A GUIDE FOR YOUR STAY IN SAN JUAN
1. Introduction Geography & Weather Time Zones 2. Pre departure Information Vaccinations Passports, Visas & Insurance Electrical Power Getting to San Juan 3. Every day life Customs & adapting Safety Communication Transport & Getting Around Money Issues 4. San Juan & Its Neighborhoods How do I get toâ€Ś? 5. General Advice 6. Useful Contacts & Phone Numbers 7. Useful Links 8. Public Universities 9. Private Universities
1. INTRODUCTION San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico and is often referred to as La Isla del Encanto or the Island of Enchantment. The Island’s history includes strong Spanish, native Taíno, and African roots and all three cultures are present in the national identity. Puerto Ricans refer to themselves as Boricua, which comes from the name that native Taíno Indians gave the island (Borinquen/ Boriken) in the Pre-Columbian era. Puerto Rico is the best of two worlds: it's old-world and cosmopolitan, ancient and modern, tranquil and vivacious, Latin and North American and with a fusion of influences so distinct, it's like nowhere else on Earth. Our music, spicy, sensuous and contagiously rhythmic is a special source of pride. Our native beauty, in both people and scenery, has made the island a household name. Puerto Ricans have a Latin sensibility, a Caribbean flair and a North American savvy, yet possess a strong national identity. Our food will delight your taste buds and our flavors, including our prided coffee will indulge your senses.
Geography & Weather Puerto Rico lies in the Caribbean Sea between the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands. The island is approximately 111 x 36 square miles. Nature lovers will enjoy the island’s diverse geography, ranging from towering mountain peaks to colorful underwater seascapes. While hiking one of El Yunques 13 hiking trails that cover 23 miles of terrain, keep your eyes open for a tiny native tree frog, the coquí, or one of our endangered Puerto Rican parrots. If you have traveled to a tropical island where on occasion a hurricane can strike. The good thing about hurricanes is that we get plenty of warning and can prepare. The construction is in cement and made to withstand the force of even the strongest hurricane. Historically the most dangerous thing related to a hurricane, and the main cause of deaths is water. You must not take this lightly; avoid river and ocean before, during and after a hurricane warning. The average temperature is 83 degrees F and the average humidity level is 80%. The peak of hurricane season is August to November, but the island is rarely hit thanks to the east trade winds.
Time Zone Atlantic Standard Time, which is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time during fall and winter. In spring and summer, Atlantic Standard Time is the same as Eastern Daylight Time. 4
2. PRE DEPARTURE INFORMATION Vaccinations Puerto Rico requires no vaccinations to enter the country. However there are some recommended vaccinations which you can see below. Travelers should visit either their primary physician or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks prior to departure. Recommended vaccines for Puerto Rico are as follows: Routine Vaccines
These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheriatetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
Typhoid, Hepatitis A
For those who may eat or drink outside major restaurants and hotels.
Recommended to all who might have sex with a new partner, get a tattoo or piercing, or have any medical procedures.
For travelers at high risk for animal bites.
Passport, Visas & Insurance Make sure your passport is valid long throughout your stay in Puerto Rico! There are no passports or visas necessary for United States citizens. There are 2 ways for a foreign citizen to enter Puerto Rico for tourism or business: Under the Visa Waiver Program (90 day stay without visa), or with a U.S. visitor visa (B-1 Business Visa or a B-2 Tourist visa). Those planning to travel to Puerto Rico for a different purpose, such as study or temporary work, must apply for specialized visas (either an M-1 or F-1 class). For more information visit: USA VISA Think about insurance - what type of insurance applies to you? For example, if you are going to work or study in San Juan you might need other insurance, not just travel insurance. For more information consult the embassy of your country of residence. What to bring? It is easy to find almost anything that you will need in San Juan so there is no need to worry if you happen to forget anything. Leave things of great value; be that sentimental treasured jewelry or expensive electronics at home.
Electrical Power Electrical power in Puerto Rico is 120 volts, 60-cycle alternating current. Power outlets have either two parallel rectangular holes or two parallel rectangular holes with ground connection. You may bring an adapter from your home country in order to use electrical devices, although it is easy and cheap to buy them once you arrive, as they are sold in most hardware stores. 5
Getting to San Juan Air: Puerto Rico’s main Int’l Airport is Luis Muñoz Marín Airport (SJU), located in Carolina. Bus: You can take the AMA bus #50 to Iturregui Station so you can transfer to another bus or take the #40 which will take you directly to San Juan. You will find all the available routes in the Useful Links section at the end of this guide. Car: You can reach San Juan Centre by the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge and Ave. Piñero. Taxi: Taxis are the easiest form of transport if you have a lot of luggage with you. You will find that there are a large number available, however avoid taxis positioned exactly outside the airport as they are generally overpriced.
3. EVERYDAY LIFE Customs & Adapting As customs go, the boricuas lead a very relaxed life which extends to social functions such as dinner invitations where you can find guests arriving up to two hours late or “boricua time”. Puerto Rican’s usually enjoy a simple breakfast of eggs, toast and coffee. Lunch is from 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm and dinner is usually from 6:00 pm - 7:00pm. Food In terms of food, Puerto Rico prides itself on its delicious cocina criolla (Creole cooking). The aroma that wafts from kitchens throughout Puerto Rico comes from adobo and sofrito, blends of herbs and spices that give many of the native foods their distinctive taste and color. Puerto Ricans adore chicken, which they flower various spices and seasoning. Arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) is the most popular chicken dish on the island. Lechón asado, or barbecued big is also very big, especially during the holidays. If you're not a big fan of meat, don't worry, San Juan has loads to offer for every taste and budget including vegetarians and other special diets.
Venture to the coasts and you will see many roadside shacks selling fried food, alcapurrias, bacalaitos and empenadillas are just a few among them. Coconut is probably the most common dessert ingredient used. Many delectable desserts are made with its milk, including coconut flan, coconut cream desserts, crunchy coconut squares, coconut with meringue, and candied coconut rice. It is customary to leave about a 10% - 20% tip in restaurants, as is it part of their service and taxation system. Be aware that some restaurants charge the tip in the end total of your check, in which case you donâ€™t have to pay the additional amount. Adaptation Local attitude towards expatriates is very good and the boricuas are inclined to be quite friendly and helpful toward foreigners, whether referring to the work area or socially. You may face a few challenges on a daily basis with regard to moving to Puerto Rico, just as you would when moving to another foreign country; which might include language barriers and making new friends. More specific challenges might include getting used to how the average Puerto Rican is not punctual for social affairs; and realizing that simple things like waiting in line for a service takes more time than normal. Whatever your plans, comfortable clothing is essential. Lightweight cottons and linens are advisable for day wear while light woolens are suggested for evenings. Try to avoid synthetic fabrics, which may not be as breathable as natural fibers. If you plan on enjoying the night time culture plan on packing a few dressier options as Puerto Ricans love fashion and dressing up to go out at night. Donâ€™t be shocked if a stranger gives you a kiss on the cheek when you never met him before, it's a normal way of greeting each other! Salsa Salsa is a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances, with influences from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Colombia. During your stay you will see many locals dancing salsa in the streets at night. A must do for your stay in Puerto Rico is to attend a salsa class!
Language Spanish and English are both official languages in Puerto Rico, but Spanish is the true native tongue for locals. People who are bilingual are most commonly found in San Juan and tourist areas. Although it is advisable to make an effort to learn Spanish, you will find that in San Juan many citizens mix Spanish and English in the same sentence, what its called Spanglish. Nightlife Nightlife in San Juan can start anywhere from 9:00 pm until 2:00 am - which is when most bars close. You can still find spots open after hours, up until 7 a.m. San Juan is full of bars and a few clubs, where music and drinks differ from one another. Boricuas like to bar hop and the night usually ends in a tasty food truck enjoying a meat sandwich called a tripleta.
Safety Like any big city in the world, you should be cautious and aware of your surroundings. Although San Juan is a relatively safe city compared to other big cities in the world, we recommend a few safety tips:
Do not leave your belongings unattended in public places. Keep expensive things out of sight. Always carry a copy of your passport. Avoid walking alone along badly lit streets.
You will note upon walking around the city that there are many homeless persons, and quite often they will be asking for handouts. You can give them something or you can just shake your head and continue on your way. They are not a danger to you.
Communications There aren't many payphones throughout San Juan, so we recommended you buy a local cell phone or bring an international one from your country. The major operator are At&t, T-Mobile, Claro and Open Mobile, you can easily buy a SIM card at many gas stations, pharmacy or at any of the network stores. There are plenty of internet cafes where they offer free internet access. To call phones in San Juan you should dial de area code (787 or 939) followed by the phone number. To call from a phones outside the island, you should dial 1 followed by the area code and phone number. 8
Transport & Getting Around Bus Public buses or guaguas will take you just about anywhere in the metropolitan area. Please note that you may have to wait longer than your home country for the bus to arrive. Bus stops are marked by signs that read Parada and are only a few blocks apart on most main streets. You will find routes for the AMA buses at the Useful Links section at the end of this guide. Train The Urban Train subway system operates 16 stations between Sagrado Corazón (where Santurce starts) and the town of Bayamón, passing along the way several shopping centers, sports venues and major medical facilities. The fare is $1.50 each way. There is an unlimited pass available for $20.00 a week, $40.00 a month or $90.00 for 3 months. There are senior citizen and student fare rates available as well. The unlimited pass includes all Metropolitan Bus transport as well. Taxi You will find taxis near hotels and the airport, and they travel to and from tourist areas. If you don't see any you can give them a call and schedule a pick up. As they are not the cheapest form of travel we recommend the bus or train whenever possible. Car Rental Rental cars are easy to access, and all that's needed is a valid driver's license and credit card. Most rental car companies offer complimentary airport pick-up and drop-off service. Insurance is more expensive for driver’s under 25 and all of the companies work with 21 years and older. It is compulsory to wear a seat-belt. If you are driving you will notice that patrol vehicles will have their lights flashing to indicate they are working and available to assist. They are not pulling you over. However if you hear a siren then pull to the right. Ferries Ferries operated by the Puerto Rico Port Authority to Culebra and Vieques depart from Fajardo which is on the very eastern tip of Puerto Rico. San Juan.
Money Issues The currency used in Puerto Rico is the US Dollar (sometimes called peso) using $ as its symbol. Coin denominations are as follows: 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents and 1 dollar; bill denominations are $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.
Banking & Currency Exchange The safest place to exchange currency is in a bank but many hotels also offer currency exchange. You can find ATM’s throughout the city and get a decent exchange rate. ATM’s from Banco Popular are the most prevalent, they are identified by a blue and red sign, and you'll find them in banks, service stations, and malls. Money Advice
Avoid carrying around large amounts of cash. If you have to make a large payment, try to avoid using cash. If possible use credit cards or travelers checks. Only use ATM’s which are located in safe surroundings.
Currency Exchange The best option to exchange money is at the bank (banking hours are 8:00 am - 4:00 pm). You can also use official currency exchanges or exchanges in hotels. Credit Cards The majority of stores, restaurants and bars accept credit cards. The most widely accepted cards are Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Taxes Puerto Rico imposes a Value Added Tax (VAT), with a standard rate of 11.5%. This tax is included in all purchases.
4. SAN JUAN & ITS NEIGHBORHOODS Famous for our beautiful beaches, friendly people, fine dining and vibrant culture we are the Caribbean’s premier destination. From Spanish colonial architecture and lush tropical forests, to exciting nightlife and gaming, Puerto Rico has it all. Homes are different in the sense that you will see lots of ironwork. There are several reasons for this, first back when Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony the homes that had the most elaborate ironworks were the most prestigious ones – a cultural tradition that has been handed down for centuries. The second reason is that the ironworks protect the windows from flying debris during a hurricane and yes, third for increased security against break-ins. Condado Linked to Puerta de Tierra and Old San Juan by a bridge built in 1910, the Condado was once known as the "Riviera of the Caribbean," enjoying a voguish reputation in the 1920s, which was renewed by revivals in the 1960s and again today. It's one of the most coveted neighborhoods in Puerto Rico, and offers resorts and guesthouses right on the beach.
Santurce Art central of San Juan, Santurce is an up and coming culture hub for young artists and students. Close to the beach and business centers, Santurce offers tasty restaurants, mesmerizing street art and entertainment for all. Río Piedras Río Piedras is home to Puerto Rico’s first university, Universidad de Puerto Rico and you will find yourself surrounded by students. At the heart of Río Piedras lies the Ave. José de Diego, a 1 km pedestrian street with stores and shops. The Río Piedras Plaza del Mercado is the largest of its kind on the island and features a series of shops that offer fresh fruit and vegetables. Hato Rey The city's financial district, the Wall Street of the West Indies, occupies several streets. There are high rises, a large federal complex, and many business and banking offices. Miramar Miramar is an upscale residential neighborhood characterized by quiet streets lined with large, mature shade trees, with a small business district and a large port across San Juan Bay. Viejo San Juan Home to the hemisphere's finest restorations of Spanish colonial fortresses and buildings, Old San Juan is all the more beautiful for its dramatic location. It's a robust cultural and commercial district with theaters, galleries, clubs, bars and restaurants, and some of the most interesting shops in the region. Metropolitan Area The San Juan sprawl has enveloped surrounding towns, reaching all the way down south into the city of Caguas. Neighboring Bayamón, Guaynabo, and Carolina are practically considered part of the city, however.
How do I get to…? Old San Juan 1. Tren Urbano to Sagrado Corazón 2. Get off at Sagrado Corazón Station 3. Get on the ME [Metrobus Expreso] (1st choice) or the M3 (makes many stops along the way) Puerto Rico Museum of Art 1. Tren Urbano to Sagrado Corazón 2. Get on the M3 3. Get off at Parada (bus stop) of Centro de Bellas Artes 4. Walk down Ave. De Diego (you'll see the museum on your right) Condado 1. Tren Urbano to Sagrado Corazón Station 2. At Sagrado Corazón get on #21 (1st choice) or the M3 and get off at Parada 18 (bus stop) - if you get off at Parada 18 Condado will be walking distance Isla Verde 1. Tren Urbano to Piñero Station 2. Get on #40 Plaza las Américas 1. Tren Urbano to Roosevelt Station 2. Get on the M2 at Universidad Station
5. GENERAL ADVICE BAIS wants to share some useful tips with you! Pre departure
Make sure you give important contact details like address, telephone number and flight number to your relatives or friends back home. Bring your student card as it give you some good discounts at various places. Make copies of important documents in case you lose them.
Get to know the area where you live and study. Find out where the police stations and hospitals are located, together with shops and restaurants that stay open late. Stick to walking along well lit streets where there are plenty of people - avoid taking shortcuts through wooded areas, car parks or alleys. Always have emergency contact information in both English and Spanish on you. Make sure your valuables (money, camera, jewelry, etc) aren't obviously displayed. Aim to be as discrete as possible in public areas so as to not tempt thieves. 12
6. USEFUL CONTACTS & PHONE NUMBERS Safety
General Post Office USPS
Puerto Rico Police Department
585 Ave. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (787) 622-1808
601 Ave. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (787) 781- 0080
DHL Express Caribbean Airport Center. 30 Central Sector Road 1 (800) 225-5345
Puerto Rico Fire Department 506 Ave. Luis Mu単oz Rivera (787) 754-1007
The UPS Store Ave. Esmeralda (787) 287-6133
Hospitals Ashford Community Hospital
1451 Ave Dr Ashford (787) 721-2160
Libros AC 1510 Ave. Ponce de Leon (787) 998-5132
San Juan Municipal Hospital (787) 480-2700
La Tertulia Old San Juan
251 Cruz Street (787) 724-8200
1462 Professor Augusto Rodriguez (787) 641-2323
7. USEFUL LINKS Banks
Nightly Events App
Like Cambio en Clave
Scotia Bank www.scotiabankpr.com
Tren Urbano App http://trenurbanoapp.com/
8. PUBLIC UNIVESITIES
9. PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES
Universidad de Puerto Rico
Sistema Universitario Ana G. Méndez
Universidad del Turabo www.ut.suagm.edu
Universidad Metropolitana www.suagm.edu/umet
Universidad del Este www.estune.suagm.edu
Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico Metropolitan www.metro.inter.edu
Law School www.derecho.inter.edu
Ciencias Médicas www.rcm.edu Humacao www.uprh.edu
Universidad Politécnica de Puerto Rico www.pupr.edu
Universidad Central de Bayamon www.ucb.edu.pr
Universidad del Sagrado Corazón www.sagrado.edu
Río Piedras www.uprrp.edu Utuado www.uprutuado.edu Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico www.cmpr.edu
BAIS, YOUR FAMILY IN PUERTO RICO
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Published on Dec 24, 2015