notes from our move to puerto rico

Three weeks ago today we all piled into our Honda CR-V in Texas and today I am writing this from our semi-furnished condo in Puerto Rico.  So much has happened between then and now that it’s hard to know where to begin so I’m going to just focus this post on the bits of information that may be helpful to those who are considering making the same move.

Household Shipping

We thought we didn’t have that much stuff… that is until we started trying to pack it into suitcases!  What we couldn’t fit into suitcases we shipped using USPS.  Our condo doesn’t have a mailbox so we had to open a PO Box once we arrived (they wouldn’t do it for us online).  We packed everything up before we left and gave shipping instructions to my parents.  We used media mail for our books and software and then we fit as much of the heavier stuff as we could into large flat rate boxes.  Everything else went into bigger boxes and bins and was shipped standard.  It’s worth printing the labels for the large flat rate boxes at home to save some money.  The rest will have to be taken to the Post Office to be shipped.  We received the flat rate boxes in just three days!  I can’t believe I’m raving about USPS here, but another awesome thing they do here is give you a “physical” address so you can receive packages via UPS and FedEx as well.

Our boxes.

everything we couldn’t fit into our suitcases…

Auto Shipping

We shipped our car using the Puerto Rico Car Transport service.  The shipper they used was Crowley but for some reason the price was a couple of hundred less than going through Crowley directly, about $1200.  Their documents kept stressing that NOTHING could be left in the car and that you couldn’t leave more than a quarter tank of gas in the car.  However, they were a lot less strict than their documents implied.  We were all stressed out because we had over half a tank of gas in the car when we dropped it off even after we went to the extreme of trying to gun the engine to burn fuel faster!  We also left a booster seat and our jumper cables inside the car because we didn’t have room for them in our luggage.  But the inspector didn’t even open the car door before sending us on our way.  The booster seat, cables and the gas was all there when we picked it up a couple of weeks later in San Juan.  Another note, before you can take your car you have to pay a vehicle excise tax of 10% of the value of your car.  Even though the Kelley Blue Book tagged the value of our 1999 Honda CR-V at less than $3000, they deemed it worth more than $6000 so we had to pay over $600 in addition to some other smaller fees they tacked on.  You can get an idea of how much you will have to pay in taxes by using the online calculator on the government’s website.

Car inspection

inspection at drop off

License Plates and Driver’s License

To get your new plates and driver’s licenses you need to go to your regional DTOP “Centro de Servicios al Conductor (Driver Services Center).  Even though Texas is listed as “reciprocidad parcial” (partial reciprocity) we, thankfully, didn’t have to take the written exam to get our license.  You just need to bring your old unexpired driver’s license, a second form of ID (we used our passport), a bill showing your physical address (we just used our cable connection service ticket), all the documents you used and received to pick up your car, and your unlaminated social security card.  I think I have used my physical social security card here in the last three weeks more than I have in my whole life!  Also, I almost forgot to mention the most important thing to bring: plenty of patience!

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waiting our turn

Utilities

We were able to get our water hooked up by emailing all of the required documents to the water company.  One thing that bothered me is that they provide no secure way to send your driver’s license and social security cards.  Even a fax machine would have been better than email which is extremely insecure.  Hopefully, we don’t end up as victims of identity theft!  For electricity we had to go the electric company in person.  We went to their office on the Tuesday we arrived and by Friday our electricity was on.

AEEPR in Aguadilla

AEEPR in Aguadilla

That’s some of the practical information on the move that I wanted to pass on while it was still fresh on my mind.  I’m planning to share some of my first impressions of living in Puerto Rico in another post.

14 comments

  • Barbara Schutt

    Hi, David! I just found your website from the expat blog posting. I’m looking forward to more updates and information. My husband and I are retired and looking to settle long term in the Rincon area. We’ve a couple of daughters that aren’t quite dependent yet so we’ll settle for longer stays on the island for now 🙂

  • Elizabeth Tilley

    Found it too! And figured out my water. Hmmm…I still don’t owe any money. Suspicious, but I’ll keep checking on it. Hope to meet you guys soon!

    Cheers,

    Liz

    • Absolutely Liz. About the water, that is strange. We also have yet to receive a bill but their site is showing that I owe $75?

  • Hi David and Welcome to Puerto Rico.

    We have been here for 1 year and love it. we began our journey somewhat like you first driving from our apartment on Long Island, NY to NJ to stay with my mother in law for what was supposed to be 1 week and turned to 3, then we drove to Florida to my brother in law’s house where again we were scheduled to stay maybe 2 weeks and wound up staying a month. We had alot of stuff in storage from when we lived in Fl. and proceeded to have several garage sales to get rid of alot of stuff(we had 2 garage sales in NY also) We sold alot and made some money but eventually gave away a boatload of books and household stuff to the good will since we couldn’t carry on the plane. We also were trying to sell our car since it was pretty old and wasn’t worth shipping even thoug, it had gotten us backand forth to Fl. several times and around NY for several years and had several people interested but it was a no go and left with it not sold and gave my brother in law keys and instructions but in the long run when some one came to see it, it wouldn’t start so we wound up junking it for $300.00.

    When we finally landed here to stay with friends while looking for a house for 3 weeks instead of 1, whew, we were going crazy. We finally found a great house in Quebradilla and have been here happily for over a year. We didn’t wind up getting a car until 6 months after being here but love the island anyway. Luckily we are close enough to town to be able to walk. We have been thru the elect. and water companies also luckily our landlord took us there.n It was a trip getting the cab le company here but had to settle with Claro and it turned out ok for phone and internet. We got Direct tv. for cable and it is also ok. We did finally get our stuff which we had shipped 4 months after we got here and so we played cards alot and looked at the stairs (since no t.v. or radio) Now we are living a regular life here and we love it. It was well worth the troubles we had.

    Take care,Tonie

  • We are moving to Cabo Rojo in just 32 days! Did you use a realtor to find your condo in advance? Our current plan is to wing it, much like Tonie, but the thought of spending 3 weeks looking is kind of daunting. Also thank you for including the links for the utilities, it’ll be helpful once we find a place.

    • Hi Sherry,

      That’s exciting! We have yet to visit Cabo Rojo, but I have heard that the cliffs and beaches are beautiful there. It’s definitely on our list for a weekend day trip!

      As far as finding a place, we had the time constraints of a week long scouting trip. Beforehand, I pieced together a picture of what was available by looking at Zillow, http://www.point2homes.com, classificadosonline.com and the individual websites of realtors who had listings in the area we were looking. Needless to say it was a very tedious process having to coordinate showings with several different realtors. Thankfully, it all worked out and we are happy where we ended up.

      Good luck!
      David

  • “I can’t believe I’m raving about USPS here, but another awesome thing they did was give me a “physical” address in addition to the PO box at no extra charge. :)”

    They gave you the physical address of the Post Office and told you to use that, or ????????

    • Yes C, They essentially gave me two addresses that go to the same place. A standard PO Box address and the physical address of the post office which I can use to receive shipments from FedEx and UPS.

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