Florida: Travel Tips
Holiday from start to finish: the most important addresses and
information for your Florida trip
From the UK, Orlando, Florida’s busiest airport, is served by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Continental, with frequent flights from London Heathrow and Gatwick. There are also as services to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, Florida Keys Airport and Tampa. From Manchester, you can fly to Orlando with US Airways, Virgin and Monarch, and from Bristol to Orlando with Thomson (once a week) or daily with an Aer Lingus connection. Within the US, Orlando is connected to major American cities by Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways, while Miami is a main hub for American Airlines. The flying time from the UK is about nine hours.
CAMPING & HOSTELS
There are attractive campsites in the state parks. For more details refer to www.floridastateparks.org. Youth hostels that are part of the YHA Youth Hostels organisation have to be booked in advance (www.hiusa.org).
Hire cars are cheap in Florida: from $160 per week with unlimited mileage. Reservation by phone is free of charge within the USA:
Avis 1 800 3 31 12 12
Budget 1 800 5 27 07 00
Dollar 1 800 8 00 40 00
Hertz 1 800 6 54 31 31
National 1 800 3 28 45 67
If you book from outside the USA, damage insurance (CDW) and additional thirdparty cover are normally also included, which can be expensive if booked after arrival. Some hire firms have a minimum age requirement of 25 years.
CONSULATES & EMBASSIES
1001 Brickell Bay Drive | Suite 2800 | Miami | tel. 305 7 96 57 73 | ukinusa.fco.gov.uk/florida
200 South Biscayne Blvd. | Suite 1600 | Miami | tel. 305 5 79 16 00 | www.canadainternational.gc.ca/miami
The duty-free allowance when entering the USA is: 1 litre of spirits or 2 litres of fortified or other wine, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars. Many foodstuffs, especially fresh food, may not be imported. The allowance when entering the EU from America is: 1 litre of spirits, 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250 g of tobacco, 50 g of perfume or 250 g of eau de toilette and other articles (except gold) to a value of £390. It is forbidden to take corals and alligator leather (as belts or bags) from the USA to Europe.
The speed limits are: 70 mph on interstates, 55–65 mph on highways, 30–35 mph in built-up areas. Tolls are payable on some roads and bridges, so keep some loose change at hand to avoid long waits at the staffed booths. Some traffic regulations that are worth noting are: at traffic lights you are allowed to turn right even on red (exceptions to this are marked). At crossings with a halt sign for traffic coming from every direction, the rule is that the first to arrive has priority.
Overtaking on the right is allowed on multi-lane roads. When school buses stop at the kerb with their warning lights blinking, traffic in both directions has to stop. Petrol (gas) is sold by the gallon; 1 US gallon = 3.8 litres. Breakdown services provided by the AAA (American Automobile Association, tel.1 800 2 22 43 57) generally do not apply to hire cars, so check when hiring what cover the rental company provides. If not in a hire car, member of motorists’ associations from other countries get a free basic emergency service, so take your card from home with you.
110 Volt/60 Hertz. Small devices brought from Europe like hair dryers or shavers work with an adapter. Larger devices might require a transformer (available from electronics stores like Radio Shack), otherwise charging can take a long time.
Tel. 911, free emergency number for police and medical aid.
Accident and emergency departments of hospitals (called emergency rooms, ER) are obliged to treat all patients, but they demand a credit card from non-US citizens. Do not fail to take out travel health insurance when travelling to the USA!
To travel to the USA without a visa you need to comply with the requirements of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA, https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov), making an application at least 72 hours before starting your journey. Passports issued after October 2005 must have a digital photo. Passports issued after October 2006 must be electronic passports with a digital chip conftaining biometric information. The ESTA approval is valid for two years. Children must have their own passport, and for a stay longer than three months a visa is required.
Information in UK: Visit USA Association (UK) Ltd | US Embassy, 24 Grosvenor Square, London, W1A 1AE | tel. 0207 495 4814 | e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.visiusa.org.uk
Information in Florida: Visit Florida | P.O. Box 1100 | Tallahassee | FL 32302-1100 | tel. 1 850 4 88 56 07 | www.visitflorida.com
MONEY, BANKS & CREDIT CARDS
Banks (usually Mon–Thu 10am–3pm, Fri 10am–5pm) do not change cash of other currencies, but do take traveller’s cheques and pay out cash on presentation of credit cards. You can buy dollars in cash at booths in airports and hotels. Credit cards are thecommonest means of payment. Problems with a European card can occur, e.g. at a petrol station, if the security procedures require you to give a postcode. Traveller’s cheques issued by American Express (in case of loss tel. 1 800 5 28 48 00) and Visa (tel. 1 800 8 47 29 11) are also accepted. You can get money from a cash point (ATM) using a normal European bank card if it is affiliated to Maestro.
PHONE & MOBILE PHONE
Dial 0 to get the operator, who can help to set up a return call, or with phoning using US phone credit cards. A call from a phone booth costs approx. ¢25, but hotels charge more – sometimes much more, so it pays to check before you dial. For a cheaper alternative, buy a phone card at a kiosk, petrol station or supermarket (compare prices per minute!). By using a free number and a cart code you can use a phone card to make calls without paying cash from private landlines.
These cards are not suitable for making local calls from public phones, as the connection charge is fairly high. European mobile phones work in the USA only if they are GSM tri-band phones. If you have one of these, check about roaming charges before you go and remember to reset the phone to GSM. For long-distance calls in the USA: dial 1 before the area code; toll-free calls operate on the codes 800 and 888. Code for calling overseas from the USA: 011 followed by country code, e.g. UK 01144, Ireland 011353. Code for calling the USA: 001.
Post offices open Mon–Fri 8.30am–5pm, sometimes also Sat 8.30am–noon. The price of a stamp for a postcard to Europe is ¢70.
Almost everywhere in the USA – and in this travel guide – prices quoted do not include tax. 6 per cent sales tax is added, and for hotels and restaurants tourist impact tax, which varies in level.
Florida is in the Eastern Standard Time zone (GMT – 5 hrs), but west of a line between Chattahoochee and Apalachicola you are in the Central Standard Time zone (GMT – 6 hrs). Summer time is from 1 April to the last Sunday in October.
Waiters expect 15–20 per cent of the total on the bill, or check. A gratuity is only included in the price in the most touristy places. Hotel bellboys expect at least $1 per piece of baggage. European visitors should remember that in the USA tips are regarded as a part of the salary, not an added extra. Service staff need gratuities to earn a decent living.