Getting Around Puerto Rico
The best way to get around Puerto Rico is by car. If you want to see more than the city in which you're staying, you'll need your own vehicle as intercity train service doesn't exist and intercity bus service is time-consuming and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, driving is a courageous pursuit carried out on snaking roads, and you'll need to carry spare change for the occasional toll.
In San Juan, you can likely get around without a car with careful planning. Parking can be expensive and traffic is a nightmare in the city, so relying on the bus and your own feet are likely your best bet during your time in the capital. Uber is also available in the city, as are a few local ride-hailing companies.
You'll likely fly in to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), which is about 7 1/2 miles east of San Juan. You can pick up a rental car here or you can take a taxi to your destination. Taxis from the airport charge a fixed rate to different destinations around the island. The airport's website provides the fare list.
Puerto Rico has smaller airports: Mercedita International Airport (PSE) on the southern coast (about 4 miles east of Ponce) and Rafael Hernández Airport (BQN) on the west coast in Aguadilla. Check the flight schedule for airlines like Spirit, United or JetBlue to fly into either of those hubs.
Taxis from the San Juan airport to different tourist "zones" have a fixed rate. Within San Juan, you can get a white taxi turístico that will charge your fare by zone or you can hail a metered cab from the street. A few ride-hailing options are available in San Juan as well, including Uber and a local app called Jaime te lleva.
In Old San Juan, there's no better way to explore the forts and streets than on your own two feet. Walking will be more of a problem if you want to get to and from the resort areas; depending on the time of day, you can use the city bus. Several of the best tours in Puerto Rico are walking tours; consider signing up for one if you want the help of a local.
First, know that public buses are called guaguas in Puerto Rico instead of the traditional Spanish word for bus, autobús. San Juan is serviced by Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses, which runs extensive routes throughout town and to the beaches. Rates are set and the schedules are consistent. The base fare is $1.50. AMA buses usually run from about 5 a.m. until 8 or 9 p.m. (depending on the route and day of the week). Routes that originate in San Juan (5, 9, 21 and 53) depart near the cruise ship terminal.
The island's minibuses, known as públicos, are a hassle-free alternative to driving. They serve Puerto Rican towns across the island and can even get you from one town to another. Just look out for yellow license plates marked público. The downside is that riding the público with its frequent stops can be slow, and fares aren’t consistent as the driver can be flagged down at non-appointed stops.
If you're staying in San Juan, then you won't need a car. And those seeking a quiet vacation along the beaches of Rincón, Vieques or Culebra might find one more of a nuisance than a necessity. You will need a car, however, if you want to branch out and explore. Before you book the rental, consider these three points. One: The drivers here are known for their devil-may-care maneuvering, which is probably a byproduct of the twisty, narrow roads. Two: Parking can be tricky in and around San Juan, not to mention parking fees can add up over the course of your trip. Three: There are tolls along many highways. Still interested? If so, you can rent a car at the airports or at several agencies in major cities.
San Juan's Tren Urbano (Urban Train) is the first of its kind in the Caribbean. The metro has 16 stops along its single line and spans about 10 miles. You can use it to get from the city center to outlying towns like Sagrado Corazon, Santurce or Bayamón. What you can't do, however, is use it for access to top sights like El Morro, Calle del Cristo or Fort San Cristobal.
Ferries are an inexpensive and fairly reliable way to reach both Culebra and Vieques. They're operated by the Autoridad de Transporte Marítimo. Give yourself plenty of time to reach Ceiba (the ferry port) from San Juan and expect long wait times on the weekend and holidays.
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