I rather drive in Manhattan during rush hour than drive on rt. 3 from San Juan to Fajardo. Maybe I rather even drive a bus through Manhattan at rush hour.
But I did it (not the bus thing, we got a rental car in Condado) and numerous times. We were up that way on a Saturday...the beginning of a long weekend since that Monday was Emancipation Day. Terrible. It's 55 miles of hell. Not because the road is in bad condition, but the volume of traffic and the number of traffic lights combined with the people who don't pay any attention whatsoever to traffic rules. Red lights mean nothing, turn signals mean nothing...it's just annoying. Every 100 feet, there's a traffic light. Oh and be careful or the giant iguanas crossing the street. We were late for our flight out of Fajardo because of this--the poor guy was trying to cross 6 lanes and a median.
Other than the major roads, TRY to avoid the smaller ones. Even though they are labeled as "principle highways" they are more 2 lanes winding up mountain sides with people taking the horseshoe curves at ridiculous speeds while you are part of the oncoming traffic.
Charlie's Car Rental
This rental agency had the BEST rates and although their was a considerable line out of the jam packed rental office it was worth the wait, because they are professional, the car was clean and completely fueled, and they offer 24 hour roadside assistance in case anything goes wrong. All the cars they rent out are less than 2 years old, which makes a big difference.
To get to or from the islands
The Fajardo airport makes me laugh. It's about the size of my house and has NOTHING in the way of security. The only things that fly out of there are little 8 passenger planes. So, you go in, say you want a flight, grab a beer at the cafeteria and go on your way. There are between 8-10 flights a day to Culebra, Vieques, St. Thomas, St. Croix and San Juan. Prices vary. You can also charter a plane any time. Oh, and it's located in a cow pasture.
Ferry to Culebra or Vieques
You can take a ferry from Fajardo to either Culebra or Vieques. This is one of the larger ferries, but depending on how many tickets they have sold you may be riding a much smaller ferry. The ferry is a fun way to go, because you get great views of the Puerto Rican coastine and you get to see other uninhabited islands in the archipelago. The ride can make you a little queasy, so shut your eyes or stare at the horizon and don't eat a heavy meal before you go. Also, the ride was very cheap, less than $5 USD roundtrip.
It's not easy to move around Puerto Rico without a car. There is very limited bus service around the island. Having a rental is the most practical way although it is not cheap.
One way to help curb the cost of renting a car..
If you can avoid renting from the San Juan airport you will save money. This is where you fly into Puerto Rico and also has the most expensive car rentals.
Ways to get around renting a car at the airport:
1. Get a one way rental for one day to another town, then drop off your high priced rental for a cheaper rental.
2. Spend you first few days in San Juan without a car (hotel shuttles, walking, cabs, etc.). If you are in Old San Juan a car will be more a hassle than a neccessity anyway.
After visiting San Juan arrange a shuttle van to another city where you can then arrange a rental car pickup.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
Take the Beach route!
If you in San Juan and are heading to the southeastern part of Puerto Rico (El Yunque, Fajardo, etc.), take the beachside scenic route. 187 is a road that is just north of the SJU airport. It is a beachside road that offers the most beautiful sights! The sand beaches are beautiful, and you can see a lot of wildlife on the landside of the road. This road can be slow (due to the beach traffic), however take advantage of the slow traffic to see the sights! There were plenty of roadside eateries and entrepreneurs!Related to:
- Adventure Travel
Rent a Car if you are brave enough!
Now you know driving is bad when someone who comes from the NY/NJ area says it's crazy. Little skinny roads, no turn signals, passing on the shoulder, U-turns done anywhere ya feel like it, anything really goes. Just be super alert, you can do it! Just don't be timid, and try not to hit a dog-they like to sleep in the road.
Oh and if there is a little one lane bridge, honk twice to warn other cars before crossing it.
We rented our car from Hertz, but there are a lot of different companies you can rent from right out of San Juan Airport. After picking up your luggage, walk outside and catch a shuttle to the rental agency. The shuttles are marked with the names of the companies. Bring the phone number for the agency. If you come in late night, or you are waiting more than 15 minutes for a bus, call them and they will send someone over to pick you up. It's a good idea to have a reservation before you go.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Road Trip
Rent a car and drive around the island
I always rent a car whenever I travel to Puerto Rico, it gives me the freedom to explore more of the island.
There are many car rental companies located throughout the many municipalities of Puerto Rico, but Charlie Car Rental is the company I choose to rent from. They have very competitive rates, are centrally located on Isla Verde (a quick 10 min. ride for the airport on their complimentary shuttle service) and their agents all speak English and are very friendly and helpful.
You can make your reservation on line or contact them via their 800 number.
No inter-island bus system
Unfortunately one thing Puerto Rico is lacking is an around-the-island bus system. Basically if you want to travel around, you have to take taxis ($$$) or rent a car. Luckily we found a car from L&M for about $55 USD per day. If you plan to stay in Old San Juan you really do not need a car but if you have one, there is fairly cheap parking garages at the south end of town. If you have a car and want to take it on the ferry to Vieques or Culebra, you need to make reservations in advanced and even then you may be bumped off due to something more important being sent to the islands. There are parking facilities near the port for $5 per day.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Driving in Puerto Rico
We rented a car and drove around the island. Once we drove to our hotel in San Juan in bumper to bumper horrible traffic, we parked the car in the hotel garage and took the bus. Then when we left San Juan we found that some of the roads are good but then as we got more off the beaten track and especially up in the mountains, the roads were narrow one lane tracks in places and you would sometimes meet a huge truck loaded with bananas or sugar cane. It was scary. There are also evidently a lot of hazzards on the roads such as nails and screws. We had a total of 3 flat tires. Each time it was a nail or screw in the tire. The stations only charged $5 to fix them but it was very inconvenient. Our rental car was also run into by a large truck while it was parked. We watched them do it. Since in was still drivable and the damage was to the back door, the rental company had us keep the car and just made a report. It was nice to have a car to explore the great places to bird but was also a lot of trouble. The road signs are not good in outlying areas either so we got lost but being an island we usually found outself again. In fact, being birdwatchers, one of the nicest birds we saw on the trip, the Red Bishop, was seen while we were lost.Related to:
- Road Trip
The local bus is a cheap way to get around San Juan. Its $0.25 one way ride, you can't get any cheaper then that!!!
Buses take you all around the Greater San Juan area. With all the traffic, its just easier and a lot more relaxing to take the bus. It will save you cash and sanity!Related to:
- Budget Travel
Ferries to Culebra & Vieques
The ferries to Culebra & Vieques are very crowded, but SUPER cheap! Be sure to get to the ferry terminal early and get in line so you can find a seat on the ferry. The ferry ride to Culebra was very short, but it was very scenic and CHEAP ($3US each way!). It was worth the ride! The ferry schedule is online (see below). We took the ferry from Fajardo to Culebra, and after our vacation we took a flight from Culebra to San Juan. See our flight post under transportation for additional information.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
Flight to/from San Juan
Rather than taking the ferry and then driving back to San Juan, we decided to take a direct flight from Culebra to San Juan. There are several small airlines that provide this service at a reasonable cost (approx. $60 each way). We chose to travel with Isla Nena and were happy that everything ran as scheduled. We arrived in the San Juan airport in plenty of time to check in for our flight home. The scenery was spectacular and it was fun to see El Yunque and the beaches from the skies.Related to:
Rental tip for Mainland PR
We rented a car from L&M Car Rental
(800-666-0807) for approximately $35/Day. Because L&M has many locations on the PR mainland, we were able to drop off the rental car in Fajardo so we could take the ferry to Culebra and then take a flight back to the San Juan airport. This gave us an extra day on the beaches at Culebra and was a minimal cost. There was a $10-15 "drop-off" fee for dropping the car off at a different location than we had rented from. Most of the other car rental companies required that we return the car to San Juan if we picked it up there...Related to:
- Road Trip
Rent A Car
When I vacation - I don't go for the all-inclusive resort thing. I like to hit all the sites and use public transport, if I can. (I'm a big supporter of public transport and ride my bike to work at home.) PR is the complete opposite of a destination like Washington, D.C. where having a rental car can actually impede your travel. In PR you need to rent a car to hit the sites, unless you are planning to shell out big bucks on tour packages or have the patience for the local bus system in San Juan (local folks I met told me I was better off walking). There is no island-wide bus system. Our rental was about $420 for the week with 2 drivers, insurance, etc. It was pricey for us, but worth it. We only had to pay for parking three times (Rio Camuey caves, one public beach and in Old San Juan) which totaled to $10.50 for the week. We used Dollar Rent A Car (they provided a shuttle from LM Int.) and got ourselves a super cute Toyota Yaris that took all over the northern and eastern sides of the island on a half tank of gas. No power locks or anything, but insanely easy to park on the compact street of San Juan.
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