I moved to the Las Vegas valley in April, 2012 and since that time have learned a lot about my adopted region. If you’re considering a move to this wacky part of the world, here are some helpful tips from an insider:
1. If you move here without a job lined up and don’t plan to get a job as a bartender or cocktail waitress, then plan on your search taking a couple months. White collar jobs, in particular, are scarce and hard to come by. And Craigslist is not a good place to job hunt in this town, as it’s teeming with shysters. Use Indeed.com or better yet, ask around. This is a small city and everyone knows someone. As a musician, I secured my first job here the old fashioned way: I noticed a sign up in a guitar shop, inquired within and voila!
2. You will absolutely have to have a car to live here. Wide open spaces and huge boulevards abound. Not to mention 120 temperatures. And crazy people.
3. Car insurance laws in the state of Nevada are ridic, VERY strict and the state takes them seriously! If you go without insurance, even for ONE DAY, you’ll be penalized and fined, as this is closely monitored by the DMV. I learned this the hard way. Don’t be me!
4. It’s going to get very hot, over 100 degrees, but it is a famous “dry heat,” and is bearable in the shade. Except when it gets around 110 or more. Then you’ll hate everyone and want to die.
5. Driving in Vegas is SCARY. There are drunks and aimless tourists, oftentimes, one and the same. I’ve lived all over the U.S. and the U.K. and never before had I experienced a wrong-way driver coming full speed at me. Incredibly, this has happened to me now not just once but FOUR times. You have to be on your guard when you drive around here.
6. Technically, prostitution is illegal in Clark County, home to Vegas and Henderson. But that is a law everyone, including cops, clearly ignore. You will see streetwalkers galore. They will be the scantily clad, skinny young things teetering on heels, not carrying a purse. (I find their purselessness fascinating, and wonder if that isn’t supposed to be some kind of code that signals they are very low maintenance? I don’t know and don’t know that I care to investigate deeply!)
7. Monsoons. When it rains, it seriously pours, so that our streets flood instantly. The first time I was caught in a flooded area I was stunned. I had walked out from a store to my car in the parking lot. It had only just started raining and within minutes, there were rivers and pools, deep enough to be dangerous, to float a car. You’ll need to plan your day accordingly when rain’s in the forecast or you’ll wind up on some YouTube video, that person on the roof of their car getting air-lifted from high water. Don’t be that person.
8. Gambling is taken seriously here! And it’s ubiquitous. You can gamble at the gas station or at drug stores like CVS, as well as casinos. Speaking of which…
9. There are the BIG casinos of the Strip, your Caesars, your Bellagio and then there are “locals” casinos. These can be tiny, strip mall joints or larger (yet still modest in comparison to Strip casinos) such as the Stations Casino chain. These are the places locals go to gamble to get sweet deals and to avoid the chaos of the Strip.
10. Everyone knows this is the desert but many people, especially tourists, are taken aback at how cold it can get in winter. It can and does, snow here. We’re at an elevation of 2000 feet, but fret not, for the snow is always light and fleeting. It’s amusing to see a pack of bewildered tourists, shivering on a street corner, in their shorts and tshirts when the thermometer reads 40 degrees. Don’t be those tourists.
11. Nature abounds! And is my favorite thing about living here. Pick a direction, drive a short distance and you’re either in the mountains, up 8000 feet at Mount Charleston or you’re in Red Rock Canyon or Lake Mead National Recreational Area. But a hidden gem, and my absolute favorite place in Vegas, is the Clark County wetlands and nature preserve, 3000 acres of flora and fauna, of hiking trails, ponds and even roaring rapids! It’s an oasis within the city limits, found adjacent to Sam Boyd stadium, home of the occasional soccer riot.
12. Rent is cheap but utilities and food are not. Vegas is a kind of desert island, meaning food and goods are schlepped in from far away and electricity and water are precious resources. I recently paid my electricity bill for my modest-sized condo and for two summer months, it was $234! Ouch!
13. Vegas is still working at shedding its old image of kitsch and gangsters and tacky everything. Hence the arrival of chic, hipster-friendly hang outs such as the Downtown Container Park and the Linq (featuring the Holy Roller ferris wheel and the Brooklyn Bowl). I love these places, which would feel right at home in Santa Monica or any forward-thinking, progressive city. More of these kinds of places are in the works, as the current King of Vegas, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, is the young visionary at the helm of revitalizing downtown. More of this, please, thanks.
14. Lastly, know that if you move to Vegas, you will be living in a world class entertainment capital. Music, movies, restaurants, comedy, whatever your poison, is available here 24/7. Why, you might even catch yours truly performing some night, singing my brand of gentle and oft-times humorous folk-pop. Please do drop by!