What drives Tampa? Cars! The completion of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway Project and the invention of the air conditioner in the 1950s created the driving culture boom that led to the rapid growth of many Florida cities including Tampa. Consequently, in Florida, the car is king, and may often be your only choice to access the endless suburbs and strip malls of the Gulf Coast.
Driving: Getting around Tampa efficiently is really only possible with a car. Parking lots and parking garages are commonplace all over the Tampa Bay area. In fact, parallel parking isn’t even included on Tampa’s driving test! Most apartments will even include a parking spot or two for no additional fee. Tampa does have buses and taxis available, but the sheer geographical expanse of the Tampa Bay area can make the thought of taking the bus or paying for a taxi seem rather daunting.
Buying/Renting a Car: If you don’t own a car or you can’t afford one yet, you may look into sharing a car with your roommate or friend. This option really only works with students who tend to walk to class and drive only to go out and run errands. Even if you can walk or carpool to work, owning your own car is essential to enjoy all Tampa has to offer.
If you’re not totally committed to owning car, Zipcar is a popular car sharing company perfect for city folk who only need to use a car on occasion. Another great option is temporary leasing, especially if you’re not sure of the length of your stay. The Tampa Bay area is littered with car dealerships, so finding a place to buy or lease a car is not difficult. However, the experience at the dealership can be overwhelming. Consumerreports.org offers advice on buying and leasing new and used cars, but it’s always best to bring a friend or family member with you who has already been through the process.
Car Maintenance: Once you’ve got the car, maintaining it can bring another mountain of migraines. Car insurance is required in Florida and there are specific rules and regulations regarding insurance, which you would be wise to follow.
Fortunately, upkeep is made much easier without the intrusion of the winter season. Florida’s infamous heat, however, can do some damage to the interior of car, so you might want to opt for those windshield sun shades to protect your dashboard and seat cushions while it’s parked outside in the hot sun. This is a ritual most commonly practiced by middle-aged dads and retirees, but, hey, you can just consider yourself ahead of your time. Car washes and automotive repair shops can be found throughout Tampa for all of your car’s aesthetic and mechanical needs.
Public Transportation Buses: The Tampa Bay area does have a bus system in place to suffice as its form of public transportation. Likewise, Clearwater and St. Petersburg areas have their own bus system. Both of these systems can get you to and from significant spots in Tampa, but it will take much longer than driving yourself.
Taxi: For nights when Taxis are necessary, check out: 727Taxi, YellowCab, and United Cab of Tampa. Unless you’re at the airport or a big event, such as a football game, you will probably need to call a taxi to pick you up—so be sure to program a cab company number in your phone. Alternatively you can try Uber if you have the app installed.
In and Out of Tampa: Outside the city, travel can be done by sea, air, and land. Tampa International Airport, which was voted the 3rd best U.S. airport in 2010, offers the most efficient method for domestic and international travel.
For those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, Tampa’s extensive highway system makes travel by automobile an easy option. For those with a preference for rail travel, Amtrak makes a stop in Tampa on a route that makes it as far south as Miami and as far north as New York.
For more glamorous travel, head down to Tampa’s Port Authority where Cruise Liners line up to take passengers on their ocean getaways.