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American Express -- You'll find American Express offices in Bal Harbour at 9700 Collins Ave. (tel. 305/865-5959; Mon-Sat 10am-6pm); and 32 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables (tel. 305/446-3381; Mon-Fri 9am-5pm and Sat 10am-4pm). To report lost or stolen traveler's checks, call tel. 800/221-7282.

Area Code -- The original area code for Miami and all of Dade County is 305. That is still the code for older phone numbers, but all phone numbers assigned since July 1998 have the area code 786 (SUN). For all local calls, even if you're just calling across the street, you must dial the area code (305 or 786) first. Even though the Keys still share the Dade County area code of 305, calls to there from Miami are considered long distance and must be preceded by 1-305. (Within the Keys, simply dial the seven-digit number.) The area codes for Fort Lauderdale are 954 and 754; for Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Vero Beach, and Port St. Lucie, it's 561.

Business Hours -- Banking hours vary, but most banks are open weekdays from 9am to 3pm. Several stay open until 5pm or so at least 1 day during the week, and most banks feature automated teller machines (ATMs) for 24-hour banking. Most stores are open daily from 10am to 6pm; however, there are many exceptions. As far as business offices are concerned, Miami is generally a 9-to-5 town.

Curfew -- Although not strictly enforced, there is an alleged curfew in effect for minors after 11pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends in all of Miami-Dade County. After those hours, children younger than 17 cannot be out on the streets or driving unless accompanied by a parent or on their way to work. Somehow, however, they still manage to sneak out and congregate in popular areas such as Coconut Grove and South Beach.

Dentists -- A&E Dental Associates, 11400 N. Kendall Dr., Mega Bank Building (tel. 305/271-7777; www.aedental.com), offers round-the-clock care and accepts MasterCard and Visa. If that's too out of the way, Dr. Edderai specializes in emergency dental work and features a 24/7 call dental service at (tel. 305/798-7799).

Doctors -- In an emergency, call an ambulance by dialing tel. 911 (a free call) from any phone. The Dade County Medical Association sponsors a Physician Referral Service (tel. 305/324-8717), weekdays from 9am to 5pm. Health South Doctors' Hospital, 5000 University Dr., Coral Gables (tel. 305/666-2111), is a 285-bed acute-care hospital with a 24-hour physician-staffed emergency department.

Emergencies -- To reach the police, an ambulance, or the fire department, dial tel. 911 from any phone. No coins are needed. Emergency hotlines include Crisis Intervention (tel. 305/358-HELP [4357]) and the Poison Information Center (tel. 800/222-1222).

Eyeglasses -- Pearle Vision Center, 7901 Biscayne Blvd. (tel. 305/754-5144), can usually fill prescriptions in about an hour.

Internet Access -- Internet access is available at Kafka's Cyber Cafe, 1464 Washington Ave., South Beach (tel. 305/673-9669); the South Beach Internet Cafe, 1106 Collins Ave. (tel. 305/532-4331); and, no joke, the swanky all-in-one Mobil Station, at 2500 NW 87th Ave., Doral (tel. 305/477-2501).

Laundry & Dry Cleaning -- Clean Machine Laundry, 226 12th St., South Beach (tel. 305/534-9429), is convenient to South Beach's Art Deco hotels and is open 24 hours a day and features wash and fold services. Coral Gables LaSalle Cleaners, 250 Minorca Ave., Coral Gables (tel. 305/446-6458), offers a lifesaving same-day service (as do most Miami dry cleaners, fyi) and is open weekdays from 7am to 7pm and Saturday from 8am to 3pm.

Liquor Laws -- Only adults 21 or older may legally purchase or consume alcohol in the state of Florida. Minors are usually permitted in bars, as long as the bars also serve food. Liquor laws are strictly enforced; if you look young, carry identification. Beer and wine are sold in most supermarkets and convenience stores. Most of the city of Miami's liquor stores are closed on Sunday. Liquor stores in the city of Miami Beach are open daily.

Lost Property -- If you lost something at the airport, call the Airport Lost and Found office (tel. 305/876-7377). If you lost something on the bus, Metrorail, or Metromover, call Metro-Dade Transit Agency (tel. 305/770-3131). If you lost something anywhere else, phone the Dade County Police Lost and Found (tel. 305/375-3366). You may also want to fill out a police report for insurance purposes.

Luggage Storage & Lockers -- In addition to the baggage check at Miami International Airport, most hotels offer luggage-storage facilities. If you are taking a cruise from the Port of Miami, bags can be stored in your ship's departure terminal.

Newspapers & Magazines -- The Miami Herald is the city's only English-language daily. It is especially known for its extensive Latin American coverage and has a decent Friday "Weekend" entertainment guide. The most respected alternative weekly is the giveaway tabloid called New Times, which contains up-to-date listings and reviews of food, films, theater, music, and whatever else is happening in town. Also free, if you can find it, is Ocean Drive, an oversize glossy magazine that's limited on text (no literary value) and heavy on ads and society photos. It's what you should read if you want to know who's who and where to go for fun; it's available at a number of chic South Beach boutiques and restaurants. It is also available at newsstands. In the same vein: Miami Magazine and 944 Magazine, also free and available throughout the city.

For a large selection of foreign-language newspapers and magazines, check with any of the large bookstores or try News Cafe, 800 Ocean Dr., South Beach (tel. 305/538-6397). Adjacent to the Van Dyke Cafe, 846 Lincoln Rd., South Beach (tel. 305/534-3600), is a fantastic newsstand with magazines and newspapers from all over the world. Also check out Eddie's News, 1096 Normandy Dr., Miami Beach (tel. 305/866-2661), and Worldwide News, 1629 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach (tel. 305/940-4090).

Pharmacies -- Walgreens Pharmacy has dozens of locations all over town, including 8550 Coral Way (tel. 305/221-9271), in Coral Gables; 1845 Alton Rd. (tel. 305/531-8868), in South Beach; and 6700 Collins Ave. (tel. 305/861-6742), in Miami Beach. The branch at 5731 Bird Rd., at SW 40th Street (tel. 305/666-0757), is open 24 hours, as is CVS, which is usually located wherever there's a Walgreens or, if you're nearby, at 6460 S. Dixie Hwy., in South Miami (tel. 305/661-0778).

Photographic Needs -- For those who refuse to go digital, Walgreens and CVS will develop film for the next day for about 15¢ a print. Both will also print digital photos for less than 20¢ each, usually in under an hour. Visit www.walgreens.com and www.cvs.com for many locations.

Police -- For emergencies, dial tel. 911 from any phone. No coins are needed for this call. For other police matters, call tel. 305/595-6263.

Post Office -- The Main Post Office, 2200 Milam Dairy Rd., Miami, FL 33152 (tel. 800/275-8777), is located west of the Miami International Airport. Conveniently located post offices include 1300 Washington Ave. in South Beach and 3191 Grand Ave. in Coconut Grove. There is one central number for all post offices: tel. 800/275-8777.

Radio -- On the AM dial, 610 (WIOD), 790 (WNWS), 1230 (WJNO), and 1340 (WPBR) are all talk. There is no all-news station in town, although 940 (WINZ) gives traffic updates and headline news in between its talk shows. WDBF (1420) is a good big-band station, and WPBG (1290) features golden oldies. Switching to the FM dial, the two most popular R&B stations are WEDR/99 Jams (99.1) and Hot 105 (105.1). The best rock stations on the FM dial are WPYM/93 Rock (93.1), WBGG/Big 106 (105.9), and the progressive college station WVUM (90.5). WKIS (99.9) is the top country station. Top-40 music can be heard on WHYI (100.3), and hip-hop on 103.5 The Beat (103.5). For more hip-hop and dance music, Power 96 (96.5) WPOW will help you get your groove on. WGTR (97.3) plays easy listening, WDNA (88.9) has the best Latin jazz and multiethnic sounds, and public radio can be heard either on WXEL (90.7) or WLRN (91.3).

Religious Services -- Miami houses of worship are as varied as the city's population and include St. Patrick Catholic Church, 3716 Garden Ave., Miami Beach (tel. 305/531-1124); Coral Gables Baptist Church, 5501 Granada Blvd. (tel. 305/665-4072); Temple Judea, 5500 Granada Blvd., Coral Gables (tel. 305/667-5657); Coconut Grove United Methodist, 2850 SW 27th Ave. (tel. 305/443-0880); Christ Episcopal Church, 3481 Hibiscus St., Coconut Grove (tel. 305/442-8542); Plymouth Congregational Church, 3400 Devon Rd., at Main Highway, Coconut Grove (tel. 305/444-6521); Masjid Al-Ansar (Muslim), 5245 NW Seventh Ave., Miami (tel. 305/757-8741); and Buddhist Temple of Miami, 15200 SW 240th St., Homestead (tel. 305/245-2702).

Restrooms -- Stores rarely let customers use their restrooms, and many restaurants offer their facilities only for their patrons. However, most malls have restrooms, as do many fast-food restaurants. Public beaches and large parks often provide toilets, though in some places you have to pay or tip an attendant. Most large hotels have clean restrooms in their lobbies.

Safety -- As always, use your common sense and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Don't walk alone at night, and be extra wary when walking or driving though downtown Miami and surrounding areas.

Reacting to several highly publicized crimes against tourists several years ago, local and state governments alike have taken steps to help protect visitors. These measures include special highly visible police units patrolling the airport and surrounding neighborhoods, and better signs on the state's most tourist-traveled routes.

Spas & Massage -- There are a number of great spa packages at some of the ritzier hotels, but those without spas often have relationships with on-call massage therapists, which can be arranged by asking the concierge to make an appointment for an in-room session. Popular day spas include the Russian Turkish Baths, 5445 Collins Ave. at the Castle Hotel (tel. 305/867-8313; www.russianandturkishbaths.com), otherwise known as "The Schvitz," where the old guard meets the new in eucalyptus-scented Turkish steam rooms and aroma baths bolstered by marble columns. Browne's Beauty Lounge, 841 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach (tel. 305/532-8703; www.brownesbeauty.com), has expanded from a small second-floor salon into a full-service, 5,250-square-foot spa, offering massages, waxing, manicures, and a sublime signature hot-rock massage. For necessary kneading, Massage By Design, 959 West Ave., Miami Beach (tel. 305/532-3112; www.massagebydesign.com), offers all sorts of treatments, from detox to hot stone massages. Me Day Spa, 1439B Alton Road., Miami Beach (tel. 305/534-6363; www.medayspa.com), is one of the best day spas in the area, featuring a laundry list of facials, body treatments, laser treatment, makeup applications, waxing, manicures, pedicures and even, if you need your, uh, fill, Botox.

Taxes -- A 6% state sales tax (plus 1% local tax, for a total of 7% in Miami-Dade County [from Homestead to North Miami Beach]) is added on at the register for all goods and services purchased in Florida. In addition, most municipalities levy special taxes on restaurants and hotels. In Surfside, hotel taxes total 11%; in Bal Harbour, 11%; in Miami Beach (including South Beach), 13%; and in the rest of Dade County, a whopping 13%. Food and beverage tax in Miami Beach, Bal Harbour, and Surfside is 9%, in Miami-Dade restaurants not located inside hotels it's 8% and in restaurants located in hotels, 9%.

Television -- The local stations are channel 4, WFOR (CBS); channel 6, WTVJ (NBC); channel 7, WSVN (FOX); channel 10, WPLG (ABC); channel 17, WLRN (PBS); channel 23, WLTV (independent); and channel 33, WBFS (independent). Channel 39 is the CW (WBZL), and channel 33 is a MyNetworkTV affiliate (WBFS).

Time Zone -- Miami, like New York, is in the Eastern Standard Time (EST) zone. Between the second Sunday of March and the first Sunday of November, daylight saving time is adopted, and clocks are set 1 hour ahead. America's eastern seaboard is 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. To find out what time it is, call tel. 305/324-8811.

Transit Information -- For Metrorail or Metromover schedule information, phone tel. 305/770-3131 or surf over to www.co.miami-dade.fl.us/transit.

Weather -- Hurricane season in Miami runs June through November. For an up-to-date recording of current weather conditions and forecast reports, call tel. 305/229-4522.

 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.