(note: anything I say about 5 day passes here, is also true for 30 day passes. Those are the only two options at Vendor sites)
One senior blog reader writes, asking how to do this. So, here goes:
I am going to assume that you already have a photo ID issued by the RTC, a photo ID from your local bus route at home, or a Medicare card. If not, then the BTC is your destination because you want to get your picture taken and get their ID. It takes about 15 minutes and is good for 5 years.
So with the ID already in your wallet, consult this list of vendors.
None are anywhere near the Gold Coast, but when talking about 5 day passes, there are no vendor's anywhere near the Gold Coast or anywhere near the strip. This is done on purpose to make it inconvenient for tourists to buy and use these inexpensive passes. The RTC would like tourist seniors to pay full fare and so offers no discounts that can be purchased on the Deuce or SDX routes. the 5 day passes are meant to serve the needs of locals, but there is no restriction on using them without local ID as long as you are willing to take the time to find a vendor.
So, one way to buy 5 day passes is to take the 109 out of the airport and stop at Maryland. One of these vendors, a Walgreen's, is near Flamingo and Maryland.
Near there too is
1300 E. Flamingo Rd.
5-Day & 30-Day
Full Fare/ Reduced Fare
Call first to make sure that they have passes. Sometimes the vendors are out of them.
At the airport hop on the 109 and from the driver ask for a senior one way ticket. This will cost seniors $1. Have correct change.
Get off at Maryland, find the Walgreen's or Albertson's and buy as many passes as you think you will need for the trip. Then board the 202 and go to the Gold Coast and you are set with all access 5 day passes good on both the residential routes like the 202 and on the Deuce or SDX. Be sure to only activate one pass in the first five days of your travels. Keep the other in a separate place for later activation. If for some reason you don't use that pass, as long as you don't activate it, you can use it when you come to Vegas the next time. In fact, it may be a good idea to buy an extra pass that you can activate when you hop on any bus at the airport on your next trip. You cannot buy these online and get the senior discount.
There are other vendors along Flamingo if you find the Vendor is out of 5 day passes. If you have a different location on Flamingo, the 24 hour pass from the 108 or the 109 bus driver at the airport will let you find your way along Flamingo. And this is really inconvenient right off the airplane, but it might happen. I suspect that the Maryland vendor will not run out very often. That Walgreen's downtown runs out most likely because it serves tourists so predicting pass sales is difficult.
The map on that RTC site is interactive, so if you see a location you think you like, click on it and it will give you the address, phone number, and whether they sell both 5 and 30 day or only 30 day passes.
If you feel you will be too tired to bother with all this the first day, or if you don't want to ride buses with luggage and will take one of the pay shuttles to the Gold Coast, there is a Walgreen's downtown and there is the BTC. Both places will sell a 5 day pass, but remember you have to get to those places from the Gold Coast and to do that by bus, you technically have to pay at least the $5 two hour full fare ( no senior discount) for a one way trip downtown on the Deuce or the SDX. Seniors do not get any discount when riding the strip buses if they buy passes in machines or from drivers along the strip.
If you are going downtown within the first 24 hours you are in Vegas, you can chance trying to use a 24 hour residential pass you bought from the 108 or 109 driver at the airport if you used one of those routes to get to the 202 from the airport and then to the Gold Coast.
This 24 hour residential pass is not like the 5 day pass. It is technically only good on the Deuce or the SDX if you have a local Nevada ID. However, I have never seen anyone asked for a local ID when showing the pass. The worst that would happen is you might be asked to get off the bus at the next stop and buy a $5 two hour pass; however, I am guessing that if you nicely told the inspector you just wanted to get to the BTC to buy a 5 day pass, s/he would let you go that far. If I already had a still valid 24 hour residential pass, I'd try this and hope any inspector would not care if I was a local resident or not, but just whether the date on my pass was current. If I got asked for a local ID, I would just play dumb. Don't board the SDX with an expired pass. If it has expired, it is no good, tourist or local. And that might get you fined.
If you decide to do this, catch the SDX in front of Paris because at least you will not have to swipe your pass as you board, and perhaps you won't have to show it at all because inspection of passes on the SDX is hit or miss.
Also, the SDX is the fastest way to get to the BTC or to the Walgreen's downtown.
If you intend to buy the 5 day from the Walgreen's downtown, again call ahead to see that they have not run out of passes. It is more likely that they will run out than it is that the Walgreen's on Flamingo and Maryland will run out, since the downtown Walgreen's is the only vendor of the 5 day passes that is anywhere close to normal tourist routes.
Technically, to go downtown from the Gold Coast, you would need a $5 two hour full pay ticket good on the Deuce of on the SDX.
Or you might pay the $7 for a 24 hour full fare all access pass right at the airport either in the machines or from the driver. Specify what you want. You might like that if for the first 24 hours you were going to hop around the strip area, and then you could use that to get downtown for the 5 day passes.
I got confused on one thing that Christine said at the BTC in November. She said that buying the 5 day pass at Walgreen's did not activate it, and she recommended I buy one for my next trip, so I could use it right off the airplane. However, I did not clarify if buying extra passes at the BTC would work the same way. I can't see why they would not, but it is worth asking that question because if they activate upon selling them at the BTC, (rather than in a machine before we board the SDX or on the Deuce as we board,) we don't want to buy two or more for future use.
This is a good system for some people.
An alternative might sound crazy, but I might do it.
Suppose you are at the Gold Coast, ready to buy a 5 day pass, and don't have any residential pass to get you downtown.
I might get on the 202 and buy a 24 hour residential pass ($2 for seniors with RTC ID or Medicare card.) and ride it for 45 minutes to Sam's Town on Boulder. I might poke around that casino or the Eastside Cannery and then hop on one of the new Boulder buses to get downtown. The HDX is the fastest but you have to walk to Flamingo and Boulder to get it. It stops at Sahara and then goes downtown. The BHX is slower as it stops all along boulder Highway, but if you want to see Boulder Station or Arizona Charlies, this is the bus to take.
All these buses, unlike Deuce and SDX, are residential buses with the senior discount. Buying the pass from the driver on the 202 is advised because the machines on the HDX or the BHX buses (no driver to talk to) are a bit tricky and if directions are not followed perfectly will take your money and not give you a pass.
It only saves $3, but if those places are in your itinerary, well ..... it saves $3.
One of the things to consider when buying a 5 day pass is when to buy and use it to get maximum benefit from it. If you are a planner and have worked out which days you will be in one area or another, then you can plan your 5 day purchases around that plan. If you experience Vegas in more of a serendipitous manner, then working out when and where to buy one or more gets more complicated and the inconvenience of the purchase accomplishes what the RTC intends.
I go for 15 to 23 days, and lately I am focused on sleeping downtown even though I play poker on the strip, so I just get a 30 day pass at the BTC or Walgreen's, after I hit downtown on the WAX. For $31 I am set for each trip and I don't have to think about passes as long as I don't lose that 30 day pass.
I liked that system very much on my last trip. I kept the single pass in one place and just used it anytime I wanted a bus. Most trips in Vegas I get lost in timelessness and often don't know what day it is, so having one pass and nothing more to think about worked great for me.
If you are going to take a bus from the airport to the Gold Coast and you just happen to see the WAX come up when you are at the airport, you can take it to Tropicana and then take the SDX from in front of MGM and then take the 202 from in front of Caesar's. Three buses might be a bit much. But it might not be any longer than 108 or 109 to 202. One advantage is that you are closer to tourists when at bus stops. I don't expect any problems out Flamingo at bus stops, especially at Maryland, but those stops close to the strip don't attract as many weird characters. If you decide to do this, buy an all access pass for $7 and you can use it to get downtown to buy your 5 day pass anytime in the next 24 hours.
Also, there is a way to use the vending machines at the SSTT which is at the South end of many bus routes, a transfer station like the BTC but with no live people working there.
I have not done this, but this indicates they sell the 5 day passes there in the vending machines.
These machines will offer a menu that includes the senior discount.
This discussion of buses includes a description of getting passes at the SSTT.
scroll down to the post by Teacher 1
A $1 ticket on the 109 going South would get you there in seven minutes, and from there with a 5 day pass in hand, you could take the SDX with your new 5 day pass to Flamingo and then the 202 to Gold Coast. But I have not done this and I don't know for certain that the vending machines there sell 5 day passes. I'll see if I can find out.
Again this is three buses, but it keeps you close to tourists and probably does not hold you up too much. The longest wait will always be for the 202. I like to wait closer to the strip when I am with luggage.
While the Gold Coast is not as easy to get to as downtown from the airport by bus, once you are there with a bus pass, it is a great location. The free shuttle that runs from The Gold Coast to the Orleans and then to the strip can be linked with the 202 Flamingo and the 201 Tropicana for great strip flexibility. I usually end up going to some show in the V theater and being able to hop on a shuttle to the Orleans and then the 201 to the strip at Tropicana saves me all that crazy Deuce overcrowding.
Also, at Tropicana about every hour we can catch the WAX bus to downtown, or ride up to the Tropicana on that bus. It saves a lot of traffic and time as long as we pay attention to the schedule and don't wait at the bus stop for too long.
Also, you are staying at the Rio and they have some good free shuttles to various strip locations as well.
They go to Harrah's so that is yet another strip location easily accessed from the Gold Coast area. Here are some shuttles. You might note that from Harrah's you can go to Sam's Town, so it is possible to get from the Rio to Sam's Town for free and then from Sam's Town to downtown for free. This would save any bus fare and put you downtown near Walgreen's. Here is a good site for the free shuttles. However, these run only at certain times, so you have to do some planning to use them efficiently.
If you take the 202 from the Rio, use the stop across from the Palms, just as you did when you were riding from the Gold Coast. It seems counter intuitive to head away from your destination, but if you exit the Rio and turn left, expecting to find the next bus stop, you will walk all the way to the strip before you find it. The Rio is not a city bus friendly casino. There is a bus stop right in front where you will be dropped by the 202, but the Rio entrances require a long walk one way or the other to get back in the casino. Check this out before you are coming back in the dark so you know where you are going when the bus drops you off. At the Gold Coast the 202 drops right at the parking lot.
Okay, lots of choices. All of them good from a frugal standpoint.
Hope this was helpful.