Sunshine, sand, sea, a vibrant nightlife, and sultry Latin American flavour make Miami a unique and popular holiday destination in the US:
Miami, known as the Magic City, has long been the most popular holiday destination for 'winter refugees' who travel to the coastal city to escape the cold. It is also a top destination for party animals hankering for a hot and heavy nightlife. Shopaholics will relish exploring Miami's endless shopping venues, especially the city's pedestrian promenades. Miami's restaurants will also impress, whether dining on a budget or living the high life.
Visitors can explore the exciting neighbourhoods of the city itself, like Little Havana and the Art Deco district. An easy distance away are the surrounding Floridian beach resorts and the beautiful Everglades, an ecosystem unique to the region.
Best time to visit Miami
Traditionally, winter is the most popular time to travel to Miami. Summers tend to be uncomfortably hot and humid with heavy thunderstorms. Those on a budget will find accommodation prices more reasonable during the summer off-season though.
Most of Florida is GMT -5 (GMT -4 from March to November), but a small portion of northwest Florida is GMT -6 (GMT -5 from March to November).
Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. Plugs are mainly the type with two flat pins, though three-pin plugs (two flat parallel pins and a rounded pin) are also widely used. European appliances without dual-voltage capabilities will require an adapter.
English is the most common language spoken but Spanish is often heard in the south-western states.
There are no specific health risks associated with travel within the USA. Medical facilities are excellent, but expensive. Only emergencies are treated without prior payment and treatment can be refused without evidence of insurance or proof of funds. Good medical insurance is essential.
A 15 percent tip is expected by taxi drivers, bartenders, hairdressers and waiters, but don't tip in fast-food or self-service restaurants. In expensive restaurants or for large parties, tip 20 percent of the bill. It is normal to tip staff such as valets and porters in hotels; this is discretionary, although a minimum of $5 is expected. Most services are customarily tipped if the service is good.
Travel within the United States is generally trouble-free, however, travellers should be aware that the US shares with the rest of the world, an increased threat from terrorist incidents. Security has been heightened, particularly at airports. Restrictions on hand luggage apply and travellers are advised to check on the latest situation with airlines in advance. Travellers should also be alert to the dangers of car and street crime in cities and should use common sense and take basic precautions. Hurricanes are common between June and November, putting the southern USA, including the Gulf Coast and the eastern US at risk. There is a risk of wildfires in many dry areas in the US, particularly on the West Coast from March to November.
Laws vary from state to state, including speed limit, fines and punishment. The age at which you may legally buy and consume alcohol is 21 years.
With an endless supply of beaches, trendy shopping malls, and a variety of both cultural and historic sites, Miami offers a wealth of attractions.
Antique lovers should visit the Vizcaya Villa, built in the Italian Renaissance style in 1916, as well as the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere. A romantic attraction is the Coral Castle, which was hand-carved by a man as a homage to his unrequited love. Famous for its marine life, visitors to Miami's Seaquarium interact with all kinds of aquatic creatures. Also worth exploring is Jungle Island, which has an exciting array of wildlife, from parrots, to crocodiles and penguins.
At the Miami Science Museum, sightseers could run into a few aliens, as well as view collections of rare natural history specimens. Visit the South Miami-Dade Cultural Center for exemplary performances of music, theatre, and dance, and the Wolfsonian Museum to view a collection of art and design, depicting popular culture from 1885 to 1945.
Almost constant sightseeing is made possible by sunny skies and ample public transport, but avoid hurricane season (June to November) and the crowds of spring break in March. Travellers should save money and avoid queues with the Go Miami Card, to sightsee throughout the city.
Miami's cuisine has a unique flavour, being predominantly floribbean (a combination of Latin, American and Caribbean). Eateries include everything from steakhouses and cafés, to Italian, Oriental, and Middle Eastern restaurants. South Beach and Coconut Grove both have a thriving cafe society, and tourists will find plenty of sidewalk seating. Miami is well known for its seafood, so be sure to try a Stone Crab dish, a local delicacy.
The most common complaint about restaurants in Miami is that mid-range eateries are hard to come by. Food in Miami is either very cheap or very expensive. However, with new venues opening constantly, there is always something new to sample. Meals for under $10 are plentiful in Little Havana, while South Beach has a collection of high-end restaurants.
A fun way to dine out in Miami is by sampling the fare offered by food trucks. These mobile eateries offer excellent (and cheap) food; the challenge comes in figuring out where they are! A few of the most popular, including gastroPod Mobile Gourmet, Latin Burger and Taco, and Feverish Gourmet Pops have twitter accounts to keep hungry customers updated as to their locations.
Miami comes to life when the sun goes down. The South Beach streets pump with clubs and bars, and there's plenty of partying and live music in the Design District area. Downtown Miami hosts a few trendy venues, Coconut Grove being a particulalry popular party zone. With everything from cocktails and comedy shows, to lounges and nightclubs, one night in Miami would never be long enough.
Visitors to Miami might like to start their evening at one of the many cocktail bars, or perhaps the Dan Marino sports bar and restaurant. Visit Greater Miami for flamenco or cabaret shows, or even a drag show! There are also various comedy performances, including stand-up, sketch, and improvisational comedies.
Miami dance clubs and lounges tend to offer a sultry Latin beat, while nightclub music ranges from Afro-Cuban to rumba rap to indie rock to electro-pop. These clubs are widspread in downtown Miami and Little Havana, as well as west of the Bay area.
Greater Miami enjoys a subtropical climate that ensures plenty of sunshine all year round. Sun protection is advised, even when temperatures are moderated by cool ocean breezes. In summer (June to August), average high temperatures rise to around 90°F (32°C). Winters (December to February) are typical of the 'Sunshine State' with temperatures ranging between 60°F (16°C) and 75°F (24°C). Rainfall occurs mainly during summer and early autumn. Summer humidity levels are usually between 85 and 90 percent, making Miami one of the most humid cities in the US. Miami is genuinely a year-round destination; however, many travellers prefer to avoid the crowds over December and January, and the oppressive heat of July and August.
The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people differ hugely across the country. Miami has one of the largest and most prominent LGBTQ communities in the world. Miami has had a gay nightlife scene as early as the 1930s. Miami has a current status as a gay mecca that attracts more than 1 million LGBT visitors a year. The Miami area as a whole has been gay-friendly for decades and is one of the few places where the LGBTQ community has its own chamber of commerce, the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MDGLCC).
Details of vaccination recommendations and requirements are provided below.