Going To Vegas

Las Vegas Shuttles

Tue, Aug 07, 2012

BusACL, Bell, Star, and Showtime are just a few of the companies that offer shuttle buses between the airport and the various Strip and downtown hotels. These buses usually cost under $5 per person to Strip hotels and under $7 per person to downtown hotels which makes them a lot cheaper than taxis. You can take care of your return trip to the airport by buying a round-trip shuttle bus ticket which offers some savings. They typically cost around $8 for Strip hotels and $10 for downtown hotels.

Whichever shuttle service you use, be sure to ask the driver for a telephone number to call for a pick-up when you have to return to the airport. When you are ready to call for a pick-up, you can often just pick up a hotel house phone and ask them to connect you to the shuttle bus company. Be sure to call at least two hours before the time you want to arrive at the airport. Some shuttle bus companies want you to call 24 hours ahead of time. Ask your driver how far ahead you should call for a pick-up.

Check out the Limousine Shuttle section on the Tips page to see how your group can ride in a limousine instead of a shuttle bus for only a few dollars more a person.

What you get in savings you give up in time. These buses will typically wait for the bus to fill before leaving which means it can take an up to an hour to get to your hotel. If you're more interested in saving time than saving money, take a taxi. Taxi rides generally average $15 to Strip hotels and $23 downtown (not including the tip.

The ground transportation diagram on the maps page shows the locations of shuttle buses, taxis, etc. at both airport terminals.

Free Shuttles

Tram There is a free tram that runs between Excalibur and Mandalay Bay, but with a twist. The same company owns these two resorts plus the Luxor that's in-between them. In order to get visitors down to Mandalay Bay, which is at the end of the Strip as far as most tourists are concerned, the tram does not stop at Luxor when going from Excalibur to Mandalay Bay (the south-bound run). It only stops at Luxor on the north-bound run, and as mentioned in the Buffets section of the To Do page, you may want to walk "Mandalay Place" back to the Luxor rather than taking the tram. This tram operates 24/7.

BusRio Shuttle If you want to get over to the off-Strip Rio, they have a free shuttle bus that stops in the back of Harrah's. Go to the back of the casino and exit near the hotel's registration desk and look for the "Bus Departures" area off to your left. Hours of operation are 10 am to 1 am with a frequency of every 20 to 30 minutes (depending on traffic). Note that when you are ready to leave the Rio to head back to the Strip, you will often have to wait for the second or third bus to come along as they can only fit about 20 people on a bus and they don't allow standing. As an alternative, walking to the Strip is a bit of a hike taking about 20 to 30 minutes.

Hard Rock Shuttle An hourly shuttle bus leaves the Hard Rock at the top of each hour from 10 am to 7 pm covering the Strip from the Fashion Show Mall to the Polo Towers (just north of the MGM Grand). They don't make a lot of stops but you can flag them down between stops if you see one of these distinctive purple mini-buses. They have the most comfortable seats of any shuttle bus I've ever been on, covered with a fake leopard fur and, what else, rock and roll playing over the speaker. They stop near the Forum Shops at 10 minutes past the hour, and the Fashion Show Mall at quarter past the hour.

There's a free shuttle to Sam's Town (Boulder Highway area) till 10 pm. You can catch it in Harrah's "Bus Departures" area.

Enlarge pictureOnce at Sam's Town, you can catch a shuttle to theCalifornia (Fremont Street area. This shuttle runs every 1:15 from 9 am to 10:45 pm. Return trips back to Sam's Town run every 1:15 from 8:30 am to 11:30 pm.

Note: The California, Fremont, Main Street Station, and Sam's Town are all owned by Boyd Gaming. The shuttle information on their Website says that a "Room key may be required" but does not give specifics as to if this is a room key to any Boyd property, if it's only required at certain times, etc. While I haven't encountered this, be sure to hold onto enough cash to take a CAT bus or taxi back to your hotel just in case they start asking for room keys when you try to catch a return shuttle.

Trolley Buses

Note: There is no longer a trolley running between the Stratosphere and Fremont Street. See the Fremont Street section below.

Trolley BusThe term "trolley bus" may seem like a contradiction in terms but there's no other way to describe these vehicles. They're buses with a body that looks like a trolley car. The trolleys run from 9:30 am to midnight daily, come around about every 20 minutes, and cost $2.50 (exact change required).

The route starts at the Stratosphere at the north end of the Strip, loops over to the off-Strip LV Hilton, and stops at several of the major Strip hotels. It's probably the best way to get over to the Strip if you're staying at the Hilton.

The main drawback of the trolley is that it's slow. A number of the stops are made when the trolley is going both north and south bound (Fashion Show Mall for example). They stop in the "tour bus" areas of most resorts which means they have to weave their way in and out of the resort complexes and that takes time. And given the number of stops the trolley makes you'll still have to do a little walking. For example, the stop at Harrah's is also the stop for the Venetian.

Bus DepartureThe stop at Harrah's is a little hard to find. You have to go through Harrah's to the back of the casino and exit near the hotel's registration desk. Off to the left you'll see a large "Bus Departures" sign. You have to go through the doorway below this sign to get to the stop. Note that this trolley stop is also used by the Sam's Town shuttle bus.

Locations of where the trolley bus stops are shown on theStrip map on the Diagrams page.

Strip Monorail

The monorail that runs on the east side of the Strip began operation in July of 2004. There are monorail stations at the following locations (located behind the Strip casinos) from north to south:

  • Sahara
  • LV Hilton
  • Convention Center
  • Harrah's
  • Flamingo
  • Bally's
  • MGM

A full-size version of the Monorail Route diagram is available on the Diagrams page.

The route is approximately 4 miles long and runs from 7 am to 2 am (3 am Friday night through Sunday night). It takes about 15 minutes to go the full route with trains arriving in stations approximately every 10 minutes.

Ticket pricing is as follows:
One ride
One day (unlimited use)
Three day (unlimited use) $5

There are vending machines located on the station platforms and inside the connected resorts from which you can buy tickets. There is already talk of extending the monorail to the airport and downtown.

While the monorail will be faster, the trolley buses are still a viable option if you want to go to resorts north of Treasure Island or if you don't want to have to do some walking to get to a resort on the west side of the Strip that's served by the trolley buses. (They also cost less than the monorail.)

Fremont Street

With the trolley no longer going to Fremont Street your options for going between there and the Strip are limited to a taxi cab or the CAT transit bus (see the CAT Transit section below).

The CAT bus ride will take about 20 to 45 minutes depending on traffic and the time of day, and the buses can be standing room only during rush hours. However, a taxi from Fremont Street to Treasure Island cost me $9 (not including the tip) and it was at a time when traffic was only moderate.

To reduce cab fare, you could take a cab between Fremont Street and the Stratosphere and use the trolley to/from there.

The location of the CAT bus stop for going to the Strip from Fremont Street is shown on the Fremont Street diagram on the Diagrams page.

CAT Transit

Enlarge pictureCAT (Citizen Area Transit) is Las Vegas' public transportation system. Former bus routes 301 and 302 that traveled the Strip and on up to Fremont Street have been replaced by Deuce double-decker buses. The fare is $2 (exact change required).

The CAT Website have informational pages with Deuce route maps and fare info.

Some, but not all, of the CAT bus stops have shelters. For example, there are stops in front of the Flamingo (north bound), Caesars, and the Mirage fountains (both south bound) that do not. You have to look for the small bus-stop signs.

If you're just going between two places on the Strip, you may want to take the trolley if it's around 7 to 9 am and 4 to 6 pm because the CAT buses are usually packed with resort employees during these hours. You may want to avoid taking a CAT bus to Fremont Street during these hours also.