A colorful blend of Caribbean, Spanish and African cultures, Puerto Rico is a lively and unique Caribbean island positioned between the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands (rent a car in Virgin Islands) archipelago. Whether with sandy beaches, tropical rainforests and breathtaking mountains or with its rich cultural heritage, cuisine and energetic nightlife, Puerto Rico will find plenty of ways to impress you if you give it a chance.
About Puerto Rico
Prior to its discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1493, Puerto Rico was inhabited by the indigenous Taíno people which called it Boriquén. Columbus initially named it San Juan Bautista after Saint John the Baptist, but it was eventually renamed Puerto Rico, with the name San Juan being given to its capital city.
After the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States seized Puerto Rico from Spain (car renting in Spain), together with Cuba, the Philippines (renting a car in Philippines) and other colonial possessions. Today, Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth of the USA, with its citizens being given American passports but not paying US federal taxes or being able to vote in US elections.
The capital and the largest city of Puerto Rico is the vibrant city of San Juan, which is also home to over 1.5 million people (more than 1/3 of the total population). Due to its connections with the US, Puerto Rico is a unique mixture of cultural influences, the fact which San Juan perfectly illustrates – with its modern architecture, subway system, highways and shopping malls, it is more often compared to Miami, US than to Santo Domingo from the neighboring Dominican Republic.
You can expect lots of sun in Puerto Rico, as it has a tropical climate with little seasonal variations. The average yearly temperature is 26 °C (78 °F) and the rainy season usually lasts from late May to early December. With it’s monetary system fully integrated into the United States’, the official currency in Puerto Rico is the US Dollar.
Car Rental in Puerto Rico
If you’re only planning to stay in San Juan during your Puerto Rico adventure, the cheap and well developed bus system will satisfy most of your needs. However, if you want to venture outside of the capital and experience more of what Puerto Rico has to offer, car rental in Puerto Rico will give you the most bang for your buck.
You will be able to find both local and international car renting companies at the airport and in travel and car renting agencies around the city. You have to be at least 18 years old to drive in Puerto Rico, although some car renting agencies won’t rent you a car if you’re under 23 or will add an additional fee for young drivers to your bill.
Beware of special offers and cheap deals by the local companies, as some will include hidden fees or won’t provide emergency road assistance in case you need it. If you want to play it safe, rent a car from one of the well known, reliable car renting companies such as Avis, Alamo, Budget, Sixt or Hertz.
Since you’ll often find yourself driving on narrow roads in Puerto Rico, you might want to rent a smaller car instead of a bigger one. Renting a car with GPS is advisable, but you should be able to get along fine with a good map as well.
Driving in Puerto Rico
The quality of the roads in Puerto Rico varies. Main highways and streets in major cities won’t give you trouble, but older highways in the coastline area are often crowded and some of the roads in the mountains are dangerously narrow and poorly maintained.
The driving laws and regulations in Puerto Rico are mostly the same as in the USA, which means that you will be driving on the right side of the road and with the speed limits somewhat lower than in Europe. On the highway, you’ll be allowed to go up to 65 miles per hour, while the speed limit in the residential areas is 15–35 mph.
Not everything is the same on the roads as in the US, though, with speeding, reckless driving and drunk driving being more common. In fact, more people died in car crashes in Puerto Rico in 2010 than anywhere else in the United States. No need to be terrified about it, but you should drive carefully and pay close attention to other drivers around you.
A detail which might confuse you is the usage of both mph and kph in Puerto Rico – distances are mostly shown in kilometers, while speed limits are displayed in miles per hour. Other notable differences from the US system are that petrol is sold by liters and not by gallons and traffic signs, although the same as in the US, sometimes have writings in Spanish.
You don’t want to visit Puerto Rico without seeing its lush tropical rainforest El Yunque, a perfect escape from the busy city life. It’s located east of San Juan, and you can reach it by car in under an hour by following Route 3 until you reach Route 191 which will lead you to El Yunque.
You should also take some time to explore Puerto Rico’s second oldest city, the colorful San German and its second biggest city, Ponce once you get a good car with car rental in Puerto Rico..
And if you’re up for a true sightseeing adventure, you can drive down The Ruta Panorámica (Scenic Route), a 167 mile long network of roads which will lead you through Puerto Rico from west to east and let you see some of the most beautiful parts of the island.