Miami International is a massive international hub, gateway to South America and for islanders like us, a necessary evil if we want to go, well pretty much anywhere. The airport has a fairly bad reputation yet recently I’ve found it pretty palpatable so for first timers, or just haters, I thought I’d put together some tips to help make your journey through MIA somewhat enjoyable.
It's worth pointing out at this point that this post is heavily focused on the American Airlines terminal so if you're travelling with other airlines, there will be some relevant info for you but the departure information will not apply.
Pee before you get off the plane. I’m serious. The average plane holds over 300 people. If you disembark and head straight for the bathroom, chances are at least 250 of your fellow passengers will overtake you on their way to the immigration hall and that’s 250 people in front of you in the line to get across the border. If you estimate that on average it takes each person 5 minutes to get processed, if there were 15 open desks you would be in line for an hour and 20 minutes - it pays to be first off the plane! Even if you're sitting towards the back of the plane you'd be surprised how many people you can overtake on the walk through arrivals.
The immigration hall is huge and there are a few hidden shortcuts. You'll come to a row of automated passport control (APC) booths outside of the immigration hall itself. If you are a US national or hold an ESTA visa you can use one of these machines. If there is a line however, keep walking - there's more machines inside the hall. Just follow the signs once you get inside. If you have global entry, that's inside too, and if you're a visitor without a visa you just want to get in line as quickly as possible with your completed immigration card.
Once you're through you will head downstairs down to baggage reclaim and make your way outside - welcome to Florida!
There's almost every type of transport available to take you into Downtown Miami or further afield from taxis, buses, trains and car rental - ask at the helpful and conveniently located information booths, just beside the Starbucks as you leave baggage reclaim, if you need assistance. Taxis and shuttles leave from just outside the main arrival area whereas rental cars and public transport require a ride on the airports monorail system.
If you're flying with American Airlines you'll be using terminal D. It's a sprawling terminal and requires a bit of time to navigate so don't leave getting to your gate to the last minute!
Once you're through security, which is as pleasant (or not) as it is anywhere these days, get your bearings. There's over 60 gates so if you've entered the terminal near gate 20 and you're flying from gate 48 you have some ground to cover and it's worth doing it sooner rather than later.
The best food and beverage options are concentrated at the two ends of the terminal with TGI Fridays, The Clover Irish Pub, Counter Burger and Sushi Maki all near the high 30's, while Wendy's and Shula's bar and grill are at the other end. The best food option in the middle of everything is Clubhouse One which serves your traditional diner style fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You'll find it next to gate 20.
If you're looking for grab and go snacks, there's a few "stalls" between gates 25 and 28 where you can snatch up a fresh slice of pizza, sandwich, salad or empanada on the run.
Shopping wise - Miami airport is not the best but it will cover basic needs in terms of Duty Free goods (liquor, cigarettes, perfumes and makeup) and there's a couple of book shops and electronics stores for place accessories and entertainment, but that's pretty much as far as it goes.
American Airlines has both arrival and departure lounges in concourse D (gates 15 or 30) and can be accessed by anyone flying business or those with platinum status or higher. You can also pay to access them for $50 per person.
TOP TIP - you can purchase an 1-month unlimited access pass for all AA and code share airline lounges for you and one guest for $99. The pass can only be purchased at an AA lounge in the USA but you can use it at British Airways, Ibera and Quantas lounges all over the world - awesome if you're taking more than one flight within a month and if you think about how much we spend in airports on food and drinks, you'll see the value for your money pretty quickly.
If you're a Priority Pass holder you can find lounges in concourse J and F.
Wherever you're flying to next, I hope your journey through MIA is as painless as possible and let me know if you have any tips of your own - I'd love to hear them!