Thinking about taking a trip down to Puerto Rico for a little fun in the sun? Before you start packing, there are a few other matters you should take into consideration. Here are some tips to help ensure that your Puerto Rican excursions are both safe and enjoyable.

Understand Local Culture

Although Puerto Ricans are American citizens, the country embraces its Spanish heritage in more ways than one. Spanish is the predominant language, and the Catholic culture is alive and thriving, although there are religious sub-factions that also incorporate some African traditions. Before you go, be aware that feminism is not a concept that’s celebrated in most Puerto Rican households. On the contrary, it’s frowned upon for a woman to subscribe to a non-traditional role within the family.

Should you find yourself engaged in a social situation, remember this term: Respeto. Translating into the English word respect, it refers to the deference that Puerto Ricans will pay to a person of higher status, specifically elders. If the person speaking is noticeably older than you, be careful not to interrupt or otherwise engage in any type of disrespectful behavior in their presence. If you’re an American tourist who’s worried about how to tip while you’re on the island, be reassured that the protocol pretty much aligns with what you’re used to back in the United States.

Choosing the Best Time of Year to Visit

Many people choose to visit Puerto Rico during the winter and early spring from December to May. Why? Mainly because they’re hoping to escape from the dreary weather up north. Also, these months tend to be less rainy, making for a more enjoyable tropical getaway. That being said, if you have more flexibility regarding what time of year, you’re able to travel, try to plan your visit for the off-season from May to November. You’ll encounter fewer crowds and just as many amazing recreational opportunities. While there might be a bit more rainfall, the overall weather patterns don’t differ much from season to season, so you can have a great time no matter when you decide to drop in.

Research Best Places to Travel

While vacations are meant for relaxing, you’ll probably want to plan a few excursions to help fill your days, travel agents help plan such vacations. As is the case with most countries, however, some areas are better suited for these purposes than others. Try to find out as much as you can about the areas you’d most like to visit. If you’re a city person, take a stroll around historic San Juan and take in the fabulous local architecture. Water-sports enthusiasts will have a hard time tearing themselves away from Culebra, where snorkeling and diving opportunities are prime.

Puerto Rico is also home to El Yunque National Forest, the only subtropical rainforest in the US. For an unforgettable experience (not to mention a ton of photo opportunities), take in the bioluminescent waters of Vieques, an island off the eastern coast, where the bay literally glows in the dark. If none of these options sound appealing to you, fear not. Puerto Rico offers a myriad of recreational opportunities, all of which are bound to add multiple pages to your personal memory book. If you don’t have the time a travel agent can help plan your vacation, don’t stress.

Take Precautions

When you’re planning a trip, it can be a drag to hear about the risks involved. However, if you don’t plan ahead, you could find yourself facing a number of difficult situations. First, make sure your vaccinations are up to date. There are no specific vaccines currently required for travel to Puerto Rico; however, check on the status of your tetanus booster and MMR vaccine before you leave. Also, be aware that certain mosquito-borne viruses have been known to crop up in the region. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever possible, especially if you’ll be hiking. A DEET-based insect repellent will also come in handy.

You might also consider investing in travel insurance to cover any medical expenses that you might incur during your travels. There are a number of packages available that will reimburse you if your plans fall through, and even provide emergency assistance if needed. While we certainly hope that you won’t have to use the insurance, it’s one of those things that’s better to have just in case. We would strongly recommend buying an insurance package if your visit falls during hurricane season.

A vacation is a big investment of time as well as money. To get the most out of your experience, you need to understand the culture, take precautions to maintain your health, and do your research on the best spots or hire a travel agent. With the proper amount of planning, you can ensure that you’ll get a marvelous return on that investment the next time you visit Puerto Rico.

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