When going to Florida, it’s very advisable to rent a car – especially if you plan to see something other than just South Beach. Here are a few pointers on your car rental when arriving at the Miami International airport (MIA) which I wished I’d remembered now that we did it a second time.
What you need to do from the comfort of your home before taking off on your trip is research the different rental companies. There are actually sixteen of them! You might be interested to know that most of the rental companies are actually owned by three big ones – Avis, Hertz and Enterprise. There are also rental companies outside the MIA rental car center (RCC), so double check the location of the rental center you have chosen. I only have knowledge of renting from the MIA RCC and thus this post covers only that.
The prices vary a lot and there are different conditions involved. This time round, we travelled during peak season (Christmas and New Years) which unfortunately meant that the prices of car rentals were up. If travelling other times of the year, you may get your car for half the price. We went for Budget since they had a second driver for free but only in the case that the second driver is the spouse of the renter.
After disembarking the airplane, it’s time to get your luggage. After you have done that, look for signs indicating the MIA Mover to the car rental center. You will first take an elevator to the third floor. From there you will proceed to a moving walkway which will take you to the Mover.
What you need to know is that the RCC is not going to be right next to your baggage claim area and it will take you at least half an hour to get there. From the moment you land to the moment you are actually in your car driving out of the rental car park, almost two hours may have passed by.
Once you actually get on the MIA mover, you are beginning to be closer to the RCC.
When you exit the Mover and finally see this sign below, you will know you are in the right place. Next proceed to find the car rental company you had selected at home and have your drivers licence and the rental papers handy. You will then go through the motions with the rental company. If coming from Europe, you will be very tired at this stage but try to stay focused – the rental companies often will try to put extras on your invoice at this point. Make sure you understand what you are paying for.
If your final destination is far from Miami, you have already travelled for hours and/or there’s a huge time difference compared to home, it may be a good idea to book a hotel near the airport for the first night. Then you will not risk nodding off when driving and will be more refreshed to start off in the morning.
Driving in Florida is nice and easygoing (except in Miami). It is useful to know the rule about turning right on a red light. You must first come to a complete stop and after stopping, you can turn right on red at most intersections if the way is clear. However, some intersections have a “NO TURN ON RED” sign, which you must obey. We can’t turn right on a red back home, so at first it caused me a bit of confusion. Car parks and parking spaces are big, so for once parking will be easy even if you have a huge car.
Something to take note of are the petrol stations in the proximity of the airport. If you have opted for filling up the gas tank yourself, you should know that the prices at the gas stations near the airport are shocking. Do fill up somewhere else and then just top up at the airport. The gas station is not right on the way of the RCC which is quite annoying, so have your passengers be on a lookout for it once you drive into the airport area, otherwise you will easily miss it.
Do make sure you reserve enough time for returning your car, as again, it will take you some time to actually get to the area where you will be doing your check-in and your bag drop. Also finding the gas station and filling up the tank may take surprisingly long. Hand in your car at the designated area, return your keys, grab your stuff and then off you go on the MIA Mover to the MIA Station.
Have you rented a car in Florida? How did it go? What do you think would be handy to know?