Answers from Our Experts (3)
More than a quarter of the 55 million people that visit Orlando every year arrive by air, which means they’ll likely need some mode of transportation once they get here. Those checking into Walt Disney World Resort with no plans to do anything but visit its four theme parks, two water parks, and two dining and entertainment hubs might want to consider forgoing a rental car. A sophisticated network of buses, boats and monorails transports guests throughout the entire 43 square-mile property and Disney’s Magical Express provides complimentary roundtrip transportation via a cozy motorcoach service to and from the airport.
If your accommodations or travel plans don’t solely include Disney, then definitely get a rental car. While there is a convenient and free bus system called Lymmo in the city’s downtown area, Orlando really is a car commuter town and the public transportation infrastructure is nothing like the system you would find in New York City or Toronto. The good news is, once you have your rental car, it isn’t too difficult to find parking, even downtown, and you’ll find toll highways to be very well marked and easy to navigate.
One final thought: check to see if your hotel offers a free shuttle to the parks and attractions you hope to visit. If they're offering transportation to all the places you're hoping to go, you may not need a car after all.
It is hard to overlook the irony of Orlando's reliance on the car, considering Walt Disney's original dream for his "Florida Project" was a town where the workers for the Magic Kingdom commuted via a series of PeopleMovers, etc. Today, Orlando - and even Walt Disney World - is the poster child of urban sprawl. Getting around town without a car can be quite a hassle due to a lack of efficient public transportation - the Lynx bus is OK at best - and a round-trip taxi from Disney to Universal might set you back as much as a week long car rental. Many hotels in Orlando, like the Ritz Carlton at Grande Lakes, offer shuttle services to Disney and Universal, which might eliminate your need for a car. Otherwise, I suggest packing your drivers license.
Orlando is a very spread-out and large city and most things are not within walking distance. Unlike New York City, Washington D.C. or Chicago, Orlando doesn’t have a metro system that is used daily by residents. You’re always welcome to use a cab service; however, if you’re here for longer than 2 days, the price of that will get pretty expensive.
My advice to visitors is to definitely rent a car. If you’re flying in, there are more than enough rental car services right near Orlando International Airport and the airport even provides free shuttle services to get there.