Money & costs
Miami’s economy relies heavily on tourism, but its position as gateway to Latin America has given it powerhouse status as an international business city. More than 150 multinational companies have operations in Miami, including Burger King, Carnival Cruise Lines, and Citizen Savings Financial; and at least 100 have their Latin American headquarters here, from Johnson & Johnson to the Gap. The city is also establishing itself as an international banking center –more than 40 international banks call it home. But leading the way today is the business of development, causing investors and builders to jump for joy.
While the growth of the national economy is at its weakest in many years, Miami’s economy is booming. And that could mean high prices for the traveler. It’s still possible to experience Miami on about $90 a day – $60 for a room in a hostel, $20 on a combo of diner and take-out food with the rest spent on drinks and/or transport – but the reality is that you will be tempted to spend quite a bit more to truly enjoy your time here. Depending on the location and the time of year, a nice hotel room is going to cost you at least $120, with popular South Beach midrange haunts going for closer to $170 to $250. On the high end of the spectrum, expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $1000 a night. Then there’s food. The preponderance of ethnic cuisines, delis and diners means that it is possible to find dinner for as little as $10 –but once you throw in ambience and alcohol, you’ll find it’s $10 just for your glass of wine and at least $25 per person for the food. Other costly activities will seduce you as well: nightclubbing, with entrance fees of about $20 and cocktails that cost about $10 apiece; bicycling, with rentals averaging $20 daily; sky’s-the-limit shopping; children’s attractions such as the Seaquarium; and live entertainment and sporting events, where ticket prices can cost anywhere from $15 to $100 or more. Expect to spend about $200 a week on a rental car – more if it’s peak tourist season.
Bargain seekers, take note: while museums do charge entrance fees, usually around $5, many have free days or hours, including the Bass Museum of Art (6pm until 9pm second Thursday of the month), the Historical Museum of Southern Florida (Sunday) and the Miami Art Museum (Sunday).
Expect prices to generally be a bit cheaper in the Keys, especially when it comes to lodging and dining (although top-end restaurants, while not as ubiquitous as they are in Miami, charge much the same rates). Unfortunately, because the Keys are islands, certain staples like water and gasoline can cost a dollar or so more than they do on the mainland.
The US dollar is the wimpy pushover of the currency world these days, so come on over and take advantage of our economic woes. The dollar is divided into 100 cents (100¢) with coins of one cent (penny), five cents (nickel), 10 cents (dime), 25 cents (quarter) and relatively rare 50 cents (half dollar).
Bank notes are called bills. Be sure to check the corners for amounts, as they’re all the same size and color. Circulated bills come in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. The US has two designs of bills in circulation, but you’d have to study them closely to notice.
There are three straightforward ways to handle payments: cash, US-dollar traveler’s checks (just as good as cash, but replaceable if lost or stolen) and credit/debit cards.
If you prefer cash, try to change a good chunk in your own country before you arrive in Miami, as exchange rates here are notoriously skimpy. If you must change money, do it at banks. Try Bank of America (305-350-6350), which offers foreign-exchange services in its branches – or money-changing operations such as Thomas Cook (305-285-2348, 800-287-7362).