Knowing Which Way Your Cab Should Go


Taking a cab in Vegas is expensive but how do you make sure that it’s not too expensive?

Long-hauling – the illegal practice of a cab driver taking the long-route to boost a fare – is not unique to Vegas but it is an epidemic here. A 2013 audit by the state legislature found that passengers were overcharged an estimate of $15 million in 2012 and that nearly 1 in 4 cab rides from the airport to The Strip were fleeced for more money than they should have paid, turning what should be a $15 ride into a $50 one.

How do they get away with this? Simple… most Vegas visitors don’t know that they are being taken for a “ride” (so to speak) because they don’t know the ins and outs, highways and byways of the city. If you want to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of, you have to know the best way to get where you’re going and how much it should cost you.

If you’re coming from the airport and going to The Strip or Downtown, your cab should exit on Swenson Road going north. If you ever see the cab going south on the 215 bypass (you’ll know because you’ll go through a tunnel) you’re being long-hauled.

For the South Strip hotels like MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay, the cab should turn left on Tropicana Avenue. The 3-4 mile ride should cost you in the neighborhood of about $18-$20 before tip.

For Center Strip hotels like Caesars Palace or Bellagio, the cab should continue up Swenson, cut over to Paradise Road, and then turn left on Harmon Avenue or Flamingo Road. This is about a 4 mile ride and should cost you about $20-22 before tip.

For North Strip hotels like Wynn Las Vegas or The Stratosphere the cab should continue up Paradise to Sands Avenue or Sahara Avenue and then turn left. This 4-5 mile ride should cost you $22-25 before tip.

If you’re heading Downtown there are several routes that the cab could take including continuing on Paradise to Las Vegas Boulevard near The Stratosphere and then north to Fremont Street or, depending on the time of day, the cab could cut over to Interstate 15 via Tropicana and go into Downtown from there. The latter route is longer but may wind up being faster if street traffic is really bad. The trip is about 10 miles and should cost you about $30 before tip. Note that if you do take I-15, the driver should still not take the I-215 south out of the airport.

Note that all of these fares are subject to additional costs for “wait time.” If you are stuck in traffic and not moving, you get charged at a pro-rated cost of $32.40 per hour if the cab is moving less than 12 miles per hour for an extended period of time. So for instance, if you get stuck in a jam for 10 minutes, you’ll wind up with a $6 wait time addition to your fare (give or take).

Going from one place to another on The Strip is a little trickier to predict and depends a lot on when you are trying to go. If it is on a busy Friday or Saturday night, you may want to stay away from The Strip where bumper-to-bumper traffic can cost you a lot of those wait time penalties. Using Dean Martin Drive, Frank Sinatra Drive, Industrial Road, Koval Lane, and even Interstate 15, which all parallel The Strip but often have a lot less traffic, will be longer in terms of mileage but may get you there faster so it could all work out to be about the same fare-wise.

The best thing to do is to use an interactive map either online or on your smartphone to get the exact mileage via the shortest route between where you are and where you’re going, then do the math to figure out what your fare should be. When you get in the cab, tell the driver where you are going and what you expect the fare to be (say something like “I’m going to Mandalay Bay, so that should be about $20, right?”). That will put the driver on notice that you aren’t some hapless tourist who isn’t going to let someone scam them out of their hard earned money.

Except maybe in the casino.