Despite some bad publicity that might suggest otherwise, it’s generally safe to visit and travel around Puerto Rico or even take up residence and live comfortably and quietly in many of its residential areas in the suburbs or in its central business districts.
Government authorities are committed to make Puerto Rico safe This is especially true in the big, 2-million people populated capital of San Juan and the other top cities as Ponce, Rincon, Fajardo, Humacao, Dorado and Mayaguez, etc.
However, like any other densely-populated large urban areas in our fast-paced world, Puerto Rico has its share of crime. In fact Puerto Rico has suffered from a lot of bad press in recent years due to a skyrocketing crime rate and exodus of locals due to its faltering economy and lack of jobs. In 2011, Puerto Rico had a record 1,136 murders, making the tiny island on par with war zones in the Congo and Sudan.
The murders are mostly tied to an increase in drug trade as Columbian and Venezuelan traffickers shift to Puerto Rico as a popular stop on their way to Miami and other mainland cities in the U.S.
It’s not all bad news, though. 2014 saw Puerto Rico’s murder rate plummet by 26% due to new anti-crime plans, making it the lowest number of homicides on the island in 15 years.
So is Puerto Rico safe to travel?
Most of the crime on the island happens in and around the big metropolitan areas and directly or indirectly related to illegal drug trade. Official estimates say 60% of homicides and other crimes that put a blemish on the Puerto Rico safety record are drug trafficking-related.
For the most part, locals and expats enjoy a feeling of safety on the island. Stick to basic security measures you would practice in any city. Many residential areas are gated (sometimes triple and quadruple gated as you get to higher-value properties). Tourist areas are well-policed and generally safe.
Puerto Rico Safety Tips
The tourist zones with strong police presence at almost all hours are safe. Old San Juan in the capital city where the governor’s mansion stands is particularly safe.
As with any large city in the U.S. you should always exercise prudence and vigilance. Stay away from strange, unknown areas in the city especially at night. Notorious for the high incidence of drug activities are La Perla, El Morro, Santurce and the areas around Puerta de Tierra outside of the hotel cluster and the Parque delas Palomas, a public park in San Juan. These are high risk areas you should try and avoid when out at night.
- Have copies made of important documents. Keep the original at home or in your hotel and keep a copy with you.
- Keep your car doors locked while driving and hide any valuable items when you leave your car unattended.
- Lock your doors day and night.
- Stay aware of your surroundings, especially when you are getting in and out of your car.
With these precautions in mind and not being unduly careless, you’ll find Puerto Rico is a great place not only to visit but to enjoy living in.
Moving to Puerto Rico
If you are planning a move to Puerto Rico, check out this list of the 10 Safest Cities in Puerto Rico for 2015.