Taxis in Las Vegas
Sample fares, How to not get ripped off, how much to tip, and more
Taxis in general
First, don’t expect to pay by credit card. Some accept cards, but some don’t, because the Taxicab Authority won’t let them. Go figure. If you want to pay by card, ask before getting in the cab whether that’s okay.
Know that you can’t hail taxis from the street! This isn’t New York. That’s why they’re passing you by. Taxis aren’t allowed to stop on the street and they don’t want to risk the ticket for doing so. Besides, there’s good reason for not stopping on the street — there’s no extra space on the sides of the Strip and stopping there would clog up traffic (and run the risk of the taxi getting rear-ended…possibly right when you’re trying to get in it). To get a taxi on the Strip, go to the nearest hotel and get in the taxi waiting line. If there’s a long line and a lot of traffic, walking or taking the bus could be faster. If you’re not on the Strip, you can hail a taxi on the street as long as there’s a parking lot or driveway they can turn into to pick you up.
Common problems are the cabbie “long-hauling you” (taking a longer route in order to jack up the fare), or steering you to some club you didn’t want to go to, because the cabbie gets a kickback from the club by taking you there. We’ll cover these in more detail later on.
If a cabbie is talking on a phone, I’ll ask them to stop while they’re responsible for my safety, and I recommend you do the same. Studies have shown that cellphone use is just as dangerous or worse as drunk driving – even if they’re headset phones.
You’re required to wear a seatbelt in a Vegas taxi, though in reality few do. You can’t drink alcohol in the cab. (You used to be able to, but the law changed.)
Always jot down the cab number & company name when you get in. If you want to make a complaint to the company or the taxicab authority, it’s useless without a cab number. Also, if you leave something in the cab (like your phone or camera), having the cab # could help you get it back (though it’s not guaranteed — your item might be stolen by a subsequent passenger or even by a rogue cabbie).
All cabs are equipped with cameras by law, but the images are downloaded only in the case of crimes. Incidentally, I read one case where a cab company refused to let the customer see the video so they could find out who took the phone the customer accidentally left in a cab. (The company said it wasn’t their problem.)
Taxis from the airport
Taxis to most strip hotels from the airport cost about $16. It’s cheaper to take the bus, which I cover on the Transportation page. And during peak times taxis aren’t any faster, if you have to wait over an hour to get one. Anyway, here are the sample fares.
- ~$14 to Alexis Park, Excalibur, Hard Rock, Monte Carlo, NY NY, Planet Hollywood, Platinum, Signature, Terrible’s, Tropicana, Westin
- ~$16 to Aria, Bally’s, Bellagio, Encore, Four Seasons, Harrah’s, Hilton, Hooters, Imperial Palace, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Mandarin, Mirage, Paris, Venetian, Vdara, Wynn
- ~$18 to Caesar’s Palace, Circus Circus, Flamingo, Gold Coast, Palazzo, Rio, Riveria, Sahara, Treasure Island
- ~$20 to Palace Station, Palms, Silverton, Stratosphere
- ~$23 to Binion’s Horseshoe, Boulder Station, El Cortez, Fitzgerald’s, Four Queens, Fremont, Golden Gate, Golden Nugget, Main Street Station, Sam’s Town, South Point, Union Plaza, Vegas Club
- >$23: Cannery ($47), Fiesta Henderson ($35), Fiesta Rancho ($31), Green Valley Ranch ($27), Lake Las Vegas ($52), Red Rock Station ($43), Sun Coast ($42), Sunset Station ($27), Texas Station ($30)
Here’s the alphabetical list from the NV Taxicab Authority.
From the airport, many cabbies will try to take the tunnel because it’s longer and increases the fare. (They might say there’s a “big accident” or “construction” on the regular route.) Make sure to tell your cabbie not to take the tunnel.
Avoid getting long-hauled
Vegas cabbies are notorious for taking you the long way to jack up the fare. Of course they’re required to take the most direct route, but they’ll use a couple of tricks to get you to give them permission to take the longer way. The most common is to ask you, “Do you want to take the fastest way?”, because who wouldn’t want to get there faster? But the fastest route could be more expensive because it’s longer, and it might not even be faster, anyway. Another trick is to ask you something like, “Do you want to take the boulevard or Paradise Road?” Since a tourist probably doesn’t know the city well, they’ll likely answer, “Whatever you think is best.” That gives the cabbie the right to take you whatever route they want. And sometimes, cabbies will take you the long way anyway without getting your permission.
But long-hauling isn’t as terrible as it sounds. First, going the long way might actually get you to your destination faster, because the traffic on the Strip is often gridlocked. Second, the longer route could actually be cheaper, because when the Strip is gridlocked you would have been hit with waiting time charges. Finally, if you do get long-hauled, it’s unlikely to cost you more than $5 extra. So don’t obsess about long-hauling too much. There are worse things in life.
Before the economy tanked, it was easy to get mad at cabbies for long-hauling, but these days it’s not so simple. Some cab companies actually pressure their drivers to scam their passengers, or risk getting fired. (Here’s one cabbie’s complaint about that.) In a city with 14% unemployment, many otherwise honest folks are desperate to hold onto their jobs and may cave to the pressure. Many cabbies are honest people and are really stressed out that they have to choose between cheating their customers and putting food on the table. And even if the cabbies don’t get heat from their bosses, the temptation to cheat is still there, because these days cabbies aren’t making squat unless they docheat. It’s easy for a cabbie to go an hour or two with only one fare. So while I certainly don’t condone long-hauling customers, it’s not at the top of my list of complaints, given the unique nature of the economy. (Topping my list is driving dangerously.) Because of the pressure to long-haul in a bad economy, I abandoned my plan to take a bunch of trips from the airport, pretending to be a first-time tourist, and seeing what companies long-hauled me the most. Maybe I’ll revisit that idea once the economy improves.
So let’s talk about long-hauling from the airport to your hotel. If they take the tunnel, you got long-hauled. If you’re going to any Strip casino, make sure your cabbie takes Swenson or Paradise and then heads straight west to your hotel. (Swenson isn’t on our map, but it’s parallel to Paradise, just east of Paradise.) If you’re going downtown, taking the tunnel will increase the fare (because the route is longer), but because you’re taking the highway you’ll get there a lot faster. Your call. Wherever you’re going, check the sample fares above to see about how much your ride should cost. (Fares assume you don’t take the tunnel.)
Once you’re at your hotel and you want to go somewhere else, avoiding longhauling is tricky. First, if there’s tons of traffic on the strip, remember that going the long way could actually be cheaper because you probably won’t get hit with waiting time charges. And even if you don’t save any money by going the long way, you might save some time. The problem is that the cabbie may ask you whether you want to take the “faster” way every time, even when it’s not faster. It’s hard for you to know whether the long way is really faster or not. But here’s a rule of thumb: If your trip is more than two miles long (see our map) and it’s between 5pm-11pm weekdays or 1pm-midnight on the weekend, then the longer way could be faster. If you’re having a hard time making up your mind, ask, “How much time will it save and what will the total fare be?” You might not get the most accurate answer, but it’ll give you something to go on, and if the price seems like a decent rate then you should be happy with it even if it’s a couple of bucks more than the direct route. And of course, if the fare turns out to be higher than the cabbie suggested, you can tip (less) accordingly.
By the way, without too much traffic, you’ll pay about $9 to travel half the Strip, and $15 to go from one end to the other, or to go from mid-Strip to downtown.
Finally, don’t let the cabbie know it’s your first time in Vegas. Be suspicious if it’s the first thing they ask you. If they do ask, lie. If you’re riding in the front, and this wouldn’t embarrass you, you can also make sure the cabbie sees you writing down the cab number. That helps keep rogue cabbies honest.
Getting sold like cattle
Cabbies get kickbacks from clubs and restaurants by taking you there. So that’s why your cabbie might be insistent that he take you there. When I asked one cabbie to go to a certain restaurant, he actually said, “Oh, that place isn’t so good. We’ll go to this better restaurant I know instead.” He didn’t give me a choice, he just told me he was taking me there and started going that way. I had to insist on my original destination, and at the end I didn’t tip, and I let him know why. When you ask to go to a certain place, be aware that your cabbie might actually (falsely) tell you that it burned down or that it went out of business. If that happens, then look at the bright side: You’ll still get to your destination (because you’ll insist that you go there anyway), and when you see that it’s still in business, you’ll save money because you don’t have to tip.
The problem of steering customers to certain places is much more likely with topless bars, since those places can afford bigger kickbacks than restaurants can — often around $100. In fact, the strip clubs pay cabbies so much that sometimes cabbies even bribe their passengers, by offering them a free cab ride and a few bucks if they’ll go to some certain strip club. (Of course, if you want to go to a strip club and aren’t particular about which one you go to, you can milk this to your advantage. More on this from the Las Vegas Sun.) And because cabbies have more potential for the $100 kickback with male passengers than female passengers, cabbies often pass up women in favor of men, making it hard for women to get a cab. (An attorney did an experiment with hired actors and confirmed the problem. More from 8 News Now.)
Hotel doormen are in on this action, too. (These are the guys who provide the useless service of holding the door open for you as you get into the cab.) Before the taxi pulls up they’ll ask where you’re going, and if it’s a place that offers kickbacks they might pull you out of the taxi line and put you in a free limo, with the limo driver giving a kickback to the doorman, and the limo driver getting a bigger kickback from the club.
Here are some articles on the topic from the Las Vegas Sun, the LV Review-Journal, and the Portland Tribune.
Las Vegas taxi rates are the same for up to five people (though most taxis seat a maximum of four). So if you’ve got four people in your party, it will probably be cheaper than the bus or a shuttle.
Below are the current rates, as of October 2010. (And here’s a link to rates at the Taxicab Authority website in case my page gets outdated.)
- $3.30 to get in the cab
- $1.80 surcharge for airport dropoff or pickup
- $2.40 per mile (charged as $0.20 per 1/12th mile)
- $0.20 – waiting time fee, charged every 24 seconds when the cab is moving less than 8-12mph
See above for sample fares to and from the airport. Going along the Strip, you’ll pay about $9 to travel half the Strip, and $15 to go from one end to the other, or to go from mid-Strip to downtown. You’ll pay more when there’s lots of traffic because then you’ll get hit with the waiting fee.
How much to tip
I suggest at least 15%, rounded up to the next dollar. Note that you’re not tipping because of the great service you got, you tip because cabbies don’t make squat otherwise. Now, if your cabbie ran red lights or was otherwise reckless, or if your cabbie long-hauled you or tried to steer you, feel free to not tip and tell them why you’re not tipping. But as long as my driver wasn’t dangerous and took a direct route, I always tip even if the service was nothing special.
In Vegas, all cabbies make a percentage of the meter (often ~40%) This differs from most other places where the driver effectively rents the cab from the cab company, and is in the red at the start of every shift. In Vegas there’s no renting, the cabbies just get a cut of the meter. And that’s it — they don’t get any kind of hourly wage in addition. Cabbies also pay for some or all of the gas. So it’s tough for them when it’s slow and they manage only one trip every hour or two.
Incidentally, cabbies do pay taxes on their tips. In fact, the IRS assumes cabbies get a certain amount of tips, so cabbies pay taxes on those tips whether they actually receive them or not. One cabbie claims the IRS assumes cabbies get an average of 23% of the meter in tips (source), but I’m skeptical they’re taxed that highly.
Here’s one cabbie’s take on appropriate tipping.
Western Cab 702-736-8000 —– 1-499 Nellis 702-248-1111 —– 500-999 A-Cab 702-365-1900 —– 1000-1499 Star Cab 702-873-2000 —– 2000-2499 Lucky Cab 702-477-7555 —– 2500-2999 Yellow Cab 702-873-2000 —– 3000-3499 Checker Cab 702-873-8012 —– 3500-3999 Desert Cab 702-836-9102 —– 4000-4499 A-North Las Vegas (ANLV) 702-643-1041 —– 4500-4999 Whittlesea 702-384-6111 —– 5000-5599 Henderson 702-384-2322 —– 5600-5999 Vegas Western 702-736-6121 —– 6000-6499 Virgin Valley 702-737-1378 —– 7000-7499 Union Cab 702-736-8444 —– 7500-7999 Deluxe Cab 702-568-7700 —– 8000-8499
Here’s the current list from the Nevada Taxicab Authority.
Nevada Taxicab Authority
This government agency sets rates and regulates the taxi industry. Here’s their website. You can make complaints about cabbies there.
Note that your email address isn’t safe with them. I used a unique address for the complaint I made to them (I didn’t use that address for any other purpose), and after I sent my complaint about a reckless Vegas cabbie, the spam started coming in. It could have been a rogue employee selling addresses, but it also could be that their systems aren’t secure and spammers just stole the address. For whatever reason, I’m glad I used a disposable address when I wrote to them — and you should too.
Many Vegas cabbies have websites or blogs. Here’s a sample.
- Cabbie Chronicles. Andrew Funk’s blog. Of interest is his case about being convicted of picking up passengers on the street (which isn’t allowed in Vegas). He made a valiant and eloquent attempt to show that he didn’t violate the letter of the law, but was ultimately unsuccessful.
- Vegas Taxi Driver. Phil Staudt stopped driving in 2009, but he kept the site up, sharing info and stories about taxis and Vegas.
- Taxi Cab Confessions. This blog is nearly illiterate but it’s certainly the most entertaining, telling stories of prostitutes and celebrities and whatnot. Unfortunately it hasn’t been updated since 2006.
- Las Vegas Taxi Driver. An anonymous cabbie talks about the taxi industry and the city.