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How Safe is it to Vacation in Puerto Rico?

Updated on January 31, 2013
There is a strong police presence in Old San Juan and a special police force - just for the tourists.
There is a strong police presence in Old San Juan and a special police force - just for the tourists. | Source

Is Puerto Rico Safe?

Island life lends itself to two occurrences: drug trade and open trust. They seem like opposite ideas but they coexist, nonetheless. Like all Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico is a pitstop for drug traffickers en route to or from South America to the USA, but you won't see this in the tourist areas. The main source of crime that any visitor needs to worry about in Puerto Rico is not violent offenders or drug traffickers but rather petty theft from an opportunist but this can happen anywhere on the planet. Common sense significantly reduces the possibility of the tourist being mugged in Puerto Rico. But, when paired with common sense, Puerto Rico is safe, compared to other locations of the world - like Chicago, the murder capital of the USA.

Safety In Numbers

Street Celebration - The San Sebastian Festival in San Juan
Street Celebration - The San Sebastian Festival in San Juan | Source

Is It Safe To Vacation In Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico Night Life

Good neighborhoods:

  • clubs and bars along the tourist area
  • tourist hotels
  • island of Culebra
  • island of Vieques
  • Old San Juan (Fortalez Street)

Bad neighborhoods:

  • La Perla
  • Puerta de Tierra
  • the beach at night
  • the Metro area

Are single women or gay travelers safe from being targeted?

Single women should exercise the same safety precautions as normally would be taken at night, though it is not more inherently dangerous in Puerto Rico for a woman than in anywhere else. There are gay friendly restaurants and areas near Ocean Beach.

These types of delicious treats cost about $5 each.  Puerto Rico uses the US dollar as the currency of the commonwealth.
These types of delicious treats cost about $5 each. Puerto Rico uses the US dollar as the currency of the commonwealth. | Source

Do I Need To Prepare With Vaccinations or Purchase Antacid Pills for The Food?

At the time of this writing, there are no health warnings or suggested injections. Since the food is not spicey, your stomach should handle the cuisine just fine. The food fare in Puerto Rico is similar to the cuisine you would find in Mexico, Spain, and Cuba.

Common food ingredients are mild in spice-factor:

  • coriander
  • papaya
  • cacao
  • nispero
  • apio
  • plantains
  • yampee

SITRAS Bus, Ponce, Puerto Rico
SITRAS Bus, Ponce, Puerto Rico | Source

Puerto Rican Public Transportation

All forms of transportation are safe and available including car rentals, taxis, and buses.

Are Small Towns Safe In Puerto Rico

It's perfectly safe to travel to the small towns in Puerto Rico. In fact, the smaller towns tend to be quite crime-free. The only word of caution is that you will want to stick with the main highways and not the side roads. The side roads aren't always kept up and could leave you a bit isolated, if you have car trouble. However, having said that, the cell reception is excellent, in the event that does happen.

When jumping into strange waters, for safety, always jump feet first, as it is difficult to judge depth and objects that are under the water.  This pic is taken at Navio Beach in Vieques.
When jumping into strange waters, for safety, always jump feet first, as it is difficult to judge depth and objects that are under the water. This pic is taken at Navio Beach in Vieques. | Source

Swimming in Puerto Rico

Most everyone who visits enjoys swimming in Puerto Rico. However, there are some safety concerns to take into account to keep it a safe swimming experience.

  • Know how to swim well in surf - versus a swimming pool (they are quite different).
  • Never swim alone, even if you swim well.
  • Swim where lifeguards are. Check ahead of time to find out if a lifeguard is at your beach of choice.
  • Check the weather of other islands in the area before you go for a beach swim. Tropical storms and hurricanes on other nearby islands can affect water conditions on the island you are on - even if the storm or hurricane isn't there. You don't want to be in the water when a hurricane hits a nearby island, resulting in a sudden and strong surge in water forces. Ask the lifeguard about the weather conditions and surf conditions of the day.
  • Use surfboards/boogie boards with a breakaway leash. If your leash gets tangled up with unseen vegetation or objects beneath the surface, you can break away instead of being drowned.
  • Coral reefs can cut people badly. Stay clear of coral reefs unless properly protected with swim shoes, fins, and gloves. Besides, touching coral with bare hands can kill them. So, swimming nearby is okay but touching them is bad. If there's rough surf, you can get bashed against them and killed yourself. (Going back to know the weather, the water conditions and be dressed appropriately for coral exploration).
  • Last, but not least, remember the sunscreen! A tropical island and water result in possible skin damage from overexposure to the sun. Take care with your skin protection.

Petty Theft In Puerto Rico

Be sensible about your travel and you should find your vacation a relatively peaceful and safe adventure:

  • You're not in Kansas anymore! This is a Spanish-speaking territory. Just because people know some English in the touristed areas doesn't mean you should expect it. The is not one of the actual states of the United States. It's a commonwealth and their culture and language is Latino in origin (not to be confused with Hispanic or Spanish!). Remember, the US acquired it from Spain. When the Native people intermarried with Spaniards, Africans and other ethnicities, the Latino culture prevailed, resulting in a Spanish-speaking country... So, learn some Spanish because you'll have to speak it!
  • Pay attention to your beach towel. Petty theives look to see when beach goers stray from their possessions on the beach and swoop in to steal when the tourists are in the water. Don't leave anything on the beach towels that you wouldn't want gone when you return from a swim.
  • Leave jewelry, laptops and unnecessary and expensive devices at home. Bring only what you truly need. Use the hotel safe to lock up what you do bring. Many hotels have in-room safes to use, also. It's not like you can take a dip in the pool with your passport in your pocket so lock it up in the hotel safe, so you can make your way home trouble-free.
  • Thieves here break car windows. Leave NOTHING in the car rental. Take your purse/wallet to the beach and store extras in the trunk. Do not show up to park, remove things from the back seat and put them in the trunk and walk away. You can do that at a gas station or at the hotel before you drive to your destination. Car rental companies will advise you to leave the car UNLOCKED and the windows DOWN because the breaking of car windows is so prevalent. Take this advice! You want to make your car look like the boring car with nothing in it!

If You Have An Emergency

Just as in the mainland of the United States, the emergency phone number is 9-1-1.

It's Safe To Visit Puerto Rico - When You Know Where To Go!

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    • Li Galo profile image
      Author

      Li Galo 4 years ago from Mainly the USA but Sometimes Abroad

      Thanks so much, mary615!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      As you know, I love Puerto Rico! I am delighted to see two of my Hubs as related to this one that I wrote about PR. As you say in your article, one would just exercise the same cautions in PR as any other place you would visit. I do think petty theft is common, although I certainly didn't experience any bad experience. Where ever I go, I wear a money belt on my body and do not carry a purse.

      Good article, I voted it UP, and will share.