Time in Florida
Spring is the perfect time to visit Miami. You will avoid the winter crowds and the summer humidity. Sporting fans can catch the Miami Open Tennis Tournament, beach-goers can bask on sandy beaches and music fans can rock out at concerts. From Tampa, head to the Gulf Coast for shimmering ocean waters that reach around 21°C (69 °F) on balmy beach days. Spring is a pretty and floral time in the world’s theme park capital; surround yourself with beautiful blooms at the Epcot Garden and Flower Festival. Although spring is a lovely time to visit Florida, spring breakers arrive around the Easter holidays, so expect large crowds during these few weeks.
Florida gets scorching hot come summer with highs of 33°C (91 °F). Daily thunderstorms across the Sunshine State are quite normal. Luckily, they tend to arrive in short, sharp bursts before the sun and blue skies swiftly reappear. Cool off in the Atlantic surf at Fort Lauderdale’s beaches or jump on the Jungle Queen Riverboat for waterway views in the shade. Instead of theme parks, head to the Orlando’s water parks when the heat gets too intense. Cool off in the sea breeze on some of the USA’s best beaches – Clearwater and Siesta Beach. These Gulf Coast favourites offer visitors white-powder sands and shimmering waters. For even shorter queues and less-crowded beaches, avoid the mid-summer school holidays.
Although weather remains summery until mid-autumn, Miami and Orlando see less tourists come fall. Check out these cities as the whole of Florida gets “spook”tacular before Halloween. Take children along the Tampa Riverwalk for trick-or-treating, then venture to Naples’ pumpkin patches. Autumn is also a great time to visit the beaches since the surrounding coastal waters hover around 21°C (69 °F) until November. Enjoy hot beach spots without the crowds of summer and winter. Further south, you can savour the island tropics of the quirky Keys in their quieter season.
Winter is Florida’s driest and busiest season. This is peak time for tourists to hit up Miami and Fort Lauderdale because December brings sunny days with balmy average temperatures of 21°C (69°F). There’s also less chance of rain spoiling your outdoor plans. Go orange picking in winter, the best season for fresh Florida citrus. Soak up the sweet-scented blossoms in Tampa or pluck juicy fruits from the orange groves of Orlando. With annual winter holiday celebrations, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Miami all host big blow-out events for a memorable time away. Get Christmassy at Walt Disney World in Orlando, or party hard on New Year’s Eve in the bright lights of Miami.
If you’re a citizen of a country covered by the Visa Waiver Programme (such as the UK), you will need a valid e-Passport along with an approved ESTA to enter the USA. You can identify an e-Passport by the ‘chip’ symbol on the front cover.
You can apply for an ESTA online and should receive approval straight away. However, we recommend applying at least 72 hours before departure, in case any travel authorisation is denied. An ESTA is valid for multiple journeys and lasts for two years, or until your passport expires.
You will no longer be able to enter the USA using an ESTA if you have dual nationality when one has been issued by Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria – even if the other has been issued by a country eligible under the Visa Waiver Programme.
UK citizens can also fast track US passport control by joining Global Entry, the US Customs and Border Protection programme. Membership lasts for five years and the application process includes background checks and a face-to-face interview at an official enrolment centre.
Remember, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you have the right documents to be allowed entry into the USA when flying into Florida.
Tipping is a part of the culture because many service industries (such as accommodation, dining and transportation) factor tips into their staff’s wages. But you don’t have to go crazy with it. Our guide will help simplify who and how much to tip when you’re out and about in Florida.
In most Florida restaurants, it is customary to leave a tip between 15% and 20%. If you feel like your service has been exceptional, a 22% tip is warmly welcomed. Self-service buffets differ slightly, with a 12% tip.
Tipping at a bar is $1-$2, depending on the drink complexity – perhaps $3 for a cocktail.
Customarily, taxi drivers should be tipped 15% to 20%. Although hotel shuttle journeys are often complimentary, a $1-$2 tip would be appreciated by the driver – especially if they handle your bags.
At hotels, porters, maids and other service staff will appreciate a dollar or two for their help with luggage etc.
Florida is a melting pot, which includes Cuban, Latino and Hispanic heritage. Cuba is just 90 miles across the waters from the Florida Keys, so many Cubans made their way to the US during the Cuban Revolution. Seek out pockets of Cuban culture in Miami and Tampa’s Ybor City. While you may find flavourful Cuban cuisine across the state, you will encounter true culinary bliss in the Little Havana District of Miami. If you pass through Cuban-American areas, be sure to stop by and see another unique facet of the USA.
Call 911 in an emergency for the ambulance, police or fire brigade.
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For British nationals in need of urgent assistance