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Common Travel Mistakes Europeans Make

Don’t make these common mistakes on vacation in Miami.
November 05, 2012 By Jess in Miami: Travel News  | 7 Comments

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For Europeans crossing the Atlantic, visiting America is new and exciting… and also slightly confusing. Things work differently here than they do back home. Make sure you don’t make these common mistakes when you are on vacation in Miami.

The TIP is usually hidden in the check
Service charges in Miami are not the same as Europe. Here, the waiters do not get a decent minimum wage so it is up to you, the customer, to pay them their evening wages through their tips. Unfortunately, restaurants have realized that the European customer may not know to leave the expected 18% tip, so they include it in the check. If it is a decent restaurant, they should tell you, however it has become common practice in Miami for the tourist trap restaurants to try and scam the customers to double tip. Check your final bill, and make sure service is not included before you leave a tip for your waiter.

Don’t be offended if you get the check before you ask for it
Service in America is much faster paced than in Europe. It seems that servers are almost rushing you to finish your meal. If you finish your entree before others at the table, your plate will be whipped away from under your nose. They take dessert orders while you are still eating your main course. And many times, you will get the check before you ask for it. Don’t feel rushed, dine at your own pace, and don’t be offended if your waiter does any of the above. Service is faster here, but you take as much time as you need.

Don’t come before you’re 21
Miami is a city known for its nightlife and bars, and everyone heads here to party. But make sure you don’t fly here too soon. Many Europeans book their trip and then find out too late that the legal drinking age in America is 21 years old. This is very strictly enforced and underage drinking is not as acceptable as it may be where you are from. Miami has a lot to offer for those who don’t want to drink but if you are flying all this way to experience our incredible nightlife, wait until you are 21.

Ocean Drive scams
Who doesn’t love Ocean Drive? It is one of the most recognized streets in America, and everyday tourists flock to see the Art Deco hotels, visit the beach, and of course stop for a meal or cocktail. Every restaurant has glamorous girls offering great deals for food and drink, and you can enjoy a fantastic meal for a really good price. However, always be sure to check the prices of what you order before you make your choice. Some of the places along Ocean Drive offer a $5 breakfast… meanwhile a coffee is $8. Or the 2-4-1 drinks… would you really order if you knew the first drink was $25? Of course you should enjoy your time visiting Ocean Drive, but just be sure you know how much you are spending when you are enticed into one of these seemingly great deals.

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Tax is not included in the price
I don’t know about you, but I am still getting used to all the different taxes here. State tax, resort tax, no matter where you go in Miami, someone is trying to add on a charge. So whether you are going out to buy a candy bar, or you are finally able to buy those new Nikes, or brand new apple iPad, remember to factor in Florida’s 7% state tax. If you only go out with the exact change, it won’t be enough. Tax can certainly add up if you are making big purchases. You also are guaranteed to always have a pocketful of weird American coins as no price ever comes out evenly.

Americans can’t make tea
Oh, where should I start with Americans and tea? This one may be mainly for the Brits, but if this is your first trip to America, you better pack your own tea bags. Ever since they threw the tea off the ships into the Boston Harbor, Americans have struggled to make a good cup of tea. They generally choose to serve it iced, which is unheard of in England, and if you even think of asking for milk to put in your cup, they give you a strange look and then come back with long life milk in a plastic container. Add in their sorry excuse for a tea bag by Lipton, and you will take one sip and be sorry you ever asked for the tea in the first place.

Fort Lauderdale airport is not in Miami
Most Europeans fly straight into Miami airport, but if you are including Florida on a big trip of the States, many decide to fly the cheaper route into FLL. Airlines even advertise this airport destination as Fort Lauderdale/ Miami. I can tell you right now, this airport is not even in Miami! FLL is actually in the middle of Broward county, at least a 40 minute drive away from Miami Beach, and an $85 cab ride. Yes the flights are cheaper, but unless you have someone picking you up from the airport, think long and hard before flying into FLL for your South Beach vacation.

Don’t park the car facing the wrong way on the street
If you have a rental car and park anywhere in Miami, make sure to always park in the direction of traffic. If you park facing the wrong way, facing the direction of traffic flow, you will get a ticket, no matter how legally you were parked or how much money was left in the meter. Parking on a street facing the wrong way is a major violation and something every American takes for granted as a fundamental road rule. Also, beware the parking lots where the parking spaces are set at an angle.  Many of these lots have signs saying park head in only. If you reverse the car into one of these spaces, you also face getting a ticket.

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Don’t book a tour from the street vendors
It is common practice in Europe to jump on a bus tour from the street vendors at various locations around the city. I myself did tours this way in London and Barcelona. The tours sold on the streets in Miami however are not always a good deal for your time and money. Bad reviews of various companies have sprung up on TripAdvisor, which is hardly surprising seeing as you can buy a day tour in Walgreens. Research and read the reviews for the tour company before you spend your money.

Miami and Miami Beach are two different cities
When people say ‘Miami’ as a holiday destination, they conjure up images of beaches, palm trees and cocktails. Yes, all those things are here and you will find them in the city of Miami Beach. Which is an entirely different city from Miami! Both are in Miami-Dade county, which may be where the confusion between the two cities originates from. But if you are coming here for the beach, make sure to book your hotel in Miami Beach, not Miami, or the airport or on Biscayne. The hotels in these places may have pools, but you will be far away from the sand and ocean.


I decided to write this article after meeting some English people who were unhappy after an unexpected expensive meal on Ocean Drive. I may live here now, but I am not from America myself, and I have made every one of these mistakes at some point! Hopefully my advice will help you on your way to having the perfect vacation. We want everyone to have a great time when you visit Miami. After all, that’s what vacations are for.

Photos by: Scott Alexander

Related Categories: Miami: Travel News,

A SoBe resident for 5 years, Jess’s writing focuses on healthy living in South Beach with a dose of British humor and a cheerful outlook on life in Miami. She can be found moderating the forum Miami Beach 411.

See more articles by Jess.

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7 Comments on

"Common Travel Mistakes Europeans Make"

Christy says:

LOL at the tea section! Seriously funny. But in nice restaurants they’ll bring you a selection of teas. Normally it’s a pain for the waiters to bring out all the stuff that accompanies tea..milk/cream, lemon, sugars.

Posted on 12/07/2012 at 11:27 PM

Evji108 says:

Both Whole Foods and Starbucks have decent tea, it may be in a paper cup however. Americans often like to take a paper cup and sit where they like with their coffee or tea, whether it is at a table or take-out. . It’s much more casual than the cafes of Europe. But be glad you are not being charged extra for the table, like they often do in there, the same is true of ice-cream or gelato here.

Posted on 02/25/2013 at 3:48 PM

Evji108 says:

One thing Europeans WILL like in terms of taxes, is that they will not be charged BTV (value added tax) of 18.5%,  like they do in Europe for purchases in shops. The tax will only be 7% and that is a lot less.
One tip:  Clothing of the same quality is MUCH cheaper in the US, enjoy your shopping and also you will find good sales at many shops and department stores year-round. Try TJ Max for great deals on designer and good brand clothing from last season: 1149 5th St Miami Beach, FL 33139, it’s on an upper floor, take the lift. I see lots and lots of Europeans and South Americans there, very popular, good merchandise at great prices.

Posted on 02/25/2013 at 3:55 PM

Doug says:

A very helpful article, Jess! I didn’t even think of some of these issues, but this information would be extremely useful to anyone from abroad visiting Miami and Miami Beach.

Posted on 03/29/2013 at 2:45 PM

Estela says:

Great article¡¡¡ I really know what you are talking about ¡¡ I lived almost all my life in Miami,and just moved to Spain ,Cadiz in 2008. Thank you for the great article Jess,and Happy Easter ¡¡ Come visit us one day here in Spain.God bless

Posted on 03/30/2013 at 7:28 AM

Claude says:

To Evj108: it is not BTV or BTW like in Flemish or in Dutch it is VAT in English. And where do you find a VAT below 20% (excepted in GDL)?

Posted on 03/30/2013 at 7:59 AM

Vania says:

As for the Fort Lauderdale airport and the taxi to Miami, there is a train at FLL airport that takes you to Miami and makes several stops, including Miami airport.  The price is very reasonable, although it is a slow moving train.  You must first wait for a bus at FLL airport that will take you to the trai, but if you want to save money, this is the way to go.

Posted on 03/30/2013 at 8:02 AM

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