Not all travel days run like clockwork. This is something we’ve learned after 7 years of wandering around the world. And even though we were aware that mishaps can happen (and will), we weren’t prepared for our disastrous travel day from Barbados to Puerto Rico.
We arrived at the airport nice and early (we’re notoriously early for everything), and prepared to check-in to our LIAT flight.
We were those people at the check-in counter. The lineup was filled with anxious travellers waiting to get their boarding passes and drop off their heavy bags. We were holding up the line while rummaging around our packs, pulling out charging cords, books, laptops and trying to make the little neon sign on the scale read: 15 pounds.
Once the weight issue was sorted, we were told that we owed $800 for our flight tickets – which apparently we hadn’t paid for.
We had our online Visa statement proving that we had paid, and we also had e-tickets, so this made no sense whatsoever.
We were then told that we actually didn’t have a seat on the plane, and that there were no flights to Puerto Rico for 2 days, possibly 3.
This wouldn’t work for us, as our flights were already booked to Istanbul from Puerto Rico.
Never had we ever experienced anything quite like this. When the extremely rude and uninterested LIAT agent didn’t want to help us, or explain anything to us, we contacted Expedia (who we booked through).
Expedia confirmed that yes, we had paid for the tickets and yes we were on the flight.
The Expedia representative actually contacted LIAT directly and sorted it all out for us!
After about 30 minutes, the supervisor appeared from the back room, made a few taps on the computer, and printed off our boarding passes – without saying anything, mind you. The only reason we knew what was going on was because we still had Expedia on the Skype call.
When we arrived at the gate, we were told the flight was delayed 2 hours.
At this point, we didn’t care, we were going to be leaving Barbados that night and we were just glad to be on the plane!
When we touched down in San Juan, Puerto Rico at midnight, we were eager to pick up our car that we had rented for 3 days, drive to our beachfront guesthouse and promptly pass out.
Unfortunately, no sleeping would be had until 2:30am.
The shuttle to pick us up and take us to the rental agency nearby was to arrive in “10 minutes after we land”. After waiting 30 minutes, we called a second time. “Yes, sir, he will be there in 10 minutes”. We waited, and waited.
Nick ended up calling the company about 6 times from other people’s phones, until finally, they stopped answering our calls.
Our data on our SIM card from Barbados had run out after the second call to the rental agency.
After waiting for 2 hours at the airport, we decided to just take a taxi to our guesthouse, which defeated the purpose of having a rental car, as the cost of 1 day in the car is similar to a taxi.
We were also hesitant to leave because we thought we would be charged a cancellation fee for the car.
We were booked in to stay at the Numero 1 Guesthouse, and luckily, we had no issues with that portion of our travel day. We were greeted by the welcoming night staff and were shown to our room. Thankfully, our colourful accommodation was cooled in anticipation of our arrival – Puerto Rico was much more humid than Barbados!
We were both exhausted, frustrated and in all honesty, bummed out. This was the start of our exciting 5 month trip, but so far, the first leg of the adventure had been a mess.
The following morning, we were able to think more clearly.
We contacted Expedia again and explained our car rental situation. We definitely should have booked with a reputable rental company like Alamo, rather than the random one we were having to deal with.
Just like the day before, Expedia dealt with the issue and made sure our credit card was not charged any thing at all.
Once that was finalized, we were free to get on with our time on the island.
We made our way downstairs for our complementary breakfast and were in awe of the view. Because we had arrived so late, we weren’t able to see the setting of the guesthouse, but in the light of day, it was before us in all of its glory!
A gorgeous, long stretch of golden sand was literally right outside the guesthouse doors. In fact, we ate our breakfast on tables propped up on the beach, with the sand between our toes.
We were up early enough to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the beach before the crowds arrived, which was exactly what we needed.
Our time in Puerto Rico was short, but very sweet. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect from this American-Caribbean Island, but our impressions during our quick trip there were all very positive.
The diverse atoll offers sand dunes, rainforest, beaches, salt flats and mountains. Had we more time, we would have explored further.
The food is a delightful blend of African and Spanish influences, and we enjoyed flavourful meals at the local restaurants. Mofongo was our favourite dish, and the fresh seafood meals on the beach were delicious as well.
The Old Town of San Juan
The old colonial town of San Juan is a must-see. The glossy blue cobblestone streets were very unique and the El Morro Fort dominating the entrance to the San Juan Harbour is definitely worth a visit.
We wandered around for hours gazing up at the little balconies attached to colourful buildings and enjoyed the liveliness of the town.
El Yunque Rainforest
Even though we weren’t actually able to hike at the El Yunque Rainforest as planned, from what we’ve heard, and from the views we had on the drive up there (and from the drone!), this is a magical area.
If you’re interested in waterfalls and hiking, this is the place to go – although be warned, it can be very busy in the high season.
We’re excited to be returning to this island again in June. This is a place that we feel deserves more time. The latin music and culture mixed with the slow rhythm of the Caribbean was an intoxicating blend that made us wish we didn’t have to leave so soon.
In The End
Travel is always a bit of a gamble. Some days, everything runs smoothly and easily, while others, you wish you could just head back to bed and have a do-over. For us, sometimes it seems as though when it rains, it pours.
But no matter how disastrous a travel day may be, and no matter how many hiccups arise along the way, we always try to remember to be patient, keep our cool and figure out a solution to the problem. It’s all part of the life of a traveller.
When we arrive in a place as beautiful as Puerto Rico, we are reminded of just how lucky we are to be able to experience these places. Travel has its ups and downs, but that what makes it such a fun adventure.