Everyone’s idea of Miami is either based on a rap video or an episode of CSI: Miami, so understandably, a tourist’s notion of the Magic City is far too much based on legend than reality. Before you head to the Miami heat, make sure you breeze through these no-no’s to save yourself an awkward moment or two.
While you can’t blame tourists for falling for that Miami-life image, people don’t party here all the time—except for maybe the foreigners. Locals here work hard, and while they may “play hard” on the weekends, don’t expect your Miami friends to accompany you to every nightclub party during your stay.
Time is relative in Miami, so go with the flow. If you’re waiting for a friend or the bus, note that they’ll be at least 15 minutes later than scheduled. The upside is that you’ll never worry about being late.
Sunny skies 365 days a year means that potent rays radiate on your skin every day. Just one measly hour on the beach burns you to a crisp, and you can even get a tan on your stroll to a restaurant. Don’t forget to lather up in protection to avoid sun spots, sunburns, and especially melanoma.
No matter what, avoid the mosquito inferno that is the Everglades National Park in the summer. The swamps are insufferably humid; the air is too think to breathe, and your hair will experience a frizz like never before. Summer’s not even a pleasant time to experience Miami—temperatures vary from 100–105° Fahrenheit (37–40°C). You won’t be able to bear the heat on a walk along Ocean Drive or even explore the murals in Wynwood for you’ll be sweating the first minutes out. The best time to see Miami is in the winter anyway.
Don’t drive unless you have hawk-like reflexes. The city’s practically the real-life version of the game Crazy Taxi. Cars here jump multiple lanes without warning, take red lights and do their share of inexplicable law-breaking moves, such as randomly entering on the wrong side of the expressway. Opt for Uber instead, or use the public transportation system’s Metrorail, Metromover, bus or trolley. If you do venture out there, make sure you have car insurance.
Hurricanes may be the perfect time to catch decent waves in the normally calm waters of Miami Beach, but the city shuts down during these types of storms. Therefore, there are no rescue workers on duty to save your life if things go wrong. Whether the hurricane winds are a category one or five, it’s likely you could be injured in the most common way—by flying debris.
While on your bar-hopping spree in the graffiti-clad neighborhood of Wynwood, don’t forget to be mindful. It may be the trendy new spot to dine and party, but its borders are not the safest areas to wander at night or even park your car. If it looks deserted and quiet, just avoid it.
Contrary to popular belief, Miami Beach is not all there is to Miami and saying that will get a true Miamian angry. The beach is an island known for its party lifestyle and its tourism, and the mainland is where the Miami locals actually live and work (for the most part). Miami is a big city, covering a lot of ground with numerous pockets of neighborhoods to explore—which leads us to our next “Don’t.”
Miami’s brimming with charming neighborhoods worth your attention. From the historic Colonial-style suburb of Coral Gables to the tropical oasis that is Coconut Grove, each suburb has their own personality and points of interest to explore. And you can’t forget the vibrant Little Havana if you want a taste of the real Cuban culture.
Miami’s not New York City or Paris, so don’t expect to find monumental relics and Mona Lisa-type masterpieces at the galleries here. With the small exception of places like Vizcaya and the Pérez Art Museum Miami, you shouldn’t waste a ticket exploring Miami’s museums. Instead, prioritize a visit to beaches and natural landscapes because that’s what it’s famous for, after all.