Tampa is situated on the north shore of Tampa Bay on the west coast of Florida in the United States. The metropolitan area of which it is a part, is usually referred to as the "Tampa Bay Area". The largest city in the greater West Central Florida region, it is also the county seat of Hillsborough county. A 2008 estimate puts the city's population at 340,882. To the west of the bay lies Saint Petersburg, a popular tourist destination, while Bradenton is on the southern shore of the Bay Area.
The current location of Tampa was once inhabited by indigenous peoples of the Safety Harbor culture (most notably the Tocobaga and the Pohoy, who lived along the shores of Tampa Bay). The area was explored by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, resulting in violent conflicts and the introduction of European diseases, which wiped out the original native cultures. Although Spain claimed Florida as part of New Spain, it did not found a colony in the Tampa area, and there were no permanent American or European settlements within today's city limits until after the United States acquired Florida from Spain in 1819.
In 1824, the United States Army established a frontier outpost called Fort Brooke at the mouth of the Hillsborough River, near the site of today's Tampa Convention Center. The first civilian residents were pioneers who settled near the fort for protection from the nearby Seminole population, and the small village was first incorporated as "Tampa" in 1849. The town grew slowly until the 1880s, when railroad links, the discovery of phosphate, and the arrival of the cigar industry jump-started its development, helping it to grow from a quiet village of less than 800 residents in 1880 to a bustling city of over 30,000 by the early 1900s.
Tampa has a tropical climate with warm to hot weather and humid conditions year-round, though there are some seasonal differences regarding temperatures. Summers last from May to October with average highs of 29-32 °C and nights in the 20-24 °C range. This is also the wettest time of the year, especially from June to mid-September with an average amount of 150-200 mm a month, accounting for around 60% of the annual amount of 1,150 mm in just 4 months. From November to April, temperatures are a much more pleasant 22-27 °C on average during the day with nights mostly between 12 °C and 16 °C. It's mostly dry and sunny with occasional rainshowers though. This obviously is the best season if you want to do more than just lazying around.
|Avg Max||21 °C||21.9 °C||24.8 °C||27.6 °C||30.7 °C||31.9 °C||32.3 °C||32.3 °C||31.7 °C||29.1 °C||25.4 °C||22.3 °C|
|Avg Min||10 °C||10.9 °C||13.6 °C||16 °C||19.7 °C||22.7 °C||23.6 °C||23.6 °C||22.7 °C||18.4 °C||14 °C||11.3 °C|
|Rainfall||50.5 mm||78.2 mm||76.5 mm||29.2 mm||78.7 mm||139.2 mm||167.1 mm||193.3 mm||151.9 mm||51.3 mm||45 mm||54.6 mm|
Tampa International Airport (IATA: TPA, ICAO: KTPA, FAA LID: TPA) is located around 11 kilometres from Tampa's CBD. A few dozen of airlines serve the airport, mainly on domestic routes, but there are a few interesting alternatives on international routes, like the one to London Gatwick Airport.
The Silver Service/Palmetto, operated by Amtrak, travels between New York and Tampa.
Tampa is easily accessible via the major interstate highways, I-75 from north and south, and I-4 from the east. From either highway, exit onto I-275 to reach Tampa. However, be prepared for frequent traffic jams particularly when it rains; nearly all of Downtown and the airport area are under constant and complete construction. Also be ready to deal with terrible drivers, as this is the retirement state.
Cruise ships from five cruise lines operate from Tampa, mostly to Caribbean islands and Mexico. The Tampa cruise terminal is on the Ybor channel downtown.
The main freeways in Tampa are Interstate 275, Interstate 4, the Veterans Expressway (toll FL 589), and the Leroy Selmon Crosstown Expressway (toll FL 618). Some of the main east-west roads through town are Kennedy Boulevard (SR 60), Gandy Boulevard (SR 694), Hillsborough Avenue (US 92) and Fowler Avenue (SR 582), while some of the north-south roads are Dale Mabry Highway (US 92) and Florida/Nebraska Avenue (US 41). Traffic is especially bad during the rush hours: from about 7:30AM to 9:30AM and 3:30PM to 7:30PM. During these times, try especially to avoid I-275, especially between I-4 and SR 60 (by the airport) as this section runs by downtown and is currently being rebuilt.
There are numerous car rental facilities at both the airport as well as several places in Tampa itself, including downtown. Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
There is a trolley bus system in Tampa, which has the following lines running in the CBD area:
HART provides bus services throughout Hillsborough County. The TECO Line Streetcar has streetcars from Dick Greco Plaza downtown to Centennial Park in Ybor City with 8 stops along the way and is useful for travellers.
Unfortunately, Tampa is not very pedestrian-friendly. Ybor, Downtown, and SoHo are the only areas you can really get around on by foot. Plan to rent a car, if you're flying in.
There's plenty of choice in Tampa, from budget places to grab a burger or pizza, to expensive haute cuisine restaurants.
|Gram's Place BnB/Hostel||3109 N. Ola ave||Guesthouse||86|
|Red Roof Inn Tampa Busch||2307 East Busch Boulevard||Hotel||56|
|Sunset Inn||2106 E Busch Blvd||Hotel||-|
|Red Roof Inn||32000 us hwy 19 n||Hotel||-|
|Motel 6 Tampa Downtown||333 E Fowler Avenue Tampa||Hotel||-|
|Red Roof Inn Tampa Busch||2307 East Busch Blvd||Hotel||-|
There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.
See also International Telephone Calls
The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.
The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Tampa searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Tampa and areas nearby.
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