Is Puerto Rico Safe for Travel? (Honest Local Advice)
Planning a trip and wondering if Puerto Rico is safe for travel right now?
It’s a smart question to ask. But, 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 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 Puerto Rico Safety Tips
- Puerto Rico Safety FAQs
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Is Puerto Rico Safe?
Puerto Rico is generally safe for travelers that take note of the hurricane season when planning their trip. It’s also advised to take normal precautions to avoid pickpocketing and robbery, the most common crimes affecting visitors in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is relatively safe for visitors, as it has a lower crime rate than many other regions in the United States. It’s 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 has 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 until a week or two beforehand. That’s often not enough notice to change a trip to Puerto Rico.
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Things to Know About Safety in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Travel Advisories
Though Puerto Rico is generally safe, different governments such as the UK Government and the Canada Government issued travel advisories during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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 commonsense 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. See my list of the best small towns in Puerto Rico for ideas!
👉 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.
This graphic summarizes the current covid situation in Puerto Rico:
International travelers no longer need proof of vaccination to enter Puerto Rico. In March 2022, Puerto Rico dropped its mask mandate. Masks may still be recommended for many people and situations.
Puerto Rico used to require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, concert halls, and theaters. As of March 2022, those requirements are also dropped (at least at the island level). 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 places in the United States. However, 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 relatively few scams in Puerto Rico. Still, you should always keep your eyes open for the following common scams when traveling to Puerto Rico:
🚕 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 in Puerto Rico, 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.
So is Puerto Rico safe from hurricanes right now? And how safe is Puerto Rico from other natural disasters? Like anywhere, it depends.
Here are a few things to know about Puerto Rico’s weather hazards:
⛈️ Hurricanes – Puerto Rico’s hurricane season run from June to November is one of the most important things to know about Puerto Rico. 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 Fiona in September 2022. 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
If you’re wondering “is it safe to travel to Puerto Rico right now for solo females?”, here is my answer:
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 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.
🛂 Read Next: Do US Citizens Need a Passport for Puerto Rico?
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.
🧳 Read Next: The Perfect Puerto Rico Packing List
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 Puerto Rico Safety Tips
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 you need to, lock them up in the trunk and always lock your car doors. Otherwise, you could come back from your day trip to a broken window.
Tip #4 – Take Care of Your Belongings
One safety mistake people make when traveling is taking their important documents in a backpack while they take a walking tour. Leave your important documents locked up in your hotel safe, which most good hotels in Puerto Rico should have.
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 one of Puerto Rico’s beautiful beaches.
Tip #5 – Don’t Wander Alone at Night
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 Puerto Rico travel tips and 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 quality. Visitors can also buy bottled water if they feel uneasy about drinking tap water.
Is San Juan dangerous for tourists?
Generally, San Juan is 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 parts of 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 to travel?” If you still have any fear or doubts, feel free to write them in the comments and I’ll help to clear them out!
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Where can we do some dancing while in San Juan in November.
Good job,girl. You right. The mountains,the river,the forest and the country people are the best.
Great article. There are so many places to visit in P.R. Driving out of San Juan, to the mountains, or to beaches in the West Side its a must. I was born and raised in Cabo Rojo, and I invite everybody to visit that area. You won’t regret it! Rincón, Aguada, Mayaguez, and Aguadilla are great towns to visit too. And most of the crimes can be avoided with a little common sense. Like the article says, don’t walk alone or go to dark places at night, specially if you don’t know the area.
Thank you. West side is in the plans.
Visiting Puerto Rico has been my whole life dream and I hope it will be this year. Now, my question is, do I need a visa or passport to get in/out of Puerto Rico? I am American citizen.
US citizens do not need a passport or visa to visit Puerto Rico!
Don’t need a passport
You do not need a visa or passport. Puerto Rico is an American territory.
No, if you are a US citizen, you don’t need a passport or visa, all you need is your valid ID as Puerto Rico is a US territory you travel just like in the US.
Armando PR is a USA territory therefore you do not need a passport
No you do not need a passport.
It’s the same as traveling to a different state.
I have been going down to PR for 7years. I have never felt unsafe. I stay in Carolina I was surprised that was listed as an unsafe area. I do stay on the beach and use common sense.
I wish I had found your blog before I booked an Airbnb in Puerta de Tierra (this was over two years ago). The Airbnb itself was ok (a private, secured third floor apartment). Before making the reservation, the “Superhost” assured us the neighborhood was safe and that the locals keep to themselves. We were never bothered by anybody (except maybe the local roosters!), but we definitely did not feel safe walking around. We got an Uber every time we wanted to venture out and even a few of our Uber drivers said, “You shouldn’t be here.” It didn’t stop us from loving PR. We are visiting again, and I am reading all your blogs this time!
I love Puerto Rico 🇵🇷. I travel there every July to be with my mother for her birthday. And I go to different cities and thank God never had any problems. The people are beautiful.
I agree. My husband is Puerto Rican and we’ve been going to Puerto Rico for over thirty years and we are both retired and have had a house in Pinones for 18 years. We spend most of our time in Pinones, Puerto Rico. I have never met such kind and friendly people in my life. Pinones is one of the most popular destinations in Puerto Rico for it’s excellent seafood and fried Puerto Rican foods loved by all and it’s beautiful panoramic views of miles of beaches. It’s one of the safest areas of Puerto Rico, I know it well, unlike this so-called local writer. It’s very safe to frequent and enjoy it’s beautiful beaches, especially La Posita. Enjoy!
I love Pinones! Every friday morning we walk rescue dogs to the beach from the local shelter, Amigos de los Animales. We usually spend the day further down on a quiet beach. Then have dinner at Contra Viento y Marea. Or any of the pincho spots back on the main strip. Ive been there at night during Carnavale where its all “local” & some might not view it as mainlander or tourist friendly, but if youre respectful & aware youll be fine & have a great island experience. Im diabetico & had to walk the boardwalk at night alone after dinner once to get my sugars lower, I never felt unsafe. Pinones is one of my favorite spots on that side of the island. Gorgeous beaches!
I have been there several times and I have never experienced nothing but great times in Old San Juan, San Juan and Rincón. The place is wonderful. You don’t find trouble unless you are looking for something you shouldn’t.
In total agreement with Carter. I had visited Puerto Rico many times and Planning my next visit on December. Love the people places and the FOOD! Take the common sense precautions you will take in any major city of the USA.
My husband and I love Puerto Rico. We have a time share in Dorado and have been going since 2006. We stay almost a month. We travel all over the island.
The people are the best they are what makes PR great. NEVER felt in danger!
Staying at El Conquistador in Fajardo next month. Anyone been, and is this a generally safe area? We are renting a car and driving the hour from the airport.
Loved El Conquistador! I hope you had a wonderful time. It’s totally safe. We have been a few time and each time we have gone we have not had any problems. We love it in PR! We have stayed in several cities and never a problem.
I am glad that many people like PR. The island needs tourism. I have been to a few towns but I like to go to all 78 towns. In my opinion, the best time to go is during Xmas to enjoy the Xmas culture. I like the finger food. But people need to be careful about going to beaches on the Atlantic because of the dangers of currents and no lifeguards. In my opinion, one of the safest beaches is Crash Boat in Aguadilla. The best place to buy ice cream is Rex Cream in Aguadilla. They have natural flavor ice cream my favorite is coconut with cinnamon on top. Best wishes to all travelers. Don Jr.
What type of pests (lizards, snakes, mice, etc.) besides mosquitos should I be concerned about while visiting? Are they worse at certain times?
He estado en 2 ocasiones en la Isla del Encanto y estoy de acuerdo con Vanessa en un 100 %. Gracias Puerto Rico.
That was a good article I never went Puerto Rico but would love to go now. But my question is do I need to get the vaccine to travel there?
Thank you so much for your article. We just came back from Puerto Rico with a group of 15 family members. We had the best time ever. Spend two week and we were very sad to leave my beautiful island. As a local myself we followed all your guidelines. We felt very safe and pleased that everyone is so nice and accommodating. Already planning our next trip.
Puerto Rico is a great spot. It is a U S territory which means that they use US money, have post offices and pharmacies, and the banks are affiliated with the US. One other point: Puerto Rico has some great golf courses.
We would like to visit Puerto Rico this winter (2023) we want to go to Old San Juan and Rincon
Is this possible?
Where these areas damaged by Hurricane Fiona ?
I am traveling alone this December. Very excited, can’t wait. Kind of nervous to enjoy nightlife in some places I have in mind but hopefully I can meet people who are also traveling. Also, hurricane damages?
Is it safe to drive through Puerto de Tierra at night? We arrive to the airport around midnight and want to stay in Old San Juan.