If you can avoid driving in the city, by all means, do so. Traffic, parking and the maze of thoroughfares make having, let alone driving, a rental car in the city a challenge.
Old San Juan has the city’s two safest and most accessible parking facilities: Covadonga parking lot on Recinto Sur, just as you enter town; and Dona Fela, next door, which is slightly cheaper.
For access to El Morro or the nightlife of San Sabastián, check out the underground lot (beneath Plaza del Quinto Centenario off Calle Norzagaray) at the upper end of town. Parking costs $2.50 for the first hour, and 75c for additional hours.
For car rental, both Avis (800-874-3556) and Hertz (800-654-3131) have offices at LMM International Airport.
The Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses (AMA; Metropolitan Bus Authority & Metrobus; 787-767-7979) has a main bus terminal in Old San Juan near the cruise ship piers. These are the routes taken most often by travelers (bus numbers are followed by associated route descriptions) :
B40 LMM Airport, Isla Verde, Piñones and Río Piedras.
M1 & M9 Old San Juan, Río Piedras via various routes.
B21 Old San Juan, Condado, Stop 18 (Santurce), Plaza Las Américas.
A5 Old San Juan, Stop 18, Isla Verde.
C10 Hato Rey, Stop 18, Condado, Isla Grande.
In Old San Juan there is a handy free trolley bus that plies a route around the old quarter. The trolley starts and finishes just outside the main bus terminal, but you can get on and off at any one of two dozen designated stops.
The brand-new Tren Urbano, which opened in 2005, connects Bayamón with downtown San Juan as far as Sagrado Corazón on the south side of Santurce. Efficient trains run every five minutes in either direction between 5:30am and 11:30pm. Bicycles are permitted with a special permit. The 16 super-modern stations are safe, spacious and decked out with acres of eye-catching art and polished chrome. The line, which is a mix of sky-train and underground, charges $1.50 one-way or $3 return for any journey, regardless of length. For more information contact Tren Urbano (866-900-1284).
Cab drivers are supposed to turn on the meter for trips around town, but that rarely happens. Insist on it, or establish a price from the start. Meters – when or if they do go on – charge $1.75 initially and $1.90 per mile or part thereof. You’ll also pay $1 per piece of luggage. There’s a $5 reservation charge; add a $1 surcharge after 10pm.
Taxis line up at the south end of Fortaleza in Old San Juan; in other places they can be scarce. Don’t make yourself a mugging target by standing on a deserted street waiting for one to pass by – call from the nearest hotel. Try Metro Taxi Cabs (787-725-2870) or Rochdale Radio Taxi (787-721-1900); they usually come when you call.
A commuter ferry service called the Acua Expreso (787-788-1155; per trip $0.50) connects the east and west sides of Bahía de San Juan, Old San Juan and Cataño. In Old San Juan, the ferry dock is at Pier 2, near the Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel & Casino. The ferry runs every 30 minutes from 6am to 9pm.
San Juan is in the dark ages when it comes to provisions for cyclists. The only operator in the central tourist areas is Hot Dog Cycling in Isla Verde, which offers daily and weekly rates and allows you to take its bikes around the island. You can also rent bikes out in Piñones. Rather surprisingly, cyclists can navigate a pleasant and safe cross-city route by following the shoreline from Old San Juan through Condado and Isla Verde as far as Piñones (the last part is on a designated bike lane). There is an additional bike path in Parque Lineal in Hato Rey. Elsewhere, getting in and out of the city by bike is difficult and – given the audacity of the drivers – not always advisable.