Puerto Rico Public Transport – the lack of!

Apart from the excellent bus and metro systems in San Juan, transportation in Puerto Rico is heavily dependent on the motor car. Road congestion, all over the island, at peak times, is horrific.

Rail transport in Puerto Rico can be traced back to the mid-19th century. Between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Puerto Rico’s rail transport system expanded significantly, becoming one of the largest rail systems in the Caribbean. However, the entire system was soon overshadowed by the arrival of the automobile, and by the 1950’s was completely abandoned.

Bus transportation between large towns is now non existent, something I found extremely hard to understand – considering the shear volume of traffic and the level of congestion. Arecibo and Ponce each have a building that once housed a very large bus terminal. Both buildings are now derelict and falling apart.

This leaves only three ways to get around the island; hire a car, hire a taxi, or find a público. The first two options are not cheap and don’t facilitate the opportunity to meet locals.

Públicos, or public cars, are a unique choice for getting around the island of Puerto Rico. A cross between taxis and buses, públicos are privately owned vans designed to take travelers into hard-to-reach urban areas. A one-way trip from San Juan to Ponce runs about $25 USD, making públicos less expensive than taxis and a great way to meet locals. One drawback is that they tend to make frequent stops, so they are not the most time-efficient mode of transportation, but if you’re not in a big hurry, the price and experience can more than make up for this inconvenience. In theory you should be able to circumnavigate the whole island on a Público.

I struggled to get from Arecibo to Ponce and ended up paying an American guy £60.00 ($75USD) to drive me there. The other option would have been to pay a taxi £100.00 ($130USD). Uber is possible though the service is a little sketchy.

San Juan to Arecibo to Ponce to San Juan.

Top card: San Juan to Ponce ($25USD). Bottom card: Ponce to San Juan ($30USD).

About Richard Griffith

My first independent travel experience was a trip to Israel, in 1997, it was here that I caught the 'travel' bug! In 2001 I took an 8-month sabbatical and traveled around South East Asia. Since then I have managed to visit most of Eastern Europe along with India, Bangladesh, and a few other destinations in between. I love travel and I love meeting new people.
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