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It’s no secret that South Beach, Miami is one expensive destination! In my recent post about things to do in South Beach for couples, I estimated that a weekend in South Beach costs $1,000! But, there are plenty of ways to save in South Beach!

It’s really worth it to scrutinize your budget because South Beach really is an awesome destination. The beaches are beautiful. The architecture is so photogenic. The weather is nice. And, the food is incredible! So stretch that budget with these tips.

Be sure to read number 3 so you don’t fall for this number one tourist trap that will cost you so much money!

These are the best ways to save money in South Beach, Florida from a budget traveler. This travel guide includes information on where to stay for cheap in South Beach, how to save on meals at expensive restaurants, and more!

1. Public transportation is your friend

Boo. Hiss. Yeah yeah I know. I know it’s not everyone’s favorite, but public transportation is key in South Beach and very accessible! Miami bus fares cost $2.25 per person each way and the South Beach trolley system is totally free.

First to get to South Beach, take the bus (Route 150) that goes straight from the airport to Miami Beach. When you descend the escalator at the airport to the bus stops, look for number 10 on a large pillar – that’s for Route 150. It’s kind of annoying that the numbers don’t match, but you can tell because the bus map is fixed on the pillar.

As for the free trolley system, look for the blue busses and stops around the city. The main routes are South Beach Clockwise/Counterclockwise loops.

There are a couple apps that can help track the trolleys including the official government app (Miami Beach eGov) or one simply called Miami Trolley. I also recommend using Google Maps to actively track yourself when you’re aboard so you know when to request a stop.

Note that the trolley doesn’t stop unless you request one. They’re great though! Aside from being free, they’re also air conditioned! Yay!

Blue trolley bus driving independently on a street in Miami Beach Florida with partly cloudy skies and a cream colored building in the background with a few palm trees scattered along the street
Free trolleys travel all over South Beach, FL.

2. Free bikes

This is in line with public transportation, but make sure to capitalize on the plentiful free bikes in South Beach. Use the CitiBike app to find bike stations across the city.

As long as you only have them for 30 minutes at a time, it’s completely free. If you need to travel longer than 30 minutes, I recommend hopping from station to station and swapping bikes so it’s always free.

free bike station with blue Citi bikes and palm trees in the background blowing in the wind.
You'll find free bikes at stations like this across South Beach! This station is one of many in Lummus Park.

3. Do not double tip!

I cannot stress this enough. This is the number one tourist trap in South Beach. I fell for it twice before I knew it existed and that was twice too many. Please learn from me.

Restaurants in Miami Beach, including South Beach, automatically charge an 18% gratuity on your food bill. That means if you don’t read your receipt carefully, you could easily double tip!

Nothing like going to an already expensive restaurant then paying $25 instead of $12.50 on tip…right? WRONG. Your money is valuable and especially your travel budget, so don’t waste it!

Read your receipt carefully. This 18% tip is an extra line item listed above the total price. Sometimes it says “Gratuity 18” or “Service 18” if not 18% gratuity.

If you’re unsure if it was already added, you can also check the second receipt that you receive after paying with a card where you fill in the tip, total, and signature. If the tip line says “additional tip”, that’s another indicator.

There are plenty of different ways to spot this one, but do take the time to check, because double tipping adds up quick!

restaurant South Beach Miami on Ocean Drive with patio and red umbrellas
The restaurants are great, but boy will they get you with that double tip if you aren't careful!

4. Make use of all the free activities

South Beach is notoriously expensive, but that doesn’t mean your activities need to be. Here are some free options:

  • Go to the beach
  • Ride bikes
  • Take a self-guided walking tour of the art deco district

For more of my picks, read my favorite things to do in South Beach.

Art Deco style on a building in Miami with light blue accents on white building and green palm tree in the front
An example of the fun art deco style along Ocean Drive.

5. Pick and choose your high-budget activities

It’s easy to get sucked into the expensive taste of South Beach with pricey clubs, water sports, and museum entries. I’m not saying you can’t do any of that, but definitely pick and choose your high-budget activities wisely.

Here are some options for incredible memorable experiences with a higher ticket price:

  • Brunch or dinner at Gianni’s in the former Versace Mansion
  • Jet skiing
  • Food tour

Travel to me (and life, really) is all about experiences over things so if it’s in your budget, I would pick one really awesome higher budget item to add to your itinerary.

exterior of the Versace Mansion in Miami Beach with italian architecture, palm trees, and tall bushes, on a partly cloudy day
The exterior of the Versace Mansion is a star in its own right...the dining experience is just as unforgettable.

6. Maximize happy hours around town

There is really no reason not to go to happy hours. The drink deals are amazing, the food is less expensive, and there’s usually less people and shorter wait times, if any.

We visited Naked Taco and loved the happy hour where we got BOGO margaritas and they brought us shots on the house!

As for food, you can absolutely make full meals out of happy hour food most places and it can save you $10+ per person.

couple clinking margarita drinks in a booth at a restaurant
Happy hours are a great way to maximize your budget!

7. Be selective when choosing a hotel

When I’m planning a trip, choosing a hotel probably takes me the longest (aside from actual activity planning). I have lots of boxes to check and I think they were especially helpful in South Beach.

I learned from our trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia, that a beach hotel without free beach supplies sucks. Especially if you’re not road tripping and you can’t just bring your own gear.

Here are the things I was looking for in a hotel:

  • within walking distance to the beach
  • free beach chairs and towels
  • complementary breakfast

These three things were deal breakers for me and ultimately I picked Hotel Breakwater and loved it! It was across the street from the beach and came with free beach chairs, towels, water bottles, bikes, and free breakfast at a café down the road.

If you’re starting from scratch, I highly recommend visiting your booking site of choice (I like Booking.com and Hotels.com). Set your upper limit on the budget bar and search by map so you can physically see the distance to the beach if that’s important to you too.

Once you find some choices, start scrutinizing the amenities and read reviews. On Booking.com, I like to sort the reviews by most recent and also search for specific terms, like “beach towels” or “breakfast” to get a better idea of the amenities from past guests.

Anyway, being thorough might seem like a pain, but it ultimately saved us $30 per person per day. SO worth it.

view of a hotel exterior called Breakwater, a white building with blue accents and large vertical Breakwater sign
Hotel Breakwater had all the amenities and a great location!

8. Bring your lunch to the beach

Easier said than done right? Of course bringing your own food saves money, but how exactly do you pull that off? It get’s tricky when you’re flying and can’t bring any groceries.

Here’s a step-by-step:

  1. Figure out some easy lunches to bring. We like PB&J sandwiches + chips and apples or bananas because you don’t need a fridge or cooler.
  2. Pack a few Ziploc bags in your suitcase to use for your lunches only. We packed 5 or so gallon size Ziplocs (that could fit 2-3 sandwiches stacked side by side) and an insulated tote bag to bring any food/drink to the beach. Again, you don’t necessarily need this, but it was nice to have cold water and beer.
  3. Take the free trolley to an actual grocery store – not the expensive corner marts (more on that in number 13). We went to Target, and Publix was right around the corner.
  4. Buy the essentials. We also stocked up on sunscreen and Gatorade.
  5. Pack your lunch each day.
  6. Save $$$. Profit.
someone holding a sandwich at the beach on a cloudy day
Bringing your lunch to the beach is a great way to save money in South Beach!

9. Bring your own alcohol

This is similar to the above, but it applies to drinks too! You can also take the free trolley to a real liquor store…again not one right off of the main roads in South Beach because those are super marked up in price.

We went to Total Wine and More, which was across the street from the Target mentioned in number 8.

Just be aware that some pools and beaches don’t let you bring glass bottles.

If you want to bring liquor and not just beer cans, pack some flasks to transport the goods.

10. Avoid the high season

While this might seem like a general budget travel tip, it’s because it works! Don’t visit during peak seasons, which are spring break (March-April) and winter break (Thanksgiving, December, and January).

Off season (aka the cheap season) is February, May, and August-October. I recommend avoiding August and early September because it’s still hotter than Satan’s armpit out there. Also, be sure to check for hurricanes, because that’s a thing in Florida.

11. Use Groupons for restaurants

I love Groupon. Every time I’m writing a “how to save” type post, I always include this tip because it’s so underrated (see my Vegas tips here)!

If you’ve never used Groupon, they sell discounted digital vouchers for goods and lots of travel things. You can use them for activities and restaurants.

In South Beach, I got Groupons for Naked Taco to save $20 on a meal for two, and for Front Porch Café to save $30 on a meal for two. Plus, both places were delicious so it wasn’t like I was sacrificing good food for budget.

Just make sure you read the fine print for each voucher and if you’re confused, call the actual business (not Groupon). For example, both of these vouchers said I needed to make a reservation in order to use the Groupon. When I called and asked, Naked Taco said I didn’t need one but Front Porch Café did.

Lastly, in order to save even more, you can use Rakuten and Honey at Groupon, to get cash back (Rakuten) and further coupons (Honey). I also used Honey to get a discounted Groupon gift card upon checkout of my vouchers which saved me an extra $5!

Work all the angles, is all I’m saying. And don’t you dare forget about using that student ID.

budget tip for South Beach is to use groupons for meals like this one with tacos and quesadilla
This was one of the couple meals we had discounted thanks to Groupon.

12. Avoid a rental car

South Beach is actually really public transportation friendly. A rental car is a huge expense on vacations and totally unnecessary here.

We got everywhere via the free trolley and bus system from the airport. We did use Lyft once when we returned to South Beach after spending the day in Miami and evening at a Marlins game because it was too late and public transportation was not running.

man in yellow riding a bike away from camera on a palm tree lined road, partly cloudy sky, in south Florida
Ocean Drive is the main stretch in South Beach.

13. Shop away from the action

The main stretch in South Beach is on Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Washington Avenue. Here you can’t really find big grocery stores, only corner marts and the occasional pharmacy.

If you’re planning to do grocery shopping or need some essentials, you will save money by traveling away from the action.

You can take the free trolley to Alton and 5th Street (or 6th, depending on the direction you take) and you’ll find a shopping center with Target, Total Wine and More, Publix, Petco, and Ross. That should have everything you may need for yourself or your furry companions.

Spending more time in Florida? Check out these posts:

hand outstretched holding frozen butterbeer from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando with the Leaky Cauldron restaurant in the background

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Read these budget tips for visiting South Beach in Florida which is normally an expensive travel destination, but it doesn't have to be. With these travel tips and budget hacks, you'll save money when traveling to South Beach and still have a great beach getaway in Florida.
These are the best ways to save money in South Beach, Florida from a budget traveler. This travel guide includes information on where to stay for cheap in South Beach, how to save on meals at expensive restaurants, and more!
These 13 ways to save money in South Beach Florida are must reads for any budget traveler looking for a fun budget friendly travel destination in the USA. This travel guide has travel tips for saving money including how to get around South Beach for free, the best hotels in South Beach for cheap, and where to eat in South BEach for discounted pirces!
Read these budget tips for visiting South Beach Florida including where to stay in South Beach for cheap, where to get free transportation in South Beach, free things to do in South Beach, the best free beaches in South Beach, and more!


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Recent PhD graduate and hyper-planner of Periodic Adventures, my goal is to share travel inspiration, budget tips, detailed guides, and fun travel stories!

Comments:

  • Wendy

    These are excellent tips. I travel to Sobe often. Taquiza is my favorite taco place. La Sandwichier is an excellent value, as is Ocean Deli. Wec like to take our empty roller bag (emptied) to supermarkets and liquor/beer runs on vacation. We always bring refillable drinking vessels, a gym bag that goes over the shoulder and beach sheets. We always pack baggies and trash bags. Since covid, I miss all of the infused waters in hotel lobbies. I truly love south east Florida.

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