5 Puerto Rico Travels Tips from a Local
Apply these 5 Puerto Rico travel tips from a local and make the best out of your trip to Puerto Rico. Learn the basics here! From language and currency, to safety and transportation, we have all the information you need when going to Puerto Rico.
Language: Brush up on your Español
Almost everyone understands English, especially in touristic area. A good Puerto Rico Travel Tip would be to have an app or a printed dictionary from your native language to Spanish and vice versa. It’s an awesome excuse to practice your Español!
Currency: Be sure to bring some coconut coins (Just kidding!)
We use the US dollar as our currency, so if you’re traveling from the U.S. there's no need to worry. If you’re traveling from another country, remember to bring US dollars in cash for tips and for buying small souvenirs. However, all major credit cards are accepted (Visa, MasterCard and American Express, among others). So relax and enjoy your well-deserved trip to Puerto Rico!
Hour difference: What’s the time?
Puerto Rico falls in the AST or Atlantic Standard Time zone. Daylight Saving Time does not apply here.
Main cities: Know your cities
Get to know a few of the main cities in our island before your arrival, as this will help you organize your trip. You will most likely land in San Juan, the capital, which is the host to many tourist favorites and home to the best nightlife. It’s also a few minutes away from our Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU).
Also noteworthy are Fajardo on the Northeast corner of the island and Cabo Rojo on the Southwest corner, both known for their great beaches and sunsets. Other main cities tourists tend to visit are Aguadilla, Camuy, Mayagüez and Ponce. Each has their specific attractions and things to see, so be sure to find out more about them to choose according to your taste. Puerto Rico is sure to have something to please everyone!
Party wisely: The perfect setting for your Rum Diaries movie, except...
Although drinking is a major sport in Puerto Rico and highly encouraged, please keep in mind our current drinking laws when planning your trip.
- • Drink at the beach.
- • Drink legally if you’re 18 years of age or older.
You may not:
- • Drive under the influence (drinking while driving laws are very similar to the U.S.).
- • Drink in the streets, even in Old San Juan (you will be fined!).
- • Hang out in a bar if you’re a minor, even if accompanied by an adult.
Useful Information for a trip to Puerto Rico
Violent crime in Puerto Rico is mostly drug related and seldom affects tourists. However, visitors may take steps to avoid other common forms of crime like theft and mugging.
Diamonds are not a girl’s best friend:We know, they look awesome on you, but wearing valuable jewelry and flashing expensive gadgets will only attract sticky fingers. Leave your valuables at home and enjoy a relaxing vacation.
Cars are not vaults:Thieves have a habit of breaking car windows in Puerto Rico whenever an item inside the car catches their eye. If you have any valuables with you, use the hotel safe or rent a secure storage place.
Single Travelers:Women in particular may get unwanted attention if they’re traveling solo. This is no reason to be discouraged to travel on your own, just use common sense and avoid desolate or sketchy areas.
Night Terrors:Again, use common sense when hanging out at night. Old San Juan is pretty safe, just avoid La Perla and areas past the hotels in San Juan, if walking. Going to the beach at night may also seem like a romantic idea but this may be an ideal place for a mugging if it’s desolate and remote.
The norm is to tip $1-2 dollars per drinks at bars; same goes for luggage ($1-2 per bag) and hotel attendants ($1-2 per service). Buffets and restaurants range from 15-20% of the bill, although it’s not mandatory. As a general rule, tip the minimum amount if you’re satisfied with the service and the maximum amount if you’re blown away.
Traveling with Children
Puerto Rico is a great destination for families with children. From beaches, to museums, to rainforests, we have excellent attractions for kids of all ages. San Juan is most visited for its history and culture, the West Coast for its beaches and the East Coast for El Yunque, our national rainforest. Every town of Puerto Rico has something to offer. Choose your family’s mood (adventure, relaxing, discovery) and plan accordingly.
Transportation in Puerto Rico
Public transportation in Puerto Rico may be confusing for tourists and sometimes less efficient than renting a car or hailing a cab. Nonetheless, here’s the scoop on our public transportation system in case you get tired of lounging at your hotel in San Juan.
The metro area has several options. The most common ones are the public bus (AMA) and metro (Tren Urbano), both efficient and cheap. The other public options are “Pisa y Corre” buses or “Públicos”, mini vans that travel all over the island. These can be a nuisance since most of them are super crowded, hot and slow. This experience is mostly for people on a shoestring budget or that want to experience Puerto Rico like a true local (patience and time required!).
Puerto Rico’s Department of Transportation has the route maps and time information for the public bus. There is a Tren Urbano app available for the metro schedule. For the “Pisa y Corre” or mini vans, however, you have to inquire locally for the terminals.
You can get to Culebra and Vieques by taking the ferry in Fajardo. Remember to check the times and routes with the Maritime Transportation Department, a DTOP branch. You can also ride the Cataño Ferry to Old San Juan and back, and enjoy the scenic view entering the Old City.
Taxis are usually available in the metro area and large cities. Fixed fares are only established in San Juan, so always agree on your taxi fare before taking off to your final destination. It’s also important to know Puerto Rican taxis don’t take credit cards. Bring cash!
Other things to consider:
Biking may be unsafe in highways and streets without a bike path due to the island’s notorious driving practices. Be mindful when you bike and use common sense to ensure your safety.
Never hitchhike. It’s not considered safe in Puerto Rico.
It may take a few days to get used to Puerto Rican driving and traffic jams. Rent a car if it’s extremely necessary and take into account that parking in Old San Juan may be a hassle.
Emergency Atention While in Puerto Rico
If you find yourself in an emergency during your trip to Puerto Rico, dial 911.
Most cities in the metro area and large populated zones have a general hospital with an emergency room. Smaller towns will have a clinic or neighboring hospital.
The heat can be particularly dreadful during summer season. Keep well hydrated and avoid exposing yourself to long periods under the sun, especially when tanning at the beach or doing some watersports in a resort in San Juan. Pack a reliable sunscreen and sun protection accessories even if traveling to Puerto Rico during winter months. It’s sunny all year round.
Puerto Rico is also a tropical island, so expect heavy rains during fall and winter seasons. If you’re driving under rough weather conditions, check with the National Weather Service for flash flood warnings and other imminent danger.
Mosquito Borne Illnesses
Tourists are more vulnerable to mosquito borne illnesses in Puerto Rico after long periods of rain, when water can get stagnant and create ideal conditions for their reproduction. The most common mosquito borne diseases in the island are Dengue Fever and Chikungunya.
It’s important to carry a bug spray with DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. Always apply insect repellent after lotion or sunscreen.
If you think you’ll be exposed to a high volume of mosquitos, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, hats and use a mosquito net at night.
Dengue Fever Symptoms*
The principal symptoms of dengue are:
High fever and at least two of the following:
- • Severe headache
- • Severe eye pain (behind eyes)
- • Joint pain Muscle and/or bone pain
- • Rash Mild bleeding manifestation (e.g., nose or gum bleed, petechia, or easy bruising)
- • Low white cell count
The most common symptoms of Chikungunya are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
*Information extracted from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention website.
If you’re feeling sick and you think you may have Dengue Fever or Chikungunya, consult a physician.
Quick Legal Recap to Puerto Rico
Coming from another country?
Remember, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, thus all their traveling and border crossing laws apply here. If you’re visiting from another country, you must have a valid passport (just like you would if entering the US).
Visit the US State Department’s website to get current information on entering the US from your country of origin. Some countries like EU, Latin America (most of them), Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa as a result of the Visa Waiver Program.
Anything you bring into Puerto Rico is subject to taxes and must be declared at customs if it exceeds the limit:
- Money Anything over $10,000 in US or foreign currency, traveler’s checks or letters of credit must be reported.
- Alcohol Maximum amount, duty free: 1 Quart of liquor. You must be 21 years of age or older.
- Cigarettes Maximum amount, duty free: 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 3 pounds of smoking tobacco. You must be 21 years of age or older.
US citizens may also bring $400 worth of gifts without any fees. However, non-US citizens may only bring $100 worth of gifts. If you bring plants, fruits or vegetables you must declare them at the airport. Call or visit the US Department of Agriculture to learn more about their restrictions.
If you’re stopping at SJU to hitch a ride for your final destination, you still have to complete your customs and immigration paperwork in Puerto Rico if it’s the first airport where you land after leaving your country.
You may be subject to random searches, so make sure you have enough time between flights.
US laws apply in all criminal and most legislative matters. In other words, if you encounter legal issues, your rights will most likely be the same than in the US. Some police and public officials only speak Spanish, so have a backup plan in case you have to communicate with them.
Amazing things to do in puerto rico
Traveling to Puerto Rico and planning ahead? Read on to get the full scoop on Puerto Rican food, nightlife, adventure and culture. Whether you dream of a Caribbean paradise full of sandy beaches, yearn for roadtrips down the mountains or want to sip on some Piña Coladas, these experiences from other travelers will inspire your trip.