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, I have created this epic safety guide filled with safety tips to help you travel smart.
It’s packed with info 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. If it’s your first-time solo travelling to Puerto Rico, no need to worry, it’s all covered in this handy guide.
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There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, and this article is no different. The question of “Is Puerto Rico Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on the parties involved. But this article is written for savvy travellers from the perspective of savvy travellers.
The information present in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing, however, the world is a changeable place, now more than ever. Between the pandemic, ever-worsening cultural division, and a click-hungry media, it can be hard to maintain what is truth and what is sensationalism.
Here, you will find safety knowledge and advice for travelling Puerto Rico. It won’t be down to the wire cutting edge info on the most current events, but it is layered in the expertise of veteran travellers. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practise common sense, you will have a safe trip to Puerto Rico.
If you see any outdated information in this guide, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. We strive to provide the most relevant travel information on the web and always appreciate input from our readers (nicely, please!). Otherwise, thanks for your ear and stay safe!
It’s a wild world out there. But it’s pretty damn special too. 🙂
Updated November 2023
- Is Puerto Rico Safe to Visit Right Now?
- Safest Places in Puerto Rico
- 15 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Puerto Rico
- Is Puerto Rico Safe to Travel to Alone?
- Is Puerto Rico Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
- Is Puerto Rico Safe for Families?
- Getting Around Puerto Rico Safely
- Crime in Puerto Rico
- FAQs on Puerto Rico’s Safety
- So, How Safe Is Puerto Rico?
Is Puerto Rico Safe to Visit Right Now?
Yes, 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 and 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.
Safest Places in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico can tend to get quite sketchy, especially at night. In order to have a safe trip, you’ll need to stay in the right neighborhoods.
• 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. Staying in Luquillo is surprisingly affordable compared to the cost of living in Puerto Rico.
• 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. If you want something completely off-the-beaten-path but incredibly safe, Vieques is an excellent choice.
• Dorado is right in the middle of Puerto Rico’s North Coast. Within Dorado, you will also find some great family-friendly attractions and welcoming locals. For this reason, I 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.
Places to Avoid in Puerto Rico
Drug trafficking and gang-related crimes are still a problem in Puerto Rico. As I mentioned above, not all areas are safe for visitors. I’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.
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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…
- Be careful of your belongings – don’t leave them unattended.
- Try not to look too much like a tourist – especially in San Juan.
- 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.
- Steer clear of caserios – 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 – start learning a new language, it’s fun anyway!
- Watch for weather warnings – not just hurricanes but tropical storms can cause flooding.
- Careful if you trek the rainforests – 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.
- Take a good medical kit with you – even a minor graze can get infected in this sort of climate.
- Obey signs on the beaches – riptides can be deadly.
- If you find yourself in trouble with a riptide – don’t swim against it.
- Watch out for coral, sea urchins, jellyfish – watch where you swim.
- Cover up against pests – sandflies/mosquitoes. The latter can carry the zika virus and dengue fever. Use a repellent to keep mosquitoes away.
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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 I 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.
- 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, and 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 to being able to check restaurant reviews on the move, updating Facebook, talking to your family – everything.
- 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.
- Avoid getting too drunk when you’re out at night. It’s fun, I know, but getting completely wasted is not a good way to stay safe.
So there you have it. Puerto Rico is safe for solo travellers and it’s an awesome place to explore, even by yourself. I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty epic place to travel solo. Just be sure to keep your wits about you!
Is Puerto Rico Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
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, I’ve got some tailor-made tips for solo female travellers in Puerto Rico…
- Men can be 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.
- 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.
- Do your research when it comes to choosing a place to stay. Pay extra attention to reviews written by other solo female travellers.
- Avoid wandering around at night by yourself. This goes doubly for quiet, deserted streets. Shortcuts down sideroads aren’t worth the risk.
Choose yourself a social hostel with good reviews from other women, make some travel buddies, book a tour and 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.
Is Puerto Rico Safe 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, Puerto Rico’s National Parks, 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.
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Getting Around Puerto Rico Safely
It is safe to drive in Puerto Rico, but it can be challenging.
I’m not going to lie: the drivers make it challenging. They tend to drive erratically, jump red lights, don’t pay attention to roadlands, etc etc. Another thing to note about driving in Puerto Rico is the fact that (for some reason) GPS systems don’t work very well here.
Uber’s safe in Puerto Rico. However, it’s quite limited so it’s not always easy to pick one up. axis are safe in Puerto Rico, but they can be a little expensive too.
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, and tourist attractions. Look for white cars with a yellow Garita or sentry box logo that says TAXI TOURISTICO on the side of them.
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.
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.
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.
Crime in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s crime rate is lower than it is in most other parts of the US. But, crime is far from rare. Whilst most crime that occurs is petty crime, such as pickpocketing and theft, violent crime in Puerto Rico is a real danger. At least 600 people are murdered in Puerto Rico each year.
Tourists are seldom the target of violent crime in Puerto Rico, and much of this violence is between rival gangs. If you are an American tourist in Puerto Rico, I wouldn’t worry much. The US Travel Advisory recommends exercising normal precautions or using common sense (Level 1). This is safer than ‘safe countries’ such as Germany and France.
If you have any safety concerns, contact local police if anything seems wrong. Stay aware of common tourist scams in tourist areas like Old San Juan and most importantly USE COMMON SENSE!
Laws in Puerto Rico
Most of the federal laws that apply in the USA apply in Puerto Rico, but not all of ’em. Just like all of America, Puerto Rico has its own laws too.
Marijuana is not legal recreationally BUT the drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18, unlike the USA’s 21 – which is all you need to know. 😉
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FAQs on Puerto Rico’s Safety
Planning a safe trip to Puerto Rico can get quite overwhelming. That’s why I’ve listed and answered the most frequently asked questions on safety in Puerto Rico.
So, How Safe Is Puerto Rico?
I’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 I’ve missed anything important, let me know in the comments 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!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!