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Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

Just Like the Locals!!

After visiting Florida a couple of times a year for several years it soon becomes apparent that the “native” Floridians have various customs which separate them from us as visitors. One item is their attachment to mobile phones (or cellphones in Floridaspeak! ). Another is their ability to sail past the queues for the “Change & Receipts” lanes at the toll booths on toll roads while we look on enviously.

It is possible to use your UK mobile in Florida if it is a tri-band or quad-band phone (i. e. It has the USA bands incorporated). Initially, the setback to this is that calls will be billed via your UK service provider and will therefore be very expensive, even if you are calling a local number whilst in Florida. One answer to this is to obtain a USA network Pay as you Go sim card (such as T-Mobile, Cingular etc). These can be readily obtained from Ebay or from the network providers own shops in Florida. Often the sim cards come with airtime already in place, but can be topped up cheaply at many stores and outlets like Walmart, Walgreens, Publix etc. (As well as needing a tri-band/quad-band capability, your UK phone should also be “unlocked” to use any network).

Another thing to remember about the USA cellphone network is that their call prices are structured differently to the UK companies in that the recipient also pays a percentage of the call charge, which can come as a surprise if you have only received calls but still see your credit dwindling somewhat!

Another difference to UK phones is that the airtime and sim card go “out of date if not topped up with credit within a certain period of time (T-Mobile USA is about 45 days. There are however ways around this. With T-Mobile, after you have topped up to over $100 you become a “Gold Account” and just need to top up once a year. You get about 20% more time for your money and get to keep the same number! (You can top up to the $100 over a period of time. . …you don’t have to do it all at once)

We have used a USA sim for a few years now and the convenience of making local calls at low prices is tremendous.

For the toll roads, it is possible to buy Sun-Pass transponders from Walmart, Publix etc. for around $25. They stick on your windscreen by means of three rubber suckers and can therefore be removed and transferred to another vehicle (rental car). Initially you need to put $25 credit on your Sun-Pass account, which can be set up by phone or by internet on their website. From there the credit is used automatically each time you go through the Sunpass/Epass lanes and a small “beep” and green light tells you payment has been made . The light/beeps also warn you if the credit is low and payment can be made by credit card on a “one off” basis, or can be arranged by automated payment if you have a US bank account. These can be made via their website or by phone.

This method of paying the tolls means you can breeze through the Sunpass lanes (increasingly the toll roads are being altered to allow unhindered passage to the transponder equipped vehicles and only those vehicles requiring change or receipts need to divert to the toll booths.

So! There we have a couple of methods of making life smoother for your stay in Florida and allowing us visitors to feel a little more like locals!

We aim to provide accurate and useful information, but if you feel anything provided here is not accurate or out of date, please email us with the address of the page concerned and any comments so we can amend as necessary.

Page added on: 16 June 2008
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