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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.