PR-Car Rental?

Feb 12th, 2009, 08:15 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2003
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PR-Car Rental?

We will be staying 3 days pre cruise in San Juan, and would like to visit the rainforest and other recommended sites. Was really trying to avoid the car rental hassle and worries. How safe is it for tourist to drive in PR? Should we just do an organized tour and forget about driving? Thanks!
GailLK is offline  
Feb 12th, 2009, 07:53 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
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Its easy to rent a car. Your insurance should work the same as at home. People in puerto rico drive very aggressively and the maps, road signs are sometimes hard to understand. Entrances and exits all seem to be called (salida's). If you run early and be careful to know when stores close down for the day in certain areas, you will have a great time. Have fun and enjoy!!
nitros is offline  
Feb 13th, 2009, 03:14 AM
  #3  
 
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nitros, I'm not sure I would describe drivers as aggressive. They just do things a little differently! For one, I don't find they violate the speed limit (which may be frustrating if you're used to doing so). And I've also noticed that they give way to others (like drivers at a stop sign, or left turners) when they don't have to, which might make them seem like they're taking advantage but in fact are acting in a customary manner.

In any event, a driver would be well served to know a few words of Spanish, as the road signs are not multilingual. Salida means Exit; Carril means Lane; Derecha means Right; Izquierda means Left. Perversely, distances are referenced in kilometers, but the speed limit is referenced in Miles Per Hour.

It's an adventure, but a worthwhile one. If you can handle the driving in a medium to large US city, you'll be fine.
Callaloo is offline  
Feb 13th, 2009, 09:15 AM
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Where are you staying in San Juan? Old San Juan is a bit crowded and might be somewhat more difficult to drive in as the streets are narrow and lots of pedestrian traffic.

Other than that, I thought driving was no big deal. I had heard all sorts of horror stories and warnings but found them to be grossly exaggerated. Granted, I wouldn't try to navigate some of the neighborhoods at night but that's true of any city.

Definitely learn the main Spanish words on street signs as Callaloo suggested. Oeste is west, este is east - fairly similar but easy enough to remember if you keep in mind east begins with an e in both languages. Buy a good map when you get there, you should have an OSJ street map and a map which covers the island.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Feb 13th, 2009, 10:02 AM
  #5  
 
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We rented a car from Hertz at the airport and had no problems driving at all. We stayed at Rio Mar, which is close to El Yunque and then returned the car to the Hertz office in downtown San Juan. Hertz then transported us and our luggage, at no charge, to the cruise ship port.

I did not find the other drivers rude or aggressive. The point about road signs being in Spanish is good. In most ways it was as easy, perhaps easier, than driving in our home city.
Reisender is offline  
Feb 14th, 2009, 12:35 PM
  #6  
 
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I am in San Juan as I write this and had a hertz rental for two days. Spent a lo0t of time driving, to El Yunque as well as to the west coast of the island. Used both the autopistas (turnpike-like situation) as well as smaller Commonwealth roads.

I am SORRY but while I won't say it is "unsafe" to drive here, I disagree about it not being "a big deal" and here is what I found.

Apparently the turn signals in most cars here have been DISABLED.
On the autopistas a LOT of the drivers have found a home in the left lane and have no intention of moving aside even for an ambulance.
It reminds me of driving in Italy, lots of "chicken" and let's turn left from the right lane IN FRONT OF YOU...and it they SEE YOU LOOKING AT THEM they will definitely turn in front of you.

Otherwise, no problems at all.
Dukey is offline  
Feb 14th, 2009, 09:20 PM
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Dukey - I see lots of people in the U.S. who don't use their turn signals and/or stay in the left lane when they have no business being there. I honestly can't say I saw any more of that in Puerto Rico than I do at home.

I had read many horror stories about intersections looking like a hockey match when the light turns green: cars turning left from the right lane, cars turning right from the left lane, extra lanes forming on the shoulders, etc. Never saw any of that in person in 5 days, not in San Juan or elsewhere. How often did that occur on your trip and where?

I'm not disputing your account, but your experiences sound exactly like many of the reviews I read and somehow I never ran into any of those issues. I'd be interested in hearing details as none of the reviews I read gave details, just a general 'OMG it was terrible' type of description.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Feb 16th, 2009, 10:13 AM
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What Dukey describes is common practice in most of the US, and since PR is part of the US they fit right in. The average US driver would last about 30 seconds on an autobahn.
Reisender is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 04:26 AM
  #9  
 
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I was going to skip replying here, but based on driving home last night and to work this morning, here are my thoughts (been here for 2 years):

First - a rental car is a great option here and you will be fine provided you take your time concentrate on your driving and anticipate the unexpected.

What Dukey describes is quite common and WhereAreWe you were lucky not to witness bad driving as I encounter it every day here.

The following are common occurrences on my daily commute of 15-20mins each way.

Majority of drivers do not use turn signals
Red at the lights does not mean stop (cars will continue crossing for a few seconds even when your light is green)
Cars will turn right from lanes that are indicated as straight on only
Cars joining expressways do not always slow down and wait for a gap in the traffic
The shoulder lane is used as a regular lane when there is a line of traffic
I have seen cars reverse a few hundred meters back up an express way, along the shoulder because they missed their exit
I have seen cars reverse back up the 'ON RAMP' because they have missed there exit or because of traffic jams
The horn is used a lot here (especially at lights)
When there is heavy traffic at junctions most drivers will not leave a gap so that other cars can cross (even at traffic light junctions)

Now the above points probably happen in the states also, but having lived in the States for 4 years I can say that I rarely witnessed this type of driving there.

But, like I said you should get a rental car and drive around, just watch out for some strange driving

Coqui @ http://www.visit-the-coqui.com it's my Travel Guide for Puerto Rico
coqui_07 is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 08:56 AM
  #10  
 
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I did witness bad driving, all I'm saying is that it wasn't as awful as I'd been led to believe. Coqui_07, I appreciate your account of what you see on a regular basis, because most of the reports I had seen on driving in PR were vague and rather dramatic.

Had I read something like your description before my trip, I would've been more at ease as almost everything you mentioned is something I see every day - except for the cars going in reverse when they miss their exit. I do see that occasionally just not every day.

I saw much of what you described and I agree with the assertion that there is plenty of bad driving. I just didn't think it was incredibly dangerous and life-threatening as long as one utilized a bit of defensive driving principles.

The one thing I didn't see much of was people getting angry about the driving, they just seemed to accept it and go on about their business.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 12:06 PM
  #11  
 
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I agree with coqui's description of driving in PR but actually it's pretty similar to what I see where I live in Massachusetts. The differences I've noticed are that the horn is used less in Massachusetts but the speed limit is broken more frequently.

In general I'd say do drive in PR but do so defensively (as you would anywhere else
sassy_cat is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 02:52 PM
  #12  
 
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I also was not wanting to make it sound like it's dangerous to drive here. For me it's frustrating, but maybe because I spent the majority of my driving years in the UK

If anyone is reading this set of posts - driving here is OK, but as sassy_cat states you may have to drive more defensively than you are used to.

If anyone is looking for ideas for the island check outmy travel site www.visit-the-coqui.com
coqui_07 is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 02:57 PM
  #13  
 
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coqui I spent the majority of my driving years in the UK too
sassy_cat is offline  

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