13 issues each Puerto Rico native is aware of (and you need to too)

With breathtaking oceanfront vistas, lush, breezy mountains, tropical rainforests and one of many coolest culinary scenes within the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is the sort of vacation spot to simply benefit from the trip.

Puerto Rico has a status for being an costly spot to go to, however studying just a few of the island’s unstated social guidelines and etiquette will go a protracted strategy to serving to you benefit from the island vibes and understanding what makes Puerto Rico such a memorable spot. 

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Planning your journey to Puerto Rico

Test the visa guidelines (US residents don’t want a passport)

Whereas Puerto Rico is its personal nation, and native legal guidelines and customs differ from these of the US, the island continues to be a Commonwealth of the USA.

This implies US residents don’t require a passport or a visa for entry. Flights from the US are thought of home, so that you gained’t undergo customs once you arrive on the island and also you gained’t have to current a visa or pay a departure tax once you depart.

Nonetheless, guests should nonetheless pay the native tax of 11.5% on items and providers and also you’ll be required to cross via the US Department of Agriculture channel on the airport earlier than you permit, simply to ensure you don’t deliver fruits or greens or open meals packets again into the US.

Non-US residents might have to use for a 90-day visa previous to arrival in Puerto Rico, however international locations which can be a part of the US Visa Waiver Program gained’t want a visa due to worldwide agreements. Try this list to see what international locations are a part of this system.

Puerto Rico’s 5 greatest street journeys serve up tasty snacks, lovely seashores and beautiful views

Hire a automotive for long-distance street journeys

Public transportation in Puerto Rico typically falls quick. The majority of the San Juan metropolitan space – comprising the municipalities of San Juan, Bayamón and a few elements of Carolina – is served by buses run by Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses (AMA), however the routes and decide up instances are unreliable.

Getting out of San Juan to go to the attractive central mountain vary, the seashores of the northwest or the southwestern desert requires a rental automotive.

Automobiles can go up or down in value relying on the season, however you’ll get extra out of your journey for those who’re in a position to discover by yourself and make all of the stops you must take pictures on the superb miradores (lookout factors) sprinkled alongside Expressway 22 within the north or Route 66 within the northwest.

Hire a automotive to achieve the fascinating, forested inside of the island © Boogich / Getty Photos

Don’t count on to see the entire island in a single journey

Puerto Rico is 100 miles lengthy and 35 miles extensive, however do not let that idiot you – the geography is something however small in scale. The island has a floor space of three,515 sq miles, and white, sandy seashores are solely one of many pure wonders you’ll get to expertise in Puerto Rico.

Guests can marvel at bioluminescent bays, caves which can be hundreds of years previous and adorned with Taino hieroglyphics, and a wealth of rivers, canyons, excessive mountain peaks and salt flats.

Whereas a variety of vacationer sights and fashionable bars are in San Juan, actual Puerto Rican tradition is commonly greatest encountered in locations outdoors of the metropolitan space. It may well take as much as three hours to get from one facet of the island to the opposite, and there are certain to be some roads which can be both closed or quickly closed for repairs.

Touring from one finish of the island to the opposite could be a breeze for those who use the expressways, or it may be a protracted rollercoaster trip through the island’s lovely backroads. Count on delays on account of building and enchancment work alongside main highways, and be ready for epic site visitors jams from 6am to 9am and 4pm to 7pm, when most individuals are both heading to or dwelling from work.

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Pack bathing fits and your Sunday greatest

As a former Spanish colony, Puerto Rico was left with a legacy of Spanish colonialist practices, together with widespread Catholicism, as is frequent in different close by Latin American international locations reminiscent of Cuba and the Dominican Republic. 

Maybe unsurprisingly, Puerto Ricans are usually fairly conservative with regards to costume codes and the locations the place these apply. In Previous San Juan – the place the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza is situated – it’s frequent to see staff in full fits or lengthy shirts whatever the tropical warmth.

Flip flops are normally reserved for the seaside or tremendous informal conditions, reminiscent of journeys to kiosks and beachside eating places, or riverside walks. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb for those who present up on the primary mall, Plaza las Americas, in solely a showering swimsuit.

Some golf equipment have costume codes too, requiring males to put on good footwear or ladies to not put on sneakers. Pack your bathing swimsuit and flip flops, but additionally deliver some dressy outfits for going out at night time or for those who plan to go to any non secular websites.  

Purchase tickets forward for excursions and sights

For those who’re planning to affix a snorkeling journey, go on a catamaran tour or eat on the 1919 Restaurant within the Vanderbilt Lodge, e book your spot forward of time. Belief us, planning forward will probably be a game-changer.

Man playing an accordion in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Talk about native politics with care in Puerto Rico  © Colvin / Getty Photos

Etiquette in Puerto Rico

Don’t count on everybody to talk English

No matter Puerto Rico’s trendy political standing, Spanish stays the language most generally spoken on the island. Whilst you’ll discover loads of Puerto Ricans who communicate near-perfect English, you are most certainly to satisfy these folks within the metropolitan space and peripheral cities reminiscent of Caguas, Bayamón, Guaynabo, Carolina and Trujillo Alto.

Even in Previous San Juan, the place restaurant and tourism business staff will communicate to you in English with no downside, it’s price asking somebody in the event that they communicate English earlier than asking for instructions. Code-switching is difficult and it’d take a second or two to understand what language individuals are talking. 

For those who’re venturing outdoors of the principle vacationer zones, brush up in your Spanish, be affected person and courteous and also you’ll make quick mates with island residents.

Talk about politics with care   

When asking Puerto Ricans about their experiences of main nationwide occasions reminiscent of Hurricane Maria, it’s tempting to return to the conclusion that Puerto Rico turning into a US state would clear up these points. Even for those who imply effectively, saying this to Puerto Ricans comes off as paternalistic and colonialist, implying that Puerto Ricans lack the company to find out their very own political standing.

As dramatic as this sounds, conversations in regards to the island’s political scenario can get heated, and convey a variety of emotional baggage as Puerto Ricans have by no means been in a position to totally agree on the very best standing for the islands amongst themselves. A greater method is to return to those conversations with an open thoughts.

Do not forget that Puerto Rican politics and US politics are extremely completely different. The most effective factor you are able to do is hearken to Puerto Ricans and allow them to let you know their tales, their hopes and what they wish to see the island develop into sooner or later. 

Fried fish with plantains and salad, a Puerto Rican staple
Throw your self into the wealthy number of Puerto Rican delicacies © Ayotography / Shutterstock

Be able to pattern the total vary of Puerto Rican delicacies

Don’t let the tasty avenue snacks – pernil (roast pork), alcapurrias (stuffed, fried fritters) and bacalaitos (codfish fritters) – steal all of your consideration. Whereas these conventional and scrumptious meals are prevalent, Puerto Rican delicacies is huge and complex, with influences that vary from West Africa to Spain and Asia.

You’ll discover vegetarian-friendly eating places reminiscent of vegan cafe El Grifo in Caguas and 100% HP in San Juan. Then there’s the superb eating expertise at internationally famend 1919 Restaurant contained in the Vanderbilt Lodge in Condado, or French restaurant Trois Cent Onze.

Puerto Rico has a number of terribly proficient home-grown cooks and fantastic influences from different international locations, such because the island’s ubiquitous Puerto Rican-Chinese language eating places, that are sometimes family-run and comfy. Come for the mofongo (mashed fried plantains) and pernil, however keep for the shocking breadth of culinary experiences that await in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico on a price range: get pleasure from reggaeton and seashores for much less

Be prepared for the actual “island time”

It’s tempting to consider Puerto Rico as a laid-back escape the place nearly all of the time is spent going to the seaside or hanging round within the solar.

The fact is that the island is centered on a busy, metropolitan metropolis, with folks speeding to work early within the morning, and site visitors jams on the finish of lengthy workdays.

If you must do any errands, plan forward, as a result of authorities places of work, quick meals eating places, bakeries and supermarkets will nearly at all times have lengthy traces. Making a scene or wanting exasperated as a result of the cashier took a bit of bit extra time than typical will most certainly earn you some soiled appears.

You’re on trip; benefit from the slower tempo and drift. You’ll quickly study the artwork of Puerto Rican small discuss and taking a breather when you wait. 

Colourful buildings by the sea in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Petty crime could be a threat on some city seashores at night time © Martin Wheeler / EyeEm / Getty Photos

Well being and Security in Puerto Rico

Pay attention to the hurricane season

Hurricane season within the Caribbean runs from June 1 to November 30, and whereas Puerto Rico isn’t sometimes hit by hurricanes, once they do hit, they are often devastating. When reserving motels and airplane tickets throughout hurricane season, at all times verify along with your airline about their pure catastrophe insurance policies.

For those who do occur to get caught in Puerto Rico throughout a hurricane, your lodge will doubtless have an emergency plan. Vacationers are effectively taken care of on the island, so ask your lodging about contingency measures earlier than you go.

This isn’t to say you’ll be able to’t journey throughout the hurricane season – certainly, June to November is among the most breathtaking seasons on the island. Simply control the information and monitor your favourite climate app for warnings of approaching storms.

Train warning on Puerto Rico’s seashores 

Seashores in Puerto Rico are lovely, with crisp white sand and crystal clear waters for all to get pleasure from. Nonetheless, there are normally no lifeguards on obligation, and for those who’re staying on the Atlantic coast within the north, the ocean tends to be choppier in comparison with the delicate waves of the Caribbean within the south.

You possibly can normally spot rip currents and whirlpools by the looks of the floor of the water, which is able to look completely different to the water the place waves are shifting in the direction of the seaside.

Don’t panic for those who do get caught in a single – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends conserving your vitality and swimming parallel to the shore till you get out of the present. Whereas rip currents might be lethal, they hardly ever pull folks beneath the water, simply away from the shore.

Train warning when swimming with kids and for those who see a patch of water or a seaside that’s fully empty, that’s normally for a cause. This may very well be jellyfish, spiky sea urchins or robust undercurrents.  

When visiting the seaside, don’t deliver flashy jewellery, costly cameras, or depart purses out within the open, as pickpockets might be a difficulty on high-traffic vacationer seashores reminiscent of Ocean Park and Isla Verde.

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Train the identical warning you’d use in an enormous metropolis again dwelling

Puerto Rico is mostly protected for vacationers however maintain an eye fixed out for dangers reminiscent of darkish, empty streets in Previous San Juan and different San Juan neighborhoods. Particularly, train warning when venturing out to golf equipment in Santurce – this can be a high-crime space at night time.

Some seashores in city areas aren’t actually protected to hang around at night time both. There’s no police presence and these seashores are usually hidden behind motels and residences with little to no lighting, offering a wonderful alternative for petty crime. Analysis the world the place you’re staying and attempt to communicate to somebody who already lives there or has visited to gauge security ranges. 

Don’t skimp on sunblock and bug spray

Caribbean daylight can hit exhausting for those who’re not used to it. The islands are near the equator and get hit straight by the solar throughout most daylight, with midday to 4pm being essentially the most punishing hours of the day. Don’t skimp on sunblock – purpose for SPF50 or greater. You’ll nonetheless get a pleasant suntan with out the nasty burn.

Any native will let you know that bugs – particularly mosquitoes – are a nuisance on summer season nights. Within the worst circumstances, they will additionally carry tropical illnesses reminiscent of dengue fever, zika and chikungunya. Your greatest safety towards bugs is to put on a variety of DEET-based bug spray, particularly in areas near our bodies of sitting water, reminiscent of mangroves, lagoons and lakes.