Located in the most southeastern point of the United States, Florida is known for its warm climate and leisurely lifestyle. Across the country, Florida is recognized as a haven for retirees and people looking to escape the cold, which makes it a huge tourist destination, particularly for those who dwell in the central and northern parts of the country. Tourism makes up a large sector of the state economy, which is not surprising considering the presence of Walt Disney World and other major theme parks in the Orlando area.
Miami is also known for being a prominent tourist destination, particularly for young people who are looking to party. In Miami, an “anything goes” attitude pervades the warm air, and tourists and locals alike have been known to spend exorbitant amounts of time dancing at a South Beach pool party in a gold bikini, or hitting one of the massive clubs downtown. The local population of Florida represents a hodgepodge of influence from multiple heritages, including Native American, European American, African American, and Hispanic. This influence can be seen in both the architecture and the varied delectable cuisine. Florida’s ethnic diversity is also reflected in the variety of musical styles throughout the state from punk rock to salsa to southern rock.
Photo: Oliver Correa, The HiFi Cartel
- How do I get to Florida? How do I get around once I'm there?
- What do I need to know about money?
- Do I need a Visa?
- What is the climate like?
- What are business hours?
- What are some laws that I should be aware of?
- What are some local customs that I should be aware of?
- Anything else I need to know?
How do I get to Florida? How do I get around once I'm there?
Florida contains numerous international airports, including Orlando, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. These airports are serviced by most major airlines, including low-cost operators such as JetBlue or Southwest. It is also fairly simple and efficient to fly within Florida, as Continental, Delta, and US Airways offer commuter flights between all major cities.
It is possible to take the train to Florida, but in most cases, the cost advantage to doing so is negligible. Amtrak conducts service from both the east and west coasts, but the travel time is excruciatingly long ? service from New York City to Miami takes 26 hours, while service from Los Angeles to Miami takes 68 hours. You can also take Amtrak to get between cities, but with prices comparable to flying, there?s no real advantage to it.
If you are not planning on traveling between cities, renting a car is your best bet. Miami has a fairly extensive taxi system, but prices can be steep and availability at night and on weekends can be a problem. The public transportation system is useable, but not recommended for someone who is not familiar with the city, as it can be confusing and unreliable. Major highways in good condition connect the cities and towns, so cars are the most convenient mode of transportation within any area.
What do I need to know about money?
Most major American and international banks have a strong presence throughout Florida, therefore it is unlikely that you will have a problem finding an ATM when you require cash. Many places accept major credit cards.
Tipping is standard practice across America. In city restaurants, tipping 15% of the bill is the minimum expected, and high-end restaurants expect around 20%. Bartenders expect $1 per drink. Taxi drivers and hairdressers expect 10% to 15%. Skycaps at airports and porters at nice hotels expect $1 a bag or so.
Do I need a Visa?
Entry requirements for the United States continue to evolve as the country fine-tunes its national security guidelines. Everyone should double-check current visa and passport regulations before planning a trip. In general, the US Department of State is a good place to start if you are unsure of your status. Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can come to the United States without a visa if they meet certain requirements. All Visa Waiver Program travelers must present a machine-readable passport at the U.S. port of entry to enter the US without a visa; otherwise a U.S. visa is required. CLICK HERE for more information about the Visa Waiver Program with a list of participating countries.
Please note that all travelers eligible to visit the US under the Visa Waiver Program must now obtain approval before they travel through the US' Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is an online system run by the US government, determining the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the Visa Waiver Program, prior to setting out. Take a look at the ESTA website for more information.
What is the climate like?
Florida is generally warm, with variations from region to region through the seasons. Northern Florida is temperate, while South Florida (including Miami) is considered subtropical. Spring is warm throughout Florida, but also brings tropical showers. Summer is hot and humid throughout the state. This is also the peak of the hurricane season, which runs from June through November. Autumn is considered to be the best time to visit Florida, and other than the occasional hurricane, November is the driest month. Winter can get a bit chilly throughout the state, and downright cold in northern Florida. Cold streaks in southern Florida typically only last a few days at a time, and daytime temperatures quickly return to the 70?F range (20?C).
What are business hours?
Most stores and restaurants keep standard business hours that remain fairly uniform across the United States. General business hours are typically Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm. Malls usually stay open until around 9pm, Monday through Saturday. Liquor stores in Miami are allowed to stay open 24 hours a day. Some counties are not permitted to sell liquor on Sundays. Bars are usually open on Sundays, with the exception of a few small .
What are some laws that I should be aware of?
State law prohibits the sale of alcohol between the hours of 3am to 7am, unless the county chooses to change the operating hours. Laws concerning drinking in public vary from county to county. Drinking in public is permitted in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Key West.
What are some local customs that I should be aware of?
Florida is very relaxed, with a friendly and welcoming attitude. While the larger cities can be significantly different from the more rural or suburban areas, expect a warm sense of restfulness and calm to pervade the air ? there?s a reason why Florida is the number one destination for retirement.
Miami is known for its Latin influence, as there is a large immigrant population. This can be seen in the food, the music, the clothes, the accents, and the generally ?caliente? vibe throughout the city. Do not expect anything in Miami to be understated.
Anything else I need to know?
While Florida is, in general, a considerably calm and relaxed state, the city of Miami contains a certain level of crime, like any other major American city. Parts of downtown Miami are not particularly safe to wander if you are alone at night so make sure you know where you are headed.
Due to the presence of Walt Disney World and other parks, Orlando and its surrounding area is often brimming with children and large families. While there is surely adult entertainment to be had, if you are not interested in a certain level of family fun, Orlando probably is not the place for you.