Overseas Highway
Overseas Highway to the Keys
Rent a Car?

Many people may hesitate driving a car while visiting Miami and South Florida. If you plan to spend all your time on the beach, dancing the night away and squeezing in some time for shopping, indeed a rental car may not be a necessity.

Nevertheless, if you intend to visit the surrounding areas such as the Keys, try other beaches, stop at some of our local attractions, shop at humungous suburban shopping malls, a rental car makes a lot of sense. I have found that Sixt Rent a Car has some of the best prices and service here in Miami. They even have a location on South Beach if you prefer to pick up a vehicle after you have arrived at your hotel.

Airport or Hotel pick-up?
Picking up your car at the airport will save you an initial taxi or shuttle ride, but if you get lost driving around your own neighbourhood, this might not be such a good idea. If, on the other hand, you do decide to do this, click here to get clear instructions. Also bear in mind that airports often charge quite hefty fees to the rental car companies for the privilege of using their facilities. In this case, picking up your car the next day from a location near your hotel, and dropping it off at the airport when you leave makes economic logic. Very often you don’t need a car the first day anyway. Nonetheless, if you do decide to rent from the airport counter, take a moment to print a Google map with directions from the airport to your hotel. This will help to acclimatize you to the city layout prior to arrival. By the way, take it easy on the cocktails during the flight. Laws for driving under the influence are tough here, and we want your first night to be in a comfortable hotel bed, not a local jail cell.

Child Restraint Seats .
If you're traveling with children, please keep in mind that all children under 40 pounds (18 kilograms) must ride in an FAA-approved child restraint system. Make sure you request one when you make your original reservation. There will usually be a nominal charge.

Automatic transmission.
Virtually all rental cars here will be automatic transmission. If you are used to manual shift, you will probably be a bit heavy on the brakes until you get used to it. Just keep your left foot as far away from the foot controls as possible. Automatic transmission also makes it easier to use mobile phones while driving, which regrettably is still permitted here.

Rude Drivers.
For the third year in a row, rude drivers who chat on cell phones and speed through red lights have earned Miami the title as the U.S. city with the most road rage. Miami motorists said they saw other drivers slam on their brakes, run red lights, multitask while driving, talk on cell phones and have even been seen texting, according to the survey by AutoVantage.

It may well be the Latin influence that makes Miami drivers to be somewhat on the exuberant side. On the other hand, there is also a significant contingent of older retired persons, who tend to drift along at 40 miles per hour in the fast lane. In spite of the above, because here all streets are extraordinarily wide, and run straight as a dye, you won’t find it hard to adapt to local driving.

Road Rangers
Road Ranger Assistance

Road Rangers
If, heaven forbid, you run out of gas or break down on the expressway, Miami-Dade County runs an excellent Road Ranger service. These vehicles look like tow trucks and cruise all the expressways regularly being Good Samaritans to unfortunate drivers. They carry extra gas, jump cables and battery chargers, tools to fix a puncture, first aid kit, extinguisher and other emergency items. If worst comes to worst, they will tow you to the nearest exit and phone a regular tow truck. The service is quite complimentary.

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Expressway road signs

Florida Road Classification
Many of Floridas motorways are toll roads. Urban toll roads are generally called expressways and the main North South State highway is the Florida Turnpike. Federal interstate highways, such as I-95, I-75 and I-4 are generally free of charge. Other roads are maintained either by the city, county or state. All state roads are numbered, but some roads have the state numeration as well as the local street name or number. For example Le Jeune Road, which runs past the airport, is State Road 953 (SR 953). It is also NW 42nd. Avenue.

Miami Street names
The majority of American cities use a numerical system for street names. Sometimes major throughways will also have a regular street name. Cities are divided into four cuadrants, North West (NW), North East (NE), South West (SW) and South East (SE). Avenues run North/South. Streets run East/West. In theory this makes location of addresses simple. When you see an address, say, 1055 NW 52nd. Street, you know this location is in the North West section of Miami on 52nd. street between 10th. and 11th. avenues. Don't bank on taxi drivers knowing this. They still seem to get lost whatever. Miami Beach is so skinny there is no room for cuadrants, so only the streets are numbered and the avenues have proper names.

Toll Plaza
Toll Plaza

Sun Pass
The vehicles you see zipping by to the left while you queue up at the toll booth are using a Sun Pass If you intend to drive around a lot, especially for long distances on the toll road system, you might want to invest in a Sun Pass. You will need to splurge US$ 4.99 plus tax to purchase the SunPass Mini window sticker and create an opening balance of at least US$ 10.00. With this you save 25% at most toll plazas. You can purchase these at Publix supermarkets or CVS pharmacies (drug stores). If you go this route, make sure you detach the card from your windscreen before you drop off your car. If not, the next lucky user will be sailing through toll plazas on your dime! Slowly but surely, tolls on Florida motorways will only be collected electronically with SunPass or with TOLL-BY-PLATE, a system that takes a photo of a vehicle's license plate and mails a bill to the vehicle's registered owner. Cash toll collections will be eliminated. With SunPass or TOLL-BY-PLATE, drivers DO NOT STOP to pay tolls. Drivers in rental cars should ask about charging tolls to the credit card used to rent the vehicle.

Different Rules of the Road.
Here listed are some differences in driving regulations that you should keep in mind:

1. Keep right.Of course you drive on the right here.

2. Over and undertaking! Overtaking on the right is permitted. This means you don’t have to hoot or flash your lights at golden age drivers hogging the fast lane. It also means people may be passing you on all sides. It’s scary at first, but you will soon get used to it.

Left Hand Turn
Left and right turn lanes

3. Right turn on red. Turning right on a red light is permissible after a full stop and visual check to the left to see that it is safe to turn and a glance to the right so you won’t run over any pedestrians trying to cross. Most large crossroads also have left turn signals.

4. Pedestrians. You probably will not see any pedestrians while driving in Florida. They are dying breed. Hopefully you did not eliminate the last one on your first right turn on red.

5. Lighting-up time.You must turn on your headlights at sunset. Remember it gets dark much quicker here closer to the equator.

6. Wipers on...lights on. You must turn on your headlights as soon as it starts to rain. A good way to remember is windscreen wipers on…lights on. The downer is forgetting to turn off the lights when you park, and returning to a dead battery. In some cars the lights turn off automatically, others will beep at you, but don’t bank on anything that obvious. Check the lights before you leave your car.

Four-Way Stop
4-Way Stop

7. 4-way stops are the U.S. equivalent to a traffic roundabout with the difference that all cars must stop, not just yield. The car on your right has the preference, but beware; many Americans are blissfully unaware of this.

8. Stopped by Police. If you are unfortunate enough to be stopped by a police patrol car, note the following. The patrol car will park behind you. Do not get out of the car. The officer will approach the driver’s window and request documents. Keep in mind that this is a gun loving country, so don’t make any rapid moves. If you need to get your documents from the glove compartment or elsewhere, advise the officer and do it unhurriedly. You might want to access this helpful link.

9. Motorway Signs. On motorway signs the mileage indicated is to the exit, not to the destination. If you see Fort Lauderdale 1 mile, you may not be close yet; it is just one mile to the motorway exit, not the city centre.

South US 27
US Highway 27 South

10. North, South, East or West? Some years ago in Europe I spent almost a hour driving in the wrong direction without realizing it. That is difficult to do here in the U.S., as all road signs will advise in which direction you are driving; north, south, east or west.

Speed Limit
Speed Limit 40 MPH

11. Speed Limits. In Europe there are generally three speed limits, motorway, highway and built-up areas. Here in the USA speed limits seem to be at the whim of local authorities. Motorway speeds can vary from 55 MPH to 75 MPH. City streets can be anything from 20 MPH to 50 MPH. Keep a weather eye out for varying speed limits on your route. Even if limits are not standardized, fortunately signs are. Be very carefull passing schools when letting in and out, where the speed limit of 15 MPH is strictly enforced. You probably will not go wrong if you "go with the flow".

Although this is an Orlando website, it pretty much covers all aspects of driving for visitors here in Florida, but don't let it put you off.

Pay & Display Meter
Parking
Because the United States is the land of wide open spaces parking is generally not a problem. In cities, and especially on Miami Beach, things become a bit more complicated.

Parking meters
Slowly but surely the parking system is being changed with individual coin meters being replaced by pay and display machines which accept coins, bills (notes) and credit cards. Nevertheless, if you intend parking in a built-up area, always have plenty of quarters (US$ 0.25) handy just in case.

Pay by Phone
In 2008, Miami became the first major US city to accept mobile payments for parking. Sounds handy? Well, you will need a locally operational smartphone, then register your vehicle license plate on a special free app. Techies should have no problem.

Decal Parking
Be careful on residential streets in Miami Beach, especially South Beach. Many streets have reserved curbside parking for residents with decals only.

Parking garages.
Lots of these now, pretty much everywhere you need them. Look for the obvious “P” sign directing you to these multi-story buildings. You will be pleased to find that the parking spaces are huge compared to skinny European slots. Even Miami Beach has lots of parking garages. For locations click here.

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