Puerto Rico, also known as 'la isla del encanto' (the island of enchantment) is a small and beautiful island, located between the Dominican Republic and The Virgin Islands, forming part of an island chain in the Caribbean. Expats moving to Puerto Rico will find themselves in an unincorporated territory of the United States, a widely contested issue for the local population of just over 3 million.
Living in Puerto Rico as an expat
Puerto Rico's proximity to the US has made it an attractive destination for American retirees. Other expats living in Puerto Rico have usually relocated to work in the territory’s major economic sectors, such as manufacturing and tourism.
The official languages in Puerto Rico are Spanish and English, and although expats should get by without learning Spanish, it may make integration into life on the island easier and quicker. Expats who are moving outside the main cities may also have to adjust to the lack of adequate public transport in Puerto Rico. San Juan has Puerto Rico's only metro and relatively comprehensive bus, ferry and público networks, but most expats who can afford it choose to drive.
Cost of living in Puerto Rico
The cost of living in Puerto Rico is quite steep, as everything from food to cars is imported. Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey places San Juan as the 44th most expensive city out of 227 expat destinations. Accommodation will likely be an expat's biggest expense in Puerto Rico, and is typically pricier in the city centre. Healthcare is another cost expats will have to incur, as public healthcare in Puerto Rico is underfunded and expats will need to secure comprehensive health insurance to access private healthcare.
Prudent expats who would like to stretch their dollars are better off living in areas outside the city centre and shopping at their local markets for basic goods and fresh produce.
Expat families and children in Puerto Rico
The education system is based on that of the US, although Spanish is the primary language of instruction at public and most private schools. Most expat parents choose to send their children to international schools, which usually offer the International Baccalaureate qualification. Expat parents typically opt for this choice because the qualification is internationally recognised and allows children to easily transfer schools in future. While this option may be the most convenient and beneficial for children, it does come at a prohibitively high cost, so expat parents will need to account for this during their contract negotiations and in their monthly budget.
Climate in Puerto Rico
The weather in Puerto Rico is warm and tropical, with little temperature variation throughout the year. Thanks to the island nation's excellent cyclone tracking systems, expats needn't worry about being unprepared for a major cyclone, as warnings are issued in advance. The dry season occurs between December and March, but expats can expect a few short showers throughout the seasons.
Expats moving to Puerto Rico will find themselves living on an island that offers beautiful mountainous scenery, tropical beaches and a relaxed lifestyle. It's also a great spot for travel to nearby islands, with southern areas of the US and northern parts of South America also easily accessible.
Population: 3.2 million
Capital city: San Juan
Neighbouring countries: Located in the Caribbean Sea, Puerto Rico has two neighbouring islands: Dominican Republic towards the west and Virgin Islands to the east.
Geography: Puerto Rico is an archipelago made up of the main island as well as several smaller surrounding islands, only a few of which are inhabited year round.
Political system: Devolved presidential constitutional dependency
Major religions: Catholicism
Main languages: Spanish and English
Money: United States Dollars (USD), subdivided into 100 cents. ATMs are readily available throughout most of Puerto Rico, and it's fairly easy to open a bank account.
Tipping: 15 percent is standard, unless included in the bill.
Electricity: 120V, 60 Hz. Plugs are standard North American plugs with two flat blades.
Internet domain: .pr
International dialling code: +1
Emergency contacts: 911
Driving and transport: Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Public transport is sufficient to get around, especially in San Juan, which has a metro. There are also buses, minibuses and ferries as well as taxis.
►Curious about climate? See Weather in Puerto Rico
►Healthcare in Puerto Rico is a must-read for expats
"The standard of living can be very good, but expensive. Most expats have a housing allowance, which means they can live in an exclusive, gated community. They can also send their children to expensive private schools, as companies usually allow for that expense as well."
Read more about Lynn's expat experience in Puerto Rico.
Are you an expat living in Puerto Rico?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Puerto Rico. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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