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Getting Around Puerto Rico​

Traveling or moving to Puerto Rico and wondering how to get around? Navigating the island’s transportation options can be key to enjoying your stay or settling in comfortably. 

Transportation in Puerto Rico

Airports

Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) is the main airport on the island. It is located in Carolina, about 7 1/2 miles east of San Juan. You can rent a car at the airport, take a taxi, or use a ridesharing company to your destination, such as Uber (Lyft doesn’t operate in PR).

On the west coast, there’s Rafael Hernández Airport (BQN) in Aguadilla. Airlines like Frontier, United, and JetBlue fly into this airport, making it convenient for travel to the western part of the island.

Ferry

Ferries are an inexpensive and fairly reliable way to reach Culebra and Vieques, the two small islands in the east of Puerto Rico. You can take the ferries in the town of Ceiba. It takes about 45-55 min to get to Culebra and about 30-45 min to get to Vieques from Ceiba. Make sure you are at the terminal about one hour before taking off. If you are in Old San Juan, you can also take a ferry to Cataño (it only takes about 12 minutes!) to explore the culinary scene along their coastline and tour the Bacardi factory. Ferries are operated by the Autoridad de Transporte Marítimo. You may book tickets online here.

Ground Transportation

The easiest way to travel around Puerto Rico is by car. There aren’t many intercity buses, private charters can be pricey, and getting around locally might be tough. Driving on main roads is fine, but if you’re heading into the mountains on winding roads (such as Orocovis, Ciales, Naranjito, etc.), make sure you know where you’re going before you start. In San Juan, you can manage without a car if you plan carefully and use services like Uber, which is available in the city. Old San Juan is one of the few places you can walk everywhere, making it perfect for exploring forts and streets on foot.

If you decide you need to purchase a car, here is some info on the subject.

Train and Bus Services

Ever heard of Puerto Rico’s train system? It’s called Tren Urbano and is the Caribbean’s first rapid transit system, which officially opened on December 17, 2004. Spanning 10.7 miles (17.2 km) and connecting 16 stations along its route, this ‘Urban Train’ serves the areas of San Juan, Guaynabo, and Bayamón. In 2023, it carried a whopping 2,738,100 passengers, with an average of about 10,200 riders each weekday in the fourth quarter. It’s managed by the Integrated Transit Authority (ATI) and operated by Alternate Concepts, Inc. (ACI).

You can use it to get from the city center to the main medical facility at Centro Médico, the University, and the Deportivo at Bayamón, as well as outlying towns like Sagrado Corazón, and the Hato Rey financial district. If you are going to a concert, the train is an easy way to access El Choliseo, aka “El Choli”.

Tren Urbano is designed to complement other transportation options in the San Juan metropolitan area. It supplements the Metropolitan Bus Authority (AMA), the Cataño Ferry, taxis, and shuttles managed by the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP). There are also 30 bus routes (buses are called “guaguas” in Puerto Rico) covering places like Toa Baja, Cataño, Bayamón, Guaynabo, San Juan, and Carolina.

Even though this integrated approach gives residents and visitors various ways to travel in and around the city, this system is not finished yet. Only one of its four planned phases is done. Plans to connect important places like the International Airport and Old San Juan haven’t happened yet due to problems like a money crisis in 2006 and increased costs. In the end, extension plans were abandoned in 2012.

This system also faces several challenges for users, such as not reaching enough destinations. Additionally, it lacks enough weekend bus service, has infrequent bus schedules, and there aren’t enough shops or activities near the stations. While efforts are underway to address some of these issues, others are still overlooked or require innovative solutions.

Beginning March 1st, several services including Tren Urbano, Metrobús, Tu Conexión, Metro Urbano, and the AMA are offering free rides for up to six months. This initiative, facilitated by ATI, aims to update ticketing and access systems in public transportation services. It’s a great opportunity for both locals and tourists to explore nearby areas using these free rides. Last month in San Juan, after a week of free rides, the Director of Puerto Rico’s ATI said there was a 26% increase in people using public transit. This shows that when it’s easier to use public transport than drive, more people choose it. The same thing happens during big events like the Calle San Sebastian Festivities and activities at the “Choli”, boosting the number of people riding the Tren Urbano in San Juan.

Recently, the ATI proposed an extension of the Tren Urbano to northwest San Juan. It could stop at places like Minillas, Miramar, and Old San Juan. The goal is to link high-capacity transport modes, like light rail or fast buses. A study conducted by Nelson\Nygaard lists four possible areas for the extension from Sagrado Corazón to Minillas, Minillas to Miramar or the Convention Center, and from there to Old San Juan. Community input is crucial for the study, which should be finished by early 2025.

  • Train and Bus Fees
    Bus rides cost 75¢ each, and a trip on the Tren Urbano is $1.50, but there are discounts for seniors, students, and others. You can buy transit passes at any Tren Urbano station, which includes options like paying for one ride, a day pass, a week pass, or a month pass with unlimited rides. Also, you can switch between trains and buses for free within two hours.
  • Hours of Operation 
    Weekday bus services operate from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., with slightly adjusted hours on Saturdays and holidays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Metrobus routes (I and II, and Express) operate daily from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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