Florida Guide > Planning your Trip
Driving in and around Orlando
Driving in a foreign country for the first time can be an adventure (!) and here are some hints and tips to help make it much easier for you. Firstly – don’t worry. Orlando is a good place to drive, even for the first time – the roads are safe and the drivers are sensible (unlike some European countries!).
Most of you will collect your car from the airport and this is a good thing to do. You can hire a car from the link attached to this website (except for US citizens) – this link is very economical and you only have to pay a £25 deposit on booking with the balance payable 8 weeks before departure. We have used this on many occasions now and have found the service to be excellent.
Planning your route
Firstly, if this is your first visit to Orlando, make sure that you plan your route to your accommodation. The owner of your villa should have provided you with a plan of the route to your accommodation and your car rental firm will also provide you with a map of the area.
The roads in Orlando are well sign posted, the roads are good and drivers are generally much better behaved than in England and the rest of Europe.
Road signs are generally directional rather than specific and will show the destination at the end of the road you are taking rather than the nearest point – e.g., I4 West - Tampa – this means that the road is the Interstate 4 and is travelling in a westerly direction and goes all the way to Tampa. At junctions and crossroads, there will be a sign up in the air in the centre of the road and this will tell you the name of the road you are crossing (not the name of the road you are on). These signs can be seen well in advance and are very helpful. All roads in the Orlando area have frequent and clear directions to the area’s famous attractions so you will have no trouble in finding your way around.
Right hand turns
Unlike the UK, you can turn right at many junctions even when the traffic lights are red against you. This is provided, of course, that the road is clear of both traffic and pedestrians! The majority of junctions have this and turning right at these junctions is optional. If you are not allowed to turn right, there will be a sign to indicate that this is prohibited. At some junctions, you must turn right provided the road ahead is clear of traffic and pedestrians (and you will be hooted at if you don’t). Again, these lanes are usually signalled well ahead, but do look out for them.
Overtaking and Undertaking
Unlike the UK, overtaking on the inside lane is permitted, so make sure you check both lanes when changing direction. When undertaking yourself, also be extra vigilant for other drivers who are not used to this kind of manoeuvre.
Car Pool Lanes
On busy roads, especially into down town Orlando, the outside lane operates as a car pool lane and only vehicles with more than one occupant can drive in these lanes.
Road junction markers on the I4 (and other roads)
The road junctions (exits) are numbered in relation to mileage rather than a numerical order. For example, between junction 55 and 58 on the I4 there is a distance of 3 miles, but there are no exits numbered 56 and 57. This is very useful because it tells you how far to travel to the next junction and gives you plenty of time to get into the correct lane. Additionally, by knowing the distance to the junction you want from the junction you start at, you can estimate how long the journey will take.
There are a number of tolls roads in Orlando, so make sure that if you are going to travel on a toll road you have some cash available or a Sun Pass. Most toll booths have lanes for correct change and for people who do not have the exact change and the lanes are usually well signed posted in advance but do look out for these.
When parking in bays that are side by side always drive into the parking bay with the rear of the vehicle facing outwards. This is because the cars in Florida only have a registration plate on the rear of the vehicle and so if you reverse into the parking bay, your registration plate cannot be seen. When police are driving past, they are more likely to check out a vehicle more closely if they cannot see the registration plate. It also makes it much easier to spot your car when returning to the car park, because many rental cars are similar makes and colours. If parking on the street, you must park in the same direction as the road you are parking on because it is illegal to park facing the other direction. When parking in large car parks, always take a note of the area you are parked in, otherwise you face a lengthy and time consuming search for your vehicle, many of which look identical to each other!
When you return to your car, even after a short period of time, it will be very very hot in the vehicle, even if you have been fortunate enough to park it in the shade. Allow a few extra minutes to leave the doors open and allow the heat to escape and the air conditioning to kick in before driving off, otherwise the heat can be very oppressive for the start of your journey.
Please make sure that any belongings left in the vehicle are out of sight. Put them in the boot or cover them up in the back.
The most important piece of advice
Drive on the right hand side of the road!
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