Miami on a Student Budget

By Jenny Rae

Flickr/Craig ONeal

Escaping to the palm tree lined streets of Southern Florida can seem like a daunting and expensive task. Between transportation, food and accommodations, the expenses quickly add up. Unless, you do it right.

Miami is one of the most talked about, well-known, must-go destinations in the United States. Immortalized in culture through TV shows such as “Miami Ink,” “Miami Vice” and “CSI: Miami,” it aligns itself with the main players on the East and West coasts, making it the vacation destination of dreams.

Where else can you find glorious sandy beaches, bikini clad roller-bladers, reptiles and a constant spring break aura set to the backdrop of beautiful sunshine? Here’s how to explore this southern Florida city without breaking the bank.

Visit the Everglades National Park

At this national landmark, tourists can get up a close up view of the local ecosystem. Airboat rides offer a chance to enjoy the Florida breeze in your hair while the commander of the boat maneuvers the vehicle right next to alligators basking in the sun. Sometimes, they bring the boat a little too close. Reptiles of all sizes can be seen lazily absorbing rays, some even opening wide to release a yawn and showing their impressive set of pearly whites in the process. It’s all part of the thrill. At the end of the boat ride, passengers are escorted to a show, where a ranger gets up close and personal with a selection of animals. The highlight is the option to pay $3 to be able to hold a gator. Although scaly and weird to touch, the photographic opportunities promise a perfect new Facebook profile picture for the holder. The tours are relatively inexpensive and provide a fun way to see more of southern Florida.

Stay in a hostel

With hotels becoming steadily more expensive, hostels are the new best friend of students wanting to travel. Posh Hostel, a gorgeous converted penthouse suite on South Beach that runs parallel to Ocean Drive, offers a bed in its “Single and Ready to Mingle” room for around $22 a night during the off season. Don’t be put off by the title though; the name reflects that the room contains over 30 beds, yet the experience feels incredibly normal. Offering a beautiful pool, friendly staff, breakfast in the morning and a well-equipped kitchen, it seems silly to spend any more on accommodation. Hostels often run deals that make the local attractions more affordable for young people, saving visitors money on some of Miami’s biggest attractions, such as famous clubs like Nikki Beach located right on the sand.

Go to a pool party

For those lamenting the end of Spring Break, pool parties create a great opportunity for the show to go on. If you came to Miami to imitate Jersey Shore cast members or watch reality star Kim Kardashian wannabes swan around in swimsuits this is the event to go to. Hosted by hotels, tickets for these events are cheaply bought from hostels and can usually be bartered for. Some hostels even take partygoers to their destination on a party bus, in broad daylight, with no alcohol. Now that’s fun.

But seriously, pool parties are a representation of what’s enjoyable about Miami: the sunbathing, and predominantly, the people-watching.

Stroll the streets

The cheapest way to explore Miami is on foot or by bus. From South Beach, frequent buses drive passengers into the downtown area where they can partake in an urban safari, visiting hotspots such as Little Havana, Coconut Grove or Bayside, a collection of stores and restaurants with stunning views of the water. In South Beach itself, Ocean Drive provides the most entertaining place to walk; men sidle down the sidewalk with snakes around their necks, and people sip on impressive $50 cocktails as big as their heads (which are well worth it by the way). Lincoln Avenue is also worth a look. Right next to Espanola Way, a pretty Spanish-looking street filled with charm, Lincoln houses a plethora of sidewalk cafés, unique restaurants, bars and stores making it a must-see, if just to feel the buzz of the atmosphere.

That’s what makes Miami so special. It’s like being transported to another place – a dream world –offering escape from the humdrum of everyday life. Prepare to be bewitched by its magic.

Jenny Rae can be reached at [email protected]