When calling a tropical Caribbean Island, you can’t get much better than vibrant Puerto Rico, bustling with life and boasting some stunning beaches. As an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico has some incredible advantages for those who choose to live there, from its tax advantages and glorious weather to its vibrant culture and friendly people.
On the contrary, we need to admit that Puerto Rico has some downsides too, like anywhere else, and when you come to know about them, it can influence your decision to move there. Puerto Rico has many sides you may not always see, from its extreme hurricane seasons to its poverty-stricken areas.
So, with that in mind, I am here to shine a light on the good, the bad, and the ugly truths about what it’s like to live in Puerto Rico because it is essential to know all perspectives.
Lest dive in and unveil the pros and cons of living in Puerto Rico.
A Quick Overview & Comparison
|Pros of Living in Puerto Rico
|Cons of Living in Puerto Rico
|No Visa for Americans
|Lack of Job Opportunities
Cobbled streets of San JuanSo where is Puerto Rico, I hear you ask? This stunning island is in the Caribbean Sea just east of the Dominican Republic, making it an ideal place to visit its Caribbean neighbors and Central, North, and South America. Puerto Rico is part of the Greater Antilles, comprised of Cuba, Jamaica, and Hispaniola (the island of Haiti and the Dominican Republic)
It is located just 1000 miles (1600 km) southeast of Florida, and this proximity is a main draw for those emigrating to this island. The islands’ location has a significant impact on its extreme weather patterns, which we will delve into further in the article, as well as its overall climate, so while it may sound lush and tropical, it’s essential to know more about the impact of Puerto Ricos location on locals and expats.
Pros of Living in Puerto Rico
1. US Citizens Don’t Need a Visa
First and foremost, if you are a US citizen considering a move to Puerto Rico, you will be happy to know that a visa is one less thing to worry about. Visas can cost a lot of money and take time to process, deterring some people from choosing a specific place. Still, US citizens can easily move to Puerto Rico since it is a US territory and Puerto Ricans are US citizens.
On the other hand, if you are from another country, you will need to apply for a visa depending on your nationality, but this shouldn’t stop you from moving if Puerto Rico is the place for you.
2. Lower Cost of Living
One big pro of living in Puerto Rico is the lower cost, which can stretch your money further, especially if you are working remotely as a digital nomad or have retired there with savings. A single person can expect to pay $1,044 without rent per month, while a family of four can expect to pay $3,656.
Compared to the US, Canada, and some European countries, Puerto Rico certainly has lower costs for rent, local food, and transport, but for the region, it is more expensive than its neighbors. The average rent price is between $400-800 depending on where you live, and you can expect the capital of San Juan to be more expensive than any other part of the island.
3. Beautiful Landscapes
Puerto Rico is well known for its stunning natural landscape: pristine beaches, clear waters, and mountainous backdrops. For those that love nature and perhaps love to spend time outside hiking, sea swimming or going on boat trips, this will be a fantastic place to live since it ticks all the boxes.
You can easily come across banana plantations, stretches of desert, isolated beaches, and rolling green hills when exploring the island, which makes it such a diverse place to live. The landscape must be one of the main reasons people decide to move there, plus the weather is excellent all year round, which is the icing on the cake.
4. Affordable Education
One of the pros of living in Puerto Rico, especially for families with young kids or those planning to upskill, is that education is affordable there. Almost 94% of people in Puerto Rico are literate, and since the school system is based on that of the US, students are taught in Spanish but take English as a class.
There are public, private, and secondary schools throughout Puerto Rico, plus various post-secondary colleges and universities. The fact that there is a lot of focus on education from an early age is a great thing to know if you are moving to Puerto Rico with school-aged children.
5. Vibrant Culture
Like most of the Caribbean Islands, the culture in Puerto Rico is infectious. Locals love to take every opportunity to enjoy life, whether celebrating local festivals, going out with friends, or dancing the night away. As well as the vibrant culture is apparent in the people’s ways; it is also evident in the colorful buildings and architecture.
The culture is a colorful tapestry of old and new, which makes it such a fascinating place to explore, and living there means you can enjoy this vibrancy every day. There is something so warm and inviting about Puerto Rico, which can be the captivating music playing on each street corner, the smiling faces, or the elements of history seen all over the island.
6. Warm Weather
Not only does Puerto Rico have warm summers, but it also has warm weather all year round. If you are a sun worshipper and searching for a new sunny place to call home, you cannot overlook Puerto Rico for this. The warmth means you can comfortably enjoy the outdoors, eating al fresco and enjoying the beach whenever you want.
You can expect average temperatures of 26C (80F) all year round, which means it is always summertime there. If you want to escape a country that has harsh snowy winters, then Puerto Rico is the place to go, where you can make the most of the weather just like the locals do.
7. High Quality of Life
Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, it has the benefit of offering its locals and expats an excellent quality of life, just like the US. This can be great if you want to enjoy the benefits of a tropical island but perhaps don’t want to sacrifice other aspects of your life, like good healthcare, good education, and rich cultural experiences.
Puerto Rico ticks many boxes to have an excellent quality of life with a much lower cost than you would pay in the USA or Europe, for instance. For example, the life expectancy of a woman in Puerto Rico was 82.52 years, while the life expectancy of men was 75.8 as of 2021.
8. Tax Advantages
One of the main pros of living in Puerto Rico is the tax advantages you can benefit from. The Puerto Rico Incentives Code (Act 60) offers many benefits, such as a 100% tax exemption on capital gains and a 75% exemption on property tax. Of course, many are moving there to enjoy these benefits or set up businesses.
The official currency of Puerto Rico is the US Dollar, and while it is a territory and not a state, it offers all these tax benefits to those who become residents. If you spend 183 out of the year on the island, you can become a tax resident and take advantage of this tropical tax haven.
Cons of Living in Puerto Rico
9. Things Are Slow
Like many countries worldwide that have been influenced by the ‘mañana mañana’ attitude, Puerto Rico is where things get processed very slowly. Like Spain, South America, and Central America, you can expect to wait patiently for things to get done, from paperwork to building a house.
There is nothing fast-paced about Puerto Rico, and you will get nowhere if you try to demand things get done faster – that is just not how things work there. This can be frustrating for those who might be used to a faster-paced lifestyle like New York or Chicago. And don’t be surprised if a store closes in the middle of the day to take a nap.
10. Hurricane Season
Perhaps one of the biggest cons of living in Puerto Rico is the hurricane season between June and November. Despite being a tropical island in the Caribbean Sea, you must know this island and its neighbors’ risks.
One of the most destructive storms on record, Hurricane Maria, occurred on the island in 2017. The category five hurricane caused widespread damage across the island. You need to be prepared for this since it is common and tough to avoid, so make sure to have a plan and proper insurance if you plan to move there.
Yes, the sad fact about living in Puerto Rico is that there are regions where people are struggling and are living below the poverty line. While living in San Juan, you might not notice that this island is home to many poverty-stricken families, but the truth is that the poverty level is much higher than that of the USA, with 44.99% below the poverty level.
With a population of over 3 million, almost half of this number is struggling to make ends meet, which can be genuinely shocking when moving from a highly developed country. According to reports, the least likely race to be in poverty are white, while the most likely are islanders.
12. Cars are Expensive
If you are considering a move to Puerto Rico, chances are you will need a car, but you should know that cars have to be imported to the island, which makes them expensive, just like other imported items. You can avail yourself of public, albeit unreliable, transport around the main areas, but if you live in rural areas or want the freedom to explore the island, you will need a car.
One standard option, which many ex-pats tend to do, is to buy a car on the mainland and have it shipped to Puerto Rico, which can be much cheaper. It is worth researching; otherwise, you risk forking a hefty sum for a vehicle on arrival.
13. High Crime Rates
One of the things to consider when weighing up the pros and cons of living in Puerto Rico is the safety aspect of this island. Puerto Rico has a relatively high crime rate, with violent crime a big problem. The fact that almost half of the population lives below the poverty line impacts the overall crime rate.
Puerto Rico has one of the highest homicide rates in the Americas, and at least 600 people are murdered annually. While not as dangerous as Venezuela, Honduras, or Jamaica, it is worth knowing that precautions should be taken, especially at night when living in Puerto Rico.
14. Limited Job Opportunities
Puerto Rico has limited job opportunities, especially in rural areas, but more so if you don’t speak Spanish. Many people who move here are either working as digital nomads, are retiring, or are setting up a business, so it is worth making a plan regarding employment opportunities before committing to the move.
One thing to note is that the state minimum wage as of July 2023 is $9.50 per hour, which works out to $340 over a 40-hour week. This is greater than the federal minimum wage of just $7.25.
15. Language Barrier
Spanish and English are the island’s official languages, with Spanish being the more dominant. English was only declared official in 1902, and according to the 1990 US Census, only 20% of Puerto Ricans could speak English. While this has slowly improved through education, resulting in more people being bilingual, knowing some Spanish before arriving is still recommended.
With that in mind, it is worth noting that you might be able to get by with English if you live in San Juan, but outside of the major areas, you will need some Spanish to communicate with locals. Only 5.5% of people speak English as their first language, yet it is taught as a second language in public and private schools on the island.
16. Expensive Imported Items
One cons of living in Puerto Rico is that you will pay a lot for imported items. While the overall cost of living is low and buying local products is affordable, you will fork out hard-earned cash for things outside the island.
Like any island, items need to be imported, so expect to pay more for essential things like toilet paper, toothpaste, and skincare products, to name but a few. Cars and fuel will generally cost more than in other parts of the US, which is something to consider if you plan to move there.
What is it like to live in Puerto Rico?
Living in Puerto Rico means a slower pace of life, lots of festivals to attend, delicious food to eat and great weather to enjoy.
What should I expect when moving to Puerto Rico?
You can expect lower costs than in Europe or North America, glorious sunny weather and vibrant culture.
When is hurricane season?
The hurricane season is between June 1st and November 30th, and this is the time when care needs to be taken, and safety precautions need to be in place.
Do locals welcome expats?
Yes, Puerto Ricans welcome expats and digital nomads who have chosen to move to their island. They will always be friendly, offer help and support and do their best to make you feel at home.
What is the best area to live in?
Regarding good infrastructure, job opportunities and reasonable accommodation options, San Juan might be the best place to base yourself.
What can I do for fun in Puerto Rico?
From hiking and swimming in lagoons and the sea to trying local food and attending festivals, there is always something exciting to do on the island.
Can you live on $1000 a month?
Yes, anything is possible, so if you limit your spending, eat locally and rent in a rural location, you can get by on $1000 a month.
Can US citizens use Medicare cards in Puerto Rico?
Since the island is a US territory, your Medicare cards will be accepted in Puerto Rico.
Is this a good place to move to?
It depends on what you are looking for, but overall, the island has a laid-back lifestyle, lovely people, a vibrant culture and a low cost of living which appeals to many. However, you need to be aware of the possible drawbacks.