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Sea Turtle Research - Vero Beach, Florida

Driving in Florida


(I hired my car through Virgin and Alamo - unfortunately I can't tell you how much it cost exactly as we are still working it out!  Although I was sure I had booked GPS and full roadside assistance, when I went to pick up the car I was told it wasn't included.  As there was no way I was heading off without a GPS I ended up shelling out an extra $150 on the spot!  Aside from this the service was good, although they didn't explain that, having paid for a full tank of gas I could have left the car with an empty tank, which was an additional $50.  Six weeks on and I am still waiting for a proper response from Virgin so, I am not sure I would recommend booking through them next time!)


It's been 5 years since I drove a car and 10 since I drove in America (LA last time) and it is a breeze, aside from the fact that cars turn both left and right off dual carriageways so GPS is helpful if for no other reason than to tell you which lane to get into.  Also signage varies so much, sometimes it's on the road and sometimes it means the next main road, which led me down a lot of dead ends.  Best tip from a Floridean as I picked up my hire car "Watch out for tourists."


If you are using a non-US credit card to fill up (insanely cheap by UK standards) with gas (that's petrol), you will usually have to go inside and prepay.  If you don't use the full amount it should just charge the amount used, or the cashier may give you a cash refund.  Gas station bathrooms are generally much, much nicer than those in the UK, but you may have to come off the highway or interstate to find a gas station – don't leave it too long!


Watch out also for EXIT ONLY roads (usually signed in yellow), another reason to hang in the middle lane – these snuck up on me a couple of times, when I was doing well for time and then suddenly found myself taking an unscheduled right turn!


Florida is very flat but you really should still use the handbrake, and don't worry when the car revs like that, it’s just an automatic and it will change up a gear when it sees fit.


The most important thing is not to think of all the movies you've seen roads like this in; Bad Boys, Bad Boys II, Speed, Bad Boys II again.


Best tips; take it easy as The Eagles sang, if you miss a turn you can turn round and come back, if you turn the wrong way down a major road and find five cars headed to you it will be scary (not that I did this!) but Floridean drivers are used to tourists, if people get stressed and beep you for driving slowly don't let it bother you (especially if there is a clear lane for them to overtake), don't let your GPS rule you – you are the driver and sometimes the scenic route is safer, don't be scared of toll roads, the toll people are generally lovely and even if you take Sunpass route by mistake your fine should be around $10, take plenty of rest stops if you are driving on   super boring main roads and remember to be calm as they sell ammo by the side of the road here.


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