Las Vegas: The Strip on a Shoestring

With its high roller lifestyles and neon glitz, Las Vegas can quickly take you down to your last dime. But don't worry, you can still enjoy its hotels, restaurants and entertainment on a shoestring, starting with The Strip (aka Las Vegas Boulevard).

The recession hit local casinos hard, so they want your business. Haggle down room prices or get upgrades, and ask for 'comps' (freebies), 'funbooks'(voucher booklets) and discounts to get extra gambling credit, and free/reduced tickets for shows, drinks and meals. Many supply free bottles of spirits or sparkling wine on arrival too, or have cocktail happy hours. Avoid their room service and wi-fi charges - head to coffee shops to get online for nothing - and scan free local magazines for extra coupons. Free entertainment rules in Vegas. Dancing fountains outside the Bellagio play every half hour in the evening, but for something kitschier try the erupting volcano outside the Mirage, performance artists in Circus Circus, Elvis and Marilyn impersonators in Imperial Palace, pole dancing croupiers in Planet Hollywood or animatronic statues in the Forum Shops' fountains. Or just walk around The Venetian, Paris Las Vegas or Caesar's Palace gawping at the decor. The best views are from the top of the Stratosphere Tower at sunset. Don't get fleeced catching the main elevator to their funfair: ask staff to show you the other (free) elevator for the top floor cocktail lounge. Sip perfectly-mixed Manhattans or martinis, then take the lift and stairs a couple of floors to the viewing deck. If you're gambling, set an amount and stick to it, or play risk free at casino gambling lessons where they show you the rules of blackjack, poker and roulette. Play slowly, and enjoy the free waitress-service drinks (tip a dollar per drink to keep 'em coming). Enjoy deluxe dining for less with lunchtime and set menu meals, or fill up with quality buffet breakfasts and forget lunch (try Spice Market Buffet, the Bellagio, or Paris Las Vegas). Cheaper eats include 'Wichcraft deli and Fashion Show Mall diners. Want to catch a show after dinner? Buy same-day discounted tickets from Tix4Tonight. For big brand shopping bargains, catch the CAT shuttle bus to Las Vegas Premium Outlets at the top end of the Strip where they have everything from Calvin Klein to Levi's. Beauty fans should also head to Sephora in the Venetian for cult purchases and own-brand products. Finally, cheap souvenirs can be found all over town, my favourites being 1950s-style drinking glasses, ex-casino packs of cards and zany fridge magnets. Because what happens in Vegas doesn't have to stay in Vegas...