Puerto Rico is one of the largest islands in the Eastern Caribbean. Home to gorgeous beaches, lush green mountains, underground caves, Caribbean blue water, white-sandy beaches, unlimited rum drinks and so much more. Puerto Rico is a US Territory, so we are all citizens of the United States of America and no passport is needed to visit Puerto Rico. Here are a few things to know before you arrive.
What To Know Before You Go
While the local language is Spanish, English is widely understood throughout the island – especially in tourist areas.
Puerto Rico is part of the United States, so the local currency is the US Dollar (USD).
You do not need a Passport to visit Puerto Rico. It is part of the United States. Leave the Passports at home! State ID is fine.
Puerto Rico is on AST (Atlantic Standard Time) UTC/GMT -4 hours.
- There are many car rental companies (Enterprise, Hertz, Budget, Alamo, etc) available throughout San Juan. Rates are pretty competitive, but during peak season, its wise to book in advance.
- Reserve/book your car online. You will find that it takes 5x as long if you walk in to rent a car, and they may be out of inventory. Booking online will make it much quicker.
- When filling up your tank, most places require that you pre-pay inside OR you have to first leave your driver’s license with them. Be sure to do that or you’ll be standing by the pump for awhile.
- Puerto Rico has several tolls, but not that expensive. Most car rentals will give you an “Auto Expreso” pass for your car and will bill you later. Or you can pull to the right lanes at the tolls and pay in cash.
- The roads can be extremely confusing, even with Google Maps, so pay close attention to exits.
- Just like in any city, lock your doors when you are away from the car and do not leave valuables inside them.
- Drivers can be crazy here. Don’t be surprised if someone reverses on the highway or cuts across 4 lanes.
- Pot holes are just as much a thing here as the mainland. However, some might swallow your car, so drive carefully at night.
- Taxi’s are easy to come by, especially in tourist zones.
- Upon arrival at San Juan International Aiport (SJU), the only way to get transportation (without renting a car) is to get a taxi.
- Taxi’s from the airport are based on zones, number of passengers and bags. From the airport to Old San Juan will run between $25-40 typically (2-4 people)
- Uber is arguably the preferred way to get around and is easy to get at any time of day/night.
- You can get pretty much anywhere in San Juan (beaches, the Mall, Sam’s Club, SJU, etc) for under $15 one-way
- An Uber to the airport is roughly $10 one-way
*UPDATE – As of August 2019, news is that Uber will be allowed to pick passengers up from the airport soon
San Juan has a lot of bike paths throughout the city making it extremely easy to bike around town. There are several bike rental companies throughout the city where you can rent them. A few options are:
- Rent The Bicycle – Old San Juan
- San Juan Bike Rentals – Condado
- Bike Rent Puerto Rico – Condado
- Cicla Bici Shop – Isle Verde
If you are looking to sit back and relax while someone else does the driving, there are many tour companies available to get you to any excursion to and from most places in San Juan.
The bus system in San Juan stops at all the major attractions and is an affordable way to tour the city, both in Old San Juan and beyond to the neighborhoods of Condado and New San Juan. Old San Juan also has a free trolley service that visits many of the top sites. Look for the marked trolley stop signs and wait for the next one to arrive, which typically doesn’t take long as trolleys are frequently running. There are three different routes and two types of trolleys to choose from: open-air and enclosed with air conditioning.
There are a few ferries in San Juan. The cruise terminal in Viejo San Juan has a ferry that goes from OSJ to Catano, which is home to the Bacardi Factory. Its a short ride over and cost under $1/per person.
Things to Say
Those of you that did not take Spanish in high school, here are a few sayings that will help you while traveling around Puerto Rico.
- Buen día – “Good morning” (colloquial)
- ¿Habla inglés? – “Do you speak English”
- ¿Dónde esta? – “Where is…”
- Gracias – “Thank You” (locals don’t pronounce the ‘s’)
- Deme la cuenta, por favor – “Give me the check please”
- Quiero una bebida – “I want a drink”
- Hable lento, por favor – “Please speak more slowly”
- ¿Cuánto es? / Cuánto cuesta? – “How much is it?/How much does it cost?”
- Chavos – “Money”
- ¿Como se dice…? – “How do you say…”
- Izquierda – “Left”
- Derecha – “Right”
- Desayuno – “Breakfast”
- Almuerzo – “Lunch”
- Cena – “Dinner”
- ¡Wepa! – Puerto Rican version of “Woohoo!”