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Travel guide Tampa

Travel like a local

Gasparilla Pirate Festival

Annual Tampa event since 1904

Time in Tampa

4km long

Clearwater Beach

Your essential guide to Tampa and the Gulf Coast

When will you visit Tampa and the Gulf Coast?

Average
25°C
77°F
Spring
Average
28°C
82°F
Summer
Average
24°C
75°F
Autumn
Average
17°C
63°F
Winter

Spring in Tampa and the Gulf Coast

Spring is particularly lovely in Tampa, where the average daily high is in the mid-twenties. Because of the fine weather, the Gulf Coast receives plenty of visitors, which means finding a hotel in spring can be expensive. There are lots of nice events around, taking advantage of the clement weather, but only in a state as sandy as Florida would you be able to attend a sand sculpting festival. Admire carved marvels, all made of simple sand, at Fort Myers’ Sugar Sand Festival – it’s one of the best things to do in Florida.

What's on

Summer in Tampa and the Gulf Coast

Just as in the rest of Florida, Tampa’s busy, sticky summer season is peak tourist time. The temperatures hit a toasty 28°C in June, the hottest month of the year; and the ‘wet’ season runs from May ‘til November. In summer, frequent thunderstorms clear the air – Tampa is considered the lightning capital of the States. Don’t worry, though. Storms are usually over as quickly as they start. Interestingly, Tampa’s highest recorded temperature is 99°F (37°C) – it’s never reached ‘triple figures’.

What's on
  • Jun
  • Jun
    SummerJazz on the Gulf
  • Jul
    Independence Day fireworks at Coachman Park, Clearwater

Autumn in Tampa and the Gulf Coast

Although autumn is still considered Florida’s ‘wet’ season, there’s still plenty of sunshine. Temperatures stay in the mid-twenties, and there are plenty of events to get excited for. Like many other Florida theme parks, Busch Gardens goes all out for Halloween. You can take on its famous rides in the dark and hang out with zombies in the queues. Tampa’s historic district, Ybor City, is widely considered one of the most haunted places in the United States. October’s the perfect month for one of the many city ghost tours.

What's on

Winter in Tampa and the Gulf Coast

Florida’s winters are exceptionally mild, with an average temperature of 17°C in January, the coldest month. Christmas feels a little different down here if you’re used to snowy weather and hot chocolate. Instead, you can watch local boats motor around the harbour, their decks decked in fairy lights at the Fort Myers Christmas Boat Parade. Gasparilla Pirate Festival comes swashbuckling into Tampa from January to March, a season of events that commemorate a mythical Spanish pirate. Look out for square-riggers moored up in the bay and watch where you’re going if you’ve decided to don an eyepatch.

What's on

Tampa visa and entry requirements

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. You should receive approval straight away. However, we recommend applying at least 72 hours before departure, in case travel authorisation is denied. An ESTA is valid for multiple journeys and lasts for two years, or until your passport expires.

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 Tampa.

Road trip essentials

  • Most hire cars now come with a satellite navigation device. If not, you can add a sat nav to your package. Otherwise you can bring your own device pre-loaded with Florida maps and planned routes to the places you want to visit.
  • In Tampa, you can park on street, paying at the parking meters, or in parking lots. Meters usually take quarters – so keep a few to hand.
  • On longer drives keep water and snacks in the car just in case, especially on hot days.
  • Different states in the US have different speed limits. In Florida you can drive up to 70mph on the Interstates, 65mph on a four-lane highway and 60mph on other state highways.
  • In an emergency, you can contact the Florida Highway Patrol by dialling *FHP(347).
  • If you are involved in a collision then you and the other driver should move to a safe place, and call 911 to report the incident.
Discover our Florida road trip itineraries

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Florida I-75

The journey: Tampa – Sarasota – Fort Myers – Naples – Miami

Florida road trip itineraries


To the theme parks

The journey: Tampa – Busch Gardens – Orlando – Cape Canaveral – Daytona Beach


Tipping in Tampa

In the United States, tipping isn’t just polite, but necessary. Unless you’re genuinely unhappy with the service, it’s customary to tip staff in the service industry – many rely on gratuities to make up their wages. You shouldn’t just tip in restaurants, but at hotels and in taxis, too. Still not sure? Read our tips on tipping below.

15-20%

In restaurants, add a tip of 15-20% to your bill. You don’t have to tip on the added tax, so make your calculation based on the pre-tax amount – this number is usually shown at the bottom of your bill.

$1-3

When you’re sitting at the bar, tip your barman per drink. This should usually be around $1 to $3. If they’ve made you an elaborate Bloody Mary with all the trimmings, you might want to tip up to $5.

15-20%

Tip your taxi driver around 15%. Give them a little extra if they’ve made additional stops for you, or helped with your luggage. You can also tip Uber and Lyft drivers using their respective apps. If you’re lucky enough to use a limo, check that tip hasn’t already been added to your bill.

$1-2

In your hotel, tip your doorman if they hail you cab and your porters for handling your luggage. You can also leave a tip in your room for your cleaner. Don’t forget to tip your concierge if they secure some hard-to-get dinner reservations for your party.

Staying safe:

As in any busy city, it’s prudent to take care when travelling. These simple tips will help you stay street smart:

  1. Plan travel routes ahead of time to get a sense of your bearings.
  2. Stick to busy, well-lit streets when walking after dark.
  3. Avoid flaunting valuables, including mobile phones, in public.
  4. Respect local alcohol laws. You must be 21 or over to drink.
  5. Cross the street at dedicated crossings; jaywalking is a fineable offence.
  6. Tampa is a tropical destination, so layer up the sun cream and bug spray.
  7. Remember that Florida is an alligator hot spot, so take care when walking near lakes and swampy areas.

To better prepare for your holiday, read our additional travel advice and the government’s foreign travel advice.

Useful contacts in Tampa

Emergency

911

Call 911 in an emergency for the ambulance, police or fire brigade.

Discover more of Florida

Discover mesmerising beach scenesin Clearwater and the kookytropical islands of the Keys.

Amy Rosoman,  for British Airways

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