In America, the car is king. Las Vegas lies just off the mythical, scenic Route 66 and you’re missing out on half a vacation if you don’t venture beyond the glitz and glamour of downtown. Some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States lies just outside the city gates.
Death Valley National Park, Zion National Park and the Joshua Tree National park are all under travelguidebook three hours’ drive from Las Vegas and the legendary Grand Canyon is only five hours away. The natural beauty of these canyons and deserts couldn’t provide a greater balance to the flashy excitement of the poker tables. Even if you haven’t got that kind of time, you can sample similar marvels nearby, such as at Red Rock Canyon, with a 13-mile scenic drive and miles of hiking trails.
Driving around the city of Las Vegas is made easy by its grid-pattern layout, with Las Vegas Boulevard running north to south. There is little street parking, but the many hotels and casinos offer free or valet parking. It is customary to tip the valet around $2, still the cheapest parking in any urban center in America.
In America, all traffic drives on the right-hand side. Most traffic law varies state to state, however, so you’ll need to become familiar with the basics of each state you’ll be passing through. Some of the key regulations in Nevada are: you can turn right at a red light (unless otherwise posted), after stopping; every passenger in a car must wear a seat belt; and you must stop for a school bus that is stopped with flashing lights.
American police take ‘driving under the influence’ (of alcohol) very seriously. The maximum legal alcohol to blood ratio for drivers 21 and over in Nevada is 0.08% and random breath checks can be imposed. It is illegal even to drive with an open container of alcohol in the car.
Renting a car in Las Vegas is simplicity itself. You can get a quotation and reserve a car online even before you leave and in fact it is cheaper if you do. Most companies have a minimum age of 21, charging more for drivers under 25. National driving licenses are usually acceptable, but it is advisable to check first to see whether an international driving permit (IDP) is required.
Daily rental charges start at around $50 per day, or much less if renting for longer periods. Surcharges (local taxes and other fees) can add a further third of the cost on top, not to mention various insurances and other extras, such as child seats, GPS/SatNav and return refueling.
The economic downturn has hit tourism hard and there are plenty of special offers, such as upgrades or extra days’ rental, to be had. Search the websites or even try a little counter-side negotiation. You may find that your credit card policy automatically offers some rental car insurance, which can also lower your outlay.
For car rental Las Vegas offers many options. Hertz and Avis are the bigger agencies, with Alamo, Enterprise and Budget their economy counterparts. You will find all of these at McCarran airport or in Las Vegas itself and on the web. You can rent a tiny Smart car, a luxury limo or Chevrolet Corvette convertible and everything in between. Most agencies also offer green cars, such as the Toyota Prius Hybrid. It couldn’t be easier to see America, so get behind the wheel and hit the open road.
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