Puerto Rico Travel Tips and Information

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Puerto Rico Travel Tips
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110 miles long, 35 miles wide; 3,515 square miles, or slightly less than three times the size of Rhode Island.

Language: Spanish; English is secondary.

Population: 3.8 million, principally in the San Juan area.

Time Zone: One hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time, the same during Daylight Savings Time.

Documents: U.S. citizens need a birth certificate or voter's registration card and photo ID. Citizens of other countries should carry a passport.

Currency: The US$ dollar is the standard rate of exchange. Many U.S. banks have branches in San Juan . Credit cards are accepted in the larger cities, but be prepared to pay cash in the countryside. Keep lots of small bills for drinks, snacks, etc. Banks are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 weekdays. Canadian money is not always readily accepted.

Taxes & Tipping: A 7% room tax in regular hotels, 10% if it has a casino. Tipping of 10-15% is standard and may automatically be added to your bill. The airport departure tax is included in the price of your ticket.

Electrical Current: 110, 60 cycles, same as in the U.S.

Getting There: Puerto Rico probably is the most accessible of all the Caribbean islands, thanks to the large number of airlines that fly here. American Airlines (www.aa.com) has made San Juan its hub for most of the Caribbean, bringing in more than three dozen flights daily from the U.S. Other airlines providing service include Delta, United, and American Airlines. The flying time via a direct flight is short: 2 hours from Miami, 3 hours from New York and 4 hours from Dallas or Chicago.

Getting Around: The easiest and least expensive way to travel is with a rental car. All the major agencies are represented at the San Juan airport. Be sure and get a road map because signs are sometimes scarce or downright confusing.   Once you clear San Juan, driving to the national forests and preserves in the northwest is simple via a four-lane toll road. But once you start heading up into the mountains, be careful on the twisting and winding roads which often have mud and other debris partially blocking them after heavy rains. (See Things To Do)

Where to Stay in Old San Juan: El Convento --once a Carmelite nunnery--is the only major hotel in the heart of Old San Juan. The dining room is the former chapel. El Convento is well situated as a base for a walking tour of the old city. www.elconvento.com

Safety/Health Warnings: San Juan is a large urban area with all the usual crime problems that implies. Cars should be kept locked and valuable possessions left in hotel safes. Drink bottled water rather than tap water. Avoid swimming in rivers since bilharzia could be present. There is a common flu-like illness called "la monga," which is not serious and disappears after few days.

Snakes and Other Venomous Creatures: Puerto Rico has four kinds of snakes but none are venomous. Since El Yunque forest is near a major metropolitan city with a substantial crime rate, your greatest danger is from two-legged animals. Exercise reasonable caution and you should be fine, with or without a guide. Here, as anywhere else in the world, dumb innocence will only get you into trouble.

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