The US territory of Puerto Rico is many things. It’s home to San Juan, the third oldest capital of the Americas (founded in 1521!), it’s bursting with beaches, there are lush rainforests to explore, and the food scene is insane. It’s a Caribbean paradise…
… Or is it? Puerto Rico has a vert high firearm-related homicide rate, and victims are almost always something to do with gangs. A recent gang war didn’t stop the problem, which has grown steadily more widespread. Also, there are devastating hurricanes.
There’s a lot of potential danger in Puerto Rico, which is probably why you’re wondering, “Is Puerto Rico safe?”
Not to worry, we have created this epic safety guide filled with safety tips to help you travel smart.
From whether or not it’s safe to drive in Puerto Rico, tips for solo female travellers in Puerto Rico – even tackling whether you should take your kids to Puerto Rico, to first-time solo traveller planning a trip to Puerto Rico, no need to worry, it’s all covered in our handy guide.
- How Safe is Puerto Rico? (Our take)
- Is it Safe to Visit Puerto Rico Right Now?
- Safest Places in Puerto Rico
- 15 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Puerto Rico
- Is it safe to travel Puerto Rico alone?
- Is it safe for solo female travellers in Puerto Rico?
- More on Safety in Puerto Rico
- FAQs on Puerto Rico’s Safety
- So, is Puerto Rico Safe?
How Safe is Puerto Rico? (Our take)
Take year-round sunshine and combine it with beautiful beaches, mountains, waterfalls and the bustling capital of San Juan and you have yourself a pretty cool destination.
But this US territory isn’t always that safe. There’s a high level of gun crime in the country: the gun homicide rate is pretty high. Illegal drugs and the gangs who traffic them are becoming an increasing problem.
There is also some petty crime and pickpocketing that might mean your money isn’t as safe in Puerto Rico as you’d like it to be.
Then, there’s the weather. Hurricanes do hit Puerto Rico and unfortunately, when they hit, they really hit. Other nature-based dangers include strong currents when you’re out swimming.
That being said, Puerto Rico still is one of the safest Caribbean islands.
Is it Safe to Visit Puerto Rico Right Now?
Puerto Rico is safe to visit right now. In fact, it’s got a lower crime rate than many mainland US cities, which is reassuring. Choosing the right Puerto Rican neighborhood to stay in will also add to your safety.
There is, unfortunately, an unusually high murder rate in Puerto Rico, though, to do with guns. 80% of them are drug-related and most victims are gang members or somehow related to drug trafficking.
Inequality is rife between the different cultures that live here – an ongoing issue – and there’s crime related to that. Almost half the population of Puerto Rico live below the poverty line – the highest of any US state or territory.
Tourism has been important for the island’s economy. Lots of American tourists go there because it’s American territory, so it’s easy, you can use dollars, there are cheap flights, your cellphone still works… And in terms of tourists, there are a lot.
Needless to say, hurricanes are a huge threat to Puerto Rico. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. In fact, tourists are actively being encouraged to help the country recover.
To be extra safe, you may want to avoid visiting when hurricanes are usually at their worst, between September and October.
Whilst it is safe to visit Puerto Rico right now, there are definitely some things you should keep in mind.
Unlock the The Broke Backpacker’s GREATEST Travel Secrets
Sign up for The Broke Backpacker Newsletter to receive weekly tips on how to travel on a budget + a FREE copy of The Backpacker Bible!
Safest Places in Puerto Rico
As we mentioned before, there are definitely a few areas in Puerto Rico that tend to get quite sketchy, especially at night. In order to have a safe trip, you’ll need to stay in the right neighborhoods. While any other lists would include San Juan, we purposely left it out, since the crime rate is quite high. That being said, it’s still an incredible city to visit and you should definitely stop over there, just make sure to be extra careful, especially when traveling alone.
Luckily, there are other, just as stunning places in Puerto Rico that are definitely worth the visit. We’ve listed the safest ones below:
Luquillo is just a short ride from San Juan and offers pretty much the same cool vibes and attractions, just without the masses of tourists and pickpocketing issues. If you want to make a day trip to San Juan, it’s the perfect place to base yourself. The local beach, Balneario de Luqillo, is considered one of the best on the island, with golden sands and great local services. Staying in Luquillo is surprisingly affordable, especially if you consider that you won’t just be getting a room, but entire apartments and condos for a super low price. Luquillo is also where you can grab the ferry to Vieques, and is right next door to Fajardo.
Luquillo is like San Juan, just without the high crime rates. With plenty of great accommodations, attractions, and a super friendly vibe, it’s the perfect base for staying safe and being able to see all of what Puerto Rico has to offer.
Speaking of… Vieques is actually a separate island, but it’s quite easy to get to; you just need to take a ferry from the main island. Vieques is easily the most rural destination in Puerto Rico, and you’re likely to find farm animals roaming freely around the streets. If you want something completely off-the-beaten-path but incredibly safe, Vieques is an excellent choice.
Vieques is largely unspoiled by tourism – so not only is it the most unique destination in Puerto Rico, but it’s also one of the most unique in the entire Caribbean. There is a bioluminescent bay here that shines even brighter than its better-known cousin on the main island. Tourism is starting to make its way here though, so make sure to visit soon before that all changes.
Vieques is one of the most unique and remote areas in Puerto Rico. Being a separate island, you can enjoy empty beaches, untouched nature, and some of the most friendly locals you’ll ever come across.
Dorado is right in the middle of Puerto Rico’s North Coast. Nolos Morales Park and Beach is the largest public park in Puerto Rico but is largely a secret kept for locals. The unspoiled beaches, vast forest lands, and gorgeous rocky scenery make this a perfect retreat for those that really want to get away from it all.
Within Dorado, you will also find some great family-friendly attractions and welcoming locals. For this reason, we think this is another super safe place to visit. It’s also quite close to San Juan. Those looking for something off-the-beaten-path will enjoy the local culture, which has largely been untouched by the tourism industry.
Dorado is another very safe city in Puerto Rico. Ideal for families and travelers that want to enjoy a bit of local culture, Dorado can be considered a real hidden gem for visitors and locals alike. It’s off-the-beaten-path, but definitely worth the visit.
Places to avoid in Puerto Rico
Drug trafficking and gang-related crimes are still a problem in Puerto Rico. As we mentioned above, not all areas are safe for visitors. We’d definitely advise caution in certain areas, e.g. in and around San Juan where most crime on the island takes place. There’s also:
- Louis Lloren Torres (a public housing complex)
- Parque de la Palomas
- Puerta de Tierra
- And parts of La Perla
These places are not safe at night so avoid them completely or if you have to, explore them with a guide or a large group of people. Always keep your eyes open and stay aware of your surroundings.
Have fun in Puerto Rico, but take it from us, overseas medical care and canceled flights can be seriously expensive – insurance can, therefore, be a life-saver.
Travel mishaps can and do happen and it is well worth thinking about insurance before you leave home.
We have used World Nomads for years now and I have personally made several claims. Why not get a quote from them yourself?
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
You might think that Puerto Rico is a no-no. But it’s actually really okay. It’s a pretty safe place to visit. In fact, safer than most US cities – and a lot more beautiful, too. As ever though, it pays to know how to travel smart, so here are our top safety tips for traveling to Puerto Rico to help you out…
- Be careful of your belongings – don’t leave them unattended (especially at the beach), don’t hang bags on chairs or wear dangly bags, anything like that – they’ll probably go missing. Consider purchasing a money belt to hide your cash.
- Try not to look too much like a tourist – that will most likely make you more of a target for would-be thieves. Instead, try to blend in.
- Know about ‘Blue Laws’ – in Old San Juan you can’t drink on the streets. Other places have this rule too, so do research and be aware.
- Be vigilant at night in cities – especially San Juan. Crime is just higher after dark, you will get propositioned for drugs and that sort of thing.
- Steer clear of caserios – in the daytime, these housing estates are usually ok. But at night, do NOT go there. Gangs operate here.
- Stay away from drugs – it’s still US law and not good to get involved. Why fund the gangs anyway?
- Learn some Spanish – English is spoken, but outside tourist areas Spanish is dominant. A few phrases will definitely help, so prepare to start learning a new language!
- Watch for weather warnings – not just hurricanes but tropical storms can cause flooding. Keep an eye on the news.
- Careful if you trek the rainforests – it’s easy to get lost. Take a map, be prepared, tell people where you’re going.
- Cover your legs and arms when hiking – there are poisonous plants in the rainforest. Don’t touch flora/fauna either.
- Take a good medical kit with you – even a minor graze can get infected in this sort of climate, so make sure you take care of it.
- Obey signs on the beaches – riptides can be deadly. The sea may look inviting, but it could be super dangerous.
- If you find yourself in trouble with a riptide – don’t swim against it; swim parallel to the shore and make your way back once you feel less of a current.
- Watch out for coral, sea urchins, jellyfish – not nice to get into contact with any of those, so watch where you swim.
- Cover up against pests – sandflies/mosquitoes. The latter can carry the zika virus and dengue fever. Use a repellent with DEET to the keep mosquitoes away.
Some General Safety Tips from the OG Broke Backpacker
If you know us already, you’ll know we’re big advocates of solo travel. Pros range from simply doing what you want to do, to actually grow as a person. But there are cons, of course. Getting jaded with the whole thing, even bored, sometimes lonely…
Luckily Puerto Rico is actually an awesome place to travel solo and it’s safe too! There are all sorts of adventures you can have on this amazing Caribbean island. But we have a few solo travel tips for Puerto Rico to make sure you have the best time ever and stay safe…
- Let people know where you’re going and don’t go off the grid. A solo travel adventure anywhere doesn’t mean you have to cut yourself off from your friends and family back home. Tell people what you’re up to, where you’re going, where you’re staying; it’ll be safer for you in the long-run if somebody knows where you are.
- Be mindful of stuff that seems so simple that you forget to do it. If you’re by yourself, there’s no one to remind you of the simple stuff like putting sunscreen on, or covering up against mosquitoes, or not swimming too far out on a beach.
- Read reviews before you stay anywhere. This will ensure that you’re staying at a place that’s right for you as a solo traveller that will also fit you as a person. For example, no use staying somewhere social that’s also a massive party hostel if you don’t want to party, right?
- Make friends with other travellers. This will help beat the solo travel blues! Get chatting to people at your accommodation, make a few drinking buddies, maybe even fun peeps to explore the rest of Puerto Rico with.
- Keep emergency numbers at the top of your phonebook. In case something happens, you’ll want to call someone quickly.
- Travel with a sim card. This will help you with everything from maps so you don’t end up getting lost, being able to check restaurant reviews on the move, updating Facebook, talking to your family – everything.
- Join a tour. This may seem like it’s ‘not backpacking’ or whatever, but that’s not true. Joining a tour, even if it’s a walking tour from your hostel, is a great way to meet people, learn about Puerto Rico, and do it safely, too.
- Try not to keep all your money in one place. If that one place, a wallet or a bag, goes missing, then you’re pretty much screwed. Spread it around the place. Use a money belt. You may even want to think about getting your hands on a credit card (just for emergencies), too.
- Ask locals about what to do, where to go, places to eat and drink, etc. This is the best way to find the best spots in Puerto Rico. Locals are definitely going to know their island better than a foodie Instagram.
- Avoid getting too drunk when you’re out at night. It’s fun, we know, but getting completely wasted is not a good way to stay safe. Losing your senses can not only mean you don’t know your way home, but it’s also a good way to make some pretty bad judgment calls as well.
So there you have it. Puerto Rico is safe for solo travellers and it’s an awesome place to explore, even by yourself. We’re not going to lie, it’s a pretty epic place to travel solo. Just be sure to keep your wits about you!
Is it safe for solo female travellers in Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico is part of the US, so laws and safety advice is similar to travelling the USA. Travelling solo as a woman isn’t unusual on the island of Puerto Rico, but as a foreigner, you will stick out more than a local lady. You may have to deal with things like harassment. It’s usually taking the verbal form.
That said, Puerto is safe for solo female travellers, but you should be doing everything you normally to keep yourself safe. And to help out, even more, we’ve got some tailor-made tips for solo female travellers in Puerto Rico…
- Men can be too friendly. People are super friendly in Puerto Rico, but you want to be able to make the difference between being friendly and being TOO friendly. If someone’s attention is getting too much for you and you feel uncomfortable, be firm but polite and decline their advances.
- Don’t tell just anybody the details of your trip. You don’t always know who you’re talking to and what their intentions are. Lie or remove yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to make a fuss if you’re feeling like you really are in danger. Even more so in public places. Most likely this will stop any attention coming your way from the perpetrator.
- Be super careful if you’re drinking by yourself. Don’t accept any drinks from strangers, watch your drink once you’ve brought one. Drink spiking can and does happen.
- As a woman, you’ll be seen as an easy target for petty theft. As annoying as it is, make sure you are extra careful with your bags, use cross-body straps, a money belt, anything to secure your belongings closer to your person. Dangly stuff is more likely to get snatched.
- Take a look around you and see what local women are wearing. Though you can pretty much wear whatever you want in Puerto Rico, try to follow local fashion. You don’t have to match what they’re wearing, but knowing what’s appropriate and what’s not will not only help you blend in a little more (so you don’t look like an unsuspecting tourist) but may also curb unwanted attention.
- Do your research when it comes to choosing a place to stay. Pay extra attention to reviews written by other solo female travellers. If they’re favourable, if people seem to love it, then it’s probably going to be safe, secure and social.
- Avoid wandering around at night by yourself. This goes doubly for quiet, deserted streets. If you absolutely do have to walk anywhere after dark, stick to busy spots where there are lots of other people. Shortcuts down sideroads are not worth the risk.
Puerto Rico isn’t as dangerous as you might think. For solo female travellers, Puerto Rico is actually surprisingly safe. Choose yourself a social hostel with good reviews from other women, make some travel buddies, book a tour, explore this stunner of an island. Just make sure you make your safety and security a priority, watch your surroundings and use your common sense. If you follow our tips you’ll be just fine!
More on Safety in Puerto Rico
We’ve covered the main safety concerns already, but there are a few more things to know. Read on for more detailed information on how to have a safe trip to Puerto Rico.
Is Puerto Rico safe to travel for families?
Puerto Rico is very safe to travel for families! In fact, it’s a top destination for people with children. So naturally, the island is pretty well equipped for family-friendly fun.
There’s a ton of activities to enjoy together, all for different ages. Think snorkeling, days at the beach, child-friendly museums, and even tales of pirates.
There’s not too much trouble in nature here. Trails for hikes are well-trodden and well signposted. But it’s important to be prepared.
Attractions on the island can sometimes be unpredictable with their opening/closing hours. Check before you go.
There’s a whole range of accommodation options available in Puerto Rico. There are even family-sized apartments you can stay in. Just make sure to read reviews before you book – some aren’t so child-friendly. Resorts usually are though, and some have kids clubs.
Is it safe to drive in Puerto Rico?
It is safe to drive in Puerto Rico, but it can be challenging.
We’re not going to lie: the drivers make it challenging. They tend to drive erratically, jump red lights, don’t pay attention to roadlands, and will generally be more aggressive than what you may already be used to on the US mainland.
Driving in rural areas or mountain roads is both scenic and scary! The roads can be super narrow, have sheer drops, and also not be in the best condition, too.
Another thing to note about driving in Puerto Rico is the fact that (for some reason) GPS systems don’t work very well here. People often get lost when the GPS directs you up some random road – even a map can be tricky to follow. Having a few Spanish phrases so you can ask for directions will almost certainly come in handy.
And finally, in certain places be careful of animals running out into the road. Especially if you’re driving around Isla de Vieques.
If you rent a vehicle, make sure that you purchase solid rental insurance to have full peace of mind whilst on the road.
In conclusion, driving in Puerto Rico is actually a good way to get around the island independently. But be careful at night and where you leave your car.
Is Uber safe in Puerto Rico?
Uber’s safe in Puerto Rico. However, it’s quite limited so it’s not always easy to pick one up.
Safe, though. It depends on the demand at the time. A weekend evening, for example, will be very busy. And you can’t get an Uber from the airport, either. It’s mainly in operation in and around San Juan.
Plus because of that weird GPS thing, Uber drivers might get lost themselves, or not be able to find where you are.
Are taxis safe in Puerto Rico?
Taxis are safe in Puerto Rico, but they can be a little expensive too.
The fares are set in main tourist zones (around Old San Juan) and from the airport. Outside of that, they’re supposed to use the meter. But don’t expect that to happen…
To get a taxi, you can hail one or you could call one to pick you up, or grab a cab from the lines that usually form outside big hotels, cruise ship piers, tourist attractions.
Look for white cars with a yellow Garita or sentry box logo that says TAXI TOURISTICO on the side of them.
They may be expensive, but they’re safe and pretty dependable. The usual alternative to taxis, Uber, isn’t so well established or even used that much, which is a good-ish gauge of how safe the taxis are in Puerto Rico.
Outside of the city of San Juan, however, you’re not going to be able to find a taxi so easily. The best way to get yourself into a cab is to ask your accommodation. They’ll either be able to recommend a reputable company to you or just call one for you.
Is public transportation in Puerto Rico safe?
Public transport in Puerto Rico is safe for the most part, however sometimes on busy buses, you will have to watch out for your belongings. Pickpocketing can happen in these cases.
Also, public transport isn’t very well connected over the whole island.
Within San Juan, of course, there’s a pretty comprehensive (and cheap) bus system – 50 cents per ride! At the same time, it can be pretty tricky for visitors to figure out just how to actually use it.
The information at the bus stops isn’t always accurate, the buses themselves don’t really run on time, and they can get crowded and stuck in traffic.
There’s also the Tren Urbano. This one-line urban train basically just runs through San Juan. It doesn’t go to Old San Juan or any big sights; it’s more for commuters.
The old trolley service is amazingly free! It’s open-air and runs around Old San Juan, connecting it to the cruise ship terminal which is pretty handy for visitors.
Again: safe, but not exactly comprehensive. Like pretty much all of Puerto Rico’s public transport.
When moving from place to place, you shouldn’t store travel documents in a bag, even if it’s under your seat or overhead.
A full-sized money belt that stays tucked under your clothes keeps your documents and cash organized during your travels and assures nothing critical gets left behind or stolen.
Is the food in Puerto Rico safe?
Traditional Puerto Rican food has a load of different ingredients. Indigenous Taino mixes with African and European cuisine for some pretty tasty dishes. And then don’t forget the mainland American influence.
And generally, the food in Puerto Rico is safe. So you’re going to be able to sample what’s on offer without getting too ill. But then again, it’s important to use your common sense here too and to help out even more, here are our pro tips for food safety in Puerto Rico…
- Try not to get stuck in tourist traps. It’s easily done in Puerto Rico, particularly in San Juan (and almost certainly the old town) and beachside locations. They’ll have English-only menus and maybe people trying to get you in.
- Meals in hotels can be pricey – and you really shouldn’t be afraid of eating at more local places away from your hotel. Not only is it safe to do so, but it’s also going to be tastier, a better experience, and probably about half the price of a hotel meal.
- Go to places that are popular. And preferably, that are popular with locals. These are going to be the people who know what to look for when it comes to the tastiest traditional dishes of Puerto Rico. If it’s busy, and there’s a quick turnover of customers, it’s probably very tasty and safe to eat there. Don’t opt for a quiet place just because you don’t want to stand in line – it might be quiet for a reason.
- The same goes for food trucks. These are popular ways to get a quick snack on the island. And delicious snacks, at that! Just make sure you’re waiting in line, basically. Unless you can vouch somehow for a food truck that isn’t busy (i.e. online reviews) avoid ones that aren’t busy or that don’t look that clean.
- Avoid food that looks like it’s been sitting around in the heat all day long. This a good way for food, especially meat and fish, to get bacteria crawling all over it. A recipe for a bad stomach.
- Don’t eat everything right away. There are honestly so many tasty things to eat. We’re talking majorly delicious. And a lot of it is fried. And most of it is rich, stodgy and spicy. Take time to get used to it and ease yourself into all the tastiness.
Puerto Rico food is amazing! You literally must try the Puerto Rico staple of mofongo – green plantain, fried pork skin, all mashed together and fried with garlic, served with meat which is an insane concoction and gives insanely delicious results.
Can you drink the water in Puerto Rico?
Most of the time you can drink the water in Puerto Rico.
But after the hurricane, water quality decreased in some areas after damage. In the cities though, you should be fine. In the countryside, however, you’ll have to be careful. The best thing to do is just ask a local if it’s ok to drink whatever you’re thinking of drinking. Simple.
Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle.
The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered.
Read our full review of the GRAYL GEOPRESS!
Is Puerto Rico safe to live?
Puerto Rico is definitely a safe place to live. And it’s an awesome place to live, too.
However, the basic rule of thumb is here: don’t choose to live anywhere near public housing areas. This is where gang activity goes on, which includes drug dealing and shootings.
Puerto Ricans are friendly! And if you have a little bit of Spanish under your belt, it should get you involved in the culture even more. So we would definitely recommend learning some. Even if you’re not the best at it, it’ll help.
Even though Puerto Rico is part of the US, it has its own languages and traditions, like many colonies around the world. If you are concerned about your safety, you can opt to live in a gated community. But it’s not something you need to do.
So yes, it’s safe to live in Puerto Rico. Just do your research, pick somewhere, make your plans, pack a bag and go!
Is it safe to rent an Airbnb in Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico’s Airbnbs aren’t just safe, they’re also exceptionally beautiful and breathtaking. During your booking process, you’ll be perfectly protected through the platform, and you can check the small details on each property as well. Previous guests can leave reviews and ratings after their stay, so you’ll know exactly what to expect. But keep in mind that hosts can review you as well. This guarantees a very respectful and safe communication and booking process from both sides.
You’ll find most Airbnbs in San Juan, but there are a few unique properties distributed all over the island as well. They might not be the cheapest places, but definitely worth the stay – make sure to check them out!
Is Puerto Rico LGBTQ+ friendly?
Yup, Puerto Rico is definitely an LGBTQ+ friendly travel destination. It’s actually one of the most gay-friendly Caribbean islands, with lots of gay clubs, open-minded accommodation options and an large gay clientele. If you’re visiting with your partner, you’ll be most likely not to experience any problems in Puerto Rico, even in San Juan.
Of course, there’ll always be one or the other idiot that leaves a rude comment, but generally, locals and travellers are known to be very friendly, accepting and welcoming.
FAQs on Puerto Rico’s Safety
Planning a safe trip to Puerto Rico can get quite overwhelming. That’s why we’ve listed and answered the most frequently asked questions on safety in Puerto Rico.
So, is Puerto Rico Safe?
Yes, we’d definitely consider Puerto Rico as safe to visit – as long as you use your common travel sense. If you’re looking for trouble, you’ll find it.
You may be worried about gang violence in Puerto Rico, and to be fair – it’s a valid concern. The fact that this actually occurs in this US territory is quite concerning. But the reality is this: tourism is very important for Puerto Rico. The likelihood of anything actually happening to you is low unless you wander (very stupidly) into the areas where narco gangs hang out.
That’s the simple way to deal with that issue – as a tourist anyway. There is a little bit of a problem with petty crime, but that’s avoidable, too. Wear a money belt, don’t look too much like an unsuspecting tourist and try to blend in. Keep your belongings close to you and watch out for suspicious characters trying to get close to you. Your money is likely to stay safe in Puerto Rico if you just pay attention.
If you think we’ve missed anything important, let us know in the comments below!
And have you thought about getting Travel Insurance for your trip? You can get a quote from World Nomads by clicking on the link below.
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels!
Find out how YOU can support the site.
We work hard to put out the best backpacker resources on the web for free! It’s all about helping out our tribe of awesome backpacker readers (that’s you!). Please visit the link to find out how you can help keep the site going 🙂
For the sake of transparency, some of the links in our content are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a piece of gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only link to stuff that members of the Broke Backpacker team has actually used and never endorse products or services that are not up to scratch. Thanks for your support!