experiences

Rethink Renting a Car in Puerto Rico

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I debated with myself far too much on whether or not to rent a car for my one night in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The hotel was roughly a $15 cab fare + tip each way, the rental car was $53 after tax plus $16 in parking.

However, the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino doesn’t have many restaurant or site-seeing options within walking distance and a car would give me the freedom to explore the island if I felt so inclined or at the least go procure less expensive and probably tastier food.

I’d visited Puerto Rico before, so I did know that the traffic can be rather erratic and crazy. And yet, I booked the car. The Avis was great, but the map didn’t have a good inset of San Juan, so it wasn’t helpful leaving the airport.

  • San Juan doesn’t have many major roads, so it’s easy to identify them. However, almost all the traffic signs are in Spanish (and we know how good I am at that).
  • Google maps uses street names, never the road number.
  • Traffic seems to randomly back up quite a distance at points when turn lanes become merge lanes back onto the main road rather than a turn lane.
  • In summer, there are random torrential downpours. And how often can you immediately find the windshield wiper controls in a strange car?
  • I had no co-pilot to help me read the directions off my phone.

You see where this is going?

I’d planned to head out away from the hotel and catch PR 3 towards Rio Mar to locate an amazing restaurant I’d tried last time I was in Puerto Rico. I see no signs for 3, I see signs for lots of other numbers. The GPS on my phone (most carriers offer free 1G network access although calls are an additional charge)  is giving me only street names and no numbers.

Teodoro Moscoso Bridge from a rental car

I somehow wind up on a toll road and then 17, which I later discover was opposite directions from both the restaurant and my hotel. A torrential downpour starts (and its the beginning of rush hour) and now I can no longer read the little street signs that my phone directions are insisting I find and follow.

At one point I wind up going straight when I should have turned for half a block to head in the same direction, but not being on the correct side of PR 1, makes all the difference.

I gave up on the exploration and then spent the next 25 minutes just getting to the hotel, and there I stayed. If I had more time on the island I would have had the concierge give me good directions, but for just an afternoon it wasn’t worth it.

So if you’re staying in San Juan,  unless you have a good navigator, can translate your street name directions into the numerical designation, and you have the patience to look out for all 5 lanes because you never know where someone is coming from, take a cab. If you do rent a car, I LOVE the Avis there!

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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

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