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Destination Guides


Puerto Rico


General   Money   Entry Requirements   Health & safety   Weather   Embassies   Etiquette   Public Holidays   Attractions   Map  

Introduction

Beach at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico ©Hmalaret

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island with a difference. It has the pristine beaches, tropical climate, crystal-blue sea and coconut palms characteristic of its counterparts; but along with its unmistakable Spanish colonial heritage, the island today is also part of the United States Commonwealth, meaning it has a first-world infrastructure mixed in with its traditional Latin American culture. Hamburgers are as endemic as island dishes like , and freeways connect shantytowns to strips of high-rise beachfront hotels. The second thing that makes Puerto Rico different to other Caribbean holiday Meccas is that it remains largely undeveloped, except for the coastal region around its capital city, San Juan. The island is edged with some magnificent beaches that are mostly uncommercialised, and which are easily reached from the capital and its large resort hotels because the island is so small and compact.


Exploring Puerto Rico, both around its coast and throughout its interior, is a delight. Roads are excellent and there are numerous interesting attractions and unrivalled experiences, from the world's largest radio telescope to the magical experience of swimming at night amongst tiny phosphorescent creatures on the offshore island of Vieques.


Historically Puerto Rico, like many other Caribbean islands, was originally inhabited by Taino Indians until the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the instigation of Spanish rule and settlement. The island's capital and larger towns have preserved their Spanish heritage as 'old quarter' tourist attractions, full of charm and interest. Puerto Rico is a hybrid of old and new which makes it an intriguing cultural destination, rather than just another tropical island paradise.


Communications

The international access code for Puerto Rico is +1 787 and +1 939. The outgoing code is 011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01144 for the United Kingdom). The outgoing code is not needed for calling the US, Canada and most of the Caribbean. Mobile phones work throughout the island and local operators use CDMA networks that are not compatible with GSM phones, as used outside North America. Internet cafes are available in most towns and resorts.


Emergencies

Emergencies: 911


Languages Spoken

Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico.


Duty Free

Puerto Rico's customs regulations are the same as those for the United States. Visitors over 21 may bring in the following items without paying duty: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 2kg of tobacco; 1 litre of alcohol; and gifts valued up to US$100. There is a long list of restricted and prohibited items which may not be imported or imported only under license, ranging from fireworks and matches to pre-Columbian sculpture and Cuban cigars. If in doubt consult your nearest US Embassy for advice. Any merchandise from embargoed countries (Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Serbia and Montenegro and the Sudan) may not be brought onto US soil.


Electricity

Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat attachment plugs are in use.


Climate Info

Puerto Rico enjoys a warm, tropical climate with temperatures of around 82ºF (27ºC) throughout the year. The temperature in the south is usually a few degrees higher than the north and temperatures in the central interior mountains are always cooler than the rest of the island. The dry season is usually from November to May but short showers can be expected throughout the year. The hurricane season is between June and November, but generally there is plenty of warning.


Passport

All passport holders must have an onward or return ticket and documents necessary for further travel. Entry requirements for Puerto Rico are the same as for the United States of America. When arriving from mainland USA there is no immigration control. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Entry Requirements

Canadian citizens require a passport valid for period of intended stay. No visa is required.

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Health

There are no vaccination certificates required for travel to Puerto Rico, but travellers are advised to be up to date with routine vaccinations. Cases of dengue fever occur annually and mosquito protection measures are essential. Schistosomiasis is endemic and swimming in lakes, rivers and streams should be avoided. It is best to drink bottled water to avoid stomach upsets. Thoroughly wash or peel produce you buy in markets before eating it. Medical services are good but can be expensive; medical insurance is advised.


Safety

Visits to Puerto Rico are usually trouble-free but travellers should take sensible precautions to avoid petty theft.


Emergency Phone Number

Emergencies: 911



* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov

Money

The United States Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency, which is divided into 100 cents. It is often referred to as the 'peso' in Puerto Rico. ATMs and bureaux de change are freely available and all major credit cards and travellers cheques are generally accepted. Banking hours are 9am to 3.30pm.


Exchange Rate

1 USD = 1.324 CAD

Embassies of Puerto Rico

United States Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7499 9000.


United States Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 238 5335.


United States Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6214 5600.


United States Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 431 4000.


United States Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 668 8777.


United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 462 6000.




Foreign Embassies in Puerto Rico

British Consulate, San Juan: +1 787 850 2400.


Canadian Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Puerto Rico): +1 (202) 682 1740.


Australian Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Puerto Rico): +1 202 797 3000.


South African Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Puerto Rico): +1 202 232 4400.


Irish Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Puerto Rico): +1 202 462 3939.


New Zealand Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Puerto Rico): +1 202 328 4800.


Customers

Social etiquette in Puerto Rico is typically Latin American, with some North American influences (such as a stronger sense of female independence, and a toning-down of the ideal of machismo). Western visitors to the country should feel comfortable, and 'at home', in most social situations. Hygiene, cleanliness and personal appearance are viewed as matters of self-respect, so travellers who've been 'on the road' for a little while might consider neatening up their beards or trimming their hair, especially if they want to make a good first impression. A final, important aspect of Puerto Rican social life, is the concept of relajo. Generally shy of direct confrontation and open criticism, relajo refers to the gentle, joking manner in which Puerto Ricans will bring up uncomfortable issues around each another. Visitors should be aware of this technique, as they may, on occasion, be required to 'read between the lines' to discover what locals are really trying to express.


Business

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory although the resemblance is closer to Latin America. English is understood by many on the island, but Spanish may also be the language in which business is conducted. Dress codes will vary according to different sectors, but suits are favoured on very formal occasions. Shaking hands is common for both men and women. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken at lunch.


Tipping

Some restaurants and hotels automatically add a 10 to 17 percent service charge to the bill, if not a 15 percent tip is expected. Taxi drivers and bar staff also expect tips.


Public Holidays in Puerto Rico

Overview

Puerto Rico, in many a tourist's mind, is a paradise, and for good reason. A tropical Caribbean destination with cultural interest and lots of character thrown in, Puerto Rico certainly delivers on all fronts.


For those with a penchant for the outdoors, Puerto Rico will not disappoint. The country makes for a brilliant natural playground offering beautiful islands, undeveloped beaches, caves and a mountainous region to explore as well as quaint villages and towns. Surfing as well as scuba diving are popular choices in areas such as Vieques' bioluminescent bay or on the western shores, and adventuring through the caves in the Camuy Cave Park is thrilling.


A part from the obvious sun-soaking at the likes of Isla Verde or the Rincon shoreline, holidaymakers will also get the chance to indulge in Puerto Rico's interesting history. The fortress of San Felipe del Morro, built in 1540, makes for a great cultural excursion, and the historic San Juan, with its fascinating colonial architecture dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, will delight history lovers. For those looking for art and culture, sculptures are a common sight in San Juan and there are wonderful museums such as Puerto Rico's showcase art gallery, Museo de Arte.


Home to a diverse and vibrant nightlife scene, as well as many fine restaurants offering memorable fusion cuisines, a night out in Puerto Rico's San Juan will offer tourists some good fun and fantastic gastronomy, and what's more, the tropical temperatures in Puerto Rico mean that visitors can enjoy what it has to offer all year round.


Map of Puerto Rico



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