Driving in Puerto Rico (A Local’s Guide, for First Timers)
if you’ve heard horror stories about driving in Puerto Rico and are having second thoughts, then I’m here to clear the air.
As a Puerto Rico local, I can tell you those stories are anecdotal, and that Puerto Rico is safe for driving if you take sensible precautions and learn some basic tips I’ll cover in this article. Don’t go spending your whole budget on private shuttles and taxis just yet!
In this article, I’ll go over the basics of driving on the island Puerto Rico – including some “do’s and dont’s”.
Honestly, driving yourself is the best way of getting around. A Puerto Rico road trip is one of the best ways to experience the island.
But, if after reading this you deciding that renting a car in Puerto Rico isn’t for you, never worry! Just bookmark my guide to how to get around Puerto Rico for transportation alternatives.
Table of Contents
- Driving Laws and Rules in Puerto Rico
- License Requirements
- Where to Rent a Car in Puerto Rico
- Car Insurance Rules
- Driving in Rain in Puerto Rico
- Nighttime Driving in Puerto Rico
- Mountain Driving in Puerto Rico
- Tips for Driving in Puerto Rico
- FAQ’s About Driving in Puerto Rico
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Driving Laws and Rules in Puerto Rico
Overall, Puerto Rico’s roads follow a system quite similar to the continental United States. If you’re used to driving in mainland USA, you’ll find that Puerto Rico’s driving signals are mostly those universal ones you are already used to, just with words in Spanish.
But, there are still a few things you should know about driving in Puerto Rico:
- In Puerto Rico, you drive on the right side of the street.
- The right lane is for heavy vehicles or drivers under the speed limit, the left lane is the fast lane, although in Puerto Rico people drive wherever they feel like honestly.
- The roads in Puerto Rico are mostly wide and paved, but you will find narrow streets in some neighborhoods and in the mountains in Puerto Rico.
- Puerto Rican drivers are aggressive on the street. They change lanes without a turn signal, honk at you, and cut in front of you if you’re slow. Drive defensively!
- Seatbelts are mandatory for everyone in the car. Infants and children under 12 must ride in the back.
- Driving while talking or texting on the phone is illegal in Puerto Rico.
- Puerto Rico’s standard speed limits are 25 in urban areas, 15 in school zones, 45 in rural areas, and 65 on the highway, unless otherwise specified. See other speed limit variations here.
- Alcohol blood levels must be below 0.08 for small vehicles and 0.02 for heavy vehicles.
- Drivers can turn to the right with a red light unless otherwise instructed.
- Streets sometimes have multiple names.
- Police cars always have their lights on, it doesn’t mean they’re stopping you.
- The main highways have tolls, you need to get an Autoexpreso stamp with your rental agency.
- Distances get measured in kilometers but cars speeds are in miles per hour.
- Gas stations display prices of gas per liter.
👉 Not sure where to go in Puerto Rico? Check out some of my top places to explore in Puerto Rico for ideas!
Visitors from the United States can use their driver’s license to drive in Puerto Rico since the island is a territory of the United States. International visitors will need an International Driving Permit along with their country’s license.
Even if some car rentals don’t ask for a license, it’s safer to have it in case you get pulled-over by the local police.
Where to Rent a Car in Puerto Rico
When you arrive in Puerto Rico, you’ll find plenty of rental car companies right at the airport and others in San Juan. Some of them are internationally known like Avis and some are local. If you don’t have experience with any of them, then you can use Discover Cars Puerto Rico to compare prices and get the best deal on your rental.
🚗 Rental Car Warning: Some companies will quote a really small price and then charge you more on the counter. Always make sure the price you’re getting includes insurance, and Autoexpreso and read the contract for hidden fees. Read my full guide to how to rent a car in Puerto Rico for more tips.
Car Insurance Rules
Overall, renting a car in Puerto Rico is easy if you have a credit card and a driver’s license, but there are two types of insurance you’ll need to pay for: Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI), and the CDW/LDW (Collision Damage Waiver and Loss Damage Waiver).
The SLI is mandatory and it covers the costs of an accident that affects a third party. The CDW/LDW insurance is optional, but this insurance covers any damage to the vehicle, robbery, or an accident so you don’t have to pay for it yourself.
If you’re under 25 years old or you want to include a second driver in your contract, you may need to pay an extra fee for renting a car. If an accident occurs while someone else besides the person in the contract is driving, insurance will not cover you.
🚗 Pro Tip: If you have a credit card, you can check if they have the benefit of insurance when you rent a car and ask your bank for proof of coverage. If your card doesn’t provide insurance, you add it on when renting your car through Discover Cars Puerto Rico.
Driving in Rain in Puerto Rico
Is not uncommon to find yourself driving under a pouring sky in Puerto Rico. If you’re driving while it’s raining, reduce your speed and use your intermittent lights if the visibility is poor. Keep in mind that when it rains too much in a short time, some streets and neighborhoods can get flooded. Needless to say, never try to cross flooded areas.
Nighttime Driving in Puerto Rico
If you drive during the night in Puerto Rico, you’ll find some poorly lit areas while driving, most of them a product of Hurricane Maria. Always keep your eyes on the road and take common safety measures when you’re driving around, like keeping your doors locked. After midnight, you can drive past the red lights so you don’t have to stay alone at the intersection.
📚 Related Reading: Concerned about your safety in Puerto Rico? Check out my Puerto Rico safety guide.
Mountain Driving in Puerto Rico
While the center area sports breathtaking landscapes and some of the best activities in Puerto Rico, the island’s mountain roads aren’t for the weak-hearted. The rural area sports very narrow roads with little lightning and signs. Always double-check your destinations with local guides, and know some Spanish phrases in case you need to ask for directions.
If you’re driving in the mountainous area during the winter you’ll have limited visibility due to the fog. Always drive slowly and keep your eyes open for upcoming cars.
🚗 Pro Tip: You may lose your phone signal in some areas of Puerto Rico. When you’re heading to a destination, make sure to download the map from your GPS so you can access it offline.
Tips for Driving in Puerto Rico
Tip #1 – Keep Your Eyes on the Road
Driving in Puerto Rico is usually safe, but it’s true you will find some Puerto Ricans are crazy drivers, changing lanes without a signal, speeding, and crossing red lights. You should be fine as long as you keep your eyes on the road and ALWAYS drive safely.
👉 Still Not Sure if Driving is For You? Check out my full guide to all your options for getting around Puerto Rico.
Tip #2 – Watch Out for Potholes and Speed Bumps
Some streets in Puerto Rico are in bad condition. Watch out for potholes on the street, as they’re often the cause of flat tires. You’ll also find multiple speed bumps in urbanizations so that drivers keep the speed limit.
Tip #3 – Check the Traffic Direction
Some Puerto Rico areas like Old San Juan, Hato Rey, and mostly the cities’ old town centers have a complicated one-way driving system. This means one street goes in one direction and the next street goes in the other. If you’re in doubt, check for do not enter signs, the direction cars park, or imitate what local drivers do.
Tip #4 – Avoid Peak Hours
Peak hours in Puerto Rico are a nightmare. Traffic jams can triple the time to get to a destination plus you’ll see more cases of road rage, people turning without turn signals, and drivers ignoring traffic lights. If you’re driving during the rush hour, just make sure to leave your hotel with enough time to arrive at your destination.
Tip #5 – Prepare for Toll Roads
If you’re going outside Old San Juan, you will find multiple toll roads on your way. Tolls in Puerto Rico work with an electronic stamp your car rental company can provide to you. Although you can pay some tolls in cash, most are already changeless, so it’s easier to ask for your rental car with an Autoexpreso stamp.
👉 Read Next: How to Drive in the US Virgin Islands
Tip #6 – People Will Approach Your Car at Intersections
Very few guides mention the fact that you will commonly find people asking for money on intersections, especially in San Juan, and the metro area. You might feel intimidated, but I assure you they’re usually harmless. If you don’t feel like giving them money, you can just keep your window up and say no with your head when they approach your car.
👉 Be sure to bookmark my full list of my best travel tips for Puerto Rico here!
FAQ’s About Driving in Puerto Rico
Is driving in Puerto Rico difficult?
Overall, driving in Puerto Rico is easy. The main streets are in good condition and the sign system is the same as most countries in the world. Although some drivers in Puerto Rico drive recklessly, visitors that take normal precautions and keep their eyes on the road should be safe.
Are taxis expensive in Puerto Rico?
Taking taxis in Puerto Rico can be expensive if visitors are going to travel frequently within San Juan, or if they’re planning to ride longer distances. Some additional charges for luggage or additional passengers can make fares pricey.
Can you drive in Puerto Rico with a US license?
Visitors from the United States can use their driving license from the state they come from to rent a car and drive in Puerto Rico, without any additional permit.
Is it better to rent a car in Puerto Rico?
Travelers planning to move around Puerto Rico should rent a car. Renting a car is the easiest way to move around since public transportation and bus routes don’t cover the complete island.
Is it safe to rent a car in San Juan Puerto Rico?
It’s completely safe to rent a car in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico sports well-known car rental companies like Avis, Enterprise, and Target. Visitors can also research and choose a local company to rent a car by taking common-sense precautions.
You’ve reached the end of the Driving Guide for Puerto Rico! I hope I eased some of your fears about whether it is safe to drive in Puerto Rico. If you’re still uncomfortable with the thought of renting a car in Puerto Rico, you can always just choose to stay in San Juan, where you can get around without driving. Check out the great things you can do in San Juan alone, without the need for a car.
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Your feedback really helps ...
What did you like about this post? Or how can we improve it to help you travel better?
Do you recommend renting a certain type of car to explore Puerto Rico?
As a local who moved away, I recommend small cars if you don’t need to carry to many things. If you need space, try to stay on the smaller side and get cars like a Kia Soul, Hyundai Kona or Honda HRV for reference in sizes. They’d be easy to maneuver in the roads, and are fuel-economic enough for gas.
Does gps works fine in PR?
Yes. GPS works great in PR
I am importing a classic car to Puerto Rico which has the steering wheel on the right side. Can you drive right-hand cars in Puerto Rico?
Wondering what the road conditions are like going from San Juan to Isabela. I own a semi sporty car with a semi low clearance. Would that make it or are some of the roads out that way too mountainous and rocky???
Any help is appreciated!
Vanessa offers great key information for travelling to PR. She is thorough covering topics I would not have considered and very assuring of the safety of visiting there. Nice Job Vanessa!
Um…yeah, no. I’m here now, in San Juan for a conference. I have never seen such horrible, erratic, non-blinker-coming over drivers as I have here in Puerto Rico. Even LA drivers don’t compare. Since I got here, people have almost knocked off my side mirror cutting in front of me, I saw a giant truck swerve into the left (fast) lane with his opposite blinkers on, I can’t count how many drivers moved around like checkers, just assuming the other driver sees them coming in. Those that merge into traffic don’t bother looking back to see if it’s safe to merge in. I’m actually afraid to take my rental car back ouut to explore.