The Miami airport has some of the highest airport security measures in a nation with very strict international guidelines. Your trip will be smoother, and your waits for passing security gates made shorter if you have all your travel documents in order. Completing the ESTA form for your cell phone is the quickest way to pass security clearance. It’s a long flight, with long waiting lines, so prepare your family and yourself well by dressing comfortably and bringing along reading material or hand-held games.
It’s best to take a taxi to your hotel if you’re new to Miami, especially if you have a lot of luggage. Airport personnel will advise you that only you are responsible for the things you carry with you and will urge you to keep a close watch on your possessions. Once you are in the Miami streets, you’ll need to double up on your watchfulness.
Some areas of Miami have a high crime rate. Competing gangs rove through the streets. There are homicides, burglaries, theft and assorted violent acts. The tourist designated areas of Miami Beach are perfectly safe, as well as downtown Miami, but be cautious about areas you know nothing about and do not seem to attract a lot of tourism.
There are plenty of places to party in Miami, but the evenings are when you should be the most cautious. Taxis are usually preferred by first time visitors to rental cars. Not only is it difficult to find parking spaces, but the space you find might be in an undesirable neighbourhood.
Don’t make it obvious you’re a tourist. Behave as though you know where you’re going, even if you’re momentarily lost. If you have to check a map or your GPS finder, do it discreetly. Stick with a group whenever you can, don’t wear flashy or expensive accessories and keep your valuables well stashed.
Considering Miami is a prime vacation spot, with a huge International crowd, it’s not difficult to find a safe area for enjoying your holiday. North Beach, Miami, is the most child-friendly location, with amusement parks, nature parks and an ancient Spanish monastery. The most interesting Art Deco architecture is there and an assortment of modestly priced restaurants and hotels.
South Beach is a cat of two different colours. By day, it’s family oriented, by night it’s a hotspot for entertainment. The glitz, the sparkle, the celebrities and stars of their own show stimulate the evening night life with modern music, dancing and wine.
Little Havana is a wonderful place to go for experiencing Cuban culture without flying in to Cuba. Established by the Cuban migrations during the 1960's, it was voted by the community of tourists as the fourth most important place to visit in Miami.
Miami residents are a generally laid back people. They are casual in their dress and manners, but are defensive toward perceived aggression. If you are driving, beware of road rage. This can occur when a driver cuts another one off at an intersection, when one driver speeds by another or anything else the angry driver views as poor manners. To make sure you’re not an accidental target of road rage, remember to drive on the right hand side of the road and have your destination clearly planned out. You can use the 511system to receive all traffic updates on all Florida interstates, toll roads and other major roads, as well as free phone transfers to other local agencies. If you do encounter problems while driving, dial 911.
Parties last all night in Miami, but local parties can get rowdy, depending on the neighbourhood. If you are visiting a local bar or tavern, you may wish to leave early, as once those morning hours start rolling around, things can get bawdy.
Brush up on your Spanish. Over sixty percent of Miami residents are Spanish speaking or know Spanish as a second language. You’ll find the English vocabulary often spiced with Spanish phrases or Spanish expressions.
Wear thongs or sandals on the beach, even if you’re just walking a short distance. The sand is hot, especially during the dry months, and your feet will burn easily. Keep your walking shoes light and comfortable for a similar reason. If your shoes are warm at all, your feet could blister after a long day of shopping and sight-seeing.
Obviously, the first thing on your agenda will be to make sure you have plenty of loose, light clothing. You’ll also want to carry along your swimsuit. No matter what time of year you visit Miami, there will probably be opportunities for sun-bathing and swimming. While you’re at it, make sure you have plenty of sun-block. The blast effects from the sun are serious. If you are planning to visit the Everglades or the national parks, you will also need mosquito repellent. Both items are easily available in Miami, so if you need room in your suitcase, you can pick them up on arrival.
Your cell phone is your best friend. You can sail through customs easier by completing your ESTA form, and download applications for travel guidance and service providers. Keep your cell phone with you at all times, or safely guarded while you are swimming.
Leave your most expensive jewellery behind, along with your favourite watch or other memorable decorative items. Carry only items that won’t cause you grief to part with; although there is much of the rich and glamorous in Miami, it also has a large poor-to-middle-class population. An ostentatious show of wealth is a temptation to the poorer working classes.
A laptop is a valuable tool, and you’ll be thankful more than once that you brought one, but restrict the number of electronic instruments you carry for your holiday. Cameras, laptops and tablets should be kept to a minimum, and secured safely in your bags when not in use. Lock your bags whenever you leave the hotel.
Miami is a unique experience. It’s a cross-road for the Northern American and Latin American culture. It’s lively and youthful in a state with the lowest percentage of a youthful population. It has the traditional texture of southern colonialism, the heritage of Native American culture and an energetic Caribbean flavour.