The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, so U.S. citizens do not need a passport to visit, and its currency is the U.S. dollar. Puerto Rico hosts millions of visitors who enjoy its beaches, rainforests and the pleasant nighttime call of the little coqui frog. However, travelers face safety issues here, as they would anywhere. A few common-sense precautions will provide peace of mind for tourists headed to this Caribbean island.
The Atlantic hurricane season generally runs from June through November. The U.S. Department of State issues a travel alert for that period for areas that might be at risk, including Puerto Rico. Hurricanes have impacted travelers to Puerto Rico in the past, causing flight delays and cancellations. Visitors have been stranded for several days, sometimes without electricity, in hotels and resorts. Roads have been washed out or blocked by debris. Travelers should monitor hurricane forecasts before going to Puerto Rico. Many hotels and airlines offer refunds to travelers forced to cancel trips to hurricane-threatened areas, but check each airline's policy. Trip insurance also is an option for travelers.
Puerto Rico enjoys a generally high standard of public health, similar to the rest of the U.S. Travelers should ensure that their routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Routine vaccinations include polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. Check with a clinic that specializes in travel vaccines regarding other possible vaccinations such as Hepatitis A. This vaccine may be recommended for travelers staying in remote areas with a greater risk of exposure. Check with a health professional for a full list of vaccinations appropriate for each traveler.
There is no vaccine for dengue fever, the most common fever that affects travelers returning from Puerto Rico. The disease is spread by mosquitoes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus/PMD, or IR3535. Repellents with up to 30 percent DEET may be used on infants over 2 months old. Infants less than 2 months old should be protected with mosquito netting. Dengue fever causes severe headache, muscle pain, nausea and fever. It may lead to the more severe dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Crimes against tourists occur in Puerto Rico, as they do in the many tourist areas around the world. The U.S. Department of State recommends the standard precautions: Don't wear expensive jewelry, store valuables and passports in the hotel safe when possible and carry credit cards and cash in a bag strapped around the chest rather than in a purse or fanny pack. Travelers should not carry all their cash in the same bag and should avoid displaying cash. Use taxis at night and stay in well-traveled areas.