Car rental Fort Lauderdale
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Why rent a car in Fort Lauderdale?
With millions of travelers flocking to its beaches every year, Ft. Lauderdale is a tourist haven in the best way possible. From grand resorts to fine dining, the city perfectly caters to the luxury market. But other travelers aren’t left wanting either, with restaurants, entertainment, and accommodation for every budget.
With a combination of a woeful public transportation system, metropolitan sprawl, the expense of taxis and ride hailing apps, and the competitive prices of rental cars, it is no wonder most tourists will choose to have their own car for their stay. It also serves travelers well when it comes to being able to get to some of the area’s surrounding attractions.
Come for the beach and stary for the.. well, just stay for the beach!
Top ways to enter Fort Lauderdale
Located south of the city, Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport serves less international routes and hosts more low-cost carrier. Perhaps less crowded that Miami’s,, the airport has a similar car rental center and is within a convenient drive of Miami, itself. However, some rental agencies may be located off-airport, in which you will need to call them to have a shuttle bus sent.
Located just an hour’s drive south of Ft. Lauderdale, Miami International Airport is a large hub for air traffic for North America, Latin America, and Europe. From all three terminals, you can take the free MIA Mover tram to the Car Rental Center, where rental desks from all suppliers are in one place.
Travelers at the start or end of cruises to the Carribean or Mexico will arrive at either Port Everglades or Port Miami, both of which has the possibility for rental car pick-ups and drop-offs.
Ft. Lauderdaleis also easily accessible by road from Tampa, Cape Coral, Orlando, and other Florida cities by way of Interstates 75 and 95 and Florida’s Turnpike. It would not be a problem to bring a rental car from any of these cities to Miami and back, given that your given milage is sufficient.
Useful city facts
Dubbed the Venice of America by many, Ft. Lauderdale has an extensive canal system. It is possible to not just walk along these canals, but sail or ride through them. Gondolas styled after those in Venice make for a romantic experience doing such.
Ft. Lauderdale is located far enough south that it has no real winter and summer seasons. During what would be winter months in locations further north, the city sees temperatures drop only slightly. The main seasons in South Florida are rainy and dry. During the typical summer months, the city see much more rain and the likelihood of thunderstorms. The other half of the year is drier.
Hurricane season starts in June and runs through November, with mid-August through September having the highest likelihood of one making landfall. In the unlikely even you are visiting while a hurricane is threatening the city, heed all local evacuation orders.
After a day of exploring the are, travelers may want to leave their rental car parked and venture out for evening dining of drinks. A great way to do this is to take the Water Taxi. The Water Taxi serves the beaches via the Intercoastal Waterway and attractions along the New River. An Express Route also takes riders to Hollywood Beach. Service is from 10AM-10PM. In addition to all day tickets, the Water Taxi also offers evening tickets valid from 5PM.
Top destinations and activities
- The Beach - The primary reason travelers visit Ft. Lauderdale is, of course, to hit the beach. With warm weather year-round, there is no season that isn’t beach season here. With sections of the beach designated as dog friendly and family friendly, the are caters to all visitors. Many activities usually associated with beaches can be found here, from boating to snorkeling and diving.
- Nightlife - Fort Lauderdale's predominant scene has changed in recent years, going from a premier destination for college students on spring break to catering to luxury travelers. While the typical woo-hoo party atmosphere can still be found in some bars, chic lounges and clubs are becoming more and more popular.
- Riverwalk - Both a park along the New River and a neighborhood of Ft. Lauderdale, the Riverwalk is certainly worth a stroll. Mosey down the paths surrounded by green on your way to the Arts and Entertainment District catching glimpses of historic Ft. Lauderdale on the way.
- Swap Shop and Drive In Movie Theater - Make the drive just west of downtown during the day to browse the world’s largest daily flea market. Visitors may find that the selection is better if arriving earlier or that Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays are better days to visit. Come back at night time for one of the largest drive-in movie theaters; it has 13 screens. Movie lovers can find various newly released movies playing nightly with midnight shows on Friday and Saturday.
- Flamingo Gardens - Venture to the neighboring town of Davie, just west of the city proper, for a visit to this nonprofit wildlife sanctuary. The Gardens takes in rescued animals and provides them the best environment possible (no cages here!). Visitors will have a chance to see the namesake flamingos, a rescued black bear named Josh, panthers, bobcats, raptors, river otters, and more.
- Savor Cinema- Just south of downtown across the river lies this gem. Housed in a former church, it shows arthouse and international films in a quaint theater. The cinema is also the organizer and one of the venues for the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival, held annually in November.
Traffic and parking tips
Most large hotels on the beach and downtown only offer valet parking with an associated nightly fee. Overnight parking is not possible in city-owned parking lots or on the street. It may be possible to find a private parking garage nearby that allows overnight parking. Be sure to check your hotel’s parking policies ahead of time to avoid any shock when you check-in.
If staying away from the beach, be aware that you will have to pay to park when you drive to it. It is possible to pay for parking in on-street metered spaces and lots operated by the City of Fort Lauderdale with either cash, credit card, or the paybyhone app. There are also privately run parking lots available, too, generally having higher prices. Be sure not park in any business’ lot if not patronizing it, as your rental car will be towed. Parking enforcement is very strict.
One should expect parking rates to significantly increase on days when special events are being held.
Getting around Ft. Lauderdale by car is more or less the same as it would be in any other American city of its size. The road network is more than sufficient. However, expect major roads and expressways to be busy at most times to outright crowded during rush hour. The area is a haven for retirees from northern cities. Drivers should be aware of, and courteous to, the senior drivers.
Florida’s Turnpike is the longest toll road in the Ft. Lauderdale area, connecting Homestead south of Miami with Orlando and I-75 to the north. There are also express lanes on I-95 and I-595 which are usable only with a SunPass transponder (avoid these lanes if you rental does not have one, otherwise you will be charged $25 dollar fee along with other likely fees from the car supplier). The Sawgrass Expressway is another toll road in the area and travelers might use it to connect to I-75 from north of Ft. Lauderdale.
Most of the toll roads in the Ft. Lauderdale area do not have toll booths but instead rely on a cashless system. Payment in these cases takes place either by a SunPass transponder or toll-by-plate, a system which captures your license plate number and sends you an invoice in the mail. Unfortunately, Ft. Lauderdale is unlike other locations and you are not able to register your rental vehicle and pay for the tolls online yourself. You, therefore, will be forced to pay for the tolls through your rental contact, whether the company provides a SunPass transponder or not. This will also incur a fee from the rental car provider. It depends on the provider whether this is fee is charged once, for every day that a toll is encountered, for every day after the first day that a toll is encountered, or for every day of rental period.
Once can best avoid these fees and the toll charges by avoiding the toll roads all together. The best way to avoid toll roads is using Google Maps or another online map or GPS device with an option for avoiding toll roads. Of course, you should definitely seek to avoid rush hour traffic in this case.
Ideas for a day-trip
Miami- Depending on traffic, it only takes 30 minutes to an hour to drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami, the Latin American capital of the world. Here you can head to the South Beach area of Miami Beach to see and be seen or to Little Havanna for Cuban-American culture and cuisine. Miami offers travelers numerous opportunities for a welcome break from the Ft. Lauderdale’s lovely beaches.
Biscayne National Park - Located south of Miami, the park’s visitor center of the Biscayne National Park is at Convoy Point. While most visit park park that is mostly water with their own boat, there is plenty to see and do without renting one. The Biscayne National Park Institute offers numerous guided tours which include some equipment, such as stand up boards or kayaks, while other equipment can be rented from the park store (e.g., snorkeling gear).
Everglades - The heart of the Everglades from a traveler’s point of view is Everglades National Park. Venture southeast from Ft. Lauderdale to Homestead and then take the Ingraham Highway to reach the park. Most of the park is only accessible via boat, but guided tours are available. The park also hosts various trains for hiking or cycling. There only lodging in the park comes in the form of campsites. Note that the park’s operations are heavily curtailed during South Florida’s wet season.
Palm Beach - Located an hour or so north of Ft. Lauderdale, the Palm Beach area has more gorgeous beaches. Visitors often flock to the city to see the houses, most of which are worth millions of dollars. The beaches here also make for a good location to watch rockets launched from Cape Canaveral. One should be careful not to park illegally on the city’s streets, as police often tow vehicles.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park - It takes about an hour and a half to drive to this unique state park from Fort Lauderdale. Teeming with wildlife, the park offers opportunities for hiking on various trails, paddling down the National Wild and Scenic Loxahatchee River, camping, fishing, and more.
Bahamas - Drive to the port Ft. Lauderdale to catch a ferry to Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama. The ferry runs six days a week and is best booked ahead. With it taking just two and a half hours to make the journey, it is completely possible to make intercountry day trip. Enjoy a grand beach of the bahamas. Please be aware of the visa requirements, if necessary, for your nationality and note that even for American citizens, a passport is necessary.
Most popular rental types and cars
The most popular class of rental cars in Ft. Lauderdale is economy, of which the Hyundai Accent is an example. After the economy, the compact class is the next most popular, represented by cars such as the Nissan Versa. But because Orlando, with its theme parks, is a family destination full-size cars, such as the Nissan Altima, are also popular.
Tampa - Head down I-75 from Ft. Lauderdale to reach the bay area of Tampa with the largest port in Florida. Here a trip to Busch Gardens may be in order. If theme parks aren’t your interest, then exploring the famous neighborhood of Ybor bordering downtown will keep you occupied both day and evening.
Orlando - The theme park capital of the world, Orlando hosts over 70 million visitors every year. Just a few hours drive north of Ft. Lauderdale along Florida’s Turnpike, here you can visit the world-famous Disney World, Universal Florida, and SeaWorld theme parks with your family. If, alternatively, you are adults traveling alone, you can have a great time at CityWalk, Downtown Disney or Downtown Orlando. Be careful that your mileage allowance is sufficient to make the trip.
Bahamas - Located close to South Florida’s Atlantic coast, the Bahamas are a chain of Atlantic islands and a famous exotic destination. Take a ferry to the town of Freeport on Grand Bahama from Ft. Lauderdale as the quickest, and probably cheapest, way to arrive to the islands. Alternatively, the capital Nassau can be reached via a short flight from Miami. Note that the ferry does not carry vehicles. Therefore, you would have to rent another car if you would like to have one on the islands. Also be sure to check the visa requirements if you are not an American citizen or carry your passport if you are.
Cuba - If you’re not an American citizen, Cuba is wonderfully just a short flight from Miami. It is possible to rent a car in Cuba, though prices have risen dramatically in recent years, the road network may be found to be unsatisfactory outside of the main cities, and you will share the road with pedestrians, cyclists and salespeople. If you do intend to rent a vehicle in Cuba, be careful of scams and be prepared to make a deposit in cash.
Florida Keys - No trip to Florida can be complete without making the journey south to the Keys. An archipelago off the southern tip of Florida’s peninsula stretching into the straits of Florida, the Florida Keys is notorious for its beaches. The tourist high season is from December to April, when mild temperatures combined with less rain to make it the perfect winter getaway. Therefore, later in spring towards the beginning of summer may be the more pocket-book-friendly time to experience the keys. June through November are hurricane season, and therefore can be risky.
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