Miami is a modern American city, whose main attractions are its nearby magnificent beaches (Miami Beach, South Beach). In addition, people come to Miami to go shopping in one of the big shopping malls. The city has a vibrant nightlife with many bars, restaurants and nightclubs, where the Latin-American influence can be felt clearly. The Art Deco Historic Museum in Miami Beach is famous for its Art Deco architecture.
The city itself has almost 400,000 inhabitants, but the large urban area of which it is a part (Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach) has a population of 5.5 million. The population is very multicultural: two thirds of the people of Miami have their roots in Latin America or the Caribbean. Spanish is the city's second language.
Miami is located in the south-east of the United States, in the south of the state of Florida. The city is situated on the Atlantic Ocean and it is the centre of a large urban area along the coast that includes Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. This urban area is about 100 kilometres long. To the south of Miami lies the National Park 'The Everglades', an extensive swamp area. To the west of the city there are also swamps. Off the coast there are little islands. On the largest of those islands, Miami Beach is located. Because of its location, Miami (and the rest of Florida) is often hit by hurricanes during the 'hurricane season' (June-November).
The city is the commercial and financial centre of Florida. In downtown Miami there are many international banking institutions. Furthermore, large companies have their Latin America regional offices in Miami. The city's port is important to the trade with the same Latin America. In addition, it receives many cruise ships. With 18 million passengers a year, it is the world's largest port for cruise ships. Tourism therefore plays a vital role in the local economy. People come to visit Miami especially to go to its beaches. The beaches, incidentally, are not part of Miami. Miami Beach, for example, is a separate municipality.
The city's main airport is Miami International Airport, with many connections to cities in the United States, Central and South America and Europe. The airport is located to the east of the city and it easy to reach via the SR 112 (Airport Expressway). To the north of Miami (35 km) lies Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. This airport is used primarily for regional flights and it is also popular among budget airlines (Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue), because its landing rights are much cheaper than Miami Airport.
Miami has an extensive public transport network. There are many bus lines (Metrobus) that service all the areas in the city and in the urban area. The buses are often faced, like cars, with traffic congestion. Near the larger bus terminals at the edge of the city there are P+R areas. Miami beach can only be reached by bus, although work is underway on a lightrail connection between downtown Miami and South Beach.
Metrorail consists of only one line, and to visitors to Miami it is only of interest for the connection between downtown Miami and Dadeland Mall. Work is underway on an extension to Metrorail, including a connection to the airport.
To travel within the centre of Miami, the Metromover is a convenient (and free!) way to move around. It is a kind of tram with 20 stops and it is downtown Miami's most efficient mode of transportation.
Traffic and Parking
Generally speaking, Americans have a calm way of driving. However, in and near Miami, the Latin American school of driving tends to prevail. Especially youngsters have a way of wanting to prove their manhood by driving at reckless speed. The road system is easy to fathom, the larger highways are numbered: even numbers usually run from east to west, odd numbers from north to south. Make sure you are in the right lane for a certain exit. You are allowed to overtake other cars on both sides. Furthermore, you are allowed to make a right turn when the traffic light is red, unless indicated otherwise ('No Turn on Red').
In residential areas, the speed limit is 30 miles per hour (mph), on through roads it is 55 mph, and on Interstate Highways 70 mph.
There are parking meters in Miami and at the popular beaches, but make sure you study the indications carefully. Many parking meters are intended for residents with 'Resident Permits'. If you do not have such a permit, your car will certainly be towed away. The Miami Parking Authority has a ruthless reputation!
Avoid problems and park your car in one of the many car parks, which are clearly indicated. An entire day of parking will cost between $8 and $10. A parking fine is much more costly, not to mention the costs involved in having your car towed away.
In the centre of Miami and near the popular beaches, there is an enormous supply of hotels. Hotels in Miami Beach are quite expensive, but as an alternative there are also many bed & breakfast accommodations. In the city centre there are a few 4 star hotels and one 5 star hotel. In Miami Beach there is another 5 star hotel. Miami and its surrounding area are a popular holiday destination, so make sure to book your hotel room in advance.
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