Miami is a stunning city filled with a melting pot of cultures, Latin influences, and steamy hot weather year-round. It is a city full of superlatives, however, one thing we seldom hear Miami described as is cheap! Prices, for most things, in Miami can be very high. Hotels, Attractions, Food, drinks, even parking can all be very expensive and really make a Miami visit extremely expensive. But there are ways around this and a trip to Miami can be relatively inexpensive if you are savvy, shop around and do your homework!
Well as far as doing your homework goes you have made a great start by hitting this page. We go through everything we know about saving money in Miami. How to get the best hotels, cheap Eats, Where to park, Savings on things to do, Cheap Drinks, and much more so you can get the best deals and learn how to visit Miami on a Budget!
We have some generic tips and tricks, such as where to stay, what to do for free, and how to get cheap food. We also have a load of VERY SPECIFIC money-saving tips, where to get deals, how to bag cheap activities, and where the best happy hours are. So read on a see if we can save you a heap on your next trip to Miami!
Hotels – Where to Stay in Miami on a Budget?
One of the biggest expenses you will encounter is your accommodation. Miami is a destination that attracts a lot of celebrities and people with large bank balances looking to party. As such there are a plethora of high-end luxury hotels perfectly willing to take their money. If you want to spend big Miami is the place to do it.
However, there are also a whole host of more budget-friendly options that need not cost the earth. In fact, we would go as far as to say, if you shop around, Miami is one of the most affordable Cities to stay in anywhere in the states! The best thing about Miami’s budget options is you wouldn’t know they were budget at all. Just up the road in Orlando, you can bag $50 per night hotels easily, but boy will you know it, they look, feel, and often smell like a $50 hotel room! But in Miami, some of the really cheap options are actually chic Boutique hotels oozing with style and luxury appointments. We have stayed in $70 rooms that felt like they were $700!
As for where to stay there is good news here as well. One of the BEST places to stay in Miami is South Beach. We love it there. The small beachfront resort has vibrant nightlife, great shopping, more restaurants than you could possibly eat at in a lifetime, and, of course, the world-famous Miami Beach right on the doorstep. it is basically everything you want from a Miami vacation. It is even perfectly placed for visiting the other areas during your stay. It happens to be one of the most affordable locations too.
While other areas will have plenty of budget options these tend to lean toward the dull and lifeless chain hotels. On South Beach, you will bag an Art Deco boutique hotel for well under $100. Most are right on the seafront or 1-2 blocks back.
Book Out of season
A great way to bag a really cheap hotel is to stay out of season. Miami gets really busy during December and then right through till mid-spring as people escape the frigid northern winters. The climate around this time is also a bit milder than the scorching and humid summers with a lot less rain as well. If you can avoid these times then prices will be a lot cheaper. You may have to contend with boiling temps, torrential downpours, and hurricane season, but you will find quieter crowds and much cheaper prices.
May/early June and Oct/November offer good compromises between the weather, crowds, and prices and can be a great time to be in Miami! Check our full guide on when to Visit Miami.
Avoid the weekends – if you can
Another tip to bag a cheaper hotel, along with most other things, is to visit mid-week. Everything will be quieter, offers more extensive and rates for hotels much cheaper. Of course, the flip side is everything will be quieter and if you are here to party, that is not much good! You also may be here for a week or more, in which case avoiding the weekend is impossible. But if you are just here for a look round, to check out the city and relax on the beach a mid-week trip can be a great idea!
Things to do for FREE in Miami
Apart from your hotel, plus food and drink it is quite possible to visit Miami and not spend a penny. There are tons to see and do and not spend a penny.
The most obvious attraction is the Beach. Miami Beach is technically a district but we all really mean Miami Beach Beach. Head to Lummis Park for the busiest and hottest part of the beach. Here the water is warm and the sand clean and manicured. There are Volley Ball courts, sunbeds, washrooms, and showers, and potentially thousands of people to share it with. This is the place to be seen and enjoy the Miami Lifestyle of the movies.
Head North to first Mid-Beach then North Beach and things get more upmarket and a bit quieter. The area is dominated by large upscale hotels and huge highrise condo complexes. As you get away from the tourist area things just get more peaceful, pretty, and more relaxed.
You can walk it, drive it or Even Stay on it, but you have to visit Ocean drive at least once, preferably twice. this is the heart of Miami Beach and the Art Deco Style is the Miami of most people’s imaginations. The Sunkissed ocean drive is lined by Bars, Restaurants, and Art Deco hotels on one side, and the stunning blue Atlantic on the other.
The Drive really comes alive at night, and this is why you need to visit at least twice, the hotels light up and the Latin rhythms begin to play.
Also tucked away on Ocean drive is the Versace Mansion. A bit gruesome but this is the actual house Gianni lived in when he was murdered on his doorstep. Find it here.
Miami is only a couple of hundred miles from the Cuban Capital and has a rich history of immigration with Cuba When the Island nation turned full Communist back in the 60’s a lot of people were exiled from the country and naturally found their home in Miami. The Little Havana district is the center of this cultural exile and the area is still a little piece of Cuba in the heart of Miami.
While you can visit here without spending a dime, just walking around and taking in the Cuban vibes, this would miss the point a little. Grab a Cuban Espresso (rocket fuel) and a Cubano Sandwich and take in the Latin vibes!
Biscayne Bay Beaches
While Miami Beach is the Star of the Show head over to Biscane Key just next door to South beach and you get a very different Vibe. here the beaches are more picturesque, quieter and more natural. Head to the Bill Baggs state park and you will find miles of pristine near-empty beach to explore and relax on. As part of the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, it is more protected than the other coastlines in the area.
Of Course, shopping is not a free activity if you buy anything but there is no requirement to do any more than look. With the huge array of designer outlets and luxury shops in the area window shopping is serious business in Miami. In South Beach, head to Lincoln Road and in downtown head to Brickell City Center. There is also the Bayside Marketplace, The Shops at Midtown Miami, and Fith and Alton for you to check out.
And if you are looking to spend, but spend wisely the Dolphin Mall is Miami’s premier discount Mall. Here you can pick up your favorite designer brands for a fraction of the usual cost. The choice will be limited and not all stores offer the best discounts but at times you can find BIG brands for up to 70% off!
Parking in Miami is a major pain in the proverbial! Street parking is either forbidden or on a meter that requires you to mortgage your house to pay for it ($3-4 an hour), or in severely overpriced private Parking Lots costing at best $20 a day. Even if you are staying in town your hotel will likely charge $35-50 a day for (Valet) parking on top of your room rate.
There is not a great deal you can really do about it, other than not have a car. We tend to use the large parking lots that charge $20 a day and then leave the car there unless we need it. then for short trips around town, we use public transport.
Free, on-street parking is nearly impossible and can easily lead to you being towed should you misread a sign! If you are only staying a while it’s much safer to pay for metered parking or head to a lot. Make sure it is a City lot though and not a Private lot as the latter will be very expensive and not as well regulated.
With the car nicely tucked up in a garage, you can then use the excellent public transport to get around and see the sights. Even using Uber or a Taxi may be cheaper than constantly moving your car around the City.
We have a full guide to Miami’s public transport here
Being a bit of a tourist hotspot there are plenty of paid attractions available in Miami, from Boat trips to Bus tours Miami Zoo, the Seaquarium, Jet Skis, Speed boats, Deep Sea Fishing, etc. The cost of these can quickly add up to make the trip very expensive.
You can find a list of all our favorite things to do here
As we said these can turn a cheap trip into an expensive nightmare. There are a host of travel shops around town all offering the Cheapest trips and the best tours. These offers and adverts are often just the lures to get you in the door and then unleash the bait and switch. By far the best way to get the best deal is to research and booking beforehand.
Miami Go Pass
We are big fans of City Passes and when visiting a City find them fantastic for finding out what is available, planning our trip out, and saving a whole heap of money over paying at the gate.
We take an In-Depth look at the Pass and show you what you can see and how much you can save in our Miami Go Pass Review
Food is a HUGE thing in Miami. Fresh seafood, Cuban, and Mexican Influences dominate the Cuisine Take a look at our What to Eat in Miami Guide here. However, the Touristy nature means many places charge what they like and offer substandard food as they do not need to worry too much about return customers!
The best bet is to avoid the Ocean Drive locations, most are overpriced and rely on the prime location to drive custom. By heading off the main streets you find places that survive on their value and reputation. Check out Puerto Sagua on Collins avenue for some basic, cheap but seriously great Cuban grub.
Naturally anywhere in Little Havana is worth checking out. Food in the district is cheap, plentiful, and tasty.
There is no end of Chain restaurants in Miami and you can always bag a consistent, cheap meal in any one of those. It goes against the grain of being in such a foodie heaven but sometimes you just want a cheap meal where you know what you are getting.
Especially in South Beach, every restaurant will have a Happy hour offering amazing cheap food and huge drinks for low prices or buy one get one free. However, these are not always what they seem and can be a bait and switch type of setup with only very limited food included in the happy hour and the giant cocktails that are 2for1 are $60 each!
The Key to avoiding this and getting the best deals and happy hours is researching beforehand. Only head to restaurants that get good reviews and DO NOT wander down Ocean Drive looking for “Somewhere” to eat
Our Favourite Happy Hours are:
Rusty Pelican – Dine in style in this Byscane Bay Icon. $6 Beers and $8 Cocktails complement the $8-$12 appetizers. It’s still not “cheap” but considering the location and quality of the food this is as cheap as this king of dining gets – Mon-Fri 4-7 pm
Drunken Dragon – Dragon Hour Discounted Tiki Cocktails and Appetizers 5-7 pm every day and a cool Reverse Dragon Hour at 10-11 pm Sunday – Thurs
Sugar Cane Raw Bar and Grill – A pitcher of Caipirinha for $35 is ok with us!
Beaker and Gray – $7 Craft Cocktails and a selection of $5-$7 Apps – Mon-Fri 6-7 and Sun-Thur 11-2 pm for late-night drinks!
Group-On has a presence in Miami but it doesn’t have a huge amount of deals in Miami. There are a good number of Attractions deals and you can get some big discounts on things like Jet-Skis, Duck Tours, Jet Boat rides, and even Exotic Car Hire!
The Food lineup is a little more basic with only a few great choices. The best deals come and go so keep an eye on it and snap up any deals that tickle your fancy!
Tipping throughout Miami is usually the standard American standard. It is expected but not required. 15-20% is the norm but you should tip based on the service received. South beach is a Big Exception, However.
In South Beach restaurants have a habit of adding the tip onto the bill for you. This is doubly annoying as it makes it awkward to challenge the Tip, you need to ask the waiter to have it removed, which is very confrontational. Secondly, it feels designed to trick customers into maybe tipping twice. As tipping is so usual in the US it is almost automatic for most diners, so when it is added to the bill prior people often fail to notice and just add the tip as usual.
We would never suggest under-tipping as a way of saving money, but we certainly suggest you keep an eye out for this trick to stop you from tipping twice!
Have Your Say
Got any Money-saving tips of your own for Miami? Let us know in the comment below. Tried one of ours and saved some cash? we would love to hear from you too. It is always nice to hear we are saving people money. As always if you have any questions at all feel free to ask away in the comments below.