If you're based on the Strip and plan on venturing no further, then taxis and public transport will serve your needs, although car hire is inexpensive. The 270-mile drive from LA across the desert takes around four to five hours.
McCarran International Airport (www.mccarran.com) is less than 10 minutes from the southern end of the Strip. Only Virgin Atlantic (www.virgin-atlantic.com) and the all-business-class airline Maxjet (www.maxjet.com) fly direct from London; BMI (www.flybmi.com) flies direct from Manchester. Internal flights from LA take about an hour.
There are no main train lines connecting Las Vegas to other cities, but Greyhound buses provide links with Amtrak stations. The Las Vegas Monorail (www.lvmonorail.com) connects up the city, running along Paradise Road behind the Strip between the MGM Grand and Bally's.
Country code for the United States: 1; Las Vegas: 702.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson; The Valkyries by Paul Coelho.
Do go / Don't Go
With 300 days of sunshine a year and only six inches of rain, you'd be pretty unlucky to get a bad day in Vegas (this is a desert, after all). In the height of summer, the temperatures can get unbearable, but then you do have climate-controlled casinos that you never have to leave.
Vegas may appear to lack the subtlety and refinement necessary for fine cuisine, but don't be fooled; the city is home to some of the world's best restaurants. Famous chefs from around the world have set up their subsidiaries here, and you can get any style of cuisine you fancy at any time of day. This is also the realm of the bargain-priced all-you-can-eat buffets, which cynics would say are designed to take your mind off the money you lose gambling.
Don't hail a cab off the Strip; just go to any hotel entrance and the attendants there will summon one up for you. The taxi attendant will need a dollar or two as a tip. Apparently the taxi attendant at the Bellagio earns a six-figure salary from tips alone. The Strip is only about four miles long, so it's often quicker to walk when the traffic's bad.
Around 20 per cent is standard; check whether it has been added automatically to your restaurant bill. In casinos, you should tip the dealer around $5 an hour; you should give your cocktail waitress a buck for every drink or two as well.
Money - as much as you can afford to lose. Lots of smart/casual clothes - Las Vegas is surprisingly fussy about dress codes and many of the better restaurants and bars have no-trainers policies.
Elvis and Sinatra may be gone, but the entertainment here is incredible and ever-changing; each of the big casinos attracts international stars to add to their roster of resident shows. At the moment, Cirque du Soleil (www.cirquedusoleil.com) produces four shows every night at different hotels. Vegas also has a burgeoning gallery scene in the downtown area; galleries stay open late and street displays are organised on the first Friday of each month (www.firstfriday-lasvegas.org). For a taste of Las Vegas' past glories, try the Neon Museum (www.neonmuseum.org) on the corner of Fremont and 4th.
In the unlikely event that you haven't had enough glitz, sequins and high-camp costumes, check out the Liberace Museum (www.liberace.org) on East Tropicana Avenue at Spencer for some kitsch glamour with bells (and jewelled capes and candelabra) on.
The casinos know that when their guests aren't spending money at the blackjack table they may well be tempted by some rather irresistible retail options. Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, Mandalay Place at Mandalay Bay, and Wynn Esplanade at Wynn Las Vegas should keep even the most dedicated fashionista busy; at the Wynn Esplanade there are luxury goods from sports cars to sparklers. There's also the Fashion Show mall (www.thefashionshow.com) on Las Vegas Boulevard South, with department-store concessions including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy's.
The Stratosphere hotel tower on Las Vegas Boulevard South is 1,149 feet high and its observation deck offers the best views in town. This being Vegas, it also has a revolving restaurant, double-decker elevators (the fastest in the US) and the world's highest rides, too, suitably monikered with names like 'Insanity' and 'X-Scream'. The views from the 64th-floor Mix Lounge at Mandalay Bay are also spectacular; for the best vantage point, arrive shortly after it opens at 17h.
Every 30 minutes during the day, and every 15 minutes from 8pm-12am you can watch the fountain display at the Bellagio hotel. The choreographed display uses 1,200 water cannon to fire jets up to 70 metres into the air; it's amazing. Every 90 minutes in the evening outside TI (Treasure Island), two pirate galleons do battle. Many casinos will introduce you to the art of gambling with free table-game lessons (ask the promotions desk); if you're a gaming virgin, these informal sessions are instructive. Mandalay Bay offers free poker lessons Mondays to Thursdays at 2pm.
Las Vegas always seems to be hosting some major event; hotels can get booked up early, so check what's on before you go. March The NASCAR Nextel Cup at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (www.nascar.com). Mid-March Monster trucks rampage at the Monster Jam World Finals (www.ushra.com). June-August The World Series of Poker sees serious players arrive in town for a high-stakes poker tournament (www.worldseriesofpoker.com). Mid-August You may wish to warp away from the annual Star Trek Convention at the Hilton. September The Las Vegas International Mariachi Festival brings Mexican-style music and a fiesta mood. October The Balloon Classic on the third weekend of the month sees some 100 colourful orbs hovering above the desert. Early December Tickets for the National Finals Rodeo (www.nfr-rodeo.com) are very, very hard to get.