I have rarely been so frustrated as driving around Tampa, especially near the beaches. Despite a relatively small amount of traffic, I have never had so many people pull out in front of me, cut me off, or creep across a 4-lane road despite oncoming traffic. Seemed like the people had no concept of staying out of the way of others, basically assuming the other guy is watching and will hit the brakes before hitting them.
Road rage is no joke here, either. Tampa is said to have the second highest death rate due to road rage in the nation. One of my first days here I had a guy blow his horn for about 30 seconds, flip me off, and scream at me for about 5 minutes as he followed me down the road. Luckily cooler heads prevailed and I didn't stop and kick his ass.
You have to have a car in Tampa. True, the city recently built a beautifully restored trolley line running from downtown to Ybor. But besides that nod to the past, the mass transit system is virtually non-existent.
Wanna go on people power? Forget it. Tampa is annually listed among the deadliest cities in the US for pedestrians and bicyclists. My wife and I rode our bikes everywhere while away at college, but now they gather dust in the garage.
Tampanians believe that bike lanes are passing areas and sidewalks are short cuts. Perhaps that's because there are so few sidewalks and bike lines around here that nobody knows what they're actually for.
This lack of commuting options makes rush hour a major headache. The highways and byways come to a standstill, forcing frustrated motorists to injure passing bikers with well-timed car door swings rather than the traditional full-speed bumper ram.
So be careful out there.
Take a taxi during rush hour and expect to pay a heavy fare. Just one mile from the rental car office to the airport ran us $7.50, with the minimum fare to the airport being $10. Luckily they don't charge extra per passenger, per bag, or for airport drop off like some other cities. Standard rates are $2.00 First 1/5 Mile, plus 45¢ for each additional 1/5 mile, and 40¢ for each 80 seconds waiting time.
Take a taxi from downtown to my South Tampa house, and it will cost about $10. From my house to the airport at 6am only took about 10th minutes and cost about $16... faster and much less expensive for two of us than the airport shuttle ($27 for two passengers).
Min fare from downtown to the airport is $15 and max is $25.
Yellow Cab of Tampa - 813-253-0121
While driving around some of the busier residential areas in Tampa, you might see an ugly white sign that says "5 MINUTE PARKING CITY CODE 15-43." This is not a political sign, though it looks alot like an ugly campaign poster. This is a way to reserve a parking spot in front of your house.
The five minute parking sign is the way to enforce a law that saws no one can park directly in front of the door of a single-family home in Tampa. Those spots are reserved for the homeowner! The law is only enforceable if a homeowner has one of these nasty signs, and he or she calls the police to report a violator.
Get that car off my lawn!
There is no realistic alternative to driving around the Tampa Bay area, and this town is VERY spread out. Downtown St. Pete to downtown Tampa is at least an hour, assuming the traffic is light. Traffic is just a part of life, and doesn't seem to bother the locals at all. I, on the other hand, found going anywhere to be a huge drag. There are many fun things to do in the Tampa Bay area, but I was less likely to venture out because I didn't want to sit in the car. Further, there doesn't seem to be a strategically "good place" to set up camp - things that I wanted to see were all over the map. I was also hesitant to engage in any sort of nightlife because a few cocktails means that driving is out of the question, and a cab would cost a small fortune mostly due to commuting time. Planning is key in order to avoid the "rush hour" which is generally from 6-9 a.m. and 3:30-7 p.m. I don't understand how the locals do it.
The traffic can get pretty congested and heavy in certain areas. Avoid traveling on the road during rush hour. However, if you plan on living here I would recommend you travel during rush hour so you can find out how bad it will be coming and going from your place. Trust me. I moved 10-15 mins away and I thought it would be a great drive. NO! It's about an hour to get to work.
The only practical way to get around tampa is to drive a car. Don't try hitchhiking and looking for public transporation - you will be disappointed. Cars can be rented at the airport or at one of numerous car rental places scattered across the city. I have rented from Hertz and Avis before and they provide good service.
There are 3 major interstates in & out of Tampa. I75 comes in from the north, I4 from the east & I275 connects with both and gets you to St. Pete & Clearwater.
We have a decent transit system here. A bus line that pretty much goes everywhere, plenty of cabs and alot of car rental places. We also have the Port of Tampa where cruises set sail! Last but not least, we have a huge international airport that's easy to get in & out of.
Have a car if you are staying in the Tampa , Orlando and Miami areas . There is much to see and do within these areas that it is most convenient to drive around yourself or you can ask one of these guys for a lift .
Avoid being on the interstates during rush hours. This is between 8 and 10 in the morning and 4 and 6 in the evening during weekdays. You are better off sipping cofffee at any restaurant!
This is just a small advise. If you travel by car and are afraid to sleep in your car during night, stop at Walmart parking. They have security guys there 24hrs a day.