By Taxi -- There is a flat-rate system for most destinations within San Juan, which is effective, and if you’re caught in impenetrable traffic, it might actually work to your advantage. The island’s Puerto Rico Tourism Company (Transportation Division; tel. 787/999-2100 or 253-0418) establishes flat rates between well-traveled areas within San Juan. From Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport to Isla Verde, $10; to Condado, $15; and to Old San Juan, $19.
There are also set fees from the cruise-ship piers outside of Old San Juan to set destinations: Isla Verde, $19; Condado, $12; and Old San Juan, $7. You will also be charged $1 per bag. Metered fares start off with an initial charge of $1.75, plus $1.90 per mile, and a 10¢ charge for each 25 seconds of waiting time. Tolls are not included in either fare. Normal tipping supplements of between 10 and 15 percent of these fares are appreciated.
But while meters are supposed to be used, on most trips outside the zoned rates, drivers will probably offer you a flat rate of their own devising. San Juan cabbies are loath to use the meter, more to do with ripping off the house or the taxman than the customer because more often than not, the quoted price is fair. But feel free to refer to the established flat rate (if it applies) or ask him to turn on the meter. Drivers normally comply immediately. If they refuse, you can get out and refer the driver to the Tourism Company Transportation Division numbers cited above. But if the quoted price seems fair (use the $19 flat rate for the airport to Old San Juan as a guide), it’s probably easier to go ahead and pay it.
Taxis are invariably lined up outside the entrance to most of the island’s hotels, but if they're not, a staff member can almost always call one for you. If you want to arrange a taxi on your own, some reliable operators in San Juan are Metro Taxis (tel. 787/725-2870 or 725-3280), the Rochdale Cab Company (tel. 787/721-1900), and the Major Cab Company (tel. 787/723-2460 or 723-1300).
You no longer have to negotiate a fare with the driver, usually at a flat rate, for trips to far-flung destinations within Puerto Rico. There are also now established fees for taxi rides from San Juan to island destinations. Some examples, from San Juan: Fajardo, $80; Ponce, $125; and Mayagüez, $160. The complete list is available at the Puerto Rico Taxi website (www.cabspr.com/tour.html).
By Bus -- The Metropolitan Bus Authority (tel. 787/250-6064 for route information) operates buses in the greater San Juan area. Bus stops are marked by upright metal signs or yellow posts that say parada. The bus terminal is the dock area in the same building as the Covadanga parking lot next to the Treasury Department. Fares are 75¢.
Most visitors will find the bus service, comfortable, reliable and economic, but the MBA has a way to go in becoming a user-friendly enterprise. A big example is the differing information regarding Route Numbers posted on buses, official bus route maps and schedules (which are nearly impossible to find) and bus stops. The important thing to keep in mind is the bus route numbers. The lettered prefix is what is often marked differently. For example, the A5 and T5 are the same as the 5 bus route. A recent MBA route map discarded the lettered prefix, and we are doing the same, which seemed the most prudent course given the situation. However, be aware that the bus routes in this section will often be accompanied by lettered prefixes, either A, B, C and T, among others.
Beyond the discrepancies, officials were also considering schedule changes in late 2014. It's a good idea to check your itinerary with the driver or fellow passengers before boarding.
Three routes are particularly useful for tourists, those that carry San Juan passengers from Old San Juan to other San Juan tourism districts: The 5 goes to downtown Santurce, Ocean Park and Isla Verde; the 21 down Condado’s Ashford Avenue and then on to downtown San Juan, the city’s financial district Hato Rey and the Plaza Las Americas mall; and the 53, which heads to the Convention Center District, then down Condado’s oceanfront drive and on into Isla Verde. Call for more information about routes and schedules. The private MetroBus operates a few key express routes from Old San Juan to Río Piedras for 50¢.
Any bus marked ATI hooks up with the Tren Urbano, probably at its Sagrado Corazón Station, which is its last stop into the city. The Urban Train ticket cost 75¢ but officials are proposing to increase them to $1.50. Riders get one free transfer between the two systems per ticket.
On Foot -- This is the only way to explore Old San Juan. All the major attractions can easily be covered in a day. If you’re going from Old San Juan to Isla Verde, however, you’ll need to rely on public transportation.
By Trolley -- When you tire of walking around Old San Juan, you can board one of the free trolleys that runs through the historic area. Departure points include the Covadonga, La Puntilla, Plaza de Armas, and the two forts, but you can board along the route by flagging the trolley down (wave at it and signal for it to stop) or by waiting at any of the clearly designated stopping points. Relax and enjoy the sights as the trolleys rumble through the old and narrow streets. The city has also begun operating a trolley along Loiza Street near Ocean Park, in Río Piedras and other areas.
By Limousine -- San Juan has nearly two dozen limousine rental companies, so there are more than enough reputable companies to choose from. There is a wide range of luxury vehicle rentals, called limosinas (their Spanish name), available, from Lincoln Town Car limousines to deluxe stretch Hummers. A simple pickup from the airport to your hotel ranges in cost from $100 to $125. Rentals for other standard trips range from about $70 to $125 per hour, with most cars seating six passengers comfortably. Many firms use drivers who hold tour-guide permits, and limousine operators often give tours of Old San Juan, El Yunque, or other sites to small groups or families. If the driver or another guide leaves the vehicle to tour a specific place by foot, it will cost another $15 to $25 hourly.
By Rental Car -- See “Getting Around,” in chapter 11, for details—including the benefits of car travel as well as the special challenges driving poses in Puerto Rico.
By Ferry -- The Acuaexpreso (tel. 787/494-0934) ferry connects Old San Juan with the industrial and residential community of Cataño, across the bay. Ferries depart daily every 30 minutes from 6am to 9pm. The one-way fare to Cataño is 50¢. Departures are from the San Juan Terminal at Pier 2 in Old San Juan. However, it’s best to avoid rush hours because hundreds of locals who work in town use this ferry. The ride lasts 6 minutes. Service on a second route between Old San Juan and the Hato Rey financial district has restarted with a $1 fare. Ferries run from 6:30am to 6:30pm Monday through Thursday and 6:30am to 8:30pm Friday through Sunday. The Hato Rey ferry terminal, adjacent to the Puerto Rico Coliseum and the Urban Train line, hosts popular bars and restaurants, as well as periodic concerts.
By Public Car -- Public cars, called públicos, are either vans or large sedans that are shared by passengers. Though they can be crowded and uncomfortable, more often than not, they are quite comfortable and spacious. And they are a bargain for budget travelers who have to travel a distance from the airport and do not want to rent a car. Most public cars travel set routes at prices far below what taxis would charge. You should consider taking one from the airport if you’re traveling on a budget to areas outside of San Juan.
In San Juan, público departure and arrival points include the airport, right outside Old San Juan near Plaza Colón, and by the Río Piedras public marketplace. Every town on the island has at least one area where públicos congregate.
If you are traveling out on the island, you also can look them up in the telephone book and Yellow Pages under la linea, which are public cars that will pick you up where you are staying and bring you to a specific destination at an agreed-upon price. A 2-hour drive from San Juan to Guánica costs $25 one-way. Because you travel with other passengers, you may have to wait until the driver takes them to their destinations first. He will pick up and drop off passengers according to what is best for his route and schedule.
By Bike -- Rent the Bicycle, Calle Del Muelle, Capitolio Plaza 205, San Juan (tel. 787/602-9696), is at the entrance of the Old San Juan bayside waterfront. They rent bikes for $27 per day ($17 for half a day) and also conduct several tours throughout San Juan ($39–$79). The two best are the Piñones and the San Juan city and beach tours. Paradise Rentals (in Old San Juan at Pier 2 and in Condado at Condado Village, 1214 Ashford Av.; tel. 787/413-2222) rents electric bicycles, or E-bikes, which allow you to decide whether to pedal or not. Three hours costs $50, with each additional hour $15. Guided tours (Old San Juan for an extra $25) and self-guided audio tours (for an extra $15) are available. Bicycles are $35 per day and $10 per hour. Scooters cost $75 for 3 hours for the driver and an extra $35 per passenger.
San Juan Mass Transit -- Tren Urbano links San Juan to the Hato Rey financial district and Rio Piedras, home to the University of Puerto Rico, the Medical Center, and an increasing number of research and science facilities. It goes on to the western suburbs of Guaynabo and Bayamón. The system provides an easy mode of transportation through the most congested areas of metropolitan San Juan. During rush hour (5–9am and 3–6pm), the train operates every 8 minutes; otherwise, it runs every 12 minutes. There is no service daily from 11:20pm to 5:30am. The fare is 75¢ one-way and includes a transfer to buses. Officials proposed in late 2014 increasing the fare to $1.50 and cutting back service hours during non-peak hours and weekends. It’s a beautiful ride and gives tourists a different experience of the city; the train passes on an elevated track through the modern, Hato Rey financial district, plunges underground in Río Piedras, and then snakes through upscale suburban neighborhoods, with tropical foliage and pools in many backyards. The fare includes a transfer because a special class of buses has been created to link up with particular Tren Urbano routes. The train and accompanying buses keep special expanded schedules during big events, such as festivals in Old San Juan. They also extend schedules when big acts play at the Puerto Rico Coliseum or big events take place at the Convention Center. The Metro Urbano, a bus rapid transport project, connects to Tren Urbano's westernmost station in Bayamón from suburbs farther west. For more information, call tel. 866/900-1284, or log onto www.dtop.gov.pr/transporte_urbano/index.asp.