all day, which means that there is no clear limit between lunch and dinner. If you come for late lunch, some of the dinner dishes will therefore also be available.
At dinnertime, you’ll probably still be full, but otherwise, grab a $6 pizza slice at Sirrico’s (New York New York), two $2 tacos at Tacos El Gordo (just north of Wynn/Encore) or a sandwich at Subway.
The cheapest buffets are found at the hotels in Downtown Las Vegas, which is the old and original part of Sin City around the Fremont Street Experience. There you’ll find all-you-can-eat offers for as little as $10, but remember that quality and price is often interconnected.
Coupons offering discounts for buffets are available in many of the free magazines you’ll find in the hotel lobbies or in your hotel room. Some resorts even provide guests with small booklets full of discounts.
What about shopping?
Ok, you’re on a budget, but what’s the fun about being on vacation without being able to bring home at least a couple of real souvenirs, such as a new dress or a nice pair of shoes?
My favorite budget shop in Las Vegas is Ross Dress For Less. It’s an outlet store and you will probably recognize a lot of the brands from more upscale places such as Macy’s. I’ve found several dresses and shirts at Ross for less than $15.
There is also a huge H&M at the Forum Shops (Caesars Palace) and another, smaller one at the Miracle Mile Shops (Planet Hollywood).
Just a walk down the Strip will be quite an experience as there are so many things to see. I always visit Bellagio, where I watch the beautiful, dancing fountains in front of the hotel. Make sure you go there in the evening, as the fountain show looks even more impressive in the dark. Inside Bellagio, there’s a beautiful and surprisingly quiet conservatory and botanical garden. The theme and the decorations change with the season, and it provides the perfect mini-getaway from all the noise and neon outside.
Most of the casinos also come with big shopping malls attached and even though you’re not looking to buy anything (you have Ross, remember?), just walking around among the stores and the restaurants is a great way to spend an afternoon.
The malls in Las Vegas take “themed shopping malls” to a whole new level and you can thus take a walk along the canals at The Venetian, or visit a Roman piazza at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.
If you feel lucky, some of the slot machines have 1-cent minimums, so just a few dollars will keep you entertained for hours if you play your cards right, literally speaking.
How to party
Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities for ladies to party for free in Las Vegas. During most weekdays, a lot of clubs (even the more popular ones) have free drinks for ladies until midnight, and in the weekends you can usually skip the entrance fee, if you are on the guest list, as long as you are female.
The best way to find out about guest lists and free drinks-opportunities is by getting in touch with a promoter, which you can do even before you arrive in Vegas through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or by visiting websites (just google “promoter, Las Vegas”).
If you gamble, you’re entitled to free drinks, so depending on your luck, spending a couple of dollars at the gambling tables or in the slot machines provides a cheap way to get tipsy. However, don’t forget to tip the cocktail waitresses, if you want them to come back regularly (it’s not their fault that you’re on a budget).
The worst thing about Vegas nightlife are the long distances between the casinos, which means that you have to count in taxi-money, if you plan on going to a club outside the casino, where you are staying. My best advice is to buy a pair of foldable flats, which are available at most pharmacies. With those in your bag, you can party all night in your high heels and when the clubs close, you just change to your super-comfy flats and walk back to your hotel.