Sitting here waiting on my flight to take me back to the good old USA, I’ve decided to share some thoughts about my experiences here. (Mainly, too, because so many people have been asking!) Anyway… I may have some more serious and substantive things to say in a follow up post, but let me get a few general observations out of the way first.
Puerto Rico is awesome! How awesome? Here are five ways…
1. You might have to throw away your tightly-scripted itinerary. Stop signs and traffic signals are merely suggestions. I liked driving the bumper cars as a kid. Doing it in real cars is even more fun! If you are skittish, you might not appreciate this very much. I understand. On the other hand, once you get where you’re going, some things move a slooooooooooooooooowly. Be okay with it and you’ll be okay. The cashier and the lady in front of you may decide to have a conversation about their weekend plans. A man might be riding his bicycle down the middle of the street. You might get lost among the many one way streets and dead end drives.
2. While there are plenty of Burger Kings and Walgreen’s (what’s up with that!? Do those two companies own stock in the government or something?) there are even more places that you’d never find anywhere else on the planet. There is something refreshing about vacationing somewhere without strip mall after strip mall that all look the same. Puerto Rico has some wonderful history and sites! I found a couple of guide like this and this to check out before I went and they came in really handy! I hate going somewhere and not getting a true feel for what makes it unique. By all means, explore the island. Ponce was magnificent. It’s on the southern coast of the island so most people never go. But Ponce felt a lot more like not being in America than did San Juan by far. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
3. I think Puerto Ricans enjoy life more than I have been and it felt good to spend time with people who laugh, dance, listen to music and just play after work. We Americans tend to follow up work with… more work. Heck, we make our play a job! Use Priceline to save a few bucks and rent a car. Don’t let the maps fool you. Puerto Rico isn’t small and you WILL need a car to enjoy it. Also, if you are like me, you will want to get away from the tourist traps and get out and about in San Juan and beyond! The taxis are easy to find in the touristy areas but quite expensive. Get away from the resorts (who needs to eat at Chili’s while in another country???) And, of course there are souvenir shops, but there are also lots of people just living their lives. Spend some time with those people.
4. The island is gorgeous and, since it’s an island you are never far from a great beach (duh!). I’ll be honest. Not having spent any time in the Caribbean before I sometimes wondered whether some of the pictures of blue water were photoshopped. Nope!!! The bluest water I’ve ever seen and bays so turquoise they almost didn’t look real blew my mind! Sandy beaches, huge waves and coconut palms everywhere. Like a movie set!
5. You do not need a passport. Just go! No excuses. While you’ll find that you are no doubt in another country if you venture out, you’re also in a Protectorate. This means easy travel to and from Puerto Rico and the mainland for you and me. You won’t save much (any) money. U.S. dollar is strong right now and it’s their currency, as well. Plus, they pay extra for importing everything. It’s an island. Everything except local foods has to come in on a boat. But my travel was smooth for the most part except for the mass of confusion in the Miami airport. That was my own fault for trying to come back on a Sunday along with EVERYONE ELSE IN AMERICA who was getting off a cruise. Stay away from Sundays if you can. You’ll save yourself a headache and probably some money on the airfare.
A few other tips…
By all means, use Priceline and Airbnb whenever you can. I have used Priceline probably a hundred times already. I will normally do the “Name Your Own Price” option unless I am pressed for time. Using Priceline to get a car and AirBnB to rent out a condo turned out to be great decisions. (Not about PR but at other destinations, I have also used Uber instead of taxis a few times with zero issues at all. Use Uber Referral Code “uberlbde” and you should get a discount as a first time rider and maybe even help me out a little, too.)
Finally, statistically speaking, 90+% of Puerto Ricans can’t hold a conversation in English so practice your Spanish or take a dictionary if you are uncomfortable. Again, this applies to places outside of San Juan. If you’re in the resort areas, you’ll basically feel like you’re in Miami – no Spanish needed at all. That would have been horrible for my purposes though.
Overall, this turned out to be everything I wanted. I wanted to practice my Spanish. I wanted to get lost. I wanted to soak up some sun, some history and get plenty of exercise. Mission accomplished!
To your success! I hope you’ll get out and travel more!
Mark Anthony McCray helps people live on PURPOSE, achieve higher PERFORMANCE and experience true PROSPERITY. Forward this to a friend if you found it helpful. All material © Copyright, Mark Anthony McCray unless otherwise noted!
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