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If you are planning to visit Puerto Rico, here are 10 travel tips to keep in mind that will make for a smooth vacation:
- You don’t need a passport from the US
Puerto Rico is a terrirory of the US, so you don’t need a passport. A driver’s license will do to get you here.
- We don’t observe daylight savings.
For 6 months of the year we are on Eastern Standard Time and the other half of the year we are one hour ahead of it. Officially we are on Atlantic Standard time.
- Currency is the US dollar.
Being part of the US, we operate with the US dollar and all major credit and debit cards are widely used and accepted. There are plenty of ATM’s (known here as ATH).
- Speak Spanish if you like; but not necessary.
Both English and Spanish are considered national languages and English is quite common on the island. You will find that most people understand, if not speak, English.
Puerto Rican Spanish is unique with many words pulled from a mix of languages, so don’t be surprised if your use of Castillian Spanish is met with confusion at times. Example: a truck is known here as a guagua, not a camion.
- Public Transportation is not the way to go – rent a car.
If you are staying in the metro area, you can certainly get by via taxi, foot, bus or publicos (vans). However, if you are staying outside of the metro area or have any plans to explore the island, then rent a car. Puerto Rico is beautiful and worth seeing more of it. if you only stay in the metro area or in a resort, you are missing the depth and richness that Puerto Rico has to offer.
Also note that all of Puerto Rico’s major highways are toll roads. The rental car companies charge $5.00/day plus tolls. It does not matter whether you are driving your rental car or not, this is a daily charge once activated. Also note that distances are posted in kilometers, but the speed limits are in miles (interesting!). Gas is sold on a per liter basis (vs. in gallons on the mainland). And lastly, usage of blinkers is not widespread so be aware.
- Don’t underestimate the sun
Whatever time of the year you are visiting Puerto Rico, don’t underestimate hos strong the sun is. Don’t think that if you are on the beach at 3pm, that you won’t get a sunburn you will. The combination of the water and the light color beach sands intensify the sun’s power.
- What to Wear
Besides the mandated flip flops, make sure you bring shoes with good traction , preferably sneakers. You will need these for a visit to the rainforest, but also for walking around San Juan. A lot of the roads and sidewalks are uneven, so sturdy shoes are important. Bring a pair of long pants and a light sweater. Between the contrast of going from air conditioning to outside air, and the potential for sunburn, it is important to have something that covers you up.
8. Interpersonal Stuff
Be conscious of cultural norms. It is not okay to walk around in a bathing suit – when leaving a beach put on a coverup. The “personal space” rule favored by many North Americans and Europeans may also not apply on the island. People commonly stand within arm’s length of one another in social settings.
- When to Go
Anytime is a good time to visit Puerto Rico. You can save money by booking between mid-April and mid-December, when temperatures are high, but the prices of resorts drop by as much as half. May to August is high season for local tourism. September- November is the lowest part of the season, so you will have the beach all to yourself. Booking from late December to April puts you in the thick of throngs of North American tourists looking to flee the cold winter climates of the mainland
- Flying Out
When leaving Puerto Rico, you must go through a screening by the US Agricultural Department. They are located upon entry to the airport. Make sure you do this and get stickers on your bag, as you won’t be able to check in without them