With taco stands neon-lit and cocktail rooftops overlooking dive backyard bars, it can be tough to find your way in the city. Art Deco boutiques sit among grey skyscrapers, and it can be difficult to adjust at first.
We’ve gathered some street-savvy recommendations to help you navigate Miami like a local so you don’t have to suffer through Ocean Drive’s tourist traps, uncomfortable social situations, or even a caffeine-induced heart attack. Here are all the things you need to know about moving to this colorful, diverse metropolis.
Miamians take their beach etiquette seriously
Miami’s beaches are world-famous, and rightfully so. But before you enjoy the sun and waves, there are a few rules that locals expect everyone to follow.
If you are planning to go to a nude beach, remember that they are few and far between- so make sure it is an designated nudist beach before you strip down. Secondly, be courteous of other people’s space on the sand. Miami beaches provide plenty of room for everyone to find their own perfect spot without encroaching on others’ relaxation time. Third, it is against the law to consume alcohol in public areas in Miami. This includes the beach, so don’t even think about drinking just one beer. Finally, the following is self-evident: leaving litter behind is not acceptable and will not go unnoticed by Miami’s beach-going citizens.
That cute-looking coffee? It’s stronger than it looks
A huge proportion of Miami’s population, 52% to be exact, has Cuban heritage. What does this mean for you? Well, if dancing to live salsa music, sipping on ice-cold mojitos or devouring a delicious pork-filled Cuban sandwich or crispy medianoche croqueta sounds appealing to you (andtrust me, it will), then great news – these are all compulsory parts of the Miami experience.
But in case that wasn’t enough to get your mouth watering, Cuba’s biggest gift to Miami is undoubtedly the famed cafecito coffee. This tiny Cuban espresso – served black and with a little sugar – may seem harmless, but it lacks in size and makes up for it with caffeine punch. It’s most commonly found in ventanitas in Little Havana, although you’ll find it almost everywhere in Miami these days, so be careful how much you drink and approach things carefully.
For greetings, you’ll need to pucker up
Miami’s Latin roots result in a handshake introduction being uncommon. Instead of a handshake, Miamians will often offer (not just their friends, but also complete strangers) a kiss on the cheek (sometimes two).This greeting is customary in Europe (where it has been done for centuries in Spain, Italy and Eastern Europe), and Latin America probably got it from the
Europeans during the 16th century colonial conquest. If you don’t do this kind of thing where you come from, just go with the flow when somebody does it to you here and try not to stick anybody in the stomach with a misplaced handshake gesture.
At night, dress to impress
At night, less is more: a modest (ideally neon) bikini and some flip-flops will work in South Beach, whereas a cute playsuit and sandals are usually the choice in Downtown or Wynwood. However, when the sun set, it was quite another matter..If you want to go clubbing in Miami, note that neither men nor women can enter most clubs if they’re wearing jeans or sneakers (shorts and tank tops are usually verboten as well). Fake eyelashes, six-inch heels and glittery revealing dresses are always encouraged, but again, keep within the boundaries of nightlife’s dress code.
The Miami party doesn’t start till late
Miami is a late-night city. Whether it’s because Miamians take three hours to get ready or they’re still playing beach volleyball till sunset, most people don’t sit down to eat before 9pm, at the earliest. As a result, the fun will never start before midnight (in fact, 1am is probably a better bet if you want an entire club on arrival). If you come before 11 PM, don’t be alarmed if it’s just you and the DJ kicking it. Clubs here play Top 100 and Latin tunes all night until daybreak, so if you DO actually make it to last call at a bar or club, we recommend taking things slow. To have an authentic Miami experience, start your evening by catching some sunset drinks on a rooftop bar; treat yourself to a luxurious three-hour dinner; even take a nap between courses if you want.
No matter what though, remember this: the night is always young in Miami.
Don’t eat on Ocean Drive
Ocean Drive is the place to be if you’re looking for powdery beaches and people watching. However, it’s the wrong location to select when it comes time to eat or drink out. Not only are Ocean Drive restaurants pricey, but the culinary choices and quality (predominantly fast-food options like pizza and burgers and watered-down alcoholic beverages) aren’t anything special.
While there are several restaurants to choose from along Miami Beach’s utopian street, the eateries here are mostly aimed at enticing unassuming vacationers rather than offering a taste of Miami’s rich cultural cuisine. Instead, instead of eating in one of those tourist traps like Wynwood, Little Havana, Brickell, or Downtown, grab some grub and then get out!
Public transportation in Miami? It’s there, but it’s tricky
Although Miami has the biggest transit system in Florida, it’s not easy or practical to use. The buses are air-conditioned and clean, but they run slowly on busy routes and often fall behind schedule. Another option is the Miami Trolley, which is free but only operates in some parts of the city.
Lastly, there’s Metromover and Metrorail, though these options are even more limited than the trolley.The most popular method of transportation is Uber or Freebee, a free shuttle service (which earns money from advertisements on vehicle windows, albeit gratuities are expected) that covers Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, Downtown, Brickell and Wynwood. Both are available on Android and iPhone platforms.
Cross the road at your own risk
Miami is well-known for its traffic, but it is equally recognized for its fast residents. You should expect that everyone inside a car in Miami is in a hurry, whether you’re walking or driving. Even if the pedestrian is at a crossing and has the right of way, Miamians are frequently irritated by having to stop for him.
Heed these words of advice: Anytime you’re about to cross a road in the city, thoroughly check both sides for oncoming traffic (even if you have the right of way). If you’re driving, don’t be surprised or offended if someone honks at you or cuts you off–it’s just their way of maintaining the flow of fast-paced traffic.