Shock horror – I just used the words “Miami” and “Budget” in the same sentence. I know, these two terms could not be more worlds apart, but the truth is, visiting Miami on a budget can be done. It takes planning, research and no you cannot stay at a 5-star resort on South Beach!
But it can be done, and you can most definitely enjoy yourself too!
First things first:
How are you getting to Miami?
If you live in a nearby state and can drive, then you probably have this covered. But if you’re flying to Florida from elsewhere, flights can be expensive.
Lucky for you, you have two airport choices (I know, pretty amazing right?!)
- Miami International Aiport; or
- Fort Lauderdale Airport
Technically Fort Lauderdale is not actually in Miami. But it’s close enough to save you $$ when visiting Miami (and can serve as a great side trip!)
I’d suggest a quick check of Google Flights to see which flight is more expensive. Make sure you take into account transport costs – depending on the time of day, an Uber trip between these cities could cost up to $40.
A car is a must if you are planning on exploring surrounding Miami and the Everglades. Using this to your advantage, you could drive yourself to the airport on one or both legs to save on transport costs.
If you’re from a country where you drive on the left side of the road, driving in the US can pose its challenges. This said, a car in Miami is a must, and it can be harder (and more expensive) to travel without one.
Where are you staying?
Accommodation can be one of the most if not the most expensive part of your visit to Miami.
And how expensive you go, depends on your priorities and whether you’re planning on having a car with you during your time in Miami.
Firstly, you should avoid hotels in South Beach unless you want to spend big.
These are where the most expensive hotels in Miami are. If you’re not careful, you will also end up spending more on parking (this can be between $20 – 30 per day), and daily resort fees in addition to your hotel rate.
So… where should you stay?
If you want to be in the thick of things in South Beach (think Art Deco buildings and the famous South Beach), then an AirBnB apartment in South Beach (walking distance from Ocean Drive) is a good choice. Make sure you also check if parking is included in your rate.
Or, if you’d rather save money (because let’s face it, even AirBnBs can be expensive!) you can stay elsewhere in Miami. If you do this, be prepared to shell out for a Uber or drive and pay for parking if you’d like to visit South Beach.
Other areas worth exploring include Downtown Miami, Key Biscayne (which is a beachy area and a lot more quiet than South Beach) or Coconut Grove.
Where you ultimately stay depends on what sort of holiday you’d like.
If you’re planning on visiting the Florida Keys in addition to Miami, you’ll probably want to stay closer to South Beach when you’re in Miami. If you’d like a relaxing beach holiday, Coconut Grove or Key Biscayne are good options.
Where you stay depends on your priorities and the type of holiday you’d like in Miami.
If you like food, it can be expensive in Miami
It’s so hard.
Life is a struggle when food is your number one priority.
Lucky for you, Miami is a melting pot of cultures and can make for some pretty exciting food experiences.
What does this mean?
If you’re planning on visiting Miami on a budget, you don’t have to spend big on food to enjoy yourself. Granted, there are some mouth-watering food options if you have the dough $$. But you won’t miss out if you’re on a budget either! You’re probably thinking – “girl, just get on with it”.
So, whatever you do, don’t eat on Ocean Drive
You will be tempted.
It’ll be hot. You probably spent your morning on the beach.
The people out the front of the restaurants will be waving at you, and they look so friendly!
You will pay an arm and a leg for a meal on Ocean Drive.
And you will regret it.
Just don’t do it.
Now, let’s get on with the real info…
As I mentioned before, Miami is a melting pot of cultures. This not only makes for great food but also cheaper food options. From mouth watering tacos to Cuban sandwiches, opting for ethnic food options will not only satisfy your inner foodie but also be kind to your wallet.
Make sure you stay away from the food hell that is South Beach. If you need to eat in the area, opt for restaurants that are well away from Ocean Drive.
But what about everyday costs? Like entry fees?
This is the great part about Miami. It’s not like Orlando or LA or London.
The thing I loved the most about visiting was that you don’t need to pay entry for every single activity you do. The best things to do in Miami are free. Or super cheap.
Perfect for those of us who are planning on visiting Miami on a budget, right?!
So here are my recommendations for activities in Miami for budget travellers:
1. Relax on South Beach
I know, kind of cliche.
But for a reason.
South Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world, and a stone throw away from the famous Ocean Drive. It’s worth spending a morning or afternoon here. Lucky for us mere mortals, you can do this all with zero impact to your wallet. If you get bored, you can even go for a wander and check out the Art Deco life guard stands.
2. Check out Art Deco buildings on Ocean Drive
Firstly, are you standing on the pavement closest to all the restaurants on Ocean Drive?
Cross the road.
You want to be on the side of Ocean Drive that is closest to the beach.
It’s hard to enjoy the architecture of this street if you’re busy fending off the overly friendly people who want you to eat at their restaurant. Plus, you get a better view of the architecture.
3. Street Art at Wynwood Walls
If you haven’t heard of Wynwood Walls, you need to put them at the TOP of your list.
The area has cute boutique stores, hip cafes and the coolest street art. If you follow Google Maps, you’ll find yourself at the “official” Wynwood Walls, but in reality, the surrounding streets and area have just as cool, if not better street art.
And the cost of visiting?
The most you’ll pay is for car parking (if you end up driving here). Surrounding streets have paid parking (free parking spots are essentially non-existent), but for only $1.50 per hour, it’s a small price to pay to spend a few hours here! Make sure to check out my Miami Travel Guide for more info about how parking works in Miami.
4. Visit Little Havana
I’m going to be super upfront about this (because if we can’t be honest about Little Havana, what can we be honest about??)
Little Havana is worth a visit, but if you’re expecting a “little” version of the real Havana, you are going to be super disappointed.
The area still has remnants of its Cuban immigrant heritage but has a gloss of tourism about it.
Even though Little Havana is more touristy these days, a visit is still worth the effort. The area has some great food options and will help visitors understand Miami’s immigrant history.
5. Visit a Museum
You heard that right. Beautiful, beachy, sunny Miami has museums.
I know – you’re probably like “what is this girl on about?”
“I came to Miami for the beaches!”
Sure if you’re not a museum person, you’ll probably want to give these a pass, but if you like art – Miami is almost like heaven.
If you’re in South Beach, it’s worth checking out the Wolfsonian Museum. Entry for adults is $10 and only $5 for students who have an ID. If you plan your visit in advance, you can even get free admission on a Friday evening (6 PM – 9 PM).
Another museum worth checking out is Miami’s Perez Art Museum. A bit more popular (and slightly more expensive!) this museum has a wide range of contemporary art exhibits. There’s also a restaurant (delicious but pricey $$) and an outdoor hanging garden, perfect for those Instagram Lovers out there. Entry is $16 for adults and $12 for students who have an ID. If you visit on the 2nd Saturday of the month or Thursdays (10 AM – 9 PM), you can even get free admission!
Despite its reputation as a glossy, expensive city, visiting Miami on a budget can be done.
When you visit, don’t let the barricade of costs stop you from exploring this vibrant and colourful city. And most importantly, have fun while you’re there!
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