The Strip                                                                                                                  [the_ad_placement id="google"]                                                                        My visa was expiring so I need to exit and get a new extension for my stay in Malaysia. I notice that Royal Brunei had a cheap promotional flight to Australia, so I went to the Australian Embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan to apply for a visa. I had never been to a western country before and my several attempt to get a visa to join Second monkey in the US had all been denied. To my surprise, the Australian embassy granted me a visa same day without even subjecting me to interrogation. ( I found out later, that they had called my office and also talked to Second Monkey.)                                                                                                                                                                      The remarkable thing in Vegas is that everywhere you go, there are slot machines and casinos, so you can always try your luck , and maybe become rich – or more likely, lose it all and join the homeless club that is also part of the Vegas scenery.

Las Vegas is affordable and many attractions are free. You just have to know where to stay and where to go. It’s a big city but if you are a tourist, there are only two places where most of the action is – the Strip or Downtown. Both have numerous hotels and every kind of entertainment you can think of. Vegas never stops until the money runs out.

The Conservatory, Bellagio

The dancing water fountain in front of the Bellagio Hotel and the volcano eruptions at the Mirage are spectacular and not to be missed. Both are best observed at night, and are free. We have been to Venice, Florence, and Rome in Italy, but the gondola sights at the Venetian are more romantic, the David at Caesars Palace looks better than the real one, and the forum fountain reminds you of the Trevi.

David, Caesars Palace

There also is the Eiffel Tower and the L’Arc de Triomphe at the Paris; and the pyramid at the Luxor to name a few others but as our Japanese friend says, “not the originals.” Nevertheless, it’s all pretty and free. I think my favorite free activity, however, was just sitting in one place and people-watching — the crowds can be entertaining, also.

Stratosphere

Las Vegas has so many hotels and accommodations that competition is fierce and prices tend to fluctuate. Some famous hotels offer really good deals, so you can have your pick. Most lower their prices at the last minute, so be patient and keep looking. It doesn’t matter whether you stay on the strip or downtown; you have access to both by foot, bus, or ride share. Be aware, though, that hotels add a resort fee on top of their advertised rates. This could be from $20 to $36, depending on their star ratings, plus taxes.

Caesars Palace

Some advise you to rent a car, but if you are not thinking of going to National Parks (even that you can easily book a cheap tour) then save yourself the hassle of traffic and parking unless you are staying away from the Strip or Downtown which why most people come to Vegas in the first place. Some hotels might offer free self-parking but finding and navigating to that parking might not be straight forward. The traffic is nearly impossible, unless you enjoy seeing and watching cars in every direction.

The Luxor

Las Vegas temperature in summer are some of the hottest in the world (as it is in a desert) but hotels are mostly interconnected so you can just walk from one to another in air-conditioning, or you can just wait to sightsee in the evening when it’s cooler. After all, that’s when the action starts.

Fremont Street Experience

We stayed Downtown and got all the Fremont Street experience stuff. Our accommodation was just a block away from the Fremont Street Experience which is the only reason you need to be close to the area. The Mob Museum is also in this vicinity and not to be missed; unfortunately, it is not free but if you are a senior (65+yrs.) or a teacher, you get a good discount. We had planned to spend a couple hours looking around, but instead ended up staying almost the whole day. It had a very interesting history of how the mob helped Vegas grow into the destination it is today.

You can also walk to the other end of Fremont Street where you can check out the Container Park. This is on the lonely part of Fremont Street and towards the Las Vegas hostel. There are several motels on this part of the street, though I only met two people walking along during the day, perhaps because of the heat. Some travelers would not recommend staying far away from this part as it gets “dodgy” at night. There are buses so you can easily get to where you are going if you opt to stay on this part of the street. But the rates of some of the accommodations I checked out are not much cheaper than in the livelier part of the area.

The Venetian

From downtown, I bought an $8 bus ticket to the strip that was valid for 24 hours. The bus stops at the Mandalay Bay hotel so you can just walk up to the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign near the airport. To my surprise, it was full of tourists here,  lining up for their turn to have their picture taken – most of them from a tour bus. I walked from the billboard to the Stratosphere Tower before I decided to hop into the bus again back to downtown as there is not much to see between the Stratosphere and Downtown.

Downtown

There are so many classy and expensive restaurants on the Strip but you still can find cheap Asian and Mexican fast-foods in the area. (Cheap means a slice of pizza for about $8++.)There are plenty of Starbucks all over, too.

Drinks are really expensive in Vegas, plus, this is a place where tips are expected. So, if you are on a budget, both the Strip and Downtown have grocery stores where you can buy a beer for $2, and they will give you a cup, as you are allowed to walk with liquor in an open plastic container.

Otherwise, a cup of beer can easily cost $14 + tips at a bar. Another option is to gamble at a slot machine, where there are bar people going around offering drinks. The drink is free but you do have to give a tip — give at least $2, if you are losing and maybe more, if you are winning.

Red Rock Canyon