San Juan

Houses in Old San Juan
For other places with the same name, see San Juan (disambiguation).

San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico, and at about 395,000 its largest city. It has one of the best harbors in the Caribbean. The city will celebrate its 5th Century in 2008 or 2021, depending if they count from the founding of Caparra or the act of moving the Caparra settlement to Puerto Rico isle (Old San Juan)

Districts

Understand

Location

A watchtower in the fort of El Morro, guarding San Juan

San Juan is the oldest city under the United States dominion. San Juan is in the north-east of Puerto Rico, and features distinctly century-old architecture, such as Spanish military forts built from the 1540s to 1800s, an active harbor, and a very active economic area in the Hato Rey district. San Juan has magnificent beaches, hotels, plazas, historic sites, museums, etc.

San Juan has a land area of about 76 square miles. The city's population is approximately 395,000.

Climate

San Juan is a tropical city with winter temperatures typically ranging in the low 80s during the day, and low 70s at night. Summer temperatures are generally in the high 80s during the day, and high 70s at night. Summer does include high humidity. The city has a tendency to receive rain and thunderstorms from April to November in the afternoon. Be mindful that San Juan and the rest of Puerto Rico have the possibility of being hit by hurricanes or tropical storms from July to November.

Culture

San Juan is a Latin American city with Spanish-based culture, mixed with African traditions and Taíno culture. Museums of modern art exist abroad. The citizens of San Juan are very festive, as on the rest of the island. San Juan has bars and discotheques all-around the city, from Old San Juan to even the southern part of the city that stay open to 3:00-4:00AM. San Juan has become very modernized as of late, with its first Metro line (called Tren Urbano) and buses. Like most large cities, however, there is a small population of vagrants and beggars lining the streets.

San Juan is the financial capital of Puerto Rico. There are facilities for petroleum and sugar refining, and pharmaceuticals.

Get in

By ferry

Ferries del Caribe operates an international passenger and vehicle service from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The overnight journey requires WHTI-compliant documentation and there are strict rules regarding vehicle transportation. Fares payable in USD.

By plane

San Juan is served by Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (IATA: SJU), a large international hub airport about 14 km away.

All major US Airlines operate scheduled services to various destinations on the mainland, with seasonal air charters operating additional routes.

Scheduled services within Puerto Rico include:

Scheduled international services include:

Seasonal international air charters include:

Most travelers opt to rent a car here or take a taxi (fixed fares of $15-25 to most points in the city, plus an extra $1 per luggage item). If you have more time than money, you can take public bus B-40 to Rio Piedras and connect onward to your destination in the city with another local bus or elsewhere on the island with a público (best only attempted in the morning). Correct change is necessary. No dollar bills accepted.

Get around

There are pros and cons to the various methods of getting around San Juan.

By car

Getting around various parts of the city, and the rest of the island, as well as to and from the airport, will be much more convenient with a car. Though some road signs may be in Spanish, on the plus side driving is almost a universal language, and with this being an American territory, the road sign shapes are going to be as familiar to you - if you are used to American road signs. And after all, when you see the word norte sitting above a numbered-road sign enough times, it won't take you long to realize that means north. However, a car could entail parking fees as you travel around to your destinations so you will need to budget for that, and if you go to Old San Juan, parking will be quite difficult.

By bus

A typical bus stop.

If you're planning on staying in and around a general area of San Juan and have plenty of time, you may be able to get by on public buses. The system is inexpensive at only $0.75 a ride, and will eventually take you near to where you want to go. To ride the bus, first find a stop for the correct routes (see below for some ones useful to tourists). The bus stops are marked "PARADA". When you see your bus coming, be sure to wave/flag it down otherwise it may just pass you by! When the door opens, toss your $0.75 into the fare box near the driver. Only coins are accepted on board so stock up on those quarters! ($0.05 and $0.10 coins are also accepted.) Then, pull the cord to get off at your destination.

Be sure to pack your patience. Contrary to some bus schedules (even ones posted at the bus stops themselves) stating buses arrive every 15 minutes, service can be infrequent and very unpredictable; you may wait anywhere from 10 to 90 minutes for a bus to arrive. You may find that bus routes directly to and from places of interest around San Juan do not exist, and that a transfer with additional waiting times are involved. Rush hour buses may be very full. Further, buses generally may stop running around 8:00pm, and may not be extremely safe after dark.

There is not any direct bus route from the airport to Condado or Old San Juan. Also, keep in mind, if you are planning to get back to the airport by bus, some bus drivers may not let you board the bus with carry-on baggage. You may want to plan in advance to take a taxi back to the airport if your hotel has no shuttle. Carrying baggage on the city bus tends to be less of an issue when you initially head from the airport.

In Old San Juan, there is a large bus terminal near the harbor front that serves as the terminus of many buses. If you take public transit, you will probably end your day waiting here. To get around Old San Juan, there is a free trolley bus - look out for the numbered signs. Though, keep in mind that traffic in and around Old San Juan gets very heavy, so once you board the bus (or trolly) you still are not guaranteed a quick trip.

Useful routes

Check with AMA (Spanish only) to inquire about routes and times. There is also a large, on-the-wall bus map at the ferry terminal in Old San Juan.

Outside of San Juan

There are no public buses connecting San Juan to the rest of the island. There are vans that are like group taxis with specific routes called "guaguas." You can inquire about trips outside of San Juan at the guagua terminal in Rio Piedras. But keep in mind, guaguas may make multiple stops to maximize revenue, and it could take ages to get you to where you are going on the island.

By ferry

The Cataño Ferry (La Lancha de Cataño) is a public ferry serving Old San Juan and Cataño. It crosses San Juan Bay every 15-30 minutes.

By taxi

Taxis can be found hanging around hotels and the east end of Calle de la Fortaleza in Old San Juan.

Set rates have been established for travel between San Juan's major tourist zones. As of January 2015, rates are as follows :

Zone Route Cost
1 Airport LMM to hotels in Isla Verde $10
2 Airport LMM to hotels in Condado/Ocean Park/Miramar/Convention Center $15
3 Airport LMM to hotels and piers in Old San Juan $19
4 Piers in Old San Juan to hotels in Old San Juan area $7
5 Piers in Old San Juan to hotels in Puerta de Tierra $7
6 Piers in Old San Juan to hotels in Condado/Ocean Park/Miramar/Convention Center $12
7 Piers in Old San Juan to Airport LMM (and possibly Isla Verde hotels) $19
None Piers (Old San Juan) to Plaza Las Americas $14
None Piers (Old San Juan) to Plaza Carolina shopping center $24
None Airport LMM to Plaza Las Americas $18
None Airport LMM to Plaza Carolina $14

More fixed rates (like LMM Airport to Cataño, or Airport to Ponce) are available on the cab website.

The cabbie should use the meter when not using one of the fixed rates. The meter an initial charge of $1.75, a charge of $0.10 per 1/19 mile and $0.10 for every 25 seconds of waiting.

You may also incur some other charges (perhaps even on set rates):

Charge Amount
Charge per piece of luggage $1
Charge per call $1
Charge for rental per hour $36
Night Charge (10:00PM until 6:00AM) $1
Minimal Charge per trip $3
Charge for 5 passengers or more (only in vans) $2

Tolls are paid by the passenger. A 10-15% tip is expected but not required. For any issues with cabs, contact the Tourist Transportation Department at 787-999-2100 ext. 4502 between 7:30AM to 4:30PM Monday through Friday.

By train

The Tren Urbano station at Sagrado Corazón. Most are above ground.
A map of the system.

San Juan now served by a rapid transit rail line called "Tren Urbano" (Urban Train) . The train starts about a mile south of Condado in southern Santurce with the station of Sagrado Corazón. It then continues south through Hato Rey, Rio Piedras before leaving San Juan proper to the west for the suburbs of Guaynabo and Bayamón. While it does not connect popular tourist locations like Old San Juan, El Condado or the airport, it is a useful way to see more of the city.

The stations are very large, new, and seem to have English speaking attendants. They have fare-purchase machines like New York City (in both English and Spanish) that give you a fare card. Save your fare card because you need to swipe it to exit! Rides were $1.50 each way regardless of distance. There are discounted fares for students, children and elderly people on both the buses and the train, though your US mainland ID showing you are either old or a student does not seem to work to get you a discounted ticket.

A normal visitor can access the system from tourist areas by:

By walking

If you are not afraid of a 3 mile walk, you may be inclined to walk between various points of interest in San Juan. This can be a good way to see the cityscape and the places that tourists do not always go. As with any large city, you should be alert for cars and such. You should also pay attention to where you are going. The recession has not been kind to Puerto Rico, and tourist areas in San Juan are interspersed with areas that may look a bit rough to a suburbanite's eye. Be alert and you should be fine, but before planning any long walk, you might want to search for information about areas in San Juan to avoid as a tourist.

Talk

Spanish is the dominant language in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico. English is also very widely spoken and understood (approximately one-third of the population speaks English "Very Well" or better according to the 2000 U.S. Census). Most businesses within the tourist areas of the city are fully fluent in English and those businesses tend to hire employees who are bilingual, thus speaking English very well. In addition, English is widely taught in high schools, with most students understanding some basic English. As a visitor, be prepared to use some high school level Spanish to drivers to communicate about luggage, restaurants, or anything not a normal tourist spot.

See

El Morro from San Cristóbal
La Fortaleza

Do

Condado Beach

Check out the beaches in Condado and Isla Verde.

A popular point of interest is Old San Juan, a 7-block area that has become popular for tourists as well as residents. The narrow streets of old San Juan are packed with people so it is recommended to experience Old San Juan by foot in order to avoid too much traffic. You can take a taxi for less than $20 from most hotels but for .75 you can also take the B21 bus which picks up from many locations near the hotels and is very easy to use.

Check out the parks in San Juan.

Learn

Work

Employment opportunities in Puerto Rico are to be found in the varying sectors of the territory's economy; key among these are education, financial services, government (municipal, territorial & federal), pharmaceutical and tourism. Proficiency in both Spanish and English are among the key skills required by local employers.

Employers in Puerto Rico are required to verify the eligibility of prospective workers to accept employment in the United States.

Buy

Eat

Drink

Sleep

San Juan has a wide range of accommodation, but few budget options of any kind. European-style youth hostels do not exist in the city. Colonial-style city hotels are clustered in Old San Juan, while the big beachfront resorts are mostly out in Condado and Isla Verde.

You'll be looking at $100/night for even a basic hotel room, and well north of $300 for a five-star resort. However, discounts are available in summer (low) season.

Budget

There are a number of vacation apartments which are walking distance to the beach, comfortable with fully equipped kitchen for saving money meals. You can find these individually-owned apartments in either condos in front of the beach in Isla verde or in areas in Ocean Park and Condado walking distance to beach.

You might not have the daily housekeeping service but this option is good to receive a more authentic stay rather than in the sterile unchanging hotel. These accommodations can vary from $50-$80

Posada Colonial apartments ( ocean park/ Condado) area minutes from the beach has very high reviews ( range $70 night complete and private apartment)

There is also a New Budget options new to the island in the way of a Hostel/GuestHouse that accommodates the frugal traveler for $20 to $55 a night

Old San Juan: Posada San Francisco with private room guest house style and traditional Hostel style; Dorms

There are other areas of San Juan as:

Santurce ( in low income neighborhood): where Other hostels can be found for much less.

The Palace Hostel #720-432-0712

San Juan International Hostel

Mid Range

Splurge

Stay safe

Use common sense when going around. The tourist areas, like the Old City, Condado, and Isla Verde tend to be very safe. There is a wonderfully visible, 24-hour police presence in the Old City.

Use caution when riding a bicycle around the city as roads are often crowded and some are unpaved. Be sure to pay attention to the roadway on which you are riding and the traffic.

Pedestrians need to use similar caution in Old San Juan. While traffic usually is slower, the streets are narrow, and sidewalks very narrow, sometimes crowded, with occasional trip hazards.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, March 11, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.