Grand Canyon wasn’t on my bucket list because I never imagined to be anywhere near Las Vegas or Arizona, until Fox Life Asia sent me and Mary there last month. There are different sides, or rims, to the Grand Canyon that can be visited depending on one’s itinerary, interest and location.
The most popular is the South Rim tour, but the Sky Walk is located in the West rim tour, which is only 2 hours from Vegas. The thing is, you can’t use your own phone or camera while in the Sky Walk. The fee is not too far from the South Rim since I found a deal online at $82.37 per person.
The North Rim is the highest elevation, and is only accessible until October 15. Lastly, the East Rim where the famous Horseshoe Bend is located. To help you decide which tour to choose, visit this link. Of course, there are also fancier ways to visit Grand Canyon – there’s a chopper ride, you can ride a zip line, rent an ATV, or water raft down the Colorado River, which is responsible for the carving of Grand Canyon due to erosion through millions of years.
From Las Vegas, it takes about 4 hours one way to get to Mathers’ Point, and about 600 miles round trip from the strip. I scouted for the most affordable package since this is from our own, and should I say, shallow pocket. Some were at $65 but won’t pick us up from the hotel and didn’t include lunch.
The perfect match of all-in and cost-effective tour obviously happens to be from Las Vegas Grand Canyon Tour Company, which I bought online a few days before we flew in, for $85 including snacks, buffet lunch, a supposed WiFi connection (which wasn’t working and it was totally fine for us), entrance fees excluding tip to the driver.
For anyone traveling to the US for the first time, tipping is customary and it’s usually ranging from 15-20% where services are involved – tour, massage, restaurant, salon, even for cabs. This means for meals that Mary and I ate that averaged $40, about $5-8 is expected, but sometimes we gave only $3 (oops sorry, budget travelers here).
We got picked up at Planet Hollywood, where we were checked in, and brought to the main terminal to show them our voucher, get a sticker, get assigned a bus, and get our free snacks – pie, tea, water, coffee.
It was also awesome to have crossed the border from Nevada to Arizona on the bridge below, though that didn’t make us feel any different, just amazing and also the closest view we got to a part of Colorado River.
We stopped for a buffet lunch in Williams, Arizona at around 11am and made it to Mather Point before 2pm. We also briefly passed by the historic Route 66, is considered such because it spans the entire United States mainland from Los Angeles in the west coast to Chicago in the east coast. My best friend Jons and I also saw part of Route 66 2 years ago when we went to Missouri.
Grand Canyon is home to different tribes Yavapai, Hualapai, Havasupai, Southern Paiute, Hopi, Zuni, Navajo and Apache.
There are a lot of trails you could use when you’re there, and if you drove yourself to South Rim it would be best to spend a night at one of the lodges. I heard sunrise also displays spectacular hues that no camera can do justice to. We witnessed sunset (which was early for us at 4pm) at Bright Angel’s Point just before we left for Vegas.
It was especially windy that day, which made it really cold, plus the air was too thin to breathe. The view, however, will inspire you to walk some more and avoid the crowd. Remember not to go too far if you’re in a group tour because the driver is pretty much on time when leaves one point.
We went to Bright Angel’s Point, where log cabins have been built since the 1930’s, as well as souvenir shops and a store that sells tasteful home made ice cream and other snacks.
Wait for sunset while at Bright Angel’s, although you will be tempted to stay inside the visitors’ center if it’s cold. Watch out for raccoons, squirrels, bighorn sheep and coyotes. Get your fridge magnets there, some trinkets and shirts if you must.
On the way back, dinner or light snacks can be bought from a Carl’s Jr. burger joint. At the end of the day, you would have seen, experienced and lived a day in one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here are some tips and what to bring:
CHARGER / POWER BANK – there are outlets in the bus so you can charge either using the USB, or directly to the power outlet.
ADJUSTABLE TRIPOD – to ensure you’re part of the photos and videos, use a tripod instead of a selfie stick. Get one with a Bluetooth remote, and adjustable legs so you can lower the tripod if it’s too windy, and extend it for a better grasp of the background. If you’re taking a time lapse to capture the movement of the clouds and how the colors change, a tripod will also come in handy.
HOODIE, MUFFLER, GLOVES – if you’re visiting anytime between November to February, these are a must.
MOISTURIZER, LIP BALM, ETC – due to low humidity, wind burn and chopped lips are not uncommon, especially for those of us who are not used to the cold.
DO NOT LITTER – I don’t think I have to explain why, but a hefty fine should also make you follow the rules.
RESPECT THE CULTURE – Some tribes treat Grand Canyon as a sacred place – do not disrespect, vandalize, nor attempt to get a leaf from a tree, feed the wildlife you encounter, etc
BE ON TIME – even if the driver ends up waiting for you, remember that there are 60 other tourists with you who paid the same amount to maximize the allotted time, which you are “stealing away” from them by extending the time where it’s unnecessary.
So when you’re anywhere near South Rim, don’t forget to include this in your itinerary. You won’t regret it. The next blog will be focused on tips when traveling to Las Vegas for the first time.