Puerto Rico : Safety by City
Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island, known to many by the fact that it’s a self-governing commonwealth of the United States of America.
The country is located in the Caribbean Sea to the east of the Dominican Republic and west of the US Virgin Islands.
The territory is actually an archipelago that includes the eponymous main island and several smaller islands.
People in their majority are warm and welcoming always eager to smile even if they don’t know you.
Puerto Ricans are party animals and almost everywhere you go, you will find some sort of town festival or party.
If you want a quiet, tropical paradise – look no further than the towns of Puerto Rico.
Warnings & Dangers in Puerto Rico
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Puerto Rico is somewhat safe but you should take precautions on the streets of major cities, and after dark. Be wary of pickpockets and bag snatching and keep your valuables safe by your side. Never carry all your money in one place or leave your valuables in plain sight in a car or at a beach when swimming.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Streets are always busy in Puerto Rico and traffic jams are unpredictable. The drivers are, sadly, as bad people tend to describe them: reckless and inconsiderate. There are too many vehicles on the island and the roads are in bad condition. Saying their driving is hectic is an understatement.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
Pickpockets are a common occurrence on the streets of Puerto Rico and tourists are recommended to remain vigilant at all times when on the street. Make sure you don't flash your valuable possessions on the street, or better yet, leave them in your accommodation.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Hurricanes are a serious problem here. In September of 2017, Puerto Rico was battered by Hurricane Maria, which caused huge destruction of the infrastructure of the island. This also, later, caused the outbreak of the Zika fever spread by mosquitoes.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
Mugging is not altogether uncommon in the streets of Puerto Rico. In such a situation, hand over all your possessions immediately and do not resist. Avoid poorly lit and deserted areas.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Terrorist attacks are likely to happen in Puerto Rico because Puerto Rican terrorists have been active in the United States and Puerto Rico for more than two decades. Due to the island's political status, it is likely that separatist violence will continue. Remain vigilant at all times.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
Scams are very common in Puerto Rico, so double check your change, never pay anything upfront and negotiate everything in advance. Be very careful around ATMs and be wary of people trying to distract you. Also, be careful around children as they're probably trying to distract you too - they are skillful pickpockets.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Traveling to Puerto Rico is generally safe for solo women, but bear in mind that you should always hike in a company, never alone. Stay away from poorly lit and deserted streets and areas and from people that are visibly intoxicated or under the influence.
So... How Safe Is Puerto Rico Really?
Unfortunately, Puerto Rico couldn’t be described as a particularly safe country to visit.
There are many problems that contribute to its general unsafety, like health issues (Zika outbreak), ever-increasing crime rates, as well as government debt difficulties.
As is the case of most warm-weather destinations in the hemisphere including some Southern areas of the US, there is the presence of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
While Zika causes very mild symptoms, if any, in most people who become infected, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant in the immediate future are in serious danger.
There are certain areas like Rio Piedras or different “residenciales públicos” where it’s not recommended you visit at night.
But if you are going to the western area of the country, then you are going to be much safer than in San Juan or the metropolitan area.
Above all try to keep yourself home at night rather than hanging out in bars where people get drunk; if you are a night owl, rather visit hotels and well-known restaurants.
Most street crimes are non-violent and non-confrontational, and the chances of tourists being attacked are very low.
However, even though incidents range from scams to petty theft and, as a tourist, you should mostly be concerned about pickpocketing, and that only applies to areas frequented by tourists.
How Does Puerto Rico Compare?
- Visas - Visa requirements for Puerto Rico are the same as for US states. The US is famous for its harsh policy for acquiring a tourist, let alone a resident visa. However, depending on your nationality, it might be easy for you to acquire one. If you're not sure about your visa status, contact your local US embassy for further information.
- Currency - The United States dollar is the official currency in Puerto Rico. Credit and debit cards are accepted nearly everywhere, and ATMs are widely available.
- Weather - Even though Puerto Rico is a tropical island located in the Caribbean Sea, its climate varies slightly from that of many other tropical islands. Its rainy season doesn't get as much precipitation as many other tropical islands, but it's noteworthy nonetheless.
- Airports - Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is a joint civil-military international airport and the busiest airport in the Caribbean region by passenger traffic. It is located in Carolina, Puerto Rico, 5 km southeast of San Juan.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Puerto Rico, since it covers not only the costs of medical problems but also theft and loss of valuables.
Puerto Rico Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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16 Reviews on Puerto Rico
Safe, just use common sense
Obviously Puerto Rico is quite different from elsewhere in the United States. It is much poorer, so naturally there is more crime. Avoid urban areas at night or very poor areas at any time. Tourist areas such as the forts in Old San Juan, El Yunque NF, etc. feel very safe. Don’t leave valuables visible in your car. I feel like the biggest danger is the drivers, as they are very aggressive and reckless. It is common for people to drive down the middle of the road and swerve away right as you go by. Additionally, some stoplights do not work. People will not yield to you, they will honk their horns before speeding through the intersection. Driving defensively is a must to stay safe on the roads.
I also have been to Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico, and I would say similar things about it, although it feels a little more unsafe than most of mainland PR. Just avoid walking alone at night and you will have no problems.
Overall, safety is not a huge concern in Puerto Rico as long as you practice normal precautions and use common sense.
THANK YOU! Every time I have gone here, my family would lose their minds worrying. Yes, it is not the best place in the world in terms of wealth but some people act like you are signing a death wish when visiting Puerto Rico!! I go all the time with friends I grew up with when they visit family. I love it there. I would not want to live there but I love to visit.
The driving is insane here
Yes the roads are in bad conditions (and this is one of the things that brings Puerto Rico down) but the place has a certain charm to it. Ok, the driving is insane there and you need to be insane yourself (I guess I am) to be a part of it.
Felt safe when I was there. I was on the lookout for pickpockets because you never know but nothing happened. The whole trip was enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to relax and take in the sights.
Very safe but in Santurce you should keep a look out if it’s late in night. Mugging only commonly occurs if your are really really rich or if you have something to do with drugs
PUERTO RICA IS SAFE
NOTHING IS WRONG+ITS BEAUTIFUL
We felt very safe. We traveled with our four children and never once felt any thing but welcomed and safe. Fabulous!!
San Juan is a wonderful city
I visited San Juan alone a few years ago after getting my hands on some affordable tickets. I never felt threatened or endangered but I had my wits about me.
Bottom line: if you pay close attention to your surroundings and avoid having your valuables in plain sight you’ll have no problems.
I didn’t have a guide, I relied mostly on my itinerary and google maps. Whenever I had any questions I just asked the locals who were more than happy to help, especially teenagers. If you know just a bit of Spanish you will be ok since this seems to be the dominant language, not English like I initially thought.
Here a lot of illegal activities seem to derive from the rampant poverty rates, making mugging or carjacking a daily occurrence if you wander aimlessly around the city, I had zero problems.
What turned me off a bit was the occasional catcalling from groups of men. I find it annoying no matter what country I’m visiting but let’s be honest, there’s little danger behind it if you just ignore them.
As with most cities, the Old Town is generally safe while also providing a lot of activities, from visiting their local markets and cute little restaurants – if you’re a foodie you’ll get me – to exploring the myriad of art galleries. Since things changed quite a bit now I would book a restaurant reservation online to make sure I actually get to eat at the place I want to. The same goes for art galleries or museums (Botello and The Poet’s Passage were my two main faves).
In fact, we’re planning to go back as soon as this global nightmare cools down. This time it would be a couple’s trip which would change things quite a bit, looking forward to seeing how things will be then.
SEEMS SAFE TO ME
I was in Puerto Rico twice for work. The first time for a week, all in San Juan. The second time was for two weeks, all around the main island and on some of the tiny offshore islands. We did not have or observe any safety issues while we were there.
Puerto Rico is not safe because of all the earthquakes.
Very friendly people just dont leave valuables in plain sight
very nice place, just avoid poor neighborhoods but the rest seemed safe to me
Don't be scared to visit Puerto Rico
An absolutely beautiful island, I was a tour guide there for two years with the largest tour company on the island. When I lived there San Juan was the busiest Home Port for cruise ships in the world.
This was about twenty five years ago and yes, compared to their northern cousins had a relatively low income, they still had one of the highest per capita incomes in the Caribbean. The main source of income at the time was not tourism like most people think, it was manufacturing. Now, however, due to the infinite wisdom of our elected officials in Washington, manufacturing incentives for the island have mostly disappeared and tourism has taken over as the main source of income. As for safety on the island, I know this sounds cliche, but it is just like anywhere else in the U.S. Large cities are where you find most of the crime but that is mainly located in small pockets in the inner cities. When I lived there, per capita violent crime, especially on tourists, was actually higher in the Virgin Islands. There are places and activities to avoid in P.R. The following are my opinion from my experience living there:
1-Avoid drugs. Most of the crime in P.R. is drug related.
2-Avoid the low income housing projects. Many wonderful people live in these projects but they are quite often areas of high drug trafficking.
3-I absolutely love Old San Juan but it’s best not to be in the Old City alone at night. Stay clear of areas that seem deserted especially parks along the walls. The Old City is filled with history including the largest Fortifications built by the Spaniards in the New World, the beautiful Capitol Building, just outside of the walls, La Fortaleza, the Governor’s mansion, La Casa Blanca museum, original home of Juan Ponce de Leon’s family, dating back to 1521, and much, much more.
4-I hate to recommend night clubs that are only in the larger hotels; however, they are much safer, but the trade off is you don’t get to mingle with the local flavor so much. Many locals go to the hotel clubs for the relative safety as well, though, plus you get the added advantage of wonderful shows, casinos and great restaurants.
5-Driving, what can I say about driving in P.R. If you choose to rent a car, which I personally would, be sure your insurance covers you in P.R. or get the added rental insurance. I drove a 25 passenger mini-bus there for two years. I have driven all over the island including the mountains and the Old City. There are many one way streets in the cities that are not always clearly signed. They had a rash of carjackings when I was there and people stopped stopping at red lights and stop signs at night, especially if someone was standing at the corner when they drove up. Driving is the same as in the U.S. but the cities have worse traffic jams than any place I have driven including a short three mile stretch that passes the largest mall in the Caribbean in Rio Piedras, a part of San Juan. The jam starts coming into San Juan in the morning and lasts about 4 to 5 hours and then at around 3:30pm the same happens leaving the city. You can expect to be in it for about an hour and a half for less than three miles. If you are traveling opposite of the jam there is no problem. Driving outside of the main cities is much like driving on interstates or toll roads, of which there are several on the island. Although most major hotels can arrange day trips to almost all of the tourist areas in P.R., you will likely miss out on some very interesting areas that are less visited if you don’t rent a car.
5-Festivals, there are many in Puerto Rico and they can be a lot of fun, but be careful about pick pockets. In two years living there I never personally had an issue but I did occasionally hear about others who did.
6-Avoid isolated beaches. As appealing as having a beach all to yourself might seem, it can be dangerous to sunbath on a beach that seems deserted. Your best bet are the Balnearios if you want some sun away from your hotel beach or if your hotel is not on the beach. If you see large groups especially with families you should be fine on any beach. Watch out for falling coconuts. Seems silly but more people in the world are killed by falling coconuts than by shark attacks each year and several of the Balnearios used to be coconut plantations.
I know this is about safety but some positive reasons to visit the island would be:
1-History! It’s everywhere in Puerto Rico. The old city is older and larger than St Augustine in Florida with the second oldest Catholic Cathedral in the New World. At one point in the 1700s the city was completely surrounded by walls but some of the fortifications date back as early as the early 1500s, including parts of El Morrow Castle, Castillo San Felipe del Morrow, the sight of true pirates of the Caribbean, one of which was hung in the fort, and one of the two forts that give its name to the fort inside of Disney’s ride. The city of Ponce has a beautiful central plaza highlighted by its Cathedral and one of the oldest fire stations in the New World, painted with distinctive Black and Red stripes. Guanica- a beautiful bay where the U.S. soldiers landed during the Spanish American War (By the way, San Juan Hill is in Cuba). The Caribbean National Forest, El Yunque, has areas where you can see Taino Native petroglyphs that date back centuries and spread across the island are recreated native settlements.
2-Nature- The Caribbean National Forest which is one of only two rain forests that are part of the U.S. National Forestry Service and the only tropical rain forest. The Guanica Dry Forest- a fascinating forest of Ironwood trees and Cacti. Rio Camuy River Cave Park- a cavern that contains the worlds third largest, known, underground river system. Waterfalls abound in Puerto Rico. The northern Karst region filled with caves. Caja de Muertos island to south with its snorkeling trail. Snorkeling and scuba diving all around the island and mangrove ocean kayaking as well as several bio-luminescent bays.
3-Points of interest- There are many. The University of Puerto Rico main campus has a wonderful tropical garden as well as a small museum of Francisco de Goya art. The Ponce Museum of Art, Museo de Arte de Ponce, an absolute must see for art fans, has rotating collections of famous artists as well as a wonderful private collection consisting of around 4500 pieces including such pieces as Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Roman Widow (Dîs Manibus) and Flaming June, Lord Frederic Leighton. Art galleries abound in San Juan and museums can be found across the island including Fine Art and Science and historical museums. There are several light houses that are open to the public as well as Coffee Plantation tours. The largest rum factory in the world, Bacardi, is located across the bay from San Juan and has a great tour of the factory. In Ponce is the second largest Rum manufacturer, Don Q, does not have a factory tour but does have tours of the original house, now a museum, of its founding family. Up the hill, literally walking distance is the Cruceta del Vigía, a giant cement cross that you can ascend via an elevator to get beautiful views of the city of Ponce and the Caribbean Sea, originally a spot where they watched for pirates and French Corsairs as well as English war ships. The largest radio telescope in the world is located in Arecibo and you can visit the sight.
There are so many things I have left out that you may find interesting. The bottom line is that, overall, the people of P.R. are kind and generous people who are very proud of their island and should be. As long as you exert usual caution as you should whenever traveling away from home, you should have no issues in Puerto Rico.
FANTASTIC REVIEW!!! Thank you. I’ve been to PR more times than I can count and have stayed for months at a time and never experienced crime like this article mentions. Granted, drugs and violence go hand in hand…so maybe stay away from drugs. Use the same common sense for safety as you would living anywhere/anytown in the states. Puerto Rico is a truly amazing island and the people are its greatest treasure.
Been there twice. feel pretty safe. But PR is also a large place so maybe there are some spot.
Absolutely ridiculously low score. Not the safest in the world but whoever gave the score has obliviously never been here.
PUERTO RICO IS SAFE TO LIVE
To begin with, in Puerto Rico they have never shot at schools like they do in the USA. We don’t kill people for pleasure like they do in the USA. In general, people have more morals than people in the USA.
for the first comment you don’t know what you’re talking about PR is a safe place in general to live. Like every other city, you just have to be careful where you go. But we just don’t kill just to kill.