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Puerto Rico

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Summary

  • Reconsider your need to travel to Puerto Rico due to major damage to buildings and infrastructure following Hurricane Maria.
  • Recovery efforts continue in Puerto Rico. Access to electricity may be limited, particularly in rural areas. Repairs to road infrastructure, such as traffic lights, and buildings is continuing.
  • Contact your airline or tour operator to check the latest information. See Natural disasters.
  • As Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. US entry and visa requirements and other US laws and regulations apply. Read United States of America. See Entry and exit, Laws.
  • Australia doesn't have an embassy or consulate in Puerto Rico. The Australian Consulate-General in New York provides consular assistance to Australians in Puerto Rico. See Entry and exit.
  • See Travel smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated United States territory. United States entry and visa requirements apply. The United States administers a strict entry regime.  

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an Embassy or Consulate of the United States for up-to-date information, even if you only plan to transit Puerto Rico.

More information: United States of America

Other formalities

Children travelling alone, or with only one parent or guardian, need to carry a notarised letter of consent for travel signed by the non-travelling parent(s) or guardian(s).

The United States has specific requirements regarding locks used on airline baggage. More information: Transportation Security Administration

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The currency of Puerto Rico is the US Dollar. ATM facilities are widely available. Credit cards are accepted widely.

Safety and security

Crime

Petty crime, including drug and alcohol-related crime, occurs in Puerto Rico. Use common sense, as you would in Australia.

Terrorism

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated United States territory. The US National Terror Advisory System is applicable in Puerto Rico. Read United States of America.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. 

More information: 

Civil unrest and political tension

You might encounter protests or demonstrations in Puerto Rico.

  • Keep an eye on the news and other sources for information about possible demonstrations.
  • Avoid crowds, protests and demonstrations, where possible.
  • Follow the advice of local authorities.

Local travel

Hurricane Maria

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria severely affected Puerto Rico. Destructive winds and widespread flooding caused deaths and significant damage. Parts of the country are still without power, particularly rural areas. Recovery efforts are continuing in some areas, including to road infrastructure and buildings.

Seek local advice before entering areas affected by the hurricane.

Road travel

Generally, roads are of a high standard in Puerto Rico, but some secondary roads outside major population centres are poorly maintained. Drivers can ignore standard, international norms, such as obeying traffic signals, using indicators, or observing speed limits.

If you plan to travel by road:

  • first check you have adequate insurance cover
  • familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving
  • drive defensively and legally.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in Puerto Rico with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Taxis are available in most towns. Ensure the meter is used or negotiate the fare with the driver before departing. In San Juan, some government-regulated tourist taxis have fixed rates. Ride sharing apps are also available.

Public transport

San Juan has an efficient bus system and a metro. In other locations, public minibuses known as 'públicos' operate on scheduled routes in daylight hours.

Boat travel

A number of international cruise liners visit Puerto Rico. More information: Travelling by boat

Air travel

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Puerto Rico.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, and a mix of US and local laws apply. See our travel advice for the United States of America for more information.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug-related offences, including marijuana use, are severe and include minimum mandatory terms of imprisonment. More information: Drugs

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

The United States recognises dual nationality. Dual nationals are required by United States law to travel with both passports and use their United States passport to enter and exit the United States and its territories, including Puerto Rico.

If you're an Australian-United States dual national, read important information on the United States Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website before you travel.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, its generic name, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Zika virus

Transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus can occur in Puerto Rico. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to Zika virus-affected areas.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information: Zika virus (Department of Health)

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities and care in Puerto Rico is generally good.

However, medical costs can be extremely high. A visit to the doctor in Puerto Rico for even minor complaints can cost several hundred dollars, excluding laboratory test or medication costs.

If you don't have sufficient health insurance, or evidence of your ability to pay, you'll generally need to pay medical service providers up-front, before receiving treatment.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you may need to be evacuated to Miami in the United States or another destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation is very expensive.

Natural disasters

Puerto Rico can experience hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.

If a natural disaster occurs or a warning is issued:

Hurricanes

The hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides and flooding and may occur. Storms and hurricanes can also happen in other months. The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning.

If there is a hurricane or severe storm, you may not be able to leave the area: flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended, and available flights may fill quickly. Access to sea ports could also be affected. Roads and bridges may collapse or be blocked. Power, communication systems and other essential services could be affected. In some areas, adequate shelter from a hurricane may not be available for all those who stay.

If a hurricane is approaching, follow the advice for all natural disasters above and:

More information: Severe weather

Earthquakes and tsunamis

Puerto Rico is susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis. Familiarise yourself with earthquake safety measures for each place you stay and visit including hotels, public and private buildings.

To receive tsunami alerts, register with the Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination System.

Move immediately to high ground if advised by local or regional authorities or if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea.

Do not wait for official warnings. Once on high ground, monitor local media.

More information: Earthquakes

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 911
  • Medical emergency: phone 911 or go to the nearest hospital
  • Crime: phone 911 or 787-343-2020 (local police) or visit the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism products and services

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Puerto Rico. You can contact the Australian Consulate-General in New York for consular assistance.

Australian Consulate-General, New York

150 East 42nd Street, 34th Floor
New York, New York 10017-5612
Telephone: +1 212 351 6500
Fax: +1 212 351 6501
Website: newyork.consulate.gov.au

Check the Consulate-General website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are unable to contact the Consulate-General in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +1 888 239 3501 (toll-free within the United States from a land-line) or +61 2 6261 3305. From within Australia, call 1300 555 135.

Additional information

Additional resources