Using tolls in Florida
For a first timer it can be difficult to avoid the tolls leaving MCO airport as both the major routes that the signs direct you to follow for Disney or universal go through at least one. Miami is also surrounded with tolls.
Your rental car will come with sun-pass and E-pass toll system that will automatically pay your tolls and charge the credit card you leave with the rental car agency. This normally takes a month or two. You will be charged a fee for this in addition to the tolls. Different rental car companies have different fee structures. Some charge you only for the days you use it, others charge you for every day of your rental or even every toll (Dollar and thrifty both charge $15 PER TOLL if you don’t take their all-inclusive package). Please check your individual company if you choose this option. If you do pick this, you can use the sunpass express or E-PASS lanes at all the tolls. If driving in or around Miami this might be your only option since a number of the toll booths are cashless.
If you decide to pay as you go, first make sure that the sunpass device, if fitted in your car, is disabled. This normally has a small lever beside it to switch it off. Some tolls don’t use this device and instead use your licence plate via cameras, plate pass, so don’t panic if you don’t have one installed. All major rental cars are signed up to the toll system so you will not get a fine if you drive thru a toll – just the fee from the rental car company.
You can buy your own sunpass system if you want. It may not actually be worth it unless you visit several times and go through lots of tolls or cashless ones. There is also a trial for a collect at the airport toll pass. Tolls are increasing in the Orlando area as are cashless/unmanned ones, so this may become an essential purchase in the future.
On approach to a toll booth there will be several signs telling you the cost, the type of toll booth and directing you to the cash lanes if applicable. At a toll booth in addition to the sunpass lanes you will have one or both of the options “cash only” and “change receipts” (unless cashless around Miami). Cash only will involve the act of throwing the right coins into a bucket from your window. You do stop so it’s not that hard. A little display will register the amount you have paid, it is worth checking this before you drive on. “Change receipt” are manned booths. You pay with notes or cash, and as the name suggests they will give you change. You will normally only encounter the cash only on the entry or exit from minor roads. Toll booths can be found on entry, whilst on, and leaving a toll road, but not necessarily all of these depending on your journey. Obviously only pick a lane that has the green cross above rather than the red, “lane closed” cross.
If you find you don’t have cash to pay. You can either collect a small envelope from the toll booth (if there is one) and pay that way or wait for your rental car company to charge you (this will incur fees as above). All rental cars are equipped for this, even if you’ve not taken the option when you collected your car.
Don’t be scared of toll roads, they are not that hard. If worried about having change available on arrival at the airport, then visit one of the shops and ask to change a note into quarters (you won’t need anything other than quarters). For most people the drive to Kennedy Space centre will be the most tolls, typically around $5 over several toll booths (all manned on the main highway at the time of writing this).
One more thing. When approaching a manned booth in the rain, TURN OFF your windscreen wipers.