A visit to experience the beautiful beaches of Puerto Rico will give anyone the Vitamin D boost they need. The preferred location for this type of vacation is in San Juan.
Easy access to shops, hotels, dining, and tranquil beaches will make you feel like you’re in paradise. But is San Juan safe?
While any vacation destination needs to be visited with proper precautions, some areas need extra attention to ensure a high level of safety. Is San Juan in that category?
We have compiled some top travel tips for those seeking an adventure in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Continue reading to learn about the essential elements of a trip to the area.
Is San Juan Safe to Visit?
Taking a trip to San Juan will come with few safety concerns, although there are some due to the history of the island and the current crime trends.
With San Juan being the capital as well as a highly populated city, the chances of petty crimes are much higher than in other areas within the territory that are more remote.
Furthermore, the island has a fair amount of gun violence, gang activity, and drug trafficking. While this may not present as a prevalent issue in larger areas, the island’s small size makes it a more pressing one.
In addition, there has been an uptick in crimes against women in recent years. These behaviors have led residents to demand change for the victims of these gender-based crimes and those at risk of becoming a victim of one in the future.
Lastly, there is substantial concern over the risk of natural disasters when taking a vacation to Puerto Rico. As the recipient of many hurricanes that have caused significant damage, Puerto Rico has considerable experience in this area of concern.
Crime in San Juan
As with many other large cities, the amount of crime seen through pickpocketing, bag snatching, and fraud in San Juan is higher than in other areas of the territory.
Due to the large number of tourists who have their attention focused elsewhere, those who are looking to score have the ability to swoop in and obtain the desired items with ease. It’s critical to remain vigilant when exploring new areas.
At times we can become so absorbed in what we are experiencing that we lose sight of what is happening around us at that moment.
With all the incredible sights that San Juan has, this is something that can happen easily. Keeping important documents, credit and debit cards, identification, and cash on you is common during vacation.
However, doing so in a way that gives you more control is beneficial. One of the best ways to do this is by investing in storage that stays close to your body.
Whether that purchase is a fanny pack or a belt that goes around your waist and under your clothes, these options help keep necessary items on hand but in a safer location that is harder to access for criminals.
In addition to taking proper precautions regarding the whereabouts of your essential items, take caution when purchasing goods or services from store owners or operators.
It’s pretty common to be charged an inflated fee for souvenirs or excursions due to your status as a tourist. Knowing standard costs for such items before entering into an agreement is critical to paying a fair price.
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
When traveling to San Juan, Puerto Rico, you’ll want a clear idea of which neighborhoods you should avoid. At times this may be easy to pinpoint, but in the same breath, many don’t realize that most crime occurs in highly touristy areas.
When in San Juan, you’ll want to be diligent in your efforts to be attentive to your surroundings in the following tourist neighborhoods:
- Hato Rey
- Isla Verde
- Ocean Park
- Old San Juan
In addition to the above, extra caution should be given if you find yourself in these areas:
- La Perla
- El Parque de las Palomas
- Puerta de Tierra
Traveling in these areas within a group of people is strongly encouraged, especially at night. Women should never be alone when visiting these attractions and should avoid them at night.
A fair amount of gang activity takes place in Puerto Rico, much of which is known to be conducted in the neighborhoods listed above.
Gang violence has been on the rise recently, and travelers should avoid involvement in any type of conflict to protect themselves from possible gang-affiliated crimes.
A trend that has escalated in the past few years within Puerto Rico as well as many Caribbean islands is brutal attacks on women. The consistency with which this crime has surged has brought Puerto Rican leaders to issue an order declaring a State of Emergency.
This action comes after an increase of 62% in what is being called “femicides,” also known as female homicides. While these crimes aren’t solely focused on female tourists, it’s critical for those visiting the Puerto Rican territory and capital to exercise extreme caution.
Having a majority of female crimes is common in many Middle Eastern and some Asian countries but is a newer development in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
Natural Weather Emergencies
Puerto Rico has experienced a fair share of hurricanes throughout the years. Traveling during certain times of the year can bring anxiety to tourists who know that these storms can develop without much warning.
Since 2020, Puerto Rico has seen three hurricanes. Between 2010 and 2019, the area saw 21 hurricanes. The effect these storms have can be significant for a country that is only 100 miles long and 35 miles wide.
Furthermore, you can add in the fact that Puerto Rico is an island, and as such, emergency supplies can take longer to reach them. Because of this distance, there have been many circumstances where individuals have been in an unfortunate place following one of these natural disasters.
There have been many deaths that have come from the aftermath of the multiple hurricanes to hit Puerto Rico, and even more displaced individuals who lost their homes to the torrential weather.
Additionally, residents have found themselves without electricity, water, and cell service for weeks following these incidents. To avoid the heightened possibility of a hurricane, it’s best to avoid a visit to the island during the months of August and September.
However, it’s still possible to vacation in Puerto Rico during that time if you obtain travel insurance that allows you to cancel at the last minute if the weather should change.
Things to Consider
Taking a trip to a new destination can bring a lot of research. After a certain time, you may feel like you have so much information in your mind that you can’t keep it all straight.
To help you out, here are some of the top points to remember when traveling to San Juan, Puerto Rico:
- Keep all personal items (including money, cards, identification, and passport) attached to your person at all times. Whether via a fanny pack or under-clothing belt, having it in a hard-to-reach location will reduce the chances of petty theft.
- Travel in groups, especially if you’re a female.
- Be sure to ask the front desk at your hotel what areas of San Juan you should avoid during your stay.
- Avoid the designated neighborhoods at all costs, but especially after sunset.
- If traveling through bad neighborhoods, be mindful of any gang activity and steer clear.
- There is a higher level of gun violence in Puerto Rico than in other areas, so take precautions when out and about.
- If traveling during the summer months, keep an eye on changing weather conditions.
- Consider purchasing travel insurance in case bad weather comes during your scheduled trip to Puerto Rico.
- If traveling during hurricane season, try to find accommodations in San Juan that are away from the coast and inward towards the center of the island.
- Be aware of local laws and regulations and have emergency numbers on hand in case issues arise.
- Do your research on typical costs of items and services so that you aren’t misled when purchasing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although Puerto Rico is technically a part of the United States, it can often feel like a completely foreign country due to the language difference and cultural variations.
To help provide peace of mind on your upcoming journey to San Juan, we have compiled the following frequently asked questions to help you on your way.
Is it safe to walk around San Juan at night?
There are many areas of San Juan that are safe to explore at night. However, proper precautions have to be put into play. For instance, you should always travel in groups (this is especially true for women).
Also, always keep your personal items close and avoid entering bad neighborhoods. If you’re unsure what areas to avoid, talk to the front desk at your hotel for further direction.
What should you avoid in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
While there isn’t anything that you want to avoid during your time in San Juan, being conscious of your surroundings and making good choices about what you do when out in public is highly recommended.
Even tourist locations can have high levels of crime due to the mass amount of people having their focus elsewhere.
Anywhere in San Juan can be a safe experience if you take the proper precautions. These steps include traveling in groups and being mindful of your surroundings.
Is Puerto Rico safe for tourists now?
Puerto Rico is a safe vacation destination for tourists. Those visiting the island do need to be aware of the possibility of gang activity, drug selling, petty theft, and an increase in gender-based crimes against women.
However, these circumstances don’t deviate from many other Caribbean islands. In fact, Puerto Rico is one of the safest islands to visit in the area.
Is Puerto Rico or Mexico safer?
To begin with, Puerto Rico is a lot smaller than the country of Mexico. Therefore, the criminal activities are more contained on the island due to the limited space of 100 miles by 35 miles. However, Puerto Rico and Mexico share many similar issues regarding violence and crimes.
Both locations see frequent gun crimes as well as drug trafficking. You’ll also see high levels of poverty, which leads to an increase in pickpocketing and theft. However, traveling to Puerto Rico will prove safer than taking a trip to Mexico.
Is San Juan safe for solo travelers?
While solo travelers can visit San Juan safely, it’s recommended that you make the journey with another individual. This recommendation isn’t specifically for San Juan, as it’s standard advice no matter where you travel.
However, Puerto Rico has experienced a severe incline in gender-based crimes against women that travelers can prevent by voyaging with a group.
Is Puerto Rico safe at night?
If you go out at night during your trip to San Juan, it’s recommended that you stick to the safer neighborhoods in the city. If you’re by yourself, have a fully charged cell phone handy and have an easy-to-access listing of emergency numbers.
While most of San Juan is safe, going out at night brings about another level of danger that can easily be avoided by staying inside. Females should always be with another person (preferably two or more) to better account for their safety while out at nighttime.
What is the prettiest beach in Puerto Rico?
The whole island of Puerto Rico is filled with gorgeous beach after gorgeous beach. However, a top-rated beach based on feedback from locals and previous tourists is Playa Sucia. While this beach isn’t within San Juan, the small nature of the island allows for a quick side trip to explore new terrain.
Is Puerto Rico safer than the Dominican Republic?
Statistics show that the level of crime in Puerto Rico is significantly less than that of the Dominican Republic. Additionally, many crimes are of higher severity, including the frequency of drive-by robberies and shootings.
Like Puerto Rico, crimes of this nature are more prevalent in tourist-heavy areas and larger cities. It’s pertinent to abide by all safety guidelines when traveling to both regions.
So, Is San Juan Safe to Visit?
As an island, Puerto Rico offers a wide array of beauty and experiences for travelers to take in during their visit. With a surplus of golden beaches, tropical weather, and fantastic food, a visit to San Juan can feel a bit like visiting paradise.
With the history that the island holds, it’s understandable that many prospective travelers find themselves wondering — is San Juan safe?
Thankfully, the experience of visiting the gorgeous territory of the United States is generally safe as long as safety precautions are put into play for the duration of the trip. Whether you’re in San Juan for a day, a week, or a month, you can find many fantastic attractions to check out during your stay.
While it can be easy to let your guard down while taking in everything around you, it’s critical to remain aware of your surroundings and to make all attempts to explore in the safest way possible. Safe travels!