The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has a long history of being caught between two cultures.
Caribbean island was founded by the Spanish in 1508 but ceded to the United
States during the 1898 Spanish-American War. Today, the unincorporated US territory
has its own government, but the US controls its foreign relations. And Puerto
Rico’s status is a hotly debated topic: should the island become a US state,
remain a commonwealth or become an independent nation?
Given this unique Spanish-then-American colonial status, Puerto Rico can
be a slightly confusing place to visit. Here’s a quick roundup of what to know
before you go.
States citizens don’t need passports to visit Puerto Rico, but tourists from
all other countries do. The visa rules for Puerto Rico are largely the same as
those for the US. Tourists who don’t require visas for the US, don’t require
visas for Puerto Rico.
are used in Puerto Rico. As in the US, there’s no national value-added tax.
There is a sales tax, though, which is 5.5% – and some
municipalities add 1.5% to that. Official hotels also charge a 9% accommodation
tax. All of the taxes you pay in Puerto Rico go to its government, rather than
the federal US government.
tends to also follow American rules – 15% to 20% being customary in
restaurants and taxis.
Spanish and English are national languages in Puerto Rico, but Spanish is more widely spoken as the primary language. In the
1990s, the government actually eliminated English as a national language to
demonstrate its opposition to becoming a US state. The move was later reversed,
but the sentiment behind it still exists among some locals.
Rico’s cuisine combines Spanish,
African, American and Taíno influences. Ingredients from the native Taíno
population include plantains, cacao and yampee, a white yam; African
ingredients include okra and taro, called yautia; Spanish ingredients include
olive oil, chorizo and rice; American ingredients include corn oil and American
style bacon. The African ingredients remain from Puerto Rico’s period of
Spanish rule, during which Africans were brought over as slaves.
dishes include sopón de garbanzos con patas de cerdo (chickpea soup with pig’s feet,
made with pumpkin, chorizo, chilies, cilantro, tomatoes, potatoes and cabbage)
and mofongo (mashed-up plantains, garlic, olive oil and pork rinds).
nearby Latin American countries, fútbol (soccer) is
not the most beloved sport in Puerto Rico. American baseball is the sport
of choice and the island is known for exporting pro baseball players to the US.
To see a Puerto Rico Baseball League game while visiting the country, check out