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Visitors from overseas arrive at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, the major transportation center of the Caribbean. The airport is on the easternmost side of the city, conveniently located near the Isla Verde, Condado, and Old San Juan tourist districts. The airport offers such services as a tourist-information center, restaurants, hair stylists, coin lockers for storing luggage, bookstores, banks, currency-exchange kiosks, and bars. A number of shops sell souvenirs, local rums, and coffees for last-minute shopping for gifts for folks back home.

Getting from the Airport to the City

By Taxi -- Some of the larger hotels outside San Juan send vans to pick up airport passengers and transport them back to the property, but they charge separately for this service. In San Juan, you’ll probably opt to take a taxi to your hotel (buses at 75¢ are cheap but not very timely or practical). Dozens of taxis line up outside the airport to meet arriving flights, so you never have to wait. There are set fares for destinations within San Juan; for other destinations, the cost of the trip should be determined by the taxi meter. The island’s Puerto Rico Tourism Company (Transportation Division; tel. 787/999-2100 or 253-0418) establishes the flat rates between the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and major tourist zones: From the airport to any hotel in Isla Verde, the fee is $10; to any hotel in the Condado district, the charge is $15; and to any hotel in Old San Juan, the cost is $19. Taxi service from the airport is quite well regulated, with a dispatcher handing you a ticket detailing your costs. These also include baggage costs (50¢ for each of the first three bags, then $1 per bag), and a 10 to 15 percent tip is expected.

Travel time can vary widely, depending on traffic conditions, with late-afternoon and early morning traffic jams common during commuting hours Monday through Friday. With no traffic delays, Condado is only a 12-minute drive from the airport, but if you get stuck in one of the island’s legendary tapones, as traffic jams are called here, it could take up to an hour. Old San Juan, the farthest destination, is about a 20-minute ride without traffic.

By Limousine -- There are more than enough reputable limousine rental companies to choose from, but arrangements must be made beforehand, since limousines don’t sit at the airport like taxis. You must arrange pickup in advance, or call once you get in. A simple pickup from the airport to your hotel ranges in cost from $100 to $125. Most vehicles fit six passengers comfortably. Your driver will meet you outside the baggage-claim area.

By Public Car -- Public cars, called públicos, are either vans or large sedans that are shared by passengers. The ride can sometimes be crowded and take longer the more passengers there are. They are a bargain for budget travelers who have to travel a distance from the airport and do not want to rent a car. It will cost you $20 to get to Ponce and $10 to Caguas, plus baggage fee. You’ll probably have to take a public bus to pick up the público line, however.

By Car -- All the major car-rental companies have kiosks at the airport. Although it’s possible to rent a car once you arrive, your best bet is to reserve one before you leave home. They provide transportation to your car. See the “Getting Around” section of chapter 11 for details.

To drive into the city, head west along Route 26, or the Baldorioty de Castro Expressway, which cuts just south of San Juan’s Atlantic coastline. Immediately to your right, you will see an Isla Verde exit, and soon the towering oceanfront condominiums of Isla Verde are visible to the right. The road cuts through the Santurce section at the heart of San Juan. You’ll see exits for Condado. All hotels have parking lots open to the public, and several lots are visible from the main roads in the area—both Ashford Avenue and Isla Verde Avenue in Condado. The road then passes by the Condado Lagoon and crosses into Puerta de Tierra near the Caribe Hilton. The road at this point becomes Avenida Muñoz Rivera, as it passes a beautifully landscaped park of the same name on one side, followed by the El Escambrón public beach. The Third Millennium Park is on the opposite side. The road then climbs a bluff overlooking the Atlantic coastline, offering a dramatic view of waves crashing against the rocky shoals.

Here, you will pass the capitol building on your left, and then the historic Spanish fortress Fort San Cristóbal at the entrance of Old San Juan. If you continue straight down into the city along Calle San Sebastián, the northern border of Plaza Colón, you will find parking at La Cochera near Plaza de Armas, which is the closest to the center of the historic district. Another option is to turn right and take the northern coastal road to Ballaja, where there is parking. If you plan on visiting the San Sebastian Street area or El Convento hotel, these two options work best.

If you plan on hanging around the jumping SoFo section near La Fortaleza, you may want to head straight at the stop sign in front of Plaza Colón, taking the street that passes beside the Tapia Theater. Right behind the theater, where the road intersects with Calle Recinto Sur, is the large Paseo Portuario parking garage (tel. 787/722-2233). Bear right for the entrance. Farther down the one-way street is the city-run Doña Fela parking garage (tel. 787/722-3558), intersection Recinto Sur and Calle. Another option at Plaza Colón is to turn left at Plaza Colón as if exiting the city. Take your first two rights, which will turn you around again past the Treasury Building, and park your car in another Covadonga Parking Garage (tel. 787/721-6911) on the left. Operating hours vary, but they are open at least until midnight during weekdays and 3am weekends. Prices vary, with municipal-run lots cheaper than private lots, but figure on paying $1 per hour at municipal lots and up to $3.50 at private lots.

By Bus -- Those with little luggage can take a bus at a cost of 75¢. You need to hop on the 40 or the 45, taking it one stop to Isla Verde. From there, you can take the 5, which runs through Isla Verde, swings towards Condado near Avenida de Diego, and then heads into Old San Juan. To go farther into the Condado, you should switch to 21 at the Parada 18, or Stop 18, bus transfer station, or get off at the Calle Loiza and Avenida De Diego stop and transfer there.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.