What do you need to travel to Puerto Rico?
Nestled between the Caribbean sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Puerto Rico is blessed with sunny weather and dreamy landscapes. A rich culture influenced by the island’s indigenous Taino population and strong Spanish and African heritage combined with pristine beaches, a spectacular rainforest, and countless historical sites have turned this Caribbean archipelago into a popular tourist destination over the last few years.
But that’s not all. The numerous festivals and events organized all year long to celebrate the island’s heritage and its unique cuisine infused with Spanish, Taino, and African notes are also drawing countless visitors every year.
If you’re dreaming of jetting off to Puerto Rico, here’s everything you need to know before traveling to this tropical paradise.
Requirements to visit Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated U.S. territory, and therefore, just like you would if you were entering the United States, you need to have a valid passport to enter Puerto Rico. Note that even if your country is on the list of the 40 countries enjoying visa-free travel to the U.S. (where Puerto Rico is included), you’ll need to hold a valid passport. Your passport will also need to meet specific criteria, including the following:
- A machine-readable zone on the biographic page
- Contain a digital chip with your biometric information
As mentioned before, some countries enjoy visa-free travel to the U.S. based on bilateral agreements. If that’s your case, you’ll need to apply for an ESTA visa and obtain authorization to stay on the island for up to 90 days without a visa.
For the rest of the countries, a visitor visa is required to visit Puerto Rico. Generally, as a visitor exploring the country for tourism purposes, you’ll need to apply for a visitor visa B-2.
Even though purchasing a travel insurance isn’t mandatory to visit Puerto Rico, we recommend purchasing travel coverage. A great travel insurance cover will protect you if you lose your luggage, experience significant travel delays, suffer an unexpected injury, require medical attention or need repatriation.
Because Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, the archipelago uses the U.S. dollar as currency.
Things you need to know when travelling to Puerto Rico
Is Puerto Rico open to tourists?
Yes, Puerto Rico is open to travelers.
Do I need a transit visa to travel to Puerto Rico?
If you’re not eligible for ESTA, you’ll need to apply for a transit visa -C.
Vaccines, health, and Covid-19 restrictions
Puerto Rico is a safe destination to visit, but here are some vaccines you should be up to date with for a smooth travel experience:
- Chickenpox (Varicella)
- Flu (influenza)
- Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)
- Hepatitis A and B
Because the island is a jurisdiction of the United States, it must comply with the U.S. policy requiring travelers to either show proof of a fully completed vaccination cycle or a negative antigen test carried out within two days after arriving on the island.
How to travel around Puerto Rico?
There are a few options to get around the island.
- The most popular transport are the Públicos or Guaguas. These are ten or fifteen-seater mini buses connecting the majority of towns on the island. They typically stop on demand along the way. They may even make a detour to drop you off or pick you up, but you will have to pay an extra fee.
- Renting a car is another option for travelers. While Públicos are great, they don’t typically serve beaches which isn’t ideal for travelers. So, if you want more flexibility to discover the beauty of the island, renting a car could be a great solution. The roads are generally well-maintained and Puerto Rico even features a highway connecting San Juan to Ponce.
- You’ll also find metered taxis in most tourist areas. Note that additional luggage or tolls will have to be added to the final amount displayed on the meter.
- If you want to explore different islands of the archipelago, you’ll be able to do so by either jumping on a ferry, often departing from Fajardo or hopping on a seaplane with a private company.
Safety in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is safe for travellers to explore, but here are a few general safety tips to keep in mind when exploring the island:
- Always keep your valuables in sight to avoid theft.
- Avoid walking alone in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas at night, especially in San Juan.
- Be cautious in the ocean. Puerto Rico is known for its powerful currents and rip tides in some areas.
- Be mindful of local laws and traditions to avoid any misunderstandings or legal issues.
- Keep your passport and other important documents in a secure place.
- Be aware of potential natural hazards such as hurricanes and earthquakes, and stay informed about any potential weather or safety alerts.
- In case of an emergency, dial 911.
- If you can, register your travel with the nearest consulate or embassy of your home country. This could prove handy in case of an emergency.
When is the best time to visit Puerto Rico?
Winter and spring are pretty popular seasons to visit Puerto Rico when the weather is dry, and the temperatures are mild. This allows intrepid travellers to trek the island interior while still being able to relax on the beaches and even surf. However, for these very reasons, sun-seekers flock to the island from mid-December to the end of April and accommodation and flights are more expensive.
If you’re after a more affordable and quiet holiday, fall, between September and November is best. You might see a few rainy days but it is also a season packed full of events and celebrations. These include the Día del Descubrimiento de América and the Festival de Cine Internacional de San Juan. What’s more, the lack of crowds makes it the perfect time to visit for travelers looking for peace and quiet.
Lastly, the summer months see the beginning of harvest season lead to assortments of delicious fruits and seafood products on market stalls. It’s also a fantastic time to swim, snorkel, dive and dance the night away in one of the local beach clubs.
Travel tips for Puerto Rico
- Bugs such as mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas can spread many diseases in Puerto Rico, including dengue and Zika. To prevent bug bites wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, use insect repellents and sleep in an airconditioned room if possible.
- Bring sunscreen with you, as the sun can be quite harsh on this tropical island.
- Brush up on your Spanish, as many locals speak primarily Spanish, and over 76% don’t speak English fluently.
- While on the island, try traditional Puerto Rican food, such as mofongo, arroz con gandules, and lechon asado.
- Bring comfortable walking shoes, as many of the island’s attractions are best explored on foot.
- Be prepared for rain. After all, Puerto Rico is a tropical island and rain showers can pop up at any time.
- Be respectful of the island’s culture and history, especially when visiting historical sites.
- Be aware of local laws and avoid any activities that could be considered illegal or offensive.
- Be prepared for heavy and chaotic traffic, especially in the capital city of San Juan.
- Enjoy the island’s natural beauty by visiting the El Yunque National Forest and the bioluminescent bay.
- Be prepared for power outages and other infrastructure issues, as the island is still recovering from the devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
And because we know how overwhelming preparing for a trip abroad can be, we have put together a few other articles about Puerto Rico to help you design the perfect trip! At Visagov, we are dedicated to assist travellers and make it easier to obtain their visas. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need any assistance!