Puerto Rico 101 for First Time Visitors

Puerto Rico 101 for First Time Visitors

Old San Juan Puerto RicoThere are many things one should learn about Puerto Rico. Especially for first time visitors, it is best to get to know this island, inside out, before enjoying its many wonders.

First and foremost, Puerto Rico is neither a country nor a state. This is perhaps one of the major misconceptions about this tropical destination which is understandable enough given they have their own Olympics team and Ms. Universe contestant. But, hear ye, hear ye! Puerto Rico is in fact a commonwealth, hence the name: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In Spanish, Puerto Rico goes by the moniker Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico.

Now what exactly does a commonwealth status mean? To put it simply, Puerto Rico is a US territory with a specific degree of political autonomy. Now that that one has been straightened out, let us delve into the specifics.

Here is a list of common yet misguided assumptions about the vacation paradise that is Puerto Rico.

Myth #1 – US citizens need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico

English: Municipal locator of Puerto Rico
English: Municipal locator of Puerto Rico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As stated earlier in the article, Puerto Rico is a US territory hence citizens of the United States are free to explore this island even without a passport. US citizens can even live and work in Puerto Rico without the need to apply for a residential and employment permit. Think cross-country driving from the East coast to the West Coast of mainland US and that’s pretty much how you travel to Puerto Rico, only the latter requires you to either go by plane or ship.

Also, it is important to note that Puerto Rico uses the US dollar as its official currency therefore there is no need for foreign currency exchange.

Myth #2 – Puerto Rico is located in South America

This is a serious geographical misunderstanding. Just because there is a large number of Hispanics in Puerto Rico does not mean it is anywhere near Mexico or Argentina. Puerto Rico is one of the biggest and most celebrated Caribbean islands which neighbors Haiti, Cuba, and Dominican Republic. It is even quite accessible from the Florida Keys.

Myth #3 – Puerto Ricans speak bad Spanish

The Spanish used in Puerto Rico, just like most variants of the language spoken in localities outside Spain’s Castilian region where it originated, has its own quirks in terms of pronunciation and slang usage. Nonetheless, it is essentially the same language hence Spanish speaking Americans need not fret. Puerto Ricans will know what you mean by tequila.

Myth #4 – Puerto Ricans don’t speak English

The majority of Puerto Rico’s population use Spanish as their primary language. More than 20% of the locals, though, speak English in varied levels of proficiency. US television channels reach the island of Puerto Rico therefore American tourists are rest assured that the populace in this tropical destination are not at all English-challenged.

Myth #5 – The city of San Juan mirrors the entire Puerto Rican island

English: Skyline of San Juan's Central Busines...
English: Skyline of San Juan’s Central Business District, also known as Hato Rey, or “The Golden Mile”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people consider the city of San Juan- Puerto Rico’s capital city- as either too cramped or too grubby. Such is a sweeping statement given the fact that it doesn’t apply to the rest of San Juan, and some even regard this condition as something that gives the city an added charm and character. Still, most tourists and locals recommend staying in areas outside San Juan to further explore and appreciate what Puerto Rico has to offer.

Myth #6 – Puerto Rico Only has Beaches for tourists

The Caribbean is known for its heavenly beaches and Puerto Rico is definitely not an exception to this well-known fact. But it does not mean Puerto Rico only has exquisite beaches to offer to tourists. Destinations like El Yungue rainforest, Vieque’s Bioluminescent Bay, and Camuy Underground River System’s Cathedral Cavern are just a few of the noteworthy sights every tourist must visit.

Myth #7 – Puerto Rico is all about the laid-back feel

Caribbean is known for its laid back culture and that is something you can experience in Puerto Rico. But if you are into some adrenaline high, this island also has different adventures in store for you. From mountain climbing to various water activities like snorkeling and diving, there is surely an activity that would best suit an adventurer’s specific requirements.

Now that we’ve made things as clear as Puerto Rico’s pristine blue waters, the next thing you should do is to book a flight, get out of the mainland, and soak up Puerto Rico’s unique and awesome charms.

Guest author Amy Jackson is Director of Online Sales at High Class Travel NY, an airline consolidator which specializes in business class and first class tickets and services.

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