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Why Is Las Vegas So Expensive To Visit? (The Truth!)

Las Vegas is one of the top vacation spots in the world and has more entertainment options than you can shake a stick at. But if you’ve done any research on hotels, restaurants and attractions in Las Vegas lately, you may be wondering why it’s become such an expensive place to visit?

Las Vegas has become more expensive because it used to make most of its money from gambling, and prices on hotels, food, and attractions were kept artificially low to bring in more visitors. Today, Las Vegas attracts a lot of non-gaming tourists, and because of this, the prices for everything else had to rise to continue to make a profit.

In this article, you’ll find out just how expensive Las Vegas is for tourists these days. Also, I’ll show you a historical comparison of the prices over the years, as well as a brief analysis of why the prices are so high today, and where you can still find deals. So, keep reading to find out more!

Expensive Las Vegas

Las Vegas Used to Be Cheap To Visit

Las Vegas used to be cheap. What happened?

Twenty years ago, Las Vegas was considered to be a relatively cheap tourist destination. It was almost exclusively a gambling town where people would come to enjoy themselves for the weekend and these visitors would blow a lot of money in the casinos. Everything else in Las Vegas was kept inexpensive to make it an attractive destination.

While the town did offer some luxurious accommodations and entertainment, the real reason someone vacationed in Las Vegas was for the gambling. This was before Native American casinos started springing up all over the country. If you wanted to gamble, there were only a couple of places to go and Las Vegas was always the top choice.

Rise of the Las Vegas Resort

Because gaming was such a money maker, prices for hotel rooms, food, and entertainment were kept low to attract the most visitors possible.

This is the profit model that Las Vegas was built on, but something happened in 1989 that changed Vegas completely. Legendary casino operator Steve Wynn opened The Mirage, Las Vegas’s first true resort property.

The Mirage was built around a totally new premise. The resort hosted not only an impressive casino but was also home to shows, restaurants, spas, shops, and attractions. The idea was that you could come stay at The Mirage for a weekend or longer and never have to leave the property. Everything you could possibly want was available on-site!

The Mirage was wildly popular and other casino operators started incorporating a lot of the same things into their properties as well. This started to bring an entirely new demographic of tourists to Las Vegas that weren’t interested, or at least weren’t primarily interested, in gambling.

Las Vegas was slowly transformed into a resort destination and the real-estate market boomed. Hotels started losing money offering rooms a rock bottom prices. Gambling didn’t plummet, but the hospitality business sure did. This lasted for some years before things finally changed in 2007.

Why Is Everything In Vegas So Expensive?

Las Vegas was completely “transformed” in 2007, from a middle-class gambling town to a luxurious oasis. It became the ultimate resort experience. As the profit model changed, the prices – naturally – went up.

The change in focus was the result of a decision to transform Las Vegas into a haven for high-class guests. The hotels continuously added more amenities but also upped their prices significantly, becoming less and less affordable for budget minded guests.

In addition, a lot of celebrity chefs started opening restaurants in Vegas. These restaurants were elitist, and had the high prices to match. All of this upgraded Vegas’ total luxury experience, but also closed it off more for budget minded guests and many middle-class guests as well.

The logic is simple, though – the wealthier the guest, the more you will earn. Wealthy guests have to pay much more, and if the rooms/restaurants are still filling up at the higher prices, there’s no incentive for anyone to lower the price.

And this is how it remains today. It’s not that Las Vegas has completely closed its doors for less wealthy people, but the availability of low-cost accommodations and entertainment has dropped significantly. What you used to get for $10 in the early days, now costs three or four times more.

Analyzing The Prices in Las Vegas

While prices overall have definitely gone up, you can still visit Las Vegas regardless on a budget. To give you an idea of cost, let’s take a closer look at today’s prices in some common Las Vegas categories.

Vegas Hote Prices

Hotels in Las Vegas can really run the gamut. You’ll find everything from low nightly rate hotels, to the most luxurious accommodations found anywhere on the planet! Everything depends on how much money you’re willing to spend.

At the lower end, you can find hotel rates as low as $20 per night, but don’t expect anything fancy. Such hotels offer old-school rooms with minimal furniture and no extra amenities. You can find these hotels in various spots around town but you’re unlikely to find anything close to this price on the Las Vegas Strip.

Important Note: In Las Vegas the advertised room rate often has a daily resort fee tacked on top of it. So oftentimes you can find a sale rate at a decent hotel that seems too good to be true, but just know that there will be a $20 – $45 daily fee added on top of that. This total is the actual nightly cost of the room. Check out our article: Las Vegas Resort Fees By Hotel for the full scoop on resort rates.

On the complete other end of the spectrum you can find luxurious suites and penthouses that cost more than $25,000 per night! These tend to be reserved for high rollers and celebrities but if you can afford it, why not!

If that price scared you, no need to worry. Las Vegas might be getting more expensive but you can still find a really nice hotel room for much less than that! An average price per night for a nice to great room is typically somewhere between $75 – $300 including the resort fee.

To make things easy, you can check out our recommendations for the best hotels on the Las Vegas Strip for every budget.

Check out some of the most expensive hotel rooms in Las Vegas!

Food Costs in Las Vegas

Food pretty much works the same way in Las Vegas. There are plenty of cheap fast-food joints or buffets where you can get a warm meal for around $10 but if you want anything fancy, don’t expect to spend less than $50 per person.

The top restaurants have upped their prices and there are a lot of elite, celebrity-run restaurants whose prices can go as high as $75 and up per person for just one meal. Luckily, there is a lot to choose from, but if you haven’t been to Vegas in twenty years, don’t expect the same prices.

Find out what it costs to eat at Hell’s Kitchen Las Vegas, one of the most popular celebrity chef restaurants, in our article here.

Cost of Drinks in Las Vegas

The alcohol is also pretty expensive and definitely more expensive than it used to be.

We often have friends come into town for conventions. After spending a few days paying Strip prices for drinks ($10 and up beers anyone?) we take them to one of our favorite places just off the Strip (Ellis Island Casino & Brewery) for happy hour where the large beers are a much more reasonable $3.65.

You can still get free drinks at the casinos if you’re gambling. Find out how that works in our article here. Otherwise, you can expect some pretty spendy drinks.

Price of Las Vegas Shows

As far as the activities and entertainment go, the shows in Vegas aren’t cheap and neither are the tourist attractions. Las Vegas shows are great and you probably won’t see anything like it anywhere else, but they can get quite expensive.

The good thing is that they’re definitely worth price and you shouldn’t avoid the shows just to save money. Everything else? Sure, but definitely not the shows. Check out some of the top shows in Las Vegas and discount prices on our website.

Cost of Vegas Attractions

Las Vegas also offers a lot of different attractions, with an average price per person being $20-30, which is relatively reasonable. Here is a list of some of the top the attractions and their prices.

Bellagio FountainsFREEThe Rollercoaster at New York, New York$19
Bodies: The Exhibit$28Big Shot at the StratosphereFrom $25
CSI: The Experience$32Helicopter Strip flightFrom $80
High Roller$21Cowabunga Canyon$44.99
Madame Tussauds$35Escape RoomsFrom $32
Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat$22Gondola rides at The Venetian$36
Mandalay Bay Shark Reef$20Slotzilla Zip LineFrom $20
Titanic Exhibition$27Fremont Street ExperienceFree
Eiffel Tower ExperienceFrom $17The Neon Museum$19
Marvel Avengers Station Interactive Exhibit$29Bellagio ConservatoryFree
Mob Museum$30KISS: By Monster Mini-Golf$19
AdventureDome at Circus Circus$31.95 all day passThe Aquarium at the Silverton HotelFree
Top Attractions in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Gaming

Finally, we can talk about gambling. Gambling is about the only thing in Las Vegas that didn’t become more expensive because you really can’t raise the price on gambling.

A substantial part of Vegas’ revenues continues to come from middle-class guests playing in the casinos. Even with regional casinos now being more easily available throughout the country, there’s still no place quite like Las Vegas when it comes to trying your luck!

Total Costs For a Vegas Vacation (Budget, Moderate & Luxury)

Based on all the numbers, I’ve managed to come up with a rough estimate of the total costs in Las Vegas for a 3-day trip for an adult couple. There are three categories you can choose from, depending on how much you’re planning on spending:

CategoryWhat You’ll GetCost
BudgetInexpensive hotel on or near the Strip, cheap food, and free or minimal shows and attractions$600
ModerateModerate hotel, a visit or two to a higher-end restaurant or buffet, and a couple of more expensive attractions and shows.$1,200
Luxury5-star hotel or suite, regular high-class restaurant dining, and a majority of the attractions and shows available.$3,500
How expensive is Vegas?

Why Is Las Vegas So Expensive To Visit – Conclusion

In the early days, Vegas was a cheap place to visit, regardless of your budget. Today, the number of amenities and attractions has definitely increased, but so have the prices.

With Vegas offering so many more things to do and experience besides gambling it’s no wonder the prices have increased somewhat.

Having said that there are still plenty of ways to enjoy a relatively inexpensive trip to Las Vegas. You can check some of our related articles below for ways to save money in Las Vegas.

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