I don't know where you are from, but where i'm from I don't know a motel that you can rent by the hour. This is very important for those on a budge, motel means hourly sex room rental. We had to stay in one of these places because we were in such a small town that there wasn't guest houses available. It isn't awful and it isn't dirty. There are just mirrors every where and porn on the TV. For 8 hrs, we stayed for $40. There was clean towels and air conditioning.
These places look really ligit with nice signs and landscaping. So, they aren't bad as a last resort. They are in practically every city or town.
There are safety precautions instructions at the front of the castle. There are guards who are checking that the tourists are abiding by the rules.
My daughter and her friend Khadija climbed the walls and started walking on it. They didn't know that they were not allowed to do that. As teenagers, they were just looking for fun to do! I can't keep up with them walking and by the time that I knew it, they were already climbing the walls. I could see them on my viewfinder in my camera.
Luckily, they didn't fall and luckily the guards didn't see them...So, as a tip, make sure to read the signs and apparently, my daughter didn't read the sign!!! And, so with her friend Khadija!
There's a megaphone in the castle and you can hear the guard instructing a tourist to get down from the wall.
I was told by some of the local residents that in some areas of Puerto Rico, the crime has gone up because of the bad economy. And, I think most big cities in the United States as well.
As of this writing (9/24/11), the statistics of gun sales have risen to 25% because residents wanted to protect themselves.
Most residential houses in the city and the barrios have iron grills in their windows, doors and most houses have iron fences.
There is one city in Puerto Rico where 60% of the people have moved to Philadelphia or to New York because there are no jobs available in Puerto Rico.
The El Morro has two bathrooms: One outside located at the right side of the building where most of the children fly their kites. It's a long ways to walk down the grass but there is a nice bathroom there. If you have children with you, and you intended to go inside the El Morro, you can use the bathroom inside the El Morro instead of the one outside because you have to pay first before you can use it.
There is a mini-store there where you can buy travel maps, gifts and books. There are also postcards, refrigerator magnets, key chains, etc. The girl at the counter will hand you the key to get in.
This is what I noticed in the whole island of Puerto Rico. Most of the drivers are texting while they are driving. They are constantly on the phone! For the two hours that we were enroute from San Juan to Humacao, the driver of the van that we rented was talking on his cellphone the whole time that one of the parents in our group got mad at him.
Also, our driver going to the mountains of Indiera was also on his phone the whole time.
There should be a law to regulate this because the drivers are driving on the freeway...
In order to take a picture of the letters of P-O-N-C-E on the freeway, make sure to park your car all the way to the shoulder of the road. We had to cross the ramp just to take a picture of the steel letters!
Just a warning that the tourist information direct from Puerto Rico is misleading. While the information is technically correct it may be extremely difficult to impossible to get to the attractions. .
For instance, the bioluminescent bay. The tourist information makes this sound like a wonderful experiance, which I'm sure it would be. The map provided gives almost all the relevant information for directions from Mayaguez. Unfortunately, the map calls out the final turn onto a road which does not exist. After back tracking and checking maps and atlas I finally gave up trying to find the bay. By this time it was dark and the traffic in towns was heavy and extremely time consuming to return to hotel.
Take this as a warning to verify all tourist information with hotel staff and locals.
Common sense Acommon Travel rules as to where ever you go.
#1. Don't go where you shouldn't go.
#2. Follow the rule of law in the country that you reside.
#3. Adhere to the rule of law from your home country.
#4. Respect and "pre-" read up on the culture(s).
#5. Gain some familiarity with the country's national language prior to your trip.
#6. Practice the local language with the locals.
#7. If concerned with lodging then don't do what isn't familiar to you.
#8. Eat what has been cooked.
#9. Drink bottled water that has a seal. Open it yourself.
#10. Know your coordinates (esp. North & South). Memorize the major cross-roads prior to taking your trip.
#11. Have a copy or two of your Passport in a safe place (either on you personally or in an emergency place).
#12. Go electronic (with back up paperwork) when you can.
#13. Be reluctant to share your full plans with strangers.
#14. Be flexible.
#15. How you handle "it" determines whether it'll be a good event or day or not. Understand that something weird, funny, or bad might occur.
#16. Watch your travel companions as they might just as well cause trouble by accident / unknowingly or on purpose.
#17. International travel is not a time for pranks. (Stay away from pranksters that want to travel with you)
#18. Just try to remember that "nothing" is for "free". (This goes for women too)
#17. Silently mediate as to rehearse (or re-play) plans.
#18. Always be prepared for a back-up exit plan (... where ever you are (and check for exits)).
#19. Travel with flex travel time on the front end but esp. back end of your visit. This'll reduce your frustrations if there happen to be delays.
#20. Pack light while being wise.
#21. Be nimble.
#22. If you have good judgment with befriending people (anywhere) then be social with out giving away too much information.
#23. Know your money. Where it is. How much is on you. Denominations in order. Minimize coins if possible (don't need to be heard walking around jiggling).
#24. When driving ... pay the extra for full coverage. (Take it from a guy that has had 2 separate flat tires and locked up engine all in the same trip. Can you guess where?)
#25. Walk like you know where you are going even when you get lost. The best way to not get lost again is to remember where you were when you were lost.
#26. You are not a "stick" in the mud if you choose to stay away from the "loud" crowd.
#27. Avoid traveling during the host country's elections.
#28. Be aware of political and labor union protest. Don't accidently get caught up.
#29. Never walk away from your open beverages and/or food. Once you've stepped away then pass on further consumption as to be cautious.
#30. Ladies and guys, know that you will meet lots of wonderful people plus some not so. Don't be fooled by "beauty" or a "handsome" face. Danger lurks. If you have a bad judgment of character domestically then it is not going to get any better outside of the country.
#31. If you're not considered "HOT" back home then don't be fooled when you are abroad. Money matters. It isn't really your looks.
#32. The money train gets you access but it can also generate trouble.
#33. Make certain Taxis / Limos drivers happen to be locked into the price and directions prior to departure.
#34. Know the weather conditions prior and during your trip.
#35. Read the local newspapers / journals prior to arrival. (seek to understand cultural, social, economic, etc topics of the day)
A lot of tourists go for the traps, metro area ( san juan ) etc. While its great to visit I suggest you stay in smaller towns such as Guayama, Where people are more down to earth and friendlier, I lived in boston practically all my life and am now a resident of puerto rico. Rules of survival: do not give a ride to anyone you know, Do not flash around large amounts of cash, use a debit or atm card, or credit card. If you get cut off while driving although its annoying or disturbing, just stay quiet let it be, You are not in Kansas anymore, just keep your eyes back on the road say nothing and get to where you are going. There are thousands of God fearing, honest friendly people here, the majority of the rotten apples get raised out in the states.
I highly recommend bringing a GPS of some kind. I brought my tomtom and it saved me from wasting hours of my time trying to locate places. However, if you are trying to find a residence, a lot of times it will not be able to locate a specific address. Many city streets are not clearly labeled, this is why I recommended having a GPS.
The tropical annual storms/hurricanes peak around late July to September, so take this as a serious warning against travel to PR around this time of the year.
Check this newly released study about the increase of stronger and more frequent hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean within the last decade or so.
You will be understood speaking Spanish or English on the islands of Puerto Rico, but this is not really the place to learn either. The island is actually known best for being the travel poster location for Spanglish.
Because Puerto Rico is US territory, you might think that sanitation issues are under control. One problem islands often have is the direct release of human waste into water. On Culebra in Puerto Rico we observed that flushing a toilet in our hotel resulted in an immediate discharge into the inner laguna. Even for a hardened traveler like myself, seeing the "floaters" was pretty disturbing.
So this is just a reminder that no matter how beautiful the waters may look, they may contain hidden dangers.
Granted, we visited PR during the off season, but it was impossible to find a decent road map! We tracked down 3 maps of PR and San Juan and the maps only show major roads, so look up your directions to your hotel before you leave home! All maps have great "zoom-ins" of Old San Juan, but the accuracy stops there. Driving around in the rest of San Juan and on the north and eastern coasts of the island, we regularly found roads labeled with incorrect numbers and got around mostly via heading in general direction until we ran into a major road. Leave lots of flexibility for drive times and pack a little extra patience too. We missed the turn to El Yunque 3 times because the road sign was gone heading west and posted one intersection too soon heading east on Hwy 2 - might make sense to folks in PR, but coming from MN we drove ourselves in circles for a bit. :) If you find a great map of PR, please post in my comments section for other travelers!
There are plenty of beautiful beaches however, don't leave your (rental) car at a beach unless you are with locals. One time was enough for me. Luckily I took everything worth of value with me onto the beach. When I returned to my rental car two hours later, the windows had been smashed open, the trunk was open, all my clothes missing. Luckily I had my sunglasses and could wear those to shield my eyes while driving back to the rental agency.