Tips for Traveling Internationally to Florida
By VISIT FLORIDA staff
Read on for tips about applying for a visa, what to pack for your Florida vacation and more.
Visitors to Florida from Great Britain, Ireland, Holland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, Sweden, Portugal and Switzerland (and 16 other countries; visit travel.state.gov for a complete list) that are travelling with a valid passport do not need a visa for holiday or business travel of 90 days or less. All that is required is a completed “visa waiver” form, issued by flight attendants either before or during the flight. However, all visitors must hold round-trip or return tickets. For longer stays, all international visitors should obtain a B-2 (non-immigrant, pleasure tourist) visa, which is valid for six months.
Citizens of countries other than those listed above will require a U.S. visa, which can be applied for through the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Make an appointment early enough before your planned visit, as there may be a wait. Ask the Embassy what forms you will need, what fees you must pay (keep your receipt) and what documentation you must bring to your appointment. Visas are usually issued within a few weeks of application.
It is a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport and any other travel documents before you leave home. Take one set of copies with you, packed separately from the originals, and leave the other set with someone at home.
How do I pack?
Bring cool, comfortable clothing – shorts and casual shirts, sundresses and, of course, bathing suits, tops and sandals. Keep in mind that topless sunbathing and thong-backed bikinis are prohibited in most parts of Florida. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, hats and visors to protect you from the sun (or buy them when you arrive). For evening outings, “resort casual” attire (trousers, collared shirts, cotton dresses) is acceptable in most places, though gentlemen might consider packing a light sports coat if you’re planning a special evening out at a resort or formal restaurant. While Florida’s climate is generally warm all year round, it’s a good idea to bring a light jacket in late November through early March. Pack insect repellent and an umbrella or a light mackintosh during the rainy season, which lasts from June through October. Don’t worry if you forget anything – Florida stores can supply you with anything you need.
How do I find my Embassy or Consulate?
Most foreign Consulates in Florida are located in Miami. To locate yours, visit http://isss.fiu.edu/consulates.htm.
How do I exchange currency?
You can exchange currency at most major airports, banks, at private exchange offices such as American Express or Thomas Cook, and at some hotels. Foreign currency exchange offices at international airports are usually open until the last international flight comes in, Monday through Saturday. Most banks are open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and some are also open on Saturday mornings.
Travellers cheques are still the safest way to travel with large amounts of money, and they are accepted at most locations. Credit cards are widely accepted by hotels, shops, restaurants and car hire companies. Be aware that sales tax (usually 6 to 7 percent) will be added to most prices at shops, restaurants and attractions.
How do I report lost or stolen credit cards or travellers cheques?
To report missing credit cards, travellers cheques or travellers cheque cards, call the corresponding freephone numbers:
American Express: 800-528-4800
Diners Club: 800-234-6377
American Express: 800-221-7282
Thomas Cook: 800-223-7373
How do I find accommodation?
Whether you plan to stay at a hotel, motel, resort or bed & breakfast or rent a holiday home, you’ll find it on this website. First, click on “Destinations” to select the region of the state you plan to visit. Then either click on the appropriate part of the map or choose from a drop-down menu of areas or cities. Choose “Accommodations” from the list to the left. You will find an overview of amenities as well as links to individual websites for most properties.
How do I learn about special packages or discount offers?
Click on the “Hot Deals” section of this site near the top of the screen. You will learn about short-term special holiday packages and discount offers. You can also subscribe to receive a free monthly e-mail that lists all newly added “Value Offers” customised to your interests.
How do I place a telephone call from my hotel?
Generally, you must first dial an access code. Check the instructions on the phone, or ask the concierge or front desk clerk for assistance.
How do I place a telephone call from a public phone?
Coin-operated public telephones are widely available. To use one, pick up the receiver, deposit your money (the minimum amount is posted on the machine, usually 25 or 50 cents), and then dial the number. A voice message will alert you to deposit more money, if needed. Phones generally accept 5-cent (nickel), 10-cent (dime) and 25-cent (quarter) coins. You can also use your credit card or a pre-paid phone card to pay for calls.
How do I call the police, ambulance or fire brigade?
To reach the police, fire brigade or ambulance in an emergency, dial 9-1-1. This call is free from any public phone (no coins required). On motorways, there are emergency call boxes roughly every half-mile (1 kilometre) that will connect you to people who can help.
Drivers may dial *FHP on Florida interstates and highways in an emergency to reach the Florida Highway Patrol (state police).
How do I call home?
Dial the international dialling prefix, 0-1-1, followed by your country code, city code and
How do I find a doctor?
Check with the concierge or front desk clerk at your hotel for recommendations. You can also look in the Yellow Pages telephone directory under “Physicians.” Larger cities and some towns have 24-hour walk-in medical clinics, where minor injuries and illnesses can be treated. Find these in the Yellow Pages as well or call Telephone Information at 4-1-1 and request the phone numbers of local clinics or hospitals.
Consider purchasing travel insurance prior to your trip – it typically covers medical care in addition to trip cancellation and baggage loss. Your insurance company or travel agent should be able to recommend a suitable policy.
How do I find a dentist?
Check with the concierge or front desk clerk at your hotel for recommendations, or look in the Yellow Pages telephone directory under “Dentists.” You can also find a nearby dentist through the Dental Referral Service at www.1800dentist.com, or call 800-235-4111.
How do I obtain an International Driving Permit?
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is inexpensive and useful to have for identification purposes, even if you’re not planning to drive. It must be issued in your own country before you depart. Apply through the local or national branch of your automobile association. The application usually requires one or two photos, a current driving licence, an additional form of identification and a fee. An IDP does not replace your regular driving licence; carry both if you are planning to drive. An IDP is valid for one year.
How do I hire a car?
To hire a car you must have your driving licence, passport and a credit card. The minimum age for car hire is 21, but some agencies will charge more for drivers under 25. Major companies will allow you to pick up a car in one location and drop it off in another (for an extra charge). You can generally make reservations before you leave your country, either by phone or online. Here are links to some commonly used car hire agencies:
Camp USA Motor Home Rentals: www.onfreewheels.com
Dollar Rent-A-Car: www.dollarcar.com
Hertz Rent-A-Car: www.hertz.com
Luxury Rental Cars of Orlando: www.luxrentals.com
How do I drive?
- Remember to drive on the right side of the road.
- Legal speed limits are posted on the right side of the road.
- You may turn right at a red light after coming to a complete stop, unless a sign indicating “no right on red” is posted at the intersection.
- Headlights must be on in fog or rain. Turn off windscreen wipers when stopping at tollbooths.
- When law enforcement vehicles are in one of the “break-down” lanes, either assisting a motorist or pulling over a speeding vehicle, you must move to the far lane, away from the police.
- Wearing your seat belt is required by law. In addition, children under age 4 or less than 40 pounds (15 kg) must be in an approved child car seat, usually available from your car hire company.
- Driving while drinking alcohol or while under the influence of alcohol is illegal. Appoint a “designated driver” in your group who will drink only non-alcoholic beverages for the evening and drive home safely.
- Drivers may dial *FHP on Florida interstates and highways in an emergency to reach the Florida Highway Patrol (state police). This number can also be used to report an accident in progress.
- Some interstate highways have tolls – The Florida Turnpike (Ocala to Homestead), Alligator Alley (1-75 between Miami and Naples), and the Bee Line Expressway (Orlando to Cape Canaveral) are examples. Some coastal islands have bridges at which a fare is charged.
How do I convert kilometres to miles or vice versa?
To change kilometres (km) to miles (m), multiply km by .621; to change miles to kilometres, multiply m by 1.61. For example, 1 mile = 1.6 kilometres; 60 miles per hour = 96.6, or approximately 100 kilometres per hour.
Here are some other useful conversions:
Meters (m) to feet (ft): multiply m by 3.28
Feet to meters: multiply ft by .305
Kilograms (kg) to pounds (lb): multiply kg by 2.20
Pounds to kilograms: multiply lb by .455
Grams (g) to ounces (oz): multiply g by .035
Ounces to grams: multiply oz by 28.4
Litres (L) to gallons (gal): multiply L by .264
Gallons to litres: multiply gal by 3.79
To convert Fahrenheit (F) to Celsius (C), subtract 32 from F and multiply by .555. For example, 32 degrees Fahrenheit = 0 degrees Celsius (a temperature you’re not likely to see in Florida!); 80 degrees Fahrenheit = 26.6 degrees Celsius
How do I find public transport?
The American Public Transportation provides links to transit agencies throughout Florida, including bus, train and ferry timetables: www.apta.com/links/state_local/fl.cfm#A4
How do I find a taxicab?
Taxicabs (more often called “taxis” or “cabs”) are easily found at airports, transit terminals and major hotels. You can ask your hotel concierge or front desk clerk to either provide you with a phone number or call the cab for you. Alternately, you can look in the Yellow Pages telephone directory under “Taxicabs.”
How do I apply for a fishing or hunting licence?
Licences are required for both fresh and saltwater fishing in Florida and are available at many marinas, bait and tackle shops, and the local county tax collector’s office. For detailed information and regulations on hunting, freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing, as well as wildlife viewing, hiking trails and boating safety, visit www.floridaconservation.org
How do I apply for a marriage licence?
You can apply for a marriage licence at the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court in any Florida county. Both bride and groom must have a valid passport and a translator, if necessary, who has a valid U.S. driving licence. No blood tests are required and there is no waiting period to get married for non-Florida residents. The licence is valid for 60 days.
How do I find a restaurant?
This site provides listings for restaurants statewide, and offers useful information such as average price, whether reservations are recommended and if the restaurant offers a children’s menu. It also provides links to the restaurant websites, if available. Click here to view a list of restaurants in Florida cities and towns. You can also check with your hotel’s concierge or front desk clerk for recommendations.
How do I tip?
In the U.S., tipping is a customary reward for good service. In restaurants, bars and nightclubs, tip servers a gratuity of 15% of the total bill (before tax) for good service, or 20% for excellent service. Some restaurants include a gratuity in the amount of the bill so be sure to check or ask your server so you do not overpay (the bill would say “gratuity included,” if so).
Tipping is also appropriate at a beauty salon or spa (haircut, manicure, massage, etc., at 15% of total bill); bellhop at hotel or airport ($1 per suitcase); valet ($2 when he delivers your car); taxi driver (15% of fare) and housekeeping service if you are staying at an upscale hotel ($1 - $2 per day of your stay). On package tours, guides and drivers usually get $10 per day from the group as a whole: check whether this has already been figured into your cost and pre-paid. For local sightseeing tours, you may individually tip the driver or guide if he or she has been helpful or informative; the amount is at your discretion.
How do I find the corresponding U.S. size for clothing and shoes?
Please note that clothing and shoe size conversions are not an exact science. It’s best to try on clothes and shoes to be sure they fit properly.
Visit the Florida online parks guide at www.floridastateparks.org (for state parks), or see individual listings, by region, on this site, click here to view all outdoors activities and filter by "Parks/Forests."
How do I find points of interest?
This site provides complete listings, with overviews and links to websites for attractions, historical sites and more. You may find them by area clicking on “Destinations” to select the region of the state you are visiting, then choosing from the options on the list to the left, or by clicking on “Experiences” from the menu near the top of the screen.
How do I purchase tickets to sporting events?
Check local newspaper listings or contact the local Visitors Bureau; find contact information on this site under “Visitor Services.” Tickets for sporting and other events are available for purchase at Ticketmaster, www.ticketmaster.com. You can also visit the following websites of Florida teams for dates and ticket purchases:
American Football (NFL)
Jacksonville Jaguars: www.jaguars.com
Miami Dolphins: www.miamidolphins.com
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: www.buccaneers.com
Miami Heat: www.nba.com/heat
Orlando Magic: www.nba.com/magic
Major League Baseball
Florida Marlins (Miami): www.flamarlins.com
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: www.devilrays.com
Florida Panthers (Miami): www.floridapanthers.com
Tampa Bay Lightning: www.tampabaylightning.com
Stock Car Racing
Major League Soccer (Football)
How do I reserve a tennis court or arrange for golf tee times?
Check our listings for public tennis courts and golf courses in the areas you will be visiting. Alternately, your hotel’s concierge or front desk personnel can assist you in making arrangements.