How to avoid common scams in Vegas

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So your plane has just landed in Vegas and you have a week of exciting, fun-filled adventure to look forward to. First things first, you’ll probably need a way of getting around and making it to the hotel you’re staying at. This is where most people unknowingly end up spending several times more money than required. Las Vegas is famous for scam artists, but more commonly encountered are seemingly normal but slightly crooked people that don’t see anything wrong in bending the rules to make extra money off tourists. They think they’re smarter than you! The nerve! But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can easily outsmart the most common unnecessary money traps. Read on…2

If you plan on taking a bus, you will be surrounded by shuttle drivers upon exiting the luggage area of the airport. They’ll tell you that shuttle service is “only” $6, but leave out further details. If you’re staying downtown, off-Strip, or even at a hotel on the north end of The Strip (Stratosphere, etc), the cost of a one way trip will be much higher. And this doesn’t include a tip for the driver. A lot of hotels, especially off-Strip, actually offer free shuttle services from McCarran Airport. Ask about this when you make reservations. Another option would be to take the public transit bus service. It’s $5 for a 24 hour pass, which beats paying more for a one way shuttle. The bus pickup is next to the baggage claim, on the ground level parking lot. If you have trouble locating it, ask an airport employee where the CAT bus pick up is; have $5 ready as they don’t make change.

You will not need to tip the driver. The bus should arrive every 15-20 minutes, and it’s perfectly acceptable to tell the driver where you’re going and ask for directions. On the website (linked above) you can print out a copy of the bus map and use a map search option to plan out a trip ahead of time. You can also pick up a large, detailed copy of the bus route for free on any bus. Let’s go over another scenario if you plan on taking a cab. With one fixed fare for any number of passengers, it’s surprisingly affordable to take one if you have 2-4 people in your group that don’t mind splitting the cost of the fare.

But cab drivers will often use sly tactics to make you pay more than you need to. For one thing, they often neglect to mention that they aren’t able to make change, so make sure you have plenty of small bills and change ahead of time. The tactic most frequently used to cheat people out of money, often while bringing them to The Strip, is driving there in a roundabout way. If your driver claims that taking the freeway will save time, don’t buy it. It tacks an extra 5-10 minutes on the trip and up to $20 on your bill. Insist that they take the most direct route possible, and don’t settle for anything else. Another note: Certain places, especially “adult” and “gentlemen’s” clubs will pay your cab fare in exchange for the driver delivering a customer to their door. Drivers don’t normally mention this. If you plan on leaving your hotel to travel by cab to one of these places, call ahead of time and ask if they do this. If they do, remember to tip the driver anyway.

Renting a car is a commonly taken option, and possibly one of the best. It can be very affordable for a couple days and will give you the freedom of safely exploring the city on your own. However, the car rental companies are sometimes just as crooked as anyone else. Some of them, especially around the holidays, will overbook car rentals and run out before you get yours. You will not be able to get a car, even with a reservation. Budget Rentals seems to be one of the worst repeat offenders, so keep this in mind before you go with them just to save a few dollars. The major problem with this, other than the whole issue of not getting something you already reserved and paid for, is that they sometimes try to wiggle around giving a full refund. Take none of this nonsense. You legally deserve a refund when they’re this negligent.

Another warning is necessary for people who plan to wait and pay for a rental at the desk. I’ve heard many people complain that cash is not accepted at all, and any cards other than credit cards (bank, debit, checking, etc) will require an additional $350 or so deposit, which you may or may not get back 10 business days later. Make sure you have a credit card to pay with if at all possible. Most of these rental companies will try and do anything to convince you to add on pricey insurance protection policies. It’s likely that the car insurance company you already have will also cover rentals, making these add-ons unnecessary.

Check with your own insurance policy before you rent a car and ask about coverage in case of a rental accident. Get it in writing if possible. The rental people will argue until they’re blue in the face that you need to pay an extra $100 on their own policy, and I’ve even had one tell me that my private car insurance company was lying, but don’t buy into these scare tactics.

Now for a really unsavory ploy by the car rental companies to get your money. You will be required to pay a deposit on the rental vehicle. You are required to return the vehicle in the same condition you take it out in. Seems basic and fair. However, the rental places sometimes don’t check the cars for damage in between renting it out, and it’s your responsibility to check for damage before driving it and record any flaws, dents, scratches, etc on a damage report. They will often forget to tell you this. You can look for the damage report in the stack of papers they hand to you along with the keys when you leave the desk or kiosk.

Now that you’ve arrived at your hotel safely, and hopefully with more money than you expected to spend getting there, here’s some advice on your stay. When you make reservations with a hotel, make sure you’re staying for exactly as long as you want to. If you decide to stay an extra night at the last minute, they will always raise the price, even if there are no events going on, and even if it’s a normal night.

Even if you can get online at a trip planning site and find a reduced rate, print out the page, and show it to them. It will be higher, sometimes up to $100 more than what you were paying on average per night. I hear from a lot of people that many hotels try to charge extra fees for moving to a new room, even if it’s no different in size from the old room. If you’re unhappy for any reason with the room you were given, whether it’s filthy, whether the air conditioner is broken, if you don’t like the view outside the window, or even if the floor you’re on is your unlucky number, you have the right to a new room with no fees on your part. This might be obvious to some people, but for others, here’s another small warning.

Hotels love to brag about the amenities they offer, but they also love forgetting to mention that almost none of these amenities are free. You hotel bill will automatically include fees for using the pool, gym, sauna, and other facilities whether you use them or not. Take this into account before booking reservations. Keep these tips in mind and enjoy a safe, and hopefully scam free trip next time you come to Fabulous Sin City!


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