Theme parks, fine dining, shopping, and exciting nightlife all await visitors to Orlando. This Central Florida city isn't far from Daytona or Cocoa Beach for some fun in the sun, and as a result, Orlando gets over 60 million visitors, both domestic and international, every year. You can hardly mention Orlando without simultaneously thinking about the huge tourist draw that is Walt Disney World. Disney alone has four theme parks, and when you add this to Universal Orlando, museums, and nature parks, you can easily see why so many people spend their vacations here.
Orlando is spread over almost 200 square miles, so navigating the city can get tricky. Armed with a little information, you can choose the best transportation to suit your needs. A vast network of buses and trolleys, rental cars, and trains can help you get around Orlando conveniently. A car rental is the recommended mode of transportation, but even those who rent cars don't want to be stuck driving everywhere.
Once you arrive in Orlando, head to the nearest Bounce luggage storage to stow your bags safe. This will be one less thing to worry about as you navigate the city's attractions.
How to get around Walt Disney World Resort
Since most folks who travel to Orlando are heading to Disney, it's worth noting that the Disney Transportation System (DTS) is its own thing. The fleet of almost 300 buses runs throughout the park and is totally free. If you think you can walk the entire Walt Disney World Area, unfortunately, you're wrong. It's way too huge! Air-conditioned buses connect theme park goers from their Disney hotel to all four parks - Disney's Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. You can also travel between the theme parks this way. There is also a bus service to and from Disney Springs. For specific route info about this free shuttle service, it's best to ask the concierge at your hotel.
Another exciting way to travel to and from and around the Walt Disney World Resort is by monorail. Some hotels are even right on one of the three connecting monorail lines, the Resort Monorail Line. The pickup points are well-marked and trains run every 30 minutes.
If the monorail wasn't fun enough for you, Disney World also offers transportation by boat. In fact, the Disney Water Transportation System is the best way to get from Epcot to Hollywood Studios. Water taxis float through the lagoons and lakes every 15-30 minutes. Depending on your hotel, you can also benefit from a direct route from Epcot or Hollywood Studios via the Disney Skyliner. This aerial gondola system offers some of the best views of the park and surrounding areas.
When you pay the price of admission to Disney World, this vast network of monorails, buses, boats, and gondolas is at your disposal, even if you aren't staying at one of the resort's hotels. It's all free and encourages you to do and see it all.
Although it's a completely separate company, the transportation network that services Universal Orlando is much the same as Disney. There's a free shuttle service from resort hotels and the theme park also runs ferries.
How to get around Orlando by train
if you haven't arrived in town using the Orlando International Airport, you may arrive by train since Amtrak maintains a station in Orlando. Once you disembark, if you prefer to stick to trains as public transportation, you can rely on the SunRail commuter service. These trains have routes from DeBary in the north to Poinciana to the south and include a stop near Walt Disney World. Since these are commuter trains, they only run on weekdays, so visitors on weekends will have to find other means of transportation. There are no other transportation-specific trains in Orlando, other than the ones that connect the various theme parks and resort hotels.
Aside from the trains that are all business, Orlando has some fun ones, too. For families and couples who enjoy evening entertainment, the International Drive Resort Area is a fabulous option. Although it's fun during the day as well, at night the area really comes alive. The place is anchored by the iconic ferris wheel that gets lit up once the sun goes down. It offers some of the best views from 400 feet above the pavement. The Pearl Express Train in ICON Park is a fun way to tour the resort area and is perfect for the whole family. It departs throughout the day starting in front of the Wheelhouse.
How to get around Orlando by bus
Orlando is blessed with a vast bus network called LYNX to help you get from point A to B. The cost for one-way fares is $2, and you can ride all day for $4.50. If you plan on getting the bus frequently, a 7-day pass for $16 might be more appropriate. There are roughly 80 different LYNX bus routes throughout Orlando and neighboring cities, like Kissimmee, Poinciana, and Apopka. Specific buses run to various attractions as well. The Fastlink 418 will get you to Florida Mall, the 107 services Downtown Orlando, and a variety of options exist to take you to Universal Orlando and Disney World.
All the bus stops are marked with a pink paw print and the system offers apps for route planning, payment, and general information. Generally, the buses run in 15 to 30-minute intervals, but some of the less-traveled routes can leave you waiting for up to an hour. For any cyclists that need a boost to get around, the buses also allow bikes, which get loaded on the front of the bus prior to boarding. When you board, you will either insert your fare card or exact change in the receptacle next to the driver.
Tourists flocking to downtown can use the free circulator bus service called LYMMO to navigate the general downtown core. There are three different lines aptly named after citrus fruit. The Grapefruit Line runs east-west, the Lime Line serves Parramore and Creative Village, and the Orange Line travels through downtown and to the LYNX system's central station.
The I-RIDE trolley is a great way to get around Orlando's International Drive Resort Area. This fleet of colorful buses travels along International Drive via the Red Line and the Green Line covers Universal Boulevard. These trolleys stop at hundreds of destinations for fantastic shopping, dining, and nightlife. They run from 8 am to 10:30 pm and an adult fare will set you back $2, and exact change is required.
The buses that run in the Disney Transportation System account for the third largest bus system in the state behind Miami and Jacksonville. Add these buses to the LYNX bus system, and you can imagine that the sight of buses in Orlando is quite common.
Navigating Orlando by car
Renting a car is generally seen as the best way to get around Orlando. Airport transfers can get quite expensive, and although there are bus routes that connect the Orlando International Airport to Downtown Orlando and Disney World, they are not the most convenient option. When you rent a car you have increased flexibility to navigate the entire city of Orlando. Attractions tend to be quite spread out across the city, so having access to a rental car is ideal.
Most rental car companies are best accessed from Orlando Airport. It's where you'll find the best selection and usually the best prices. Plus, you get to pick it up when you arrive and avoid an unnecessary trip on public transportation to your hotel.
The outskirts of Orlando make for easy driving, with plenty of highways. Make sure you have some change or a card handy if you're planning a route that involves the Seminole Expressway (State Road 217) that runs from north to south. It's a toll road, but a quick way to traverse the city. Additionally, the trip from the airport involves another one of Orlando's toll roads, State Road 528. Although each toll isn't crazy expensive, if you're planning multiple trips, these fees can add up.
When you rent a car, you can get anywhere, and it's an extremely convenient option if you want to do some shopping. Downtown Orlando is surprisingly drivable and full of interesting shops and restaurants. For bargain shoppers, the Orlando Premium Outlets are well outside the Orlando core near Lake Buena Vista. A quick trip on the highway will get you there in no time for some of the best shopping in Orlando. Another benefit when you rent a car is your ability to get to the sandy shores of places like Daytona Beach. With a car, this picturesque beach town is only an hour away.
If you don't have the funds, are under 25, or just don't want to rent a car, it doesn't mean you have to rely solely on Orlando public transportation. Rideshares and taxis, like the ones from Diamond Cab Company, are also at your disposal. If you do take advantage of the network of taxis, keep in mind that this can add up fast, so try to keep these trips to a minimum. Rideshares, like Uber and Lyft, are available in Orlando, but just make sure you download the app first.
Can I get around Orlando on foot?
The answer, generally speaking, is no. Orlando is very spread out and although it's more than possible to navigate certain neighborhoods on foot, walking the whole city would take days and days. Some of the more walkable neighborhoods in Orlando include South Eola and Downtown Orlando.
With the South Eola neighborhood, you can easily explore on foot. Walk past cozy bars, lively restaurants, galleries, and The Abbey, which hosts cabaret shows and concerts. This neighborhood is also conveniently located adjacent to Lake Eola Park. Browse the streets and then head into the park to see some serene swans and rent a paddleboat. It's a great way to relax after the hustle and bustle of the many Orlando theme parks you've no doubt already visited or are planning to visit.
Downtown Orlando is one of the few areas that is best toured by walking. To take in the colorful murals, quaint streets, and the East End Market full of arcade games, food, and art you shouldn't be in a vehicle. Downtown is also the perfect place to find the best things to do at night in Orlando. You'll have your choice of dance clubs, rooftop lounges, and cocktail bars here.
Orlando transportation offers something for everyone. While a car rental is preferred, there are so many ways to get around the city and explore the abundant theme parks. Buses and trolleys are ideal to get to and explore downtown, cars help you save time and reach the outskirts of the city, and trains can get you here and offer some fun times within various attractions.
If you think you can travel to Orlando and avoid public transportation, you will likely be surprised. At the very least, since you can't drive into the theme parks, you'll need to take advantage of the parks' various transportation options, like boats, monorail, buses, and gondolas.
The majority of the walking you'll typically do in Orlando will be through the various theme parks. After you've put so many miles on your shoes, a car or public transportation becomes even more desirable to get around town.