Before arriving in San Juan, we had made a decision to walk wherever we can and depend on public transportation or -worst case- use cabs or rental cars for destinations that absolutely warrant those.
We had mostly walked and taken a few cabs everywhere until yesterday. Yesterday was the day we decided to take the bus for the first time!
I looked up the bus routes and discovered that the one we need to take is the T5, which goes from Carolina to Old San Juan. I had read online that it is good to take the exact change needed for the bus, which is 75 cents per ride per person. Since we didn’t have exact change, I took two dollars for the bus ride and we walked to the station.
The bus stations here are labeled as “Parada” in Spanish. Two ladies were already waiting for the bus before us. We joined them and exchanged hellos and smiles with them and hoped the bus won’t be long. It is very hot and humid on the streets during the day most of the time -regardless of how much sunscreen, creams, deodorants and perfumes you wear.
When the bus approached, one of the women stretched her hand out asking the driver to stop for us. We would learn during the bus ride that it is almost a need to flag the bus down in Puerto Rico, just like in Beirut.
The lady got on board and she paid her fare using a card. The second lady also paid using a similar card. Then I got on board and handed the driver the two dollars. The driver told me in Spanish that I need to have the exact fare. My facial expression let her know that in fact I do not have the exact fare. The woman who flagged the bus said, don’t worry about it, I will pay for you. And she swiped her card two more times (once on behalf of each of us).
We went and sat down and I waited for the woman to sit so I can hand her the 2 USD to pay her back. But she stayed by the driver and they were chit chatting away to glory – they obviously knew each other. When it became clear that she is not going to come sit anytime soon (eventually she never sat down) I got up and took the two dollars and handed them to her with a smile and a “Thank you”.
To my public embarrassment, the lady refused to take the money. I insisted and she insisted. I looked at Vidya, helplessly, as if asking what to do next. She shrugged and thanked the woman, who repeated that, “It is nothing” and “Just make sure to have the exact change for your ride back.”
The people on the bus were an interesting mix of locals and tourists. The bus is air conditioned and -apart from stopping and refusing to start again at some point- pretty smooth.
This route took us from Avenida Isla Verde to Calle Loiza then De Diego Ave to Juan Ponce de Leon and straight to the bus central station in Old San Juan.
That is where we were headed on our hunt to find an Indian Grocery Store -which is what I will write about in a separate post.