30 January 2012

US Immigration and Customs in Miami - Avoiding Detention and Other Problems

US Customs Sign, No Name Harbor, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Miami-Dade
Customs Sign at No Name Harbor
Reading the sign which I photographed at No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne, Miami-Dade County, you might think that anyone can sail in and be granted access to the USA just by phoning the US Customs, but I very much doubt this.

Register Online
Foreign tourists without a visa who fly into US airports such as Miami International Airport or Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, need to have registered online under the US government Visa Waiver Program.

Use the Correct Forms
Also it's necessary to have filled in both the I-94W arrival/departure form (not the I-94 form) and a customs declaration, both of which should be provided on the plane.

Illegals Entering on Boats
A smuggler, illegal immigrant or terrorist on a boat who managed to dodge coastguard patrols could walk away from No Name Harbor (that really is its name), catch a bus over the Rickenbacker Causeway, which links the island of Key Biscayne with the City of Miami, and within an hour or so vanish into the crowds in Downtown.

Tourist Detained for Hours
But a law-abiding tourist needs to fill in all the forms correctly before arrival, or could end up being detained for hours as a friend from Spain was – a woman in her fifties coming to spend a week's holiday in Miami Beach.

22 January 2012

Where Are the Noisy Hotels in South Beach? - And Phoning Miami Beach's “Noise Police”

Music at Gansevoort Hotel, South Beach, Miami
Music at Gansevoort Hotel, Miami
The South Beach of area of Miami Beach is party town, so if you want to avoid noisy hotels a little research is necessary. An expensive hotel is no longer necessarily a quiet hotel these days.

Noise at Upmarket Hotel
I have experienced noise problems from the comparatively upmarket Gansevoort Hotel in Miami Beach, and I live several blocks away.

Help from the “Noise Police”
But if you make enquires in advance about whether there is loud music in or near a hotel before booking a room and nevertheless encounter that pervasive bass of techno or house music, thumping away till it's driving you crazy, help is at hand from the “noise police.”

Of course that isn't their real name. Officially they're the enforcement section of Miami Beach Police Department.

Dates to Avoid in Miami Beach
Particularly noisy times are weekends or when there is a bigger than usual influx of tourists, for example over the Memorial Day weekend and during the Spring Break holidays. These week-long holidays are at different times in different areas, so Miami Beach can be packed with visitors whooping it up for several weeks, but the busiest time is likely to be early to mid-March.

16 January 2012

Van Dyke Café, Lincoln Road, South Beach - Live Music: Jazz, Blues, Rock, R&B, Salsa

Van Dyke Café, Lincoln Road, South Beach, Miami-Dade, live music, jazz, blues, funk, rock, R&B, salsa
Van Dyke Café, South Beach
During the day the Van Dyke Café, on Lincoln Road, South Beach, seems like just another touristy bar-restaurant, although a really nice-looking one, in a tall building covered with ivy.

But at night there's a surprising range of live music, including jazz, blues, rock, funk, soul, R&B and salsa.

Imported Beers & Sam Adams
The Van Dyke Café has a modest selection imported beers such as Löwenbräu, Erdinger Weissbräu, Grolsch, Moretti, Peroni and Newcastle Brown Ale, plus the American Samuel Adams, which is almost a microbrew, although purist beer-drinkers would consider it a craft beer.

Drinks prices are reasonable considering the prime location, although I rarely drink there, preferring Zeke's, just along Lincoln Road which has a huge selection of beers, all for $4.

Music Seven Nights a Week
There is music seven nights a week at the Van Dyke Café till 1 am, with a cover charge of $5, or $7 at weekends. I'd rather pay a modest cover than inflated prices for drinks.

09 January 2012

Pita Hut, Miami Beach - Middle-Eastern Food: Humus, Baba Ganoush, Falafel

Original Pita Hut, 41st Street, Miami Beach (Arthur Godfrey Road), Middle-eastern food, humus, baba ganoush, falafel, glatt kosher, vegetarian, vegan
Pita Hut, Miami Beach
For the best Middle-Eastern food in Miami Beach, head for the Original Pita Hut on 41st Street, also known as Arthur Godfrey Road, in the Mid-Beach district.

If you're already in the area, perhaps in one of the hotels just to the north of South Beach, you could walk to the Pita Hut. Otherwise a bus from Lincoln Road will get you there in half an hour.

Closed for Jewish Sabbath
At weekends remember that this is a kosher restaurant, and therefore closes for Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. So opening hours vary according to the time of the year.

On Friday the Pita Hut closes two hours before sunset, reopening on Saturday an hour after it goes dark.

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Pita Joint
This Israeli-style restaurant isn't your run-of-the-mill pita joint, so it's well worth the journey. The flat lafa bread is fresh and soft, nothing like the dry mass-produced pita bread so often offered up elsewhere.

A house specialty is Israeli pickles cured in salt, not vinegar, accompanied by olives and hot peppers, and the salad bar is far superior to most.

02 January 2012

The Wooden Boardwalk, Miami Beach - Ocean Walk from 23rd Street to 47th Street

Wooden Boardwalk, 23rd Street to 47th Street, Miami Beach
Wooden Boardwalk, Miami Beach
Miami Beach's wooden boardwalk is a pleasant place to take a stroll by the ocean, but don't wait too long, as there are plans to demolish it.

The Real Wooden Boardwalk
Although other paths by the beach are sometimes called boardwalks, they are paved. The real wooden boardwalk runs from the northern limits of South Beach, by 23rd Street, with the other end near 47th Street.

A Quieter Location for a Hotel
The boardwalk passes gardens and pools behind the hotels and apartment blocks on Collins Avenue. If you're looking for a hotel on the beach but in a quieter location than South Beach, this is an area worth considering.

Lifeguard Huts and Jellyfish
You'll see colourfully painted lifeguard huts at intervals on the beach, with flags indicating whether or not it's safe to swim. Green means yes, but always be aware that there can be undercurrents, red means that there are strong currents or high waves, while purple means that there is some sort of marine life to avoid, usually jellyfish.