5 Tips on How to Prepare for Your Trip to Puerto Rico
1. What to pack for your trip to Puerto Rico
A bathing suit, sunscreen, and sunglasses are a must for Puerto Rico holidays as this U.S. territory sees sun most days of the year. Cool weather is rare, so warm clothes are most likely not needed. If you plan on spending a night out on the town, don't forget to bring some stylish attire. However, if seeing the gorgeous outdoors is your game, hiking boots, breathable shirts, and even a rain jacket may come in handy.
If you're a U.S. citizen, you won't need to pack your passport unless you plan on taking a cruise from Puerto Rico to a foreign port. Citizens of other countries will definitely want to bring their passport.
The U.S. dollar is the currency of Puerto Rico. That said, don't carry a lot of it with you. If you carry cash, stick to small bills as large bills are often not accepted. The small bills will also come in handy for giving tips, which are accepted by many in the service industry. For most major purchases during your trip to Puerto Rico, stick to a Visa or MasterCard.
2. How to budget for your trip to Puerto Rico
Seeing Puerto Rico on a budget is possible, but it can be difficult to do. Hostels and discount hotels are few and far between. Even the rustic government-sponsored paradores can go for around $100 or more. And while there are cheap places to find food (try a friquitine, for example) sticking to the big restaurants will eat into your wallet. Be sure to budget in advance for your trip to limit surprises when you get there.
3. Learn a few Spanish words for your trip to Puerto Rico
English and Spanish have been the official languages of Puerto Rico since 1993, but the deep nationalism of the people has placed Spanish on a somewhat higher pedestal. While many folks speak and understand English in the urban locations, expect Spanish to be predominant in smaller towns and villages. It may be useful to learn a few of the most useful Spanish greetings, expressions, and phrases. You may find that you don't have to use them often, but the local citizens will appreciate that you've made an effort to use Spanish, just as you likely will appreciate their attempts to use English.
4. Don't be afraid to ditch the tour bus and experience Puerto Rico
There are numerous tourist traps in Puerto Rico. Some workers in the tourism industry will tell you that paying for a tour is the only way to see what Puerto Rico has to offer. Be skeptical. For example El Yunque, the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system, can be accessed easily without joining a tour, despite what others may tell you. It's just one of the many interesting places outside of San Juan that can be accessed by car. Split among several people, it makes sense to rent a car to see things off the beaten path. Do your research before you set off on your Puerto Rico holidays.
5. Understand your transportation options in Puerto Rico
Speaking of cars, while you can make a strong case to rent them to experience rural Puerto Rico, you're probably best avoiding them if you're going to stick to the heavily-populated urban areas like San Juan. Yet San Juan's public transportation can sometimes be frustrating as well. There is a rail system called Tren Urbano that can be useful, but it primarily serves the people that live in the suburbs of San Juan. There is sadly no access to many of the important neighborhoods, and access to the airport is conspicuously missing. The bus system in San Juan also gets a lot of bad press, and many suggest not riding it at night. As you're planning your trip to Puerto Rico, also know that aside from renting a car, you can also reach other parts of the island and surrounding islands by ferry.
Photo by Bulaclac Paruparu via Flickr