If you have the idea that real people don't live in Las Vegas, guess again. They do, and there’s a great way to meet them while saving money at the same time.
Skip the crowds in a bustling hotel and rent a privately-owned room or an entire home from a Vegas resident through Airbnb. And, yes, there are plenty of real people in Vegas ready to host you for your visit.
Picking a Place
Log on to Airbnb.com to view hundreds of listings for Vegas alone. The available choices for early March 2019 ranged from a room with a private bath in a condo for $32 a night to a whole "resort-style condo" for $94 a night.
You can even get a shared room for about $18 a night. But if your last contact with Airbnb.com was in its early days when it was geared towards backpackers on a budget looking for a place to crash, you’ll be pleased at the wide range of accommodations now available.
Filters help narrow your search by type of accommodation, including a shared room, a private bedroom or an entire residence. You can narrow it down by price, and a map adjacent to the listings lets you choose by location.
At the details level, you can view photos and read descriptions and user reviews. The best hosts offer extremely detailed descriptions and plenty of photos. A checklist of amenities is attached, so you can make sure the place has wi-fi or that it’s handicapped-accessible.
A recently-added Superhost status designates hosts who have consistently high ratings.
Don’t Skip the Reviews
Regular Airbnb users are conscientious about leaving reviews after their stays. They often note details that a home’s owner might not have mentioned, like the distance to public transportation and how safe the neighborhood seems to be.
Reviewers can be savage. You will always get a warning if the place was dirty, the bed was hard or the host was surly.
All this information combined also gives you a sense of the place that is hard to put into words: Is it your kind of place? Some really are best suited to backpackers, professional couples, party animals or retirees.
How to Book
In order to book, you have to enroll as an Airbnb member.
Once you’re a member, you choose a listing and click on “Book.” Many listings offer an “Instant Book” option that directly leads the user through the payment process. Others require the user to request the booking in a message to the user. Once the reservation is confirmed and you finalize it, your payment goes to Airbnb via a major credit card or PayPal. It is forwarded to the owner, minus the service fee, about 24 hours after you check in.
What You Get
Most Airbnb rentals cost considerably less than a comparable hotel room. However, it means you’re staying in somebody else’s home. Whether the owner is home or you’re taking over the whole place, there are pluses and minuses.
Many of the minuses could have been taken care of by the host through a better listing description, or by the guest asking the right questions. Will you have kitchen rights? Does the host have a rooster who crows at every dawn? Best to find out before you book.
The following examples compare rooms in three Vegas hotels with Airbnb “entire home” rentals that offer similar amenities in nearby locations. We looked at a seven-night stay in a private suite listed at Travelocity.com or an “entire home” for two from April 1 to April 8, 2019 listed on Airbnb.com. These prices could change by the time you read this.
On (or Near) the Strip
HOTEL: Wynn Las Vegas
This luxurious 2,700-room hotel on the Strip has a distinctive contemporary style with beautiful furnishings and bright colors. You’ll find all the amenities: pools, restaurants, gym, spa, casino, a golf course and a fancy shopping arcade.
What you’ll pay: Deluxe room from about $616 or Salon Suite from $1,217.
AIRBNB: “Resort Style Condo One Block From Vegas Strip”
It’s not on the Strip but it’s only a block away. The building has two swimming pools and a Jacuzzi. The kitchen is fully stocked and the security is 24/7. Monica, the host, is a Superhost, and although this is a new listing, her other property on Airbnb gets top marks.
What you’ll pay: $85 per night, plus an $80 cleaning fee and an $87 service fee, totaling $761 for the seven-night stay.
The Resort Experience
HOTEL: Hilton Garden Inn Las Vegas Strip South
This 155-room property just south of the airport is appreciated for its quiet, in contrast to the busy hotels on the Strip. It has no casino, but it does have an exercise room, pool, business center and concierge desk. Guests can take the resort’s shuttle to the Strip.
What you’ll pay: Double rooms from $174 to about $236 per night.
AIRBNB: “Decorated Beautifully for Your Sin City Travel”
This place has two bedrooms and two baths, so our imaginary couple could invite a couple of imaginary friends along. It’s near the Strip but not within shouting distance. Host Eddie gets review points for his super-clean pad and excellent communication skills.
What you’ll pay: $63 per night, plus $68 service fee and $85 cleaning fee, total for seven nights is $594 (including an 11% discount for a weeklong stay).
For Outdoorsy Types
HOTEL: Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa
This 811-room resort sits at the gateway to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, with more than 30 miles of spectacular hiking trails. Downtown Vegas is less than 20 minutes away via free shuttle. The resort itself has its own casino and spa, nine restaurants and eight lounges and bars.
What you’ll pay: $583 per night for the VIP suite. Room prices started at $206 on booking sites.
AIRBNB: “Summerlin/Red Rock Guest house; guard gated area”
The headline says it all. This is a secluded one-bedroom guest house 20 minutes from the Strip. Only one review at this writing, but it’s positive.
What you’ll pay: $598 for a week, plus a $68 service fee and $40 cleaning fee (includes a 21% weekly price discount).
What's the Catch?
Saving money isn’t the only reason to consider Airbnb. Here are some pros and cons.
Personal Contact: Through Airbnb, you get to meet a local, who’ll likely be happy to recommend upcoming events and his or her favorite bars and restaurants and maybe will even hang out with you, if you want.
Less Flexibility: Many Airbnb hosts require a minimum stay of two or three nights. Cancellation fees are at the host's discretion, and can be steep. Check-in times must be negotiated, although many use lock boxes so that you can check yourself in.
No Business Center: Business travelers may require standard amenities which only a hotel can provide.
Stuff Happens: Airbnb has been around for a while now, and it has closed off as many opportunities for fraud and general craziness that it can identify and deal with. When you book an Airbnb you're not necessarily getting the flawless efficiency of a hotel chain, for better or worse.
The Bottom Line
Airbnb offers big savings on accommodations for visitors to Las Vegas. If you'd like to try something new, forget your preconceived notions of standard amenities and explore another way to stay.