As budget-conscious ladies who’re concerned with keeping numbers low in our expense tracking Spreadsheet for Workationing, our first cost-based decision was whether to take an Uber or Lyft, cab ride or taxi from one side of the island to the other. Here’s what we learned in our recent trip to Puerto Rico (we flew into the San Juan airport on the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, but our Airbnb was located on the western coast of the island in Aguada).
We weren’t prepared to run this quick math, because we hadn’t really considered it. Once we deboarded the plane at the San Juan airport, that became our first order of business.
How much does an Uber or Lyft cost? Does Uber exist in Puerto Rico?
Honestly, we’d figured that we would just Uber something when we got to Puerto Rico (and if not that, check out the Lyft situation). We discovered immediately upon landing that the service for Lyft is non-existent, and Uber is apparently only available some of the time and in a very limited capacity. So limited, in fact, that Uber only seems to operate in the San Juan area…or so one of our cab drivers told us later in the trip.
So when we walked out of the airport, we had two options left to get from one side of Puerto Rico to the other: a cab or a rental car.
How much does a taxi cost to get from one side of Puerto Rico to the other?
With Uber and Lyft nixed as transportation options, our next order of business was to price out how much it’d cost via a cab. The cabs in the area don’t seem to run on meters very often – in fact, we took cab rides several times while we were on the island, and never once was there a metered fare.
Pro tip: always ask in advance how much your cab ride will cost. You don’t want to end up in a situation where a cab driver takes you to your destination, and then tries to charge you a fee that you think is unfair or unreasonable.
When we asked around at the airport, we were told that the fare from the San Juan airport to Aguada would be $150, not including tip. With tip, it’d be around $170-$180.
How much does a rental car cost, including drop-off in another location?
Here’s where we ran into some bad luck. When we got to the rental car counter right outside of the airport, it was packed. Apparently we arrived just in time for Three Kings Day, which is a big public holiday in Puerto Rico. Everyone and their mother seemed to be in town for it, and rental cars were in short supply (read: more expensive than normal – on less busy rental days and/or with pre-booking via Expedia or Priceline, we probably could’ve saved another $50).
I hopped on Expedia to see if I could score a deal, but the site wasn’t updated with the latest information – although it said that each of the places we went to had cars available, the long lines and customer service reps at the counter told us otherwise.
Three long lines and rental kiosks later, we hit paydirt with Alamo. We knew that because we were renting a car one-way, we’d need to pay extra to drop off the vehicle in the neighboring town of Aguadilla, which is the closest car rental location to Aguada.
The total cost of the car rental, including an alternate drop off location, was $133 for two full days. This allowed us to do things like check out beaches in other towns and buy a lot of heavy items at the grocery store without having to physically carry our haul back to our Airbnb.
An important note about the roads in Puerto Rico: they’re less than ideal, and you should factor this into your decision whether or not to get extra insurance on the vehicle. Many roads in Puerto Rico are very, very narrow and only some of them have lines where you’d expect them to be.
There are a lot of potholes everywhere but on the major highways, and we watched/heard people bottom out their cars just about every single day we were there. Plus, when it rains those potholes fill up with water and you can’t really see them.
As if that weren’t enough, I’m not so sure about the drivers in Puerto Rico either. It seems to be totally normal for them to pull off to the side of the road and stop for no apparent reason (this has been my experience both times I’ve visited the island).
Several times, we saw police cars with their lights flashing…but nobody ahead of them was pulling over. Maybe it only counts when the sirens are on, too? This was a question that we never got answered, and remains a mystery.
Going 5-10 miles below the speed limit on the highway also seemed to be the norm, and it was common for the right lane to be moving faster than the left lane. This was confusing, annoying and at times scary.
For these reasons, we sprung for the rental insurance – this brought up our total a bit. But it was worth the peace of mind, because I bottomed that car out a solid 4 times in 2 days and after one particularly loud road scrape I was pretty sure we’d lost a muffler or something.
Spoiler Alert: We Still Had to Get a Taxi
Our rental car plan worked out well, but when we dropped off the car at the Aguadilla airport we ran into the issue of how we were going to get back to our Airbnb in Aguada. The lady at the car rental counter (the one location represented Enterprise, Alamo and Hertz car rental companies), called us a cab.
Again, we asked how much it would be to get to where we were going BEFORE we got into the taxi. The answer $35, or $40 with tip. This brought our total to $173, which was still less than taking a cab. Plus, we got to roll around in a rental car for a couple of days.
Once we were in Aguada, we got the cell phone numbers of two cabbie brothers who lived in the town. Any time we needed a ride, we just texted them directly. When you call Aguadilla Taxi, depending on where you are they’ll just give you the cell phone number of the driver in your area – and they text you the number, which is convenient.
Summary of the Total Cost and Savings
We ended up saving $7 over a cab ride by renting a car, but the convenience factor of having a vehicle for two days made it worth a lot more. Had we taken cab rides to Rincón and Crash Boat Beach (both of which are must-sees on the western side of the island) instead of driving, we would’ve tacked at least another $70 onto our total for the two round-trip taxi rides.
It costs ~$170, including tip, to take a cab from the San Juan airport to Aguadilla (-$20) or Aguada, Puerto Rico.
It costs ~$133 to rent a car from the San Juan airport and drop it off in Aguadilla, but then you’ll need to rent a cab to get to your hotel or Airbnb.
Uber and Lyft cost $0, because they’re not an option yet.