So, you are coming to San Juan, Puerto Rico? Thinking about travelling around town are you? Let this Average Joe give you his insights following a very lengthy work stay in the city.
Rental Cars – I travel all over the country and always have a rental car. For this assignment, I opted not to get a rental car and instead try to always default to a local taxi or Uber. Here are my reasons for doing so:
- Hurricane Damage- As of this writing (July, 2018), there is still substantial damage to the road infrastructure of the communities following the devastating Hurricane Maria. I saw many intersections with their street lights still ripped off. These intersections are a real life game of “Frogger” and are not for the faint hearted as you battle your fellow drivers for the right to pass through.
- Chaotic Driving- The driving that I saw in town is just too chaotic for me. I have travelled to many international cities and I find that my personal skill set is not good enough for driving like the locals, so I always default to local drivers. This is my contribution to reducing the incidents of worldwide road rage. Honestly, I would rather pay good money than stress about getting to my destination.
- Parking in the San Juan area is Very Limited – The city is very congested. There is very limited parking where I need to go and often it involves parking in private lots and paying. So, why mess with the parking hassle and expense when someone can drop me off at the front door of where I need or want to go?
San Juan Airport – Uber is not allowed at the airport. You will need to plan accordingly and that means having a friend pick you up, a hotel shuttle (if offered) or taking a taxi. Once you get to the airport, I would recommend planning on taking a taxi to get out of the airport and to your designated spot. For my taxi ride (solo) to the La Concha Resort in Condado, my basecamp for my San Juan stay, it ran me $23.00. I tipped $7.00.
To get a taxi, simply grab your luggage and follow the signs to the Ground Transportation area. Which, conveniently, is right outside of luggage pickup. There is a que to get into for the taxis and a “Taxi Concierge” will quote you a price to your destination. Pricing seems to be predetermined which helps to prevent price gouging. Most taxis only accept cash. I had to wait a little longer till they found someone who could (and would) take my credit card.
Condado (Santurce) Puerto Rico – Condado is a small oceanfront community about a 20 minute drive from San Juan Airport. A multitude of hotels, resorts, nightclubs and casinos are situated here and this is a popular tourist location. As I wandered about the area, I found it has an extremely active night life and found some restaurants open 24 hours catering to this very active party crowd. I stayed at the La Concha Resort and if you follow that hyperlink, you can read my extensive review of the resort and surrounding area and restaurant recommendations.
Walking the community is very easy. Just watch out for holes in the sidewalks and the uneven pavements. Scores of restaurants and pubs line the main drive. I did not see many police officers, but, I also felt safe as a whole. I noticed a small cohort of homeless people on the streets, yet, not one of them ever asked me for dime or ever bothered me.
Uber in Puerto Rico – Uber started operating in Puerto Rico in the summer of 2016. And was promptly met with legal challenges by the existing establishment(s). Furthermore, a physically hostile welcome by some of the existing taxi drivers against Uber drivers surely did not help recruitment of drivers or a perception of safeness. Fast forward two years and all seems well.
According to several of my drivers, Uber as of this writing, does cover all of the island. However, I did not Uber to the out regions of the island from San Juan.
In an odd twist of fate, perhaps the best thing for Uber in Puerto Rico was the arrival of Hurricane Maria in 2017. With the collapse of tourism following the hurricane, the Island received a sudden influx of thousands of relief workers, who without transportation, suddenly provided a steady, well-paying customer demand for Uber drivers to move about the island. This mass influx of stable passengers, is in turn I am sure, drawing more Puerto Ricans who sense an opportunity, and the future of driving, is at hand, to become Uber drivers themselves.
Uber in Condado – I found a strong Uber presence in Condado, and it seemed whenever I opened the app there were a least a half dozen operators within the area. I found this very reassuring as I never waited long for a driver after making my request. And it provided me the mobility to move about San Juan that I was looking for. I did notice that the English skillset of the drivers is mixed, but I never seemed to have a problem communicating with them.
Changing Pick-up Locations and or Drop-off Locations – I noticed that the area has many one way streets and dead ends which may or may not show up on the maps app. Some of these appear to be simple accommodations of local residents or business who have now taken over the streets for their respective use. These detours can play havoc on both the traveler and the Uber driver.
It appears in these cases, the driver may suggest a better location for pickup. Inversely, as you’re travelling, it may be easier to be dropped off at a different location and then you just cross the street(s) to get to your destination instead of the driver having to circle the neighborhood just to go down a one way street.
For example, the La Concha Hotel is on a one way, westbound street. When coming from the East, I would just have the drivers drop me off at the corner bar, then I would cross the street and I was in the lobby. Doing this saved me 10 minutes of circling the neighborhood and then waiting in traffic just to get to the same lobby spot from the westbound lane. I had to do this a few times. No big deal.
Tips – Some drivers were not accepting tips through Uber. I would recommend having some cash on hand for them.
Uber Trips – Here is a breakdown of some of my Uber trips around the San Juan area leaving from the La Concha Hotel Resort going one way. Just double the amount for a round trip. This should help you with some of your transportation planning and budgeting:
- Puerto Rican Convention Center – Budget about $6.00 and 10 minutes of driving.
- Wal-Mart Santurce – Budget about $5.00 and 5 minutes of driving.
- City View Plaza – Budget about $10.00 and 15 minutes of driving.
- Fortress El Morrow and Old San Juan – Budget about $7.00 and 10 minutes of driving.
- Fajardo Ferry Terminal – Budget between $70.00 to $100.00 and an hour’s drive. The Fajardo Ferry Terminal is the jumping off point for the highly visited Vieques and Culebra Islands. I have seen both the time to get there and the costs for the drivers fluctuate greatly depending on the day of travel and time. If you can split the costs between several friends, this is a very reasonable way to get to the ferries and if time is not of the essence. Otherwise, consider an air taxi.
- Plaza les Americas – A wonderful upscale mall for shopping. Extensive shopping, a theater, and numerous restaurants. If you like to shop, this is the spot. Budget about $10.00 and 10 minutes of driving.
- Federal Building Caguas – Budget about 30 minutes and $30.00.
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