Old San Juan is the historic district of the larger capital city of San Juan. It is the oldest city on the island and the most visited by tourists from around the world looking to experience the history and culture of Puerto Rico first hand. Fortunately, Old San Juan benefits from the outstanding public transportation system that San Juan is known for, allowing them plenty of options for getting around.
San Juan is Puerto Rico's known hub of transportation, with an international airport, cruise terminal, and customs office in town which makes it an official port of entry. Which ever mode of transportation you feel most comfortable utilizing, you'll easily be able to arrange to get you to Old San Juan.
Most people who visit Old San Juan will get around on foot as they explore the most popular sites because they are close enough that getting in an out of a vehicle is not usually necessary. Transportation will be needed for other reasons, so make sure you are aware of all of your options before you go, and there are plenty of them. These include rental cars, taxis, buses, publicos, trolleys, and even a commuter train.
Traveling to Old San Juan by plane is not done directly, but you can get pretty close. The Isla Verde. More than eight million passengers walk through these terminals each year, and there are modern facilities enough to accommodate them all. Several major airlines such as even have headquarters at this airport. What this means for tourists from around the world is that finding a flight to this airport is never difficult. Read our guide to Old San Juan Air Travel and learn exactly which airlines land at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport regularly.(SJU), which is the largest and most popular airport in the whole of , is located in nearby
Whether you do the sailing yourself or hire someone to do the job, the first thing you'll need to do upon arrival is dock at an official port of entry and clear customs. San Juan is one such port, saving you a good deal of sailing time. Officials request that you call at least 24 hours in advance of your arrival to give them time to prepare. You can do so by calling 787-729-6850 or 787-729-6802 Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to noon and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. When you arrive, a customs official will be waiting to review your boat's paperwork and stores, as well as your immigration forms. You'll also be required to purchase a 12 month cruising permit before you're allowed to sail elsewhere. This will cost $25 for United States citizens and $37(USD) for everyone else.
During the height of cruise season, several hundred cruisers a day descend upon Old San Juan for a quick day of sightseeing. Cruising is big business here, and plenty of local shops and independent artists will set up booths featuring their wares specifically to make it easier for cruisers to spend money with them.
If you'll be docking at the San Juan Cruise Port during your Caribbean cruise, your first stop should be at the which is located just west of Pier 1. There is a bilingual staff there to help you maximize your time in Old San Juan by narrowing down the sites specific to your interests. They'll also provide you with information about local transportation, which you can read about below as well. Pay special attention to the bus routes that have been noted for the most inexpensive mode of transport.
Despite not necessarily needing to rent a car in Old San Juan, it is still one of the most popular modes of transportation in town. If you're planning on renting a car during your stay it is extremely helpful to learn the rules of the road before you arrive. It is also important that you show up prepared to handle the car rental process. Find out about both of these important factors by clicking here.
...be able to walk around to most important sites...
As the most popular tourist destination in Puerto Rico, traffic can quickly become an issue on any given day. Although the infrastructure in Old San Juan is very good for a city in the Caribbean, driving in a new city simply is not for everyone. This is where taxis come in handy. Simply take a cab into the main tourist area and you'll be able to walk around to most important sites, or you can call a cab when you need a ride to dinner. Rates can quickly add up, but for many travelers, the price is worth it. Learn more about taxis in Old San Juan by clicking here.
The bus system in Old San Juan not only serves as a way to travel around this historic city, but also to connect it to other towns in the immediate area like Isla Verde and Condado. The main bus terminal is near the dock next to the Treasury Building in downtown San Juan, and from there you can travel for just $0.75(USD) per trip between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. daily.
If buses and taxis aren't enough, there is another mode of transportation in Old San Juan called a publico that falls somewhere in between the two. Publico drivers have routes that they follow, picking up passengers along the way and dropping them off wherever they need – as long as it remains on their route. These vehicles are not private, and drivers will often wait until all the seats are taken before they begin driving. Publicos can be hard to spot because they tend to blend in with other cars on the road, but you'll recognize them because they are typically minibuses or large vans, and have yellow license plates with the letters "P" or "PD" at the start of the tag number. You can expect to spend around $1.50(USD) per person.
Usually used by locals to commute to and from work, the Tren Urbano or Urban Train can be used by tourists as well. It operates throughout the San Juan metro area from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. for $0.75(USD) each way.
The final source of transportation in Old San Juan is the free trolley that will take you around the area. Although the trolley doesn't actually run down Cristo Street where you'll access most of the historical sites, you can get close enough for an easy walk. The trolley runs from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There are trolley signs posted along the streets of San Juan, where you'll just stop and wait until another trolley comes along.
There are three trolley routes to be aware of. The City Hall Route is an air conditioned trolley that travels along Calles (streets) Tanaca, San Francisco, Fortaleza, Recinto Sur, and by the Casita. These trolley is a great way to get to the main shopping area of town. The Fort San Cristóbal, along Calle Norzagaray, then down El Morro. Finally, the El Morro Route is serviced by an open air trolley that travels to the area forts, and right up to the Fort de San Filipe del Morro entrance./El Morro Route is another air conditioned trolley that takes passengers along Calles Tanca, Sand Francisco, and Fortaleza like the City Hall Route, but then travels up past
The availability of transportation to and around Old San Juan is plentiful, sometimes making it difficult for tourists to narrow down their options. Knowing a bit of information about each will certainly help you to see what you feel most comfortable using as your main source of transport, and even others you may use on occasion.
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