Whether you are on a cruise making a stop over or coming in as a tourist to explore its attractions, Miami Beach is a fantastic tourist destination where you can enjoy the beaches, historic walking areas or day city tours or sea cruises.
But just like any other city that attracts tourists, Miami Beach is no exception when it comes to folks who want to prey on first time travelers, making money off them through various dishonest ways. So when you’re planning to pay this city a visit, review the following safety and scam related reminders.
When you book your apartment rental on Craigslist
So even before you arrive in Miami, you can already become a victim of a scam. That’s if you try to engage with people who offer fake rentals online, notably on Craigslist. There are tell-tale signs an apartment rental may not be as authentic as it claims to be:
- Its pricing is too good to be true; its offers are outrageously outside of the prevailing market rates
- Lack of features such as property photos, or use photos searched from the Internet (try using the featured property photo to search for using Google Image search)
- Spelling mistakes; while not all are grammar experts, these typos are often associated with illegitimate offers
- Ask money be wired without any proof of payment similar to hotel vouchers you’ll present at the hotel front desk (e.g., transfers via Western Union).
If they ask for an upfront payment deposit, don’t hand over any money immediately. Legal accommodations utilize credit card payments which gives you protection and enables you to claim it back on insurance if proven recipient is involved in some fraudulent transaction.
If in doubt, ask someone else’s opinion before pulling the trigger on that Craigslist transaction. Better yet, stick with traditional accommodation providers such as hotels, Airbnb or confirm a booking but paying only after successful check in during your arrival.
When taking the taxi from Miami airport
If you decide to book a taxi cab from Miami International Airport to South Beach, be aware of taxi fare arrangements. No matter which route the driver will take from MIA to South Beach, flat rate is $32 (or an updated fare mandated by local laws) before tips. Make sure that you make the driver aware about this flat rate arrangement, though you can negotiate if your destination is a little but further from areas defined under this flat rate fare.
For cheaper option, take the $2.25 per passenger Miami Beach Airport Express which runs every 30 minutes and provides express service from 6 a.m. to 11:40 p.m., seven days a week, between the Miami International Airport Metrorail station (just a short MIA Mover ride away from MIA) and Miami Beach (from 41st Street to South Pointe Drive).
When you eat at restaurants
You may be amazed by the variety of cuisines on offer or engrossed with the discussion with family members about travel plans. Though that is highly likely to happen, do not allow it to distract you from checking your bill as some restaurants may try to jack up the bill for your meal.
- Check your bill if there are items included that you did not order or receive.
- Verify if tips are already included in the bill as many shops in South Beach do. Failure to do so may incur double tipping which already accounts a significant portion of your actual meal value.
- If you were drawn to the restaurant because of an offer it displayed in the front door, ask if there is inconsistency between that offer and your actual bill.
- Credit cards whisked away by bartenders can be a source of suspicion (“I was charged double the amount of cocktail drinks I ordered!”) so make it a point to monitor your credit card spend. It can be through setting up of message alerts through SMS or summary of transactions via email by your credit card provider.
- When you go around the restaurant row, competition for customers can be intense that waiters and waitresses doubling as hosts and hostesses park themselves outside its doors and offer you specials. But be aware that once you are told inside that the “specials” just ran out and alternative dishes are also popular, think about bailing out and look elsewhere.
When you tour around the city
Some unscrupulous people make use of the “Tourist Information” booth to attract unsuspecting tourists and lure them into booking some city tours. Most of the time these tours are legit but they may not be the cheapest on offer. They may be doing more favors by setting you up with the provider that offers highest commission rates, and not the best tour experience provider. To be sure, double check with a tour company’s online reputation and Yelp reviews.
When exploring the nightlife
If this is part of your Miami Beach itinerary, then you better be more conscious about the potential scams and tricks people can play on you. For instance, touts around the beach may give you wristbands that offer you free entry to clubs. They are generally paid to get people into the club, but such wristbands do not guarantee free entry. Instead you might need to pay cover charge. Again, if this is your plan, they paying up should be no problem. But if you’re only interested in the free entry, then the silly wristband in your possession is just a useless accessory.
Should you proceed and enjoy some drinks inside the club, be sober enough to check your bill. You may be charged a hefty “tip” which you may not be willing to give in the first place.
Enjoy the sunny Miami Beach! But don’t allow someone else — stranger offering you freebies or restaurants overcharging you — spoil your holidays.