Things You Should Know Before Traveling to San Juan, Puerto Rico
1. Not Everyone is Fluent in English
Do not assume that since Puerto Rico is a United States territory that everyone is fluent in English. Most people I encountered in local locations either did not know any English or their English was very limited. Tourist locations, excursions, and most transportation services during your visit will have employees that are bilingual though.
2. Salsa Dancing Night
La Placita is the place to participate in or watch salsa dancing competitions. The vibe in this area is so fun, you will not be able to stop smiling. Nightlife here can get busy, so you will need to make a reservation if you plan on eating dinner there.
3. Uber is Unreliable
As a tourist, you will not be familiar with the area. Busy streets like La Placita will make it almost impossible for you to meet up with your Uber since most drivers only speak Spanish. Your rides will get canceled, so you are better off flagging down a taxi.
4. Manners at Bars
Take in your surroundings and watch the behaviors of others when you go into a bar. Certain bars expect you to act in a certain way. Getting too loud or dancing crazy can result in you getting fussed at or even kicked out.
Bars to check out in Old San Juan on Calle de San Sebastián:
- La Taberna Lúpulo
- La Mala Vida
- La Factoria
5. Some Things Will be the Same as the United States
Puerto Rico being a U.S. territory means less of a headache for your travels. Their currency is the same as ours, which is great for cash only places like La Placita. You also do not need an adapter for your electronics.
6. Cell Phone Service
T-Mobile is the only cell phone provider that will work in Puerto Rico. This is because they have T-Mobile stores located in their country. People with Verizon will have to set up a travel plan ahead of time to be able to utilize their device. As cheap as I am, it is worth it and will help you with your transportation and traveling needs.
7. Foods and Drinks You Need to Try
- Mofongo: A delicious and filling meal. It consists of mashed garlic plantains and pigeon peas topped with your choice of meat. The full description on the menu did not sound appealing to be honest. I ultimately ordered it though because I had heard great things about this dish prior to my travel. I am so glad I got to experience the wonderful flavors of this dish!
- Unique Waffles: Go to the "Waffle-Era Tea Room". They have a wide variety of delectable waffles to choose from. It is known that this restaurant gets very busy during breakfast time, so be prepared to wait a little for a table. We decided to make a reservation for 1:00 pm, and there was hardly anyone in there when we arrived. This could be a better time to dine here
- Medalla Light (pronounced meh-dye-ya): The beer of Puerto Rico. I paid $2 at a bar for one.
- Culebra Catamaran Tour: Take a motion sickness pill before you go on this boat even if you do not get motion sickness. There will be people throwing up all around you. As long as you take the pill though, you will be fine. This ride is not a booze cruise if that is what you are looking for. It is very family friendly and the structure is not your typical catamaran. Included in the price is food, drinks, snorkeling, and visiting two beaches. One of the beaches we went to, Flamenco Beach, is what made this trip worth it. It has been named the Word's Best Beach. For a bachelorette party though, you might be better off doing a sailboat instead of a catamaran.
WARNING: Read the back of the box on your motion sickness pills. You are not supposed to mix it with alcohol, and you will feel the strong effects of the two being mixed together.
- Bacardi Rum Tasting Tour: You will most likely be drunk by the end of this tour depending on your tolerance. This tour at the Casa Bacardi Distillery includes a free Bacardi cup and a token to get yourself a free rum cocktail from the bar before your tour. If you are with a group and you are not interested in rum tasting, Casa Bacardi has a comfortable shaded lounge to hang out at while you wait. I had a very enjoyable time to myself sitting in the lounge area and talking to new people.
- Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Kayak Tour: Do not expect the water to glow all blue or for the water trailing behind your kayak to be glowing entirely. If a hurricane has affected the area recently, it will affect the organisms that create the phenomenon. On our tour, we had to shake our hand in the water to see the glow. The glow looked like small sparkles in the water that dissipated very quickly. Kayaking to the bay will be the easiest part of the trip as you are moving with the flow of the stream. Kayaking back will take some strength as you are moving against the flow of the stream. You will want to make sure you have the right partner with you on your kayak.
TRAVEL TIP: Use bug spray!
I traveled to Puerto Rico the first week of May. It was very humid and cloudy for half of my stay. Out of the four days I stayed, it only rained briefly for one day. It is still possible to get a sun burn when there is an overcast, so make sure you put on your sunscreen.
10. Do Your Research
Do not book or start seriously planning your stay without checking if it is worth it to go. If you know of a hurricane that has recently hit Puerto Rico, check up on the damages. Hurricane Maria's damage prevented us from seeing Puerto Rico's beautiful rainforest, while San Juan looked almost completely restored. Whichever place you are looking into, their website will most likely have an update on their restoration.
Words of Wisdom
Although I had a wonderful time in Puerto Rico, four days was not enough for me. I wish I could have walked the streets of Old San Juan more, spend more time at Castillo San Felipe del Morro, lay an extra day on San Juan's beautiful beaches, and salsa danced another night away. Do not rush your trip here. Stay a week and immerse yourself in Puerto Rico's charming culture.