As many international destinations are facing the fourth wave of COVID or are still keeping their borders closed, many people are wondering if Puerto Rico is safe for travel right now.
And while you’ll find a lot of information saying otherwise, as a local, I can tell you Puerto Rico is generally very safe for travel.
Since I know travelers can have different concerns about safety in Puerto Rico, I’ve put together some tips and advice about safety in Puerto Rico. I hope it helps you to comfortably explore all the many beautiful places to visit in Puerto Rico.
Table of Contents
- Is Puerto Rico Safe?
- Things to Know About Safety in Puerto Rico
- 5 Safety Tips for Puerto Rico
- Puerto Rico Safety FAQs
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Is Puerto Rico Safe?
Puerto Rico is generally safe for travelers that take appropriate measures regarding the ongoing pandemic. Travelers should take note of the hurricane season when they’re planning their trip and take normal precautions to avoid pickpocketing and robbery, the most common crimes affecting visitors in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is relatively safe for visitors, sporting a lower crime rate than other cities in the United States and being one of the safest Caribbean islands. Much of the violent gun crime in Puerto Rico relates to drug trafficking and gang activity, which doesn’t usually affect travelers.
The most common crimes in Puerto Rico are pickpocketing and robbery, which you can prevent by not leaving valuables visible in a car, keeping important documents at your hotel safe, not wearing expensive jewelry, and visiting beaches and attractions during the day.
When you visit Puerto Rico, you should be more worried about the weather than the criminality. The island sports a yearly hurricane season from June to November, with September as the most active month.
There isn’t any way to predict when hurricanes are going to impact Puerto Rico or how strong they’re going to be with months of anticipation, which is why you should protect your trip with travel insurance if you’re visiting during the high-risk season.
A reputable insurer like World Nomads may be able to help you secure your trip in case your flight or tours get canceled due to a storm or a hurricane.
Things to Know About Safety in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Travel Advisories
Besides the health travel advisory, there is an advisory about the risk of terrorism in the United States. This risk is relatively low in Puerto Rico, which isn’t a state but a non-incorporated territory. You might encounter demonstrations and protests occasionally in Puerto Rico. In that case, travelers should monitor local media and avoid demonstrations.
As for crime, petty crime and robbery is the most common type of crime and tourists should take the common precautions to protect their belongings.
Safe Neighborhoods and Areas in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is relatively safe for tourists and travelers as long as they stay out of dangerous areas. Common tourist-friendly areas in San Juan include Old San Juan, Isla Verde, Condado, Ocean Park, Hato Rey, and Miramar. Visitors should avoid areas like Puerta de Tierra, El Parque de las Palomas, Piñones and La Perla at night.
Other great areas for tourists are Rio Grande, Fajardo, Ponce, Cabo Rojo, Vieques, Culebra, and Rincon. But, that doesn’t mean tourists should limit themselves to those parts of the island. Both the locals and the government encourage travelers to step out of Old San Juan to visit other parts of the island.
👉 Looking for a safe place to stay? Check out my guides to where to stay in Puerto Rico and, more specifically, the best areas in San Juan to find the best and safest neighborhoods to stay in for visitors.
Covid-19 Safety in Puerto Rico
Like most global destinations, Puerto Rico continues to grapple with the effects of the covid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the Puerto Rican government has led a widely lauded effort to increase the vaccination rate to one of the highest in the United States as of fall 2021.
Travelers can enter Puerto Rico either by providing proof of vaccination or by presenting a negative COVID antigen test or PCR test not older than 72 hours.
Masks are mandatory indoors, inside public transportation, and outdoors when you can’t keep a safe distance, regardless of your vaccination status.
You’ll have to present proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, concert halls, and theaters. I recommend following the Health Department of Puerto Rico Website and the CDC to keep up to date with the evolving situation of the country.
Crime in Puerto Rico
The crime rate in Puerto Rico is relatively low in comparison with other states of the United States but both locals and tourists alike could be victims of petty theft like robbery and pickpocketing.
Violent crimes in Puerto Rico are often related to caserios, Puerto Rico’s public housing buildings, and dangerous neighborhoods where gangs operate. Both American tourists and international travelers should avoid these areas as a general safety rule. As long as you stick to the popular places to go in Puerto Rico, you are likely to be just fine.
Common Scams in Puerto Rico
There are few to little scams in Puerto Rico, but you should always keep your eyes open for the following common scams:
🚕 Taxi scam – Taxis scams take place when the drivers don’t turn on the meter, take longer routes to charge more, or claim they don’t have change when you pay in cash. Research the route using GPS systems, know the local taxi tarrifs, and always ask the driver to turn the meter on.
🚗 Rental car scams – Since the rental car industry is big in Puerto Rico, it’s not uncommon to see scams related to car rentals. If you’re renting a car, you need to watch out for excessive toll pass fees, inflated deposits, and hidden charges for things like cleaning the sand from your car. Discover Cars is a great search engine for reputable agencies, since it allows you to easily see and compare customer reviews for each operator.
🗺️ False guides – A local may approach you claiming to be a guide that can take you to special places. He’ll then proceed to take you somewhere where he gets a commission for bringing clients. You will never know about the commission but you will pay a higher price for what you buy to cover that commission fee.
💰 Pickpockets – Pickpocketing occurs in many countries of the world and Puerto Rico is no exception. Pickpocketers could snatch your items away while distracting you or by bumping into you. Always be aware of your belongings and pay attention to your surroundings.
Hazardous Weather and Natural Disasters
People who travel to Puerto Rico can experience hazardous weather and natural disasters depending on what season they visit Puerto Rico.
Here are a few things to know about Puerto Rico’s weather:
⛈️ Hurricanes – Puerto Rico sports a hurricane season from June to November. During this period, the country is more likely to get affected by tropical storms and hurricanes, but the season doesn’t mean a hurricane will hit Puerto Rico. The last hurricane that landed on Puerto Rico was Hurricane Maria in 2017. Hurricanes usually take a week to reach the island, which means you have to make the necessary adjustments to your trip according to the weather warnings.
⛰️ Earthquakes – Visitors can also experience earthquakes and small tremors in Puerto Rico. Since the Earthquakes of January 2020, telluric movements are more frequent on the island, but they are mostly unnoticeable.
🌡️ Temperature – Puerto Rico sports high temperatures almost all year, with an average temperature of 87°F(30°C), which combined with the humidity, increases the sensation of heat. You should always stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun.
☁️ Air pollution – The air quality changes frequently in Puerto Rico for environmental factors. Sometimes there is a high concentration of spores or a cloud of dust coming from the Sahara desert. If you have respiratory conditions, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the local weather forecast and keep your medications with you.
☁️ Rip tides and swimming conditions – Many famous beaches in Puerto Rico are dangerous to swim in for their rip tides. Beaches like Playa Peña in Old San Juan and Playa Jobos in Isabela are home to numerous drowning incidents every year. If you’re visiting a beach with rip tides, ask the locals about the safest beach areas and if you get caught in one, swim parallel to the beach until you get out of the current.
👉 Local Tip: Puerto Rico, like other Caribbean islands, sports popular destinations with beaches for the family, beaches for couples, and beaches for solo travelers. If you want to find the best for your taste, check out my guide to the 19 top beaches in Puerto Rico.
Female Travel Safety
San Juan and Puerto Rico in general are safe for women traveling in groups or solo female travelers. Although they might face some catcalling, men usually won’t make any physical or approach. Women visiting Puerto Rico should follow the general safety tips that apply when visiting any other country.
Some common travel safety tips include not walking alone at night in solitary areas, supervising their drinks when in a public place, not telling just anybody about where they’re staying, and not accepting any stranger’s invitation to accompany them to unknown places. San Juan is particularly a safe city for women traveling solo.
For women who travel alone frequently, safety is always a priority. The Self-Defense Keychain Set for Women and Kids is a great way to have some peace of mind and feel safer while visiting a foreign country.
Other Health Precautions
Besides taking precautions against COVID, you should take measures against Dengue fever and Zika. For its location and weather, Puerto Rico has a large population of mosquitoes, especially on the beach and areas with a lot of vegetation like El Yunque National Forest.
If you’re planning to visit the island nation, you should pack a mosquito repellent. Ranger Ready is a great mosquito repellent that is non-DEET, non-smelly, and comes in convenient travel-sized kits.
Puerto Rico Drinking Water Safety
While there might be other destinations in the Caribbean where tourists can’t drink water safely, it isn’t the case with Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and follows the drinking water safety standards set by the Safe Drinking Water Act established by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1974. If you still feel insecure, you can always buy bottled water instead.
5 Safety Tips for Puerto Rico
Tip #1 – Learn Some Basic Spanish
Although most Puerto Ricans in San Juan and other touristic areas understand and speak some English, if you visit any rural area it might be hard to communicate with the locals. To prevent any misunderstanding, I recommend you learn some basic Spanish phrases and words.
Tip #2 – Prepare for Some Crazy Traffic
American travelers will feel familiarized with the style of driving in Puerto Rico, but international travelers should know that it’s hard to follow signs around the island’s roads, and there will be occasions when you won’t find any. Some traffic lights still don’t work after Hurricane Maria and roads around both urban areas and rural areas are home to countless potholes.
Don’t get scared if Puerto Ricans honk at you. Honking is very common among locals, and it’s usually a way of indicating to the front car the traffic light has changed.
Tip #3 – Lock Your Car Doors
Either out of habit or because of distraction, sometimes tourists leave belongings in their car rental. As a safety rule, whenever you visit an attraction or park in Puerto Rico, make sure to empty your car of valuables or if it’s inevitable, lock temp up in the trunk and always lock your car doors so you won’t come back from your day trip to a broken window.
Tip #4 – Take Care of Your Belongings
One mistake people make when traveling is taking their important documents in a backpack while they make a walking tour. Leave your important documents locked up in your hotel safe. If you feel uncomfortable, then consider wearing a money belt and distribute your documents between your different pockets. And if you have a bag never leave it unattended, not even at the beach.
Tip #5 – Don’t Wander at Night Alone
In Puerto Rico, most crimes committed happen during the night. Although there are areas where there is active nightlife, like Condado, the nearby deserted streets and areas like Condado Beach can be dangerous if you’re walking alone. You should always stay in well-lit areas. If you’re alone, avoid transiting dark zones at night or into places you don’t know.
👉 For more things to know before you go, be sure to read my full list of tips for traveling Puerto Rico!
Puerto Rico Safety FAQs
What should you avoid in Puerto Rico?
In Puerto Rico visitors should avoid wandering mindlessly, staying in sketchy places, leaving their belongings unattended in beaches or restaurants, and going outside tourist areas without a guide if they aren’t familiar with the area they’re visiting.
Can you drink tap water in Puerto Rico?
Tap water is safe to drink in Puerto Rico. The water sanitization company in Puerto Rico uses the Safe Drinking Water Act established by the EPA as a guide for water sanitation. Visitors can also buy bottled water if they feel uneasy about drinking tap water.
Is San Juan dangerous for tourists?
San Juan is generally safe for tourists. Top safety tips for travelers include avoiding transiting in La Perla, El Parque de las Paloma, and Puerta de Tierra at night, and staying away from the caserio Louis Lloren Torres or stay in any area they feel uncomfortable in.
What is the most dangerous place in Puerto Rico?
Dangerous places in Puerto Rico include cities like Carolina, Bayamon, Vega Baja and some San Juan areas like Santurce, La Perla, Parque de la Palomas, and Puerta de Tierra. These places are usually safe to visit during daylight hours.
🛑 WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO TO PUERTO RICO – If you’re going to Puerto Rico, you definitely don’t want to miss my local’s list of the best activities and things to do in Puerto Rico. It’s packed with top tourist spots, fun points of attraction, and hidden spots only locals know about.
You’ve reached the end of the safety guide to Puerto Rico. I hope I’ve answered your biggest concerns about “Is Puerto Rico safe?”.
Don’t forget you can get travel insurance with World Nomads, so you only have to worry about anything else but to enjoy your trip.
If you still have any fear or doubts, feel free to write them in the comments and I’ll help to clear them out!