The "I Love PR" stands in cruise ship port in Puerto Rico

23 Puerto Rico Travel Tips from a Local (for 2022)

You might think you know everything you need to know about Puerto Rico for your next trip.  But as a local born and raised in Puerto Rico, I’ve seen a lot of unprepared and clueless tourists facing complications just because nobody told them what to expect.

I don’t want you to be another one of those tourists, so I put together my 23 best Puerto Rico travel tips you should know before visiting the island.

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23 Tips & Things to Know Before Going to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Isn’t an Island (It’s Several)

View of the "I Love PR" in front of a stadium in Puerto Rico

Very few people know that Puerto Rico is actually an archipelago, consisting of several islands – not just the main island also named Puerto Rico.

In fact, you’ll find several of the best places to go in Puerto Rico are actually located on its two other municipalities outside the main island: Vieques and Culebra. Beyond those, the archipelago also sports over a hundred smaller islands and cays like Desecheo, Icacos, and Gilligan’s Island.

Want to Learn More About Puerto Rico? Check out these 41 Fun Facts About Puerto Rico.

Pack Your Mosquito Repellent

The author resting by the Caribbean Sea in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a tropical island in the Caribbean, which means you’ll find a lot of mosquitos. Mosquitoes can transmit different illnesses like Dengue and Zika so you’ll want to pack your repellent. 

Since DEET repellant can’t get smelly and isn’t great for the environment, use an alternative like the excellent new DEET-free spray by Ranger Ready.

While we’re on the subject of packing, check out my list of important things to pack for a trip to Puerto Rico (I bet you’re missing at least one!).

For Short Getaways, Stick to Old San Juan

View of the colorful houses in an alley with the big Puerto Rico flag at the middle

If your trip to Puerto Rico is only for a weekend, Old San Juan still offers a great traveling experience and is probably your best bet for where to stay in Puerto Rico

The old town is home to many of San Juan’s most important points of interest like El Morro Fort, amazing food, gorgeous beaches to visit, and lots of Puerto Rican culture you can explore without the need to rent a car.

But, If You Can, Leave Old San Juan

View of people descending from a wooden stairs

While Old San Juan sports the most famous landmarks in Puerto Rico, very few travelers know some of the best beaches in Puerto Rico, and the best landmarks are outside San Juan. So if you have some extra time make sure to visit other areas as well, even as a day trip from San Juan.

👉 Bonus Tip: If you’re planning to leave Old San Juan for a day trip, you should take with you a backpack with snacks, since making stops to eat can quickly add to your expenses. This amazing Tourit Cooler Backpack can keep your drinks colder for a longer time, something you’ll need in the Caribbean heat.

A Car is Very Helpful

While there is public transportation in Puerto Rico, it’s not practical for tourists if they want to go outside the metropolitan area. That’s why if you’re visiting Puerto Rico, you should consider renting a car to go out of San Juan. Driving in Puerto Rico is easier than you might think!

You can use the comparison engine Discover Cars to find the best prices for the days you’ll be staying!

Prepare for a Lot of Car Honking

One thing that surprises a lot of people is how much Puerto Ricans honk their cars. We honk to say hi, to make you know the light changed, to catch your attention, and to curse at you too. You will be able to tell the difference, just make sure you don’t do anything to receive the “cursing” honk.

There’s A Hurricane Season

The clouds before a hurricane in Puerto Rico

Before visiting Puerto Rico, you should know Puerto Rico sports a hurricane season that goes from June to November. During this period, hurricanes and tropical storms that form in the Atlantic could impact the island directly or indirectly. This doesn’t mean the island will get affected by hurricanes yearly. The last hurricane to impact the island was Hurricane Maria.

👉 Bonus Tip: While the hurricane season represents an additional risk, traveling during this season to Puerto Rico can save you a lot of money in hotels, car rentals, and tours. Just remember to protect your trip with travel insurance. Travel Lemming loves World Nomads for protecting our trips, but do your own research!

Keep an Umbrella with You

View of San Juan before the rain falls
In San Juan it rains frequently

While Puerto Rico is sunny all year round, it rains quite frequently. Even if showers are short, you should always keep an umbrella with you, especially if you choose to visit Puerto Rico during the rainy season, which goes from April to November. 

If you need one, check out Lydia’s post reviewing several of the best umbrellas for travel. Spoiler alert: the Rain Mate umbrella came out on top!

Tipping is Expected

View of the interior in one of the restaurants in Puerto Rico

Tipping in Puerto Rico is not compulsory, but it’s expected within restaurants, hotels, and bars. Some common tipping quantities are $2 or more per day for the housekeeping staff, $1 per drink for bartenders, and 15% of the check for restaurant servers. You can also tip cab drivers,  uber drivers, and bellhops. 

Puerto Rico Uses the Dollar

Puerto Rico is a non-incorporated territory of the United States, which means the island’s currency is the US dollar. That means, if you’re traveling from the USA, you don’t need to worry about a currency exchange!

Drop the Passport (If From the US)

If you carry a USA passport, you can leave it home when coming to Puerto Rico. Due to the island’s political status, US citizens can travel freely between the USA and Puerto Rico using just their license.

If Not, You’ll Need a Visa

If you’re not a US citizen but you want to visit Puerto Rico, you must know you’ll need the same entry requirements and visa requirements you would need to enter any other part of the United States.

You Can Visit on a Cruise

Puerto Rico is a popular cruise port. While some cruises depart from here and others just make a quick stop, Old San Juan receives up to two million cruise ship passengers per year. So, if you rather party while you travel, you can take a cruise to visit the island.

Flip Flops aren’t For Every Occasion

The author smiling to the camera while sitting on a sand by the beach

While you may be spending most of your days exploring Puerto Rico’s beautiful beaches, you should pack something more than sandals and bathing suits in your pack. 

Many tourists believe they can wear their swimwear everywhere, but in reality, Puerto Ricans dress up even before leaving the beach. You’ll need an extra change of clothes for restaurants, hospitals, bars, and even for walking around the city.

Plan Your Budget

Puerto Rico is not a cheap destination. You can expect more or less the prices you would find in cities like Orlando or Miami, and you should plan your budget for Puerto Rico accordingly. You can save money by eating in food kiosks outside the tourist zone, like in Piñones, renting an Airbnb with a kitchen, booking a hotel with breakfast included, or traveling during the low season.

The Drinking Age is 18

View of Taqueria Vatos Locos from the outside

Young international visitors thinking about traveling to Puerto Rico to party the night away may be in for a nasty surprise: the legal drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18 years, as it is elsewhere in the United States. 

The drinking age in Puerto Rico is well enforced too. Bars, gas stations, and even convenience stores will ask you for an ID every time you try to buy a drink and will certainly deny it to you if you’re under 18.

Speaking Spanish Comes In Handy

Puerto Rico sports two official languages, Spanish and English, but you’ll find people that speak English mostly within tourist areas. That’s why, before visiting the island you should learn some basic Spanish phrases to get around.

Traffic is Heavy

If you’re renting a car, you should know Puerto Rico sports some heavy traffic, especially in the metro area. The peak traffic hours could make a simple 20-minute route take 45 minutes or an hour. Be sure to go out with plenty of time to your destinations.

You Might Lose Signal

The author with farm animals on her background
Me outside the metro area

US travelers could get surprised when learning their phones work perfectly fine in Puerto Rico without the need to pay for roaming. But, if you adventure into the central area, you’ll probably lose your signal at some point. 

Metrics are Different

View of signs in a muddy trail

You will notice Puerto Ricans use both the Imperial System of Measurement and the Metric System of Measurement, which means you’ll see things in inches and others in meters. For example, distances get measured in kilometers, speed limits in miles per hour, and gas in liters.

The Most Beautiful Beaches Aren’t in San Juan

San Juan sports multiple great beaches for couples, families, and solo travelers, but you should know the top clearest, and paradisiacal beaches in Puerto Rico are outside San Juan. If you’ve got extra time you should explore the beaches on Vieques, Culebra, and the west coast.

Some Beaches Have Rip Currents

View of a beach in Puerto Rico

While you can’t leave Puerto Rico without visiting some of the best beaches, you should know some beaches on the island are home to rip currents like Playa Jobos and Playa Peña. You can ask your Puerto Rico travel guide about them, or you can check the local media.

Bring Your Hiking Boots

The author in front of a sign

For some of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico, you should bring more than your swimwear. In top destinations like El Yunque National Forest, you’ll need boots, long sleeves t-shirts, and even a light rain jacket. 

Puerto Rico’s Travel Tips Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need to know before traveling to Puerto Rico?

Before traveling to Puerto Rico, tourists should know the island has a hurricane season from June to November, locals speak mostly Spanish, and there aren’t any public transportation routes outside the metro area. These are some of my top travel tips for Puerto Rico.

Can you drink the water in Puerto Rico in 2021?

Drinking water in Puerto Rico in 2021 is completely safe. Puerto Rico follows the same standards as the USA to sanitize water by following the EPA Safe Water Act. Visitors can also opt for buying bottled water.

Is Puerto Rico safe for tourists?

Overall Puerto Rico is safe for tourists. While the vaccination rate continues rising, the government still takes measures against the pandemic. The use of masks is mandatory and people keep social distance in interiors and exteriors. Otherwise, tourists should take general precautions when visiting Puerto Rico.

Can I travel to Puerto Rico without a passport?

US citizens can travel to Puerto Rico without a passport and without any additional entry requirements since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. Visitors from any other country will need the same requirements they need to enter the USA.

Will my cell phone work in Puerto Rico?

Visitors from the United States will have a phone signal in Puerto Rico without any additional cost, but they might experience some signal issues while exploring the center of the island. 

Can I use my driver’s license to fly to Puerto Rico?

Travelers from the United States can use their driver’s license to visit Puerto Rico as long as that license is a REAL ID. There aren’t any additional requirements to visit Puerto Rico.

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That was the complete list of great tips for traveling to Puerto Rico. I hope they can help you enjoy your vacation.

👉 If you’re still figuring out what to do, then check out my complete guide to the 49 Best Things to do in Puerto Rico.

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