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I visited Puerto Rico - Here's what you need to know right now

May 27, 2021
9 min read
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Puerto Rico is opening back up after several setbacks during the coronavirus pandemic. I was really excited to learn from my colleague Victoria Walker's reporting that the island would drop its COVID-19 PCR testing requirement the week I was set to arrive for a work trip for TPG.

Unfortunately, the rollout of that plan has been delayed until at least Friday, May 28, but it is coming. That should make it much easier for tourists to visit. In the meantime, I'll walk you through what the current process is like and what you can expect once the new system is in place. This should help guide you through an awesome vacation in PR.

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Testing required for visitors -- for now

San Juan sunset from the Condado Ocean Club, May 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

It's a good thing I didn't depend on the rollout of the new policy of no testing for vaccinated visitors. It was supposed to happen on the week of my arrival on May 24, but when I arrived in PR I learned it wasn't going to happen until Friday, May 28. I wouldn't count on everyone being on board with it for a few more weeks, though, and it could be delayed again. Best to get tested before your trip, just in case.

Related: Everything you need to know about visiting Puerto Rico right now

You'll need to show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours prior to your arrival in Puerto Rico. It must come from a lab that Puerto Rico has approved, though it appears the territory will take most PCR tests. Puerto Rico has a searchable map to find a testing facility in the U.S. at this website: TravelsafePR.com.

That's also the website you'll need to register at to get into Puerto Rico. Even when they roll out the "no testing" policy for those who are vaccinated, all visitors will need to fill out the electronic arrival forms.

(Screenshot courtesy TravelsafePR.com)
(Screenshot courtesy TravelsafePR.com)

You will need to visit the travel safe Puerto Rico website and register an account. Then it will ask you when you are arriving, where you are staying and other details of your visit. The next steps take you to a series of questions on if you are vaccinated or not, and it will ask for proof of vaccination and for proof of testing. Remember that most visitors will still need to have proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours old.

When you've filled out all the fields and uploaded your documents, you get a QR code that you will show to airport personnel, wearing full PPE, who are greeting all passengers in the baggage claim area.

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(Screenshot courtesy TravelsafePR.com)

Those workers will ask to see your QR code and if you haven't filled it out or there are other issues, you'll need to visit a nearby table where employees can help you or do further screenings. Since I had my QR code all ready to go, I was waved through. I did ask about the new policy and the worker confirmed it was going to happen on May 28. We'll see.

Workers in PPE at San Juan International Airport, May 24, 2021 (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

If you show up without a negative test, you technically will need to quarantine for 14 days, but there are ways to get out of that requirement. You will have to pay a $300 fine, but if you get tested within 48 hours of your arrival, you can upload the results and get a refund of the money.

You can also get vaccinated at the Puerto Rico airport if you want. If you are flying into Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), you can get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine right in the terminal.

Vaccinated travelers may soon skip testing

(Screenshot courtesy TravelsafePR.com)

Back on May 21, the government of Puerto Rico announced fully vaccinated U.S. travelers will no longer be required to show a negative COVID-19 PCR test upon arrival. That was supposed to start the week I arrived in PR, but it's been delayed until May 28 at the earliest.

Once it is rolled out, arriving visitors won't have to show a negative test, but only if they've been fully vaccinated. Vaccinated travelers will still need to fill out the safe travel PR forms and register with the territory.

Visit TPG’s Caribbean destination hub for more stories about traveling to the region on points and miles, where to stay and what to do.

And do note that this is only for U.S. visitors. All international visitors will still need to show negative test results. U.S. visitors who are not vaccinated will also need to show negative PCR test results.

What it's like in Puerto Rico right now

Visiting Puerto Rico was awesome. Most venues are open again, including restaurants and museums. Businesses can operate at 50% capacity and masks aren't required in parks or beaches if you are fully vaccinated.

Like Alaska and Hawaii, tourism has rebounded almost completely in Puerto Rico. Many hotels are at capacity. It was hard for our team to find restaurant reservations, so plan ahead. Many venues are only operating at half-capacity, so it makes less supply for more demand. I would strongly advise visitors to book car rentals early and have dinner reservations already made upon arrival.

Related: A beginner’s guide to visiting Puerto Rico: Everything you need to eat, see and do

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

In general, masks are still being worn in most public settings in Puerto Rico. Prominent signs still point out that you can be fined for not wearing a mask or forgoing physical distancing.

It's not being rigorously enforced anymore, especially now that the CDC has said vaccinated travelers can take off their masks outside. In general, Puerto Rico has done a good job with compliance with public health and safety measures. PR is an island territory with limited hospital infrastructure, so while the country is open, most hospitality workers I talked to asked me to pass along the message that the pandemic isn't over. They say Puerto Rico is open, but visitors should be respectful.

Unfortunately, there has been a series of ugly incidents with tourists behaving badly, including refusing to wear masks. In fact, there's been a lot of extra police officers assigned to busy tourist areas like Old San Juan. It felt perfectly safe and people were following the rules during my visit.

Police in San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 26, 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

There is a $100 fine in place for those violating mask mandate rules.

Businesses close at 11 p.m. and there is still a midnight curfew that is enforced, so keep that in mind as well.

Discover Puerto Rico CEO Brad Dean in a statement said, “As restrictions loosen, we look forward to welcoming travelers seeking to responsibly explore our Island, immerse themselves in unforgettable culture, unique natural wonders and delicious cuisine, while taking advantage of the ease of travel that comes with Puerto Rico being a U.S. territory, including no need for a passport for U.S. citizens.”

Related: How to use points and miles to get to Puerto Rico

Remember that Puerto Rico has been through several major cataclysms in the past few years, including earthquakes and hurricanes. The territory then had to deal with COVID-19. All the tourism people I talked with said they want visitors to come back, but they are also demanding that tourists follow the law and be respectful.

Bottom line

El Yunque National Forest, May 25, 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I really enjoyed my trip to Puerto Rico. I am a little bummed it didn't roll out the "no-testing required"-policy in time for my visit, but hopefully it will be rolled out soon and you'll be able to skip testing if you are vaccinated. It's really not too much trouble to find testing facilities these days anyway, so don't let that dissuade you. Puerto Rico is an easy trip for Americans with no passport required.

You also won't need to get a COVID-19 test to return to the U.S. mainland since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.

Be sure to plan ahead if you are going as PR is already crowded with tourists again. It's also not a cheap destination, so don't expect many bargains. Still, despite the testing requirement and paperwork involved, it's well worth the hassle to get to visit this historically rich, beautiful and warm tropical destination.

Featured image by San Juan Puerto Rico beach at Condado. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
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  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023