The two main airports in South Florida are Miami International Airport (MIA) and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). Forty-nine domestic and international airlines fly in and out of MIA. As the main gateway between the U.S. and Latin America, it’s one of the busiest airports in the country. Avis, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Thrifty rental car counters are available on the premises (Budget is a shuttle ride away), as are taxis, or you can catch an Airport Shuttle to your hotel or other destination; however, if you share the Shuttle with other passengers, you may find yourself in transit for hours as others are dropped off before you. MIA is located about 8 miles outside of Downtown Miami and 10 miles from South Beach. Fort Lauderdale Airport is smaller in size and less chaotic, but the drive to Miami is approximately 25 miles; with traffic, drive time could be 45 minutes or longer.
The Amtrak Union Station is located at 8303 N.W. 37th Ave. in Hialeah (800-872-7245) and sits on the southern end of two popular long distance trains, the Palmetto and Silver Service trains (the Silver Meteor and the Silver Star), which run daily from New York City to Miami. The duration of the trip is 28 hours or more. Business class service, which includes complimentary beverages (non-alcoholic), newspapers and audio entertainment, is available. Fares depend on which station you’re leaving from, age of passenger, etc. so check the website at www.amtrak.com
or call 800-USA-RAIL for information and details.
If you’re staying on South Beach and don’t plan to venture off the island much, taxis are an inexpensive choice of Miami transportation when it’s not convenient to get to your destination on foot. In the city, however, traffic tie-ups can mean costly delays if you’re in a cab. Central Cab (305-532-5555) charges flat fees to and from most popular destinations, with no per passenger or baggage charges; otherwise, it’s $2.50 when the meter starts and $2.40 per mile thereafter.
If you rent a car, purchase a map of the city. Miami is laid out as a numbered grid, so with a map and basic mathematical skills you should be able to navigate the streets fairly easily. Interstate 95 is the main expressway running north and south near the ocean, and Interstate 75 runs east and west; the Florida Turnpike, which is often the best choice traffic-wise, is a toll road. Watch signs carefully and stay off your phone while you’re at the wheel, particularly if you aren’t familiar with the territory. Remember that many Miamians are also not natives and are equally unfamiliar with American traffic conventions; negotiating traffic safely can be an adventure more akin to driving in Rome or Paris than New York. Parking at or near most attractions, restaurants and shopping destinations is usually as simple as paying a lot fee, using a municipal garage or handing the keys to a valet.
Tri-Rail is the commuter rail line that extends 72 miles from Miami (a station near the airport) to Mangonia Park just north of West Palm Beach, with stations in between in Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and other cities. Trains run every half-hour during rush hours and every hour at mid-day on weekdays, with single one-way fares ranging from $2.50 to $6.90. On weekends and holidays, an all-day unlimited-use ticket is $5. For more information, visit www.tri-rail.com
Miami-Dade County Transit offers commuter bus service throughout Miami and, recently, between Broward County (Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood) and Downtown Miami. The standard one-way fare for most routes is $2; bus-to-bus transfers are free unless you are doing bus-to-express bus or bus-to-rail transfers, which cost $0.35 and $0.50, respectively. A more convenient way to ride is with the EASY Card, which allows you to load a 1-day, 7-day or 1-month pass with up to $150; when you board the bus, you just tap the card on the fare box to pay. A list of routes can be found on the website at www.miamidade.gov