1. You don’t need a passport.
Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, so you do not need a passport to travel here. A few panicked trips to the County Clerk’s office and expedite fees later, we realized that we had added a load of unnecessary stress onto our plates.
There are a few other islands that you can travel to without a passport, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. For more information on entry requirements and suggestions from U.S. Customs & Border Protection for these locations [including Puerto Rico], visit their website.
2. Choose your rental car wisely.
As a 20-something year old partway through college, I had chosen the cheapest rental car available: a white Toyota Corolla. If you plan to stay around San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, then an economy car will suffice. But if you plan on driving out in the country to visit places like Lake Carite or Adjuntas, then I would highly, highly recommend paying the extra hundred bucks to rent an SUV or truck instead. Aside from the main highways, the roads in central Puerto Rico are an utter nightmare. Opting for the Corolla means sentencing yourself to the same fate I had faced: gingerly explaining to the car rental company that the two new dents in the bumper were “unavoidable” and therefore, “not our fault”. Not every insurance company will see it that way.
3. Bring a map, and not just for the aesthetic.
When I visit a new destination, I want to really experience it. Although San Juan is a charming city with a little something for everyone, I wanted to see more of the island than your average traveler. We drove through the mountains and explored parts of Puerto Rico that most tourists will never get to see. But when we were driving to our Airbnb in Utuado, we lost reception. And, like the late millennials that we are, we had nothing more than Apple Maps to find our way. We backtracked until we found a spot of service long enough to take a few map screenshots to guide our way. Don’t learn the hard way like us; be prepared with a backup plan.
Want to know more about traveling to Puerto Rico? Read my next article on How to Travel Puerto Rico Like a Local.