What You Need to Know Before Flying to Puerto Rico

As a beautiful tropical island in the Caribbean, it's no wonder why Puerto Rico would be on your travel bucket list. With beaches stretching for miles, the only rainforest in the US, and centuries worth of history within the Castillo walls, this island makes a perfect spot for a relaxing or adventurous vacation.

With that said...

Here's what you need to know before flying to Puerto Rico

Visa & Passport Requirements for Entering and Staying in Puerto Rico

If you're a US citizen, I have some good news. You don't need a passport or to apply for a visa to travel to Puerto Rico. All you have to do is buy your plane ticket and head to the airport using the same measures as you would for traveling domestically around the US.

If you're not a US citizen, the same visa and passport requirements will apply as if you were traveling to the US. Make sure you check to see what the requirements are.

Getting Around Puerto Rico

Walking

First and foremost, if you're heading to Puerto Rico, you can expect to do plenty of walking. Whether you're checking out the historic city of Old San Juan or strolling the lively Calle Loiza or you're headed to the beautiful sandy beaches, walking will likely be one of your most used forms of transportation.

Scooters

All along Calle Loiza and to the outskirts of Old San Juan, you will see lots and lots of scooters available for use. If you do choose to use scooters, please make sure you understand how to operate them and where you're allowed to use them.

Public Transportation

The use of public transportation, like buses, is an option in Puerto Rico, however, I've heard that it's a very unreliable option. I didn't use it myself, so I can't really attest to how it works or if what I've heard is true, but it is an option.

Rideshare Services

Some rideshare services are available, like Uber, and are safe to use in Puerto Rico. As of now, Lyft is not available.

Rental Cars

Whether you want to pick one up from the airport or get one directly in town, there are many rental car options like Enterprise in the area. As I was searching for rental car companies to use for my own travels, I found one in particular which only rents out Jeeps, which I thought was really neat.

Puerto Rico has two official languages, Spanish and English

While Puerto Rico is a US territory and has two official languages, Spanish is still the primary language used by Puerto Ricans. From an early age, they are taught English, and many companies require their employees to be bilingual, but that is most prevalent in the highly-trafficked tourist areas. Once you branch out further away, even just as far as across Expreso 26 to the south side of San Juan, you will likely run into people who only speak Spanish.

While not required, it is a good idea to learn some Spanish to be able to communicate with the locals. You don't have to learn so much as to consider yourself fluent, but it would be helpful to know some key phrases you may need to use or hear.

Puerto Rico has many stray cats and dogs

In the San Juan area, you will likely find a lot of stray cats. In the Airbnb I stayed in, I saw about 5 different cats routinely hanging out around my patio, none of which had a collar on but I was told by another tenant that two were owned by my Airbnb host.

As you branch out father from San Juan, you will likely see more stray dogs. I believe there were also stray cats out there too, but I paid more attention to the fact that I saw a big increase in the amount of stray dogs. Maybe it's because I'm a dog-person.

Either way, it broke my heart to see so many stray animals during my time in Puerto Rico. It made me want to adopt every single one and take them home with me.

There is more to Puerto Rico than San Juan

Don't get me wrong, there is so much to do and see in San Juan. You can spend your entire time in Puerto Rico in San Juan and not get bored. But this a large island in the Caribbean, and there is plenty to see outside the immediate San Juan area. About an hour east is El Yunque National Forest, which is the only rainforest in the US. About an hour and a half southwest is Ponce, the second largest city in Puerto Rico. Along the west coast is another larger city called Rincon, which is where I hear the sunsets are the best in Puerto Rico. And that's just naming a few places.

I drove to several beaches from San Juan to Arecibo, and along the way I found beaches with massive cliffs and equally as massive waves as well as much clearer, more beautiful water than in the tourist areas of San Juan.

Winter is Puerto Rico's rainy season

During my time in Puerto Rico, which spanned November and December, it rained pretty frequently. I checked weather patterns for this time of year before traveling here and found it was deemed as Puerto Rico's rainy season.

Because of this, I packed both my rain coat and a compact umbrella, and they both came in handy. I left my umbrella packed in my purse at all times, because rain showers popped up frequently and out of nowhere. I looked at the Weather Channel app frequently and was shocked how quickly the weather changed.

There's one time in particular where I was hanging out with a friend, and we looked up the weather before we parted ways for a few hours to see if it would be rainy at dinnertime when we were planning to meet back up again. At that time, there was no rain in sight. Maybe 20 minutes before we were planning to head out to grab food, it started raining. We still met for dinner, but after dinner, the rain picked up and was downpouring very intensely. We had to wait the storm out to head home after.

 

Your trip to Puerto Rico can be as adventure-packed or relaxed as you want it to be. There's no shortage of beautiful beaches, rainforest hikes, and delicious empanadas. Now that you're equipped with these helpful tips, your trip to Puerto Rico is sure to be one you'll never forget.

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