30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

30 (Sometimes Crazy) Things you will see Driving in Puerto Rico

Driving in Puerto Rico is a special experience. Puerto Rico boasts some very well maintained (and not so great) roads and highways, approximately 14,400 kilometers (8,900 mi) total. The Departmento de Transportacion y Obras Publicas (DTOP) is responsible for maintaining those roads.  The three main interstates circle the island – Pri-1, PRI-2 and PRI-3 – making traveling quick and easy when there isn’t traffic.

If you are new to driving in Puerto Rico, you will see some unfamiliar sites on the roads and highways. While Puerto Rico’s traffic is on the right side of the road and follows the same basic driving rules as any US state, driving here is challenging.

Crazy drivers rule the roads in Puerto Rico and illegal driving habits abound. Follow these 3 simple rules and you will (most likely) make it through just fine:

  • Stay alert
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Drive defensively

30 (Sometimes Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

Traffic

Traffic in Puerto Rico

Often unexpected on a tropical island; the amount of traffic you will encounter in Puerto Rico can be staggering. Watch out when driving near city centers during rush hour, when there is an event or near holidays and weekends.

Slow drivers on the left

Keep right - 30 crazy things you will see driving in Puerto Rico

 

You can pretty much throw out the idea of the left highway lane used for passing. Expect to see people driving as slow as they please – or as fast – in any lane they damn choose to.

Speed limits 

Speed limit signs - 30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

Following speed limits can seem like an option in Puerto Rico. You will see people speeding way over the limit (sometimes in packs) and also driving well under the speed limit, particularly in the left lane (see above).

Motorcyclist behaving badly

If you think driving in Puerto Rico is suicidal, what until you see the motorcyclists! They generally pass in between cars, riding on the line at very fast speeds. Safety gear is rarely worn and t-shirts are the norm. Keep a look out so you don’t become the one fulfilling their death wish.

 Red lights, yellow lights and stop signs

Stop sign in PR - 30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

Apparently, yellow lights mean go faster in Puerto Rico, not slow to a stop. Red lights and stop signs are also negotiable. Be wary and always look both ways at an intersection before pressing the gas pedal when you get a green light. Be particularly careful driving through intersections in the early morning hours. At this time, stopping is optional.

Mountain driving

On curvy mountain 2-way roads, local drivers who are familiar with the roads drive in the middle. It’s customary to give your horn a few quick toots before coming up on a turn to warn oncoming rivers. Stay well in your lane and drive slowly, despite the people tailgating you. To be extra cautious, keep your window open so you can hear other drivers coming your way.

Iguanas

iguana road pr - 30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

Depending on which part of the island you are on, iguanas can be EVERYWHERE. We see them often lying in the road or squished on the highway. They are slow to move out of the way, which makes them unfortunate roadkill. Iguanas are actually a pest in Puerto Rico. They are an invasive species and numerous.

Speed Bumps

Speed bump in Mayaguez

Speed bumps are great for getting people to slow down in neighborhoods, but in some areas, Puerto Rico went a little speed-bump crazy. You’ll find getting through very bumpy — every few feet — and it’s not fun. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the tricky practice of not painting the speed bumps. If you don’t know what’s coming, you are in for a very jarring experience. 

Missed your turn?

Don’t be surprised if you see someone in front of you stop and start backing up for no apparent reason…even on highways or exit ramps. Instead of going the long way, it’s just easier to back up in Puerto Rico if you missed your turn.  

Talking on the phone & texting

Texting and driving - 30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

While most states in the US have cracked down on this dangerous habit, it’s commonplace in Puerto Rico to drive while talking on the phone or texting. People do other things while driving too. From typing on their laptop, putting on makeup or eating a sandwich, you’ll see just about everything being done while driving. 

Making a right turn from a left lane across traffic (or vice versa)

Don’t make the mistake of assuming someone will turn from the closest lane. It’s not unusual to see a left turn made across traffic from the right lane or a right turn made from the left-most lane. Bonus points if the turn is made at a red light.

Using your horn

In Puerto Rico, people communicate with their horn. Usually it’s to tell you to hurry up when you haven’t stepped on the gas pedal fast enough at a green light. Sometimes it’s just to vent anger when traffic isn’t moving at all. Sometimes, on mountain roads, it’s to warn people they are coming around the bend in the middle of the road. In any case, expect some aggressiveness on the road in the form of noise and beware of road rage.  

U-Turns on red

U-Turns on red - 30 Crazy Things You will see Driving in Puerto Rico

Red light? Need to make a quick U-Turn? Why not—it’s only a red light and people are stopped already.

Your GPS will send you strange places

GPS is a mystery in Puerto Rico, mostly because it won’t understand the street names. It also likes to send you on the dreaded “Calle Marginal” instead of sticking to the highway. Businesses are often listed in places that don’t exist. We find it best to always check an address through several sources before heading off into unknown territory. Or even better, see our Tips on using GPS in Puerto Rico.

Narrow streets

Streets can be very narrow, and it can be very tricky getting by, even on a 2-way road. In some instances you may have to pull in your car mirrors just to keep from scraping them off on the car next to you.

Big animals in small pickup trucks

horse truck - 30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

- 30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

Most of the ones you’ll see actually have some kind of gate to hold the critters in, but you WILL see the occasional horse, pig or llama freely riding in a light duty truck.

Just stop in the middle of the road

See a good mango at a fruit stand on the side of the highway? Need to text someone? See an old friend you REALLY need to talk to? It’s cool, just stop in your lane and do what you need to do. Never mind all the traffic behind you. 

Turn signals? What are those for?

Using a turn signal in PR - 30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

Most people don’t use turn signals or blinkers when changing lanes. In fact, using them may make it HARDER for you to change lanes because it warns other drivers that you intend on getting in front of them, at which point, they will speed up in order to block you from entering their lane.

On the flipside, if you see someone’s turn signal flashing, don’t necessarily believe it because it could be broken, or they mistakenly hit the turn signal while reaching for their Medalla beer.

That can guy…

Cans stacked for recycling - 30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

The holy grail of road-spottings (in our house) is the can guy. He stacks an incredible amount of cans for recycling in very neat bags to impossible heights. Bravo!

Need to get somewhere in bumper to bumper traffic? That’s what the breakdown lane is for

There is a “no passing on the right” driving rule in Puerto Rico, but people generally ignore that and will drive wherever their car will fit. This includes using the shoulder, the breakdown lanes and even the grass.

Stray dogs

Stray dogs in Puerto Rico

Unfortunately, Puerto Rico’s streets are home to a multitude of stray dogs. You will see them on the highways, country roads and downtown areas.

Horses roaming freely on the side of the road

Horses in the Road - Driving in PR

 

Grazing next to highways, tied along the road, and even herded and ridden through busy intersections: horses are very often free-roaming in Puerto Rico.

School buses with bling

We were surprised to see how much chrome and blinking lights cover the school buses in Puerto Rico. It turns out these privately-owned buses do double-duty on weekends as party buses, which makes more sense than doing it for the kids.

 Decked out jeeps

Jeep “clubs” are a thing in PR. You will see groups of tricked out jeeps on weekends and holidays throughout the island. Bonus if they include one with ginormous speakers blasting reggaeton.

That guy with the overloaded truck

truck with junk - 30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

Whether he is moving, transporting coconuts or recycling, you will see overloaded trucks, big and small on the roads of Puerto Rico. Take notice and appreciate the complex stacking because it’s an art form on the island.

Pigs

Pig (lechon) rules the plate in Puerto Rico, and much of the pork is raised on the island. Don’t be surprised to see large livestock trucks full of pigs – or even a few in the pickup in front of you – particularly around the holidays.

Potholes

Potholes in PR - 30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

Roads are a little treacherous to your car’s alignment in Puerto Rico. Keep alert, even on highways, for big potholes that can damage your car. You can predict one coming your way if you see the cars in front of you swerving to the side at fast speeds for no apparent reason.

You will get cut off

Driving in Puerto Rico is an exercise in patience. You WILL be cut off and people will block intersections trying to get where they want to go. Expect this to happen (often) and it will save you a lot of energy screaming at other drivers. It’s really not a big deal here and people won’t care if you make a big fuss.

Really loud music

- 30 (Crazy) Things You Will See Driving in Puerto Rico

For some reason, Puerto Ricans equate really loud music with a party, even if it’s coming out of blown-out speakers on the sidewalk in front of Wal-Mart. Stores, car dealerships and moving vehicles (packed with speakers) like to blast your eardrums in the hope you will drop everything and follow like a child in the Pied Piper.

Police cars and ambulances

police car old san juan

You will see police cars and ambulances driving around with their lights on A LOT. Don’t panic. They aren’t pulling you over or asking you to move over (though it’s best to move out of their way).  In Puerto Rico, you only take them seriously when they use their sirens.

Beautiful sights

Beautiful Puerto Rico

It could be the stunning lushness of the rain forest, winding mountain roads or a beautiful beach steps from your car door. Puerto Rico offers some of the most beautiful driving in the world. Get in your car and explore all this island has to offer!

 

Do you have something you would like to add to this post? Comment below or send pictures to: info@livinginpuertorico.com

 

 

 

51 Comments

  • Carlos ferrari says:

    I would not suggest honking your horn. There are a lot of idiots over there that will “kill” you if you do. And don’t even think about honking at a pretty girl. That’s definitely a death wish

  • Juan Maldonado says:

    It seems to me that whoever wrote this article has not ever driven in MIAMI. Not much difference.

    • Admin says:

      Actually, Juan…we MOVED here from being lifetime Miami residents. It is different from driving in Miami (depends which part), but not as different as someone may experience from somewhere else in the US.

    • Andres J Rodriguez says:

      I lived in Miami and even though some things could be similar like accelerating on yellow lights which is the same everywhere I’ve lived and cell phone use. It is very different. I actually enjoy driving in Miami.

    • Hanky says:

      Or Manhattan

  • Dan K says:

    In addition to texting and using the phone, I’ve seen MANY people using laptops while driving and reading the paper or a book. I guess the steering wheel makes a decent desk!! I’ve been here a little over 2 years and see that on a regular basis.

  • Laura says:

    Don’t know about other cities but Mayaguez is CRAZY about speed bumps. Not exaggerating, I go over 20 on the route from my kid’s school to my gym.

    That, and chickens crossing the road, and crazy people walking on those twisty mountain roads.

    Otherwise, this is spot on! Made me laugh

  • Jen k says:

    4 way stop rules are definately not practiced here. The rule is the first to the intersection goes then the next, safe and orderly, well here they that rule goes straight out the window. You have to be careful at 4 way stops, they will fly through them not even stopping sometimes or will follow the car in front of them not giving others there turn to go.

    • Admin says:

      True. It’s a free-for-all.

      • The interesting aspect of the four way stop is that once a native (like me) moves to the main land (in my case to Houston, TX. the concept of the four way stop is completely understood.

    • Hanky says:

      Only in the city. Wish you will see the same people driving inside the boundaries of the military post Fort Buchanan. They seem angels of courtesy and behavior. They already know, that if they don’t behave, the MP will pop out from under a rock.

  • Kyle L says:

    I am moving to San Juan for the next 3 years. I have a new 2015 Chevy Colorado that I would love to keep dent/scratch free. Do you think I should leave it in the states (with my parents) or do you think I could be a careful enough to keep it nice?

    • Admin says:

      You could be careful enough, but a truck is difficult to navigate on the tight streets here — particularly if you are living in the city. You will find parking difficult, and parking spots and driveways are generally a lot smaller than you will find in the states. Also, expect a few extra dings from car doors, random bumps and other things. Many PR residents have very old, banged-up cars and they aren’t careful about a few more bumps and scrapes. If you really are worried, save yourself A LOT of hassle and buy a small car to get around with while you are here. By the way, dealing with insurance companies, making repairs and the like are a PAIN here compared to the US. It’s a whole different process and best avoided.

  • Israel Collazo says:

    You will definetly see a lot of womans put in makeup on in the mornings while they use their knee to control the stearing wheel!!!

  • Apparently the writer of this article and its commenters haven’t traveled much. Have you ever driven in Rome, Madrid, Paris? That’s crazy! What about Miami, New York? I’m not saying that it’s great but Puerto Rico has its own particular “driving ways” like everywhere else, and everyone abides to them. I have seen more traffic accidents in Miami, where I reside, than in Puerto Rico; not once have I seen a car accident in rush hours while vacationing there; something must be working…remember, when in Rome… 😉

  • San Juan Dweller says:

    Traffic addition: avoid school areas around 3:00pm!!

  • Charles J Ortiz says:

    You hit the nail on the head, that’s how most of Puerto Ricans drive on a daily basis. The only problem with this article is that the density of population in Puerto Rico vs the size of the island, meke this habits looks more common than what they really are. (4+ millions in a 100 x 35 miles island). Some US states don’t have that amount of people as residents.It’s wrong to compare Puerto Rico to a much bigger place like US, on this type of driving or crazy things, as you called.
    I’ve seen each and one of these crazy things or driving habits here in the States. I drive for a living, I spend a great amount of time on the road al over US roads and Canada and believe me when I tell you guys, crazy drivers and careless drivers are everywhere. No exception!

  • Ira Merk says:

    I’m pretty sure that it will be the same here, on any state, if we have the same amount of cars per square mile. I’ve been in Chicago and New York and there is no difference.

  • PRicanInDC says:

    I’m sorry…but I’ve NEVER seen a llama in PR. Horses? Yes. Pigs? Of course. Llamas? Nope. Never. Just sayin’

  • Hilda says:

    Expect cops to drive just as dangerously as everyone else, either by speeding, running red lights with the excuse of having the siren on for just that moment, cutting people off, or using the phone. Also, the HORRIFIC double parking. People just don’t know how to park and give no f**** about scratching your car paint when they open their doors.

    • Hanky says:

      Four tracks are common in the rural areas. I have seen herds of them going one way and the police car turning away of the same direction of the four tracks.

  • Laura Trent says:

    I lived there 40 years ago. Except for LOTS more cars (and that’s the same everywhere), doesn’t seem to have changed much. Everyone drives as though they’re the only ones on the road. Delightful and frustrating place!

  • Anderson Brown says:

    You forgot that it is customary to honk when driving past your cousin’s house.

  • Harumi Diaz says:

    Honorable Mentions:
    Trucks and public transportation buses are out to kill you! Steer clear!
    Construction will ALWAYS be done during the busiest traffic hours.

  • Gail Sekler-DeJesus says:

    What about political or commercial advertisements screamed out on loud speakers mounted on top of cars and driving around the neighborhood?
    And people picnicking by the side of a major highway?
    And getting stuck behind a funeral procession on a one lane road?

  • Israel Lopez says:

    31) If you drive at a moderate speed (say 5-10 miles over the limit) someone will always come along and tailgate you trying to pressure you to move out of the way or drive faster. If you drive at insanely high speeds (20+ over the limit) you will encounter cars that were going slow before you passed them and they will start to follow you and try to leave you behind.

    32) It is common to see two cars slowing down traffic in any two lane highway right next to each other at speeds below the limit. Then you will always find someone who will just use the emergency lane to pass them.

    33) It is common for people who had plenty of time to change lanes and pass a slower vehicle in front of them, to simply get right in front of you at the last minute causing you to fully step on the brakes.

    34) When you go near an intersection always be careful even when you are on the “main road”. People will not look at oncoming traffic, they’ll ignore stop signs, and/or maybe even they’ll see you but still get quickly in your way causing you to step fully on the brakes, and then you’ll watch their car crawl and crawl down to a snail’s speed…

    I love going to rural areas in the states. When I come back from vacations in the states I behave myself for about a week before I get turned back to my old habits… I could never drive in New York City though. Orlando and Miami are crazy places too. So is Washington DC.

  • Rosa says:

    We do not have llamas here….

  • Well in instances a bit exagerated….but in others tight on cue. It was fun to read! I live in P.R. and I thought it was funny and crazy like it is living in this wonderful Island! 😉

  • miguel suaz says:

    Todo lo que se expresado aquí es cierto.El que vive en PR tiene varias opciones de resolver la situación.Nadie esta obligado a permanecer en ningún lugar que no le gusta o’ no gusta el comportamiento de sus habitantes.?cuantas personas han asesinado policías de PR en los últimos 10 años?¿Cuantos han matado en EUA?¿Se ha discriminado contra alguno de los que aquí opinan en la forma tan descarada como sucede en los Estados Unidos de America? Somos felices como somos!!!!No tengo porque escribir en ingle’s porque en PR se habla español!!!Si un Boricua viaja a E U A tiene que hablar inglés,se debe aprender el idioma del país que uno esta viviendo!!!( soy veterano guerra de Vietnamita 1966)

  • San Juanera and Mayagüezana says:

    What about the differences driving in the metropolitan area vs. outside of it? When I came to Mayagüez for college I was shocked to see how SLOW the residents drive; but one thing you do not see in the metro that often: they let you PASS. If you turn on your blinker there’s a higher chance they’ll let you pass, (gasp) unbelievable. Also, drinking and driving is obviously illegal here as well but it’s more socially accepted or at least tolerated. It’s especially dangerous driving here during the holiday season.

  • San Juanera and Mayagüezana says:

    Also, in PR we go by miles but ALL of the signs are in kilometers

  • orlando lopez says:

    For us that lives in Puerto Rico is obvious that if Mayaguez has a Zoo, in a ramdon basis you can have the luck to take a llama picture, but in the dayly common life is not the norm to see people transporting llamas in Puert Rico. I think that was an anintensional generalization.

  • Andres J Rodriguez says:

    They leave dead dogs in the streets for weeks, people get angry if you correct them when doing something wrong or illegal, they use “marginales” and emergency lanes to jump ahead of other drivers, people use high beams in the city, they use color lights which are illegal, extremely dark tinted windows, they drive at night with not a single light on, when exiting the highway they start turning from the opposite side of the highway at the last moment, people are extremely slow when reacting to the green light as it changes, reggaeton at extreme decibels etc etc etc

  • Landy Ruiz says:

    Only Mayaguez Zoo has llamas in whole Puerto Rico, sorry but its a generalization of the person that write tha article.

  • Katilia says:

    The best thing about driving in Puerto Rico is that there are quite a few roads that lead to the airport, so that idiots who write stupid articles like these can LEAVE.

    • Admin says:

      So many people are already leaving the island…I think we should be encouraging people to STAY, don’t you?

    • No one cares says:

      Yes thats the general statement about Idiots here in Puerto Rico like this becerra. She probably does all of this things and more but gets irate and follows you threatening you when someone does the same to her. Puerto Rico is a lost case we will see when PR collapses its economy,society,etccc.. and return to the humble old days. Puerto Rico have more pride and humbleness that this IDIOT.

      • Admin says:

        I disagree. A lot of people care (12.3k of them at the time of this post). Many also want PR to succeed instead of collapsing. How can you wish your country to collapse out of PRIDE? What a backwards and sad view of the world. This post is all in fun, and with hopes to introduce this beautiful island to new people.

  • Don’t forget the political “caravanas” every 4 years and the “Tumba Coco” trucks with huge speakers running around promoting these politics. PR during elections is a circus and when the winning party announces the winning governor people literally take off the mufflers and start accelerating and skidding their cars making loud noises and don’t you dare to tell them anything or you’ll get beat up.

  • Ahhh don’t forget deers seen by myself on state road PR 52 Caguas. Don’t believe me? Check the video filmed by mua!
    https://youtu.be/yr5hJKEoZGw

  • Hanky says:

    All those acts that you observe on improper use of roads and violations of all kind of laws, and nature, are “cultural values that identify us a country, and that must be preserved intact for our future generations”. That is the reason we have the “Instituto de Cultura”, “Casa Pueblo”, and “Ateneo Puertorriqueño”. If we are not what we are, then who the hell are we going to be?

  • Jessier says:

    Ohhh but you forgot something… The tourist that drive 5 miles per hour looking at the beach and driving instead of park their cars and look all the time they want. You need to add that.

  • Bahia says:

    If someone is visiting PR for the first time – I always like to provide the disclaimer to drive carefully! It can certainly be a new world if you’re not accustomed to it.

  • Ana Myriam Rodriguez says:

    Thank you for the article and information on 30 crazy traffic related commuting in my beloved Isla del Encanto! I was born in Ponce and when I visited in 2003 I thank God I had no traffic problems that were dangerous. Taking roads 1, 2, 3 were very pleasant, but wow you can get stuck on the road if there is a free concert like when I visited Barceloneta. Overall Puerto Rico is a blessing and God’s gift to tourists and natives alike.

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