Do I need a car in Miami? Miami is the real Florida, a simmering melting pot of cultures that is a complete contrast to the theme park land of Orlando. These different cultures have created many cities within the city, so what is the best way to get around and experience this richness?
Why rent a car in Miami?
- Florida Keys. This isn’t just about driving around Miami, where alternative options are available, as mentioned below. A drive down through the Florida Keys is an absolute must, and you really need a car to have the flexibility to do this at your own pace. The numerous bridges that connect the islands that make up the Keys provide an endless rotation of natural and man-made wonders, with the world-famous 7 Mile Bridge being the highlight. For this reason alone, our recommendation is to rent a a car in Miami, even when we don’t think it’s an essential for Orlando.
- Everglades: A car is a must to visit the Florida Everglades, unless you would rather go on a packaged tour.
- Tampa and Orlando? There are no big theme parks in Miami, so a rental car is also good for heading north west to the Tampa Bay area (for Busch Gardens), or north to Orlando – but both of these are relatively long drives – 4 1/2 hours or 4 hours respectively. You might find it easier to catch a local flight to enjoy a multi-city stay including either of these two locations – see our Orlando page for more about car hire there.
Why not? Visiting Miami without a car
- Elevation: Miami may have a terrible transport system, but the Metrorail is at least elevated. Better still, the MetroMover in the downtown area is one of the world’s few elevated city centre transport systems, and the skyscrapers in Miami are a wonderful mix of looking up to glass and concrete reflecting a clear blue sky, and looking down at verdant landscaping. However, this won’t take you anywhere near the hotel resorts on Miami beach!
- Deco bikes – who could think of a cooler name for the community bikes program(me) which operates on Miami Beach. Unfortunately, the scheme hasn’t extended beyond this area, so you will still need either a hire car or to use public transit.
- Who cares about the local attitude? You’re here to enjoy your Miami holiday on your terms.
- Boats: To enjoy views of some of Miami’s most upmarket homes, you will need to take to the water. This is best done on a tour boat, and you will be picked up from your hotel anyway, so no car needed.
- Be lazy: Miami is a city of lazing around cabanas and then going to sizzling late-night parties. We don’t all have to turn up like the celebrities in programmes like CSI Miami, a taxi will do perfectly well.
- Fly or Drive? If you do intend to travel between Orlando and Miami, regular coach services are available, but you can also fly. Miami to Orlando flights are very frequent and incredibly cheap.
- Everglades? Swamps? Doesn’t that mean alligators? Maybe somebody else can drive!
- Crime: Much as though we prefer to think of ‘Miami Nice’, the city does still have a reputation for the vice, and this includes car crime.
Beyond Miami without a car
- Coaches and Trains: You can, of course, visit the Florida Keys by coach, but bear in mind that scheduled bus services heading for Key West are there to provide transportation, so you will miss many of the best photo opportunities. Other bus and coach services are available to nearby cities, and Tri-rail provides service to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
- Tours: Miami has a varied network of tour providers who will show you the best the city has to offer, without needing to use a rental car. Excursions are available to the Everglades, and even as far as the Disney resorts in Orlando.
James says - a few trip notes:
Do I need a car in Miami? – The Verdict:
There might not be a strict need to rent a car in Miami, if you just want to hang around Miami beach. There is no need for a car in Miami just for enjoying the lounge life. However, if you really want to see south Florida properly, then a visit to the Florida Keys is well and truly essential. So is a trip into the Everglades National Park. On top of this, if you rent a car in Miami, you are also going to have much easier access to the wealth of diverse neighbourhoods that make up this city.
VERDICT – YES (and a strong one!)