Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media

Planning

Entry Requirements: International travelers from 27 countries may enter the U.S. without a visa through the Visa Waiver Program; however, you must have a machine-readable passport. Visitors from other countries must obtain a visa from an American embassy or consulate abroad. For more information, visit travel.state.gov.

Time: Miami is in the North American Eastern Daylight Time Zone, three hours ahead of the Pacific Daylight Time Zone.

Money: The currency of Miami is the U.S. dollar. For current conversion rates go to OANDA Currency Converter: www.oanda.com/convert/classic.

Phone Calls: The area codes for Miami are 305 and 786. For phone calls to Miami from within the U.S., dial 1 305 seven-digit phone number or 1 786 seven-digit phone number. For phone calls to Miami from outside the U.S., dial your country's international code 1 305 (or 786) seven-digit phone number. In Miami, local calls still require the 305 or 786 area code.

When to Go: Miami summers are super steamy, rainy, and high in humidity. Hurricane season is June 1-November 30. Sunny skies and warm temperatures in winter remind locals why this is paradise. Best visiting months are December through March.

Getting There: More than 50 major airlines offer service through Miami International Airport (MIA), which is about six miles (10 kilometers) west of downtown Miami. Some travelers also fly into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Miami. Public transportation is available into the city from MIA; cabs and rental cars are used from Fort Lauderdale.

Getting Around: An elevated metrorail, with stops mostly around downtown Miami, is used primarily by office workers. The Miami-Dade Transit Agency also has metrobuses that run to downtown Miami, Miami Beach, and Coconut Grove. Taxis can be found outside major hotels, but they're not commonly flagged down in the street and must be called on the phone. Most visitors use rental cars.

Checklist

Tips: "Pack a pocket-size English-Spanish dictionary, lots of sunscreen, and a sense of adventure."—Maria Morales, senior writer in Miami for People en Español.

What to Pack: "If you want to at least try to fit in—don't wear jeans, sneakers, and a T-shirt. I realize most of America wears that particular outfit, but here in Miami, it pretty much says "I'm a tourist!"—Dave Barry, Miami Herald humor columnist and author.

Security: If you're driving a rental car, don't stop on the street and ask for directions; the days of tourist carjackings are over, but criminals still prey on anybody who looks like they're lost. Don't leave valuables in your car.

Shoes: "Cute sandals. Your feet gotta look good."—Frances Robles, Cuba reporter for the Miami Herald.

Sweaters or Jackets: Yes, really. Restaurants and movie theaters crank their air conditioners here.

What to Wear: Men seldom wear a coat and tie to dinner. Women are rarely seen in pantyhose.

Web Links

305.com
Online information site devoted to the Miami area, with details on dining, shopping, events, nightlife, and lodging. www.305.com

Cooljunkie
Music and lifestyle site launched in Miami in 2000; extensions of it now exist in New York, Los Angeles, and other big cities; provides music, nightlife, fashion, and movie news for a hip, young audience. www.cooljunkie.com/miami

Critical Miami
Smart commentary on Miami news, city life, and culture, with frequent things-to-do-about-town listings; written by Alesh Houdek, a Prague transplant who has lived in Miami since 1980. www.criticalmiami.com

Gay South Florida
Miami Herald gay and lesbian issues reporter Steve Rothaus' blog. miamiherald.typepad.com/gaysouthflorida

Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau
Upcoming events, attractions, activities, clubs, gay travel, and hotels. www.miamiandbeaches.com

Miami Beach Visitors Center
Offers daily tours and help with hotels, car rentals, and other trip plans. www.miamibeachguestservices.com

Scene in the Tropics
Miami Herald
nightlife columnist Lesley Abravanel's blog, with celebrity sightings and links to nightclub happenings, concerts, and show listings. blogs.herald.com/scene_in_the_tropics

South Beach Tribe
Online bulletin board with members posting parties, late-night deals, and hot spots. southbeach.tribe.net

The South Florida Gourmet
Online magazine that covers new restaurant openings and culinary news and events; listings for Sunday brunch, wine classes and tastings, happy hours, cooking classes, and live music & entertainment. www.southfloridagourmet.com

Local Media

The Miami Herald
The city's major daily newspaper, published since 1903; local, state, national, and international news, with an emphasis on Latin American and Hispanic affairs; editorials, business, sports, travel, food, music, and more; Tropical Life tab section details arts, dining, entertainment, and events. www.miamiherald.com

Ocean Drive
Glossy magazine that reports entertainment and local events in Miami; interviews with celebrities, stories on music and nightlife. www.oceandrive.com

Miami New Times
Irreverent free weekly tabloid that covers local news and culture; known for complete listings of restaurants, concerts, nightclubs, theater, and movies, not to mention racy singles ads. www.miaminewtimes.com

HOME Miami
Magazine devoted to architecture, design, real estate, and modern life in metro Miami. www.homemia.com

Argentina Hoy
One of the many Spanish-language weeklies in Miami that reports local, national, and world news from a Latin perspective; expansive sports section with international and local soccer coverage. www.argentina-hoy.com

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