Puerto Rico Travel Guide

When heading to Puerto Rico for your vacation there are many things you need to know. To make your preparations easy we have put together a detailed overview, which includes; entry & exit requirements, cultural information, getting around the island, etiquette advice, and much more.

About Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico is an archipelago of islands in the Caribbean. There is the main island of Puerto Rico and then the smaller islands of Vieques, Culebra, Mona as well as many others.

Vacation Information for Puerto Rico

Entry/Exit & Customs
Taxes & Fees
Medical
Crime
Getting Around
Culture
Landmarks
Safety

Puerto Rico enjoys a summer climate year-round with an average of 80F (26C). The hurricane season is from June to November. Puerto Rico is a mountainous island; the main mountain range is called La Cordillera Central.

As an independent commonwealth of the United-States, Puerto Rico enjoys a favorable economy with tourism being the major industry.

Anthem: La Borinquena
Capital: San Juan
Time Zone: AST (UTC-4)
Languages: Spanish, English
Power Outlets: 120 V, 60 Hz
Currency: United States Dollar (USD)
Credit Cards: All major credit cards are accepted
Traveler Checks: Traveler checks accepted
Side of road to drive on: Right
Legal drinking Age: 18

: : ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS

Puerto Rico as one of the United-States unincorporated territories follows the same entry requirements:
-A passport (valid for 6 months after your entry)
-Appropriate unexpired visa if applicable (travel for temporary business or pleasure under 90 days to the United States does not require a visa).
-If travelling with a pet; bring a health certificate and proof of rabies vaccination.
-If travelling with children make sure to have notarized travel permission letters if not travelling with your spouse. (For example: I acknowledge that my wife/husband is travelling out of the country with my son/daughter).

: : CUSTOMS INFORMATION

-You are required to declare to customs when entering and departing the United-States, please review below the list of restricted/prohibited materials.

Restricted/Prohibited Materials:

Absinthe (Alcohol)
Alcoholic Beverages
Automobile (for import)
Biological Material
Ceramic Tableware
Cultural Artifacts and Cultural Property
Defense Articles or Items with Military or Proliferation Applications
Fish and Wildlife
Animal Hide Drums
Dog and Cat Fur
Plants and Seeds
Meats, Livestock and Poultry
SoilDrug Paraphernalia

IMPORTANT: It is illegal to bring drug paraphernalia into the United States unless prescribed for authentic medical conditions such as diabetes. CBP will seize any illegal drug paraphernalia. Law prohibits the importation, exportation, manufacture, sale or transportation of drug paraphernalia. If you are convicted of any of these offenses, you will be subject to fines and imprisonment.

Firearms:

IMPORTANT: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) regulates and restricts firearms and ammunition and approves all import transactions involving weapons and ammunition. If you want to import or export weapons or ammunition, you must do so through a licensed importer, dealer or manufacturer. Also, if the National Firearms Act prohibits certain weapons, ammunition or similar devices from coming into the country, you will not be able to import them unless the ATF provides you with written authorization to do so. If the firearm is controlled as a U.S. Munitions List article and it is temporarily imported to the United States, or it is temporarily exported, it may also require a Department of State license.

Food Products (Prepared)

IMPORTANT: Prior notice for food importation :The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (Bioterrorism Act or BTA), Public Law 107-188, established the requirement that food items, imported (or offered for import) for commercial use, including hand-carried quantities, be properly reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prior to arrival of those items in the United States. The FDA prior notification timeframes (by transport mode) are two hours by land, four hours by rail or air, eight hours by vessel and prior to the "time of mailing" for international mail.

Fruits and Vegetables

IMPORTANT: Game and Hunting Trophies: Information on bringing back your game or hunting trophy can be found at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's website at: http://www.fws.gov/

Gold

IMPORTANT: Gold coins, medals and bullion, formerly prohibited, may be brought into the United States. However, under regulations administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, such items originating in or brought from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar) and most of Sudan are prohibited entry. Copies of gold coins are prohibited if not properly marked by country of issuance.

Medication:

IMPORTANT: Narcotics and certain other drugs with a high potential for abuse - Rohypnol, GHB and Fen-Phen, to name a few - may not be brought into the United States, and there are severe penalties for trying to do so. If you need medicines that contain potentially addictive drugs or narcotics (e.g., some cough medicines, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants or stimulants), do the following:

-Declare all drugs, medicinal, and similar products to the appropriate CBP official;
-Carry such substances in their original containers;
-Carry only the quantity of such substances that a person with that condition (e.g., chronic pain) would normally carry for his/her personal use; and
-Carry a prescription or written statement from your physician that the substances are being used under a doctor's supervision and that they are necessary for your physical well being while traveling.

Merchandise from Embargoed Countries: Generally, you may not bring in any merchandise from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar) or most of Sudan. The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of Treasury enforces economic sanctions against these countries. To bring in merchandise from these countries, you will first need a specific license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Such licenses are rarely granted. You can write to the:

Office of Foreign Assets Control Department of the Treasury Washington, DC 20220

Exceptions on Prohibited Items:

-You may, however, bring from any of these countries information and informational materials - books, magazines, films, posters, photographs, microfilms, tapes, CDs, records, works of art, etc. Blank tapes and blank CDs are not informational materials.
-Allowed importations of merchandise from Iran include foodstuffs intended for human consumption, carpets and other textile floor coverings, and gifts of up to $100 (U.S.) in value.
-Allowed importations of merchandise from Sudan include gifts of up to $100 (U.S.) in value.
-Importations of merchandise from Sudan are generally allowed if acquired directly from these parts of Sudan: Southern Sudan, Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains State, Blue Nile State, Abyei, Darfur, and certain marginalized areas in and around Khartoum. (Note that such merchandise may not be commercially shipped through Khartoum, Port Sudan or other areas of Sudan that remain subject to sanctions.)

Pets:

If you plan to take your pet abroad or import one on your return, please review a copy of the CBP brochure Pets and Wildlife. You should also check with state, county and local authorities to learn if their restrictions and prohibitions on pets are stricter than federal requirements.

Textiles and Clothing:

In general, there is no limit to how much fabric and clothing you can bring back as long as it is for your personal use or as gifts. If you have exceeded your personal exemption, you may have to pay duty on the items. Unaccompanied personal shipments (packages that are mailed or shipped), however, may be subject to limitations on amount.

Trademarked and Copyrighted Articles:

CBP enforces laws relating to the protection of trademarks and copyrights. Articles that infringe a federally registered trademark or copyright or copyright protected by the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works are subject to detention and/ or seizure. Infringing articles may consist of articles that use a protected right without the authorization of the trademark or copyright owner or articles that copy or simulate a protected right.

: : SALES TAX AND FEES

Sales Tax:

5.5% Sales Tax

Airport Taxes:

U.S Domestic Transportation Tax 7.5%
Federal Flight Segment Tax $3.00
U.S International Departure Tax $13.40
U.S International Arrival Tax $13.40
Passenger Facilities Charge up to $4.50
Federal Security Segment Tax up to $5.00
U.S Customs Fee $5.00
Immigration Fee $7.00
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Fee $3.10

: : MEDICAL INFORMATION

Emergencies:

The emergency number in Puerto Rico is 911

Hospitals:

Health standards in Puerto Rico are generally comparable with those of the United-States; its medical facilities are among the finest in the Caribbean. There are physicians and hospitals in all cities.

Bringing in Prescriptions:

Rule of thumb: When you go abroad, take the medicines you will need, no more, no less.
-Declare all drugs, medicinal products, and similar products to the appropriate CBP official;
-Carry such substances in their original containers;
-Carry only the quantity of such substances that a person with that condition (e.g., chronic pain) would normally carry for his/her personal use; and
-Carry a prescription or written statement from your physician that the substances are being used under a doctor's supervision and that they are necessary for your physical well being while traveling.

Vaccinations:

All travelers are reminded to keep all routine vaccinations up to date. Travelers should also be up to date with Hepatitis A & B vaccines.

: : CRIME

Travelers should be aware that San Juan has the busiest port in the Caribbean, and of the busiest in Latin America due to this fact it has become a favorable point of transshipment for smuggling illegal drugs.Visitors who keep themselves within the main tourist areas enjoy the benefits of additional police protection, generally by English-speaking policemen specially trained to deal with tourists and their needs.Although the drug related crime rate is high, crime in tourist areas especially is almost non existent. The gross majority of travelers going to Puerto Rico experience no crime.

Accused of a Crime in Puerto Rico:

Drug offenses are penalized heavily. Any substance which is illegal under United States laws will generally be illegal in Puerto Rico also.

Victims of Crime:

If you have become a victim of crime in Puerto Rico first contact local authorities and then your embassy/consulate for further help.

Puerto Rico also has victim assistance which can be reached at the following:
Victim Assistance
787-729-2516
Web site: www.justicia.gobierno.pr/rs_template/v2/ManTel/

Travelling to Puerto Rico with a Criminal Record:

If you have a criminal record, no matter the severity or the date of the offence, you may be refused entry to Puerto Rico. You may also experience problems when travelling through Puerto Rican airport facilities. A pardon for an offence issued by your country’s authorities is not recognized under Puerto Rican law for the purpose of entry into Puerto Rico.

: : TRANSPORTATION

Car Rental:

Renting a car in Puerto Rico is very simple and there are many rental agencies. Rental fares start as low as approximately $28 USD a day.

Taxi:

Official Tourism Company-sponsored taxis on the Island are clean, clearly identifiable and reliable. Look for the white taxis with the official logo and the "Taxi Turístico" on the front doors. Under a recently instituted Tourism Taxi Program, set rates have been established for travel between San Juan's major tourist zones.

Public Transportation:

The metropolitan area is served by a public bus network and a metro system known in Spanish as Tren Urbano (Urban Train)

Drivers License Info:

Your foreign license is usually valid in Puerto Rico. It is always best to have an international driving permit prior to traveling as this document is almost universally accepted.

: : CULTURAL INFORMATION

Motto:

Joannes Est Nomen Eius (John is his name)

Wardrobe:

Puerto Ricans are very stylish and this is exemplified in their day to day wardrobe. It is not considered acceptable for a woman to walk around town in her bikini as it is not acceptable for a man to walk around in swim shorts with no shirt. Travelers are also warned to verify with a restaurant prior to arrival regarding the dress code as many restaurants do not accept shorts, jeans, sleeveless shirts, and t-shirts. Puerto Ricans are more modest with their fashion as they are very religious and travelers should keep this in mind when going there.Appearing at your best is important, women take pride in femininity and flaunt their womanhood, while young men will dress in flashy styles and older men will dress as mature gentlemen. Going out at night is an especially important time to dress your best and trendy. Simple jeans and tshirt, khaki shorts, etc are considered tacky.

Etiquette:

People's hygiene habits are scrutinized. People are expected to take one or more baths or showers daily. Body odor, unshaven legs and underarms in women, non-pedicure bare feet, or wrinkled clothing are considered disgusting. Designer perfumes and colognes are used by both sexes. When others are about to eat, it is very considerate to say "buen provecho" (enjoy your meal). It is very common for members of the opposite sex or women to women to greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. This is never done between men however.

Tipping:

Tipping in Puerto Rico is usually 15% for all services, do verify especially on resorts if a service charge was added to your bill. Of course if you feel you received exceptional +20% is greatly appreciated.

: : POPULAR LANDMARKS

El Morro

Located on the San Juan Bay, the fort was originally constructed in 1540, although its exterior walls were not erected for another 200 years. Inside the walls is a veritable labyrinth of chambers, barracks, hallways and prison cells.

Castillo de San Cristobal

The Castillo de San Cristobal is the grandest fort in Puerto Rico and the largest one built by the Spanish in the New World. Visit San Cristobal, and visit over 200 years of military history.

Porta Coeli

This church and convent is one of the oldest church structures in the western hemisphere. It is located in San German. It was first constructed in 1609.

Ponce Cathedral (Nuestra Senora de la Guadalupe Cathedral)

The cathedral is in the middle of Ponce town square known as Plaza Las Delicias. It was first built in 1670 as a small chapel and then in 1692 turned into a parish.

: : TRAVEL AND SAFETY TIPS

-Always walk like you know where you are going, even if you don't. This means keep your back upright and eyes straight ahead. When asking for directions keep your voice low so others don't know you are lost.

-Take precautions. Do not wear a lot of jewelry or conspicuous clothing while travelling to avoid being a target of crime.

-Be cautious when taking a taxi and always look for the appropriate documentation which should be posted in eyes view. Never take a cab from the airport that is off by itself.

-If your hotel or resort recommends staying on their property you should follow these precautions.

-Never leave valuables in a soft material. The seam can easily be cut. Often the crime takes place long before it is noticed. This applies to purses, bags and luggage.

-Do not invite strangers to your hotel room.

-Do not agree to meet strangers by yourself. Even those you consider new friends and fellow tourist's.

-Plan for the unexpected, this includes extra money and medication that is required should your stay be extended.

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