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San Juan Travel Guide

The capital city of Puerto Rico, San Juan is one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean and a third of all Puerto Ricans live here. Nearly every visitor to the island arrives at San Juan, many on cruise liners. The port is the largest home-based cruise port in the world, hosting 28 vessels and with more being added to the list each year.

San Juan is divided into three distinct districts: Old San Juan, the historic walled city; the beach and resort area; and the outlying suburbs. Tourists are concerned mainly with Old San Juan, the site of most restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and the beaches. The old city is linked to the new by the largely residential Puerta de Tierra area, and a series of modern highways leading to the Condado beach front, which is reminiscent of Florida's Miami Beach with its high-rise hotels and apartment blocks.

It is not only tourism that keeps the financial mills grinding in San Juan. The city is an important centre for petroleum and sugar refining, brewing and distilling, and the manufacturing of cement, pharmaceuticals, metal products and tobacco products. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle there are numerous attractions in San Juan to amuse, entertain and interest the many tourists, and the city is a perfect base for exploring the rest of what this small Caribbean island has to offer.

Getting Around

San Juan's old, cobble-stoned downtown area can be explored on foot (take comfortable walking shoes). To go further afield visitors can flag down one of the plentiful taxis or minibus taxis (). There is a rather irregular bus service covering metropolitan San Juan. International car rental agencies are well represented, and home country driving licences are valid.

Puerto Rico Contacts

The Puerto Rican Tourist Company, Old San Juan: +1 787 721 2400 or

United States Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7499 9000.
United States Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 238 5335.
United States Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6214 5600.
United States Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 431 4000.
United States Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 668 8777.
United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 462 6000.

British Consulate, San Juan: +1 787 850 2400.
Canadian Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Puerto Rico): +1 (202) 682 1740.
Australian Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Puerto Rico): +1 202 797 3000.
South African Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Puerto Rico): +1 202 232 4400.
Irish Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Puerto Rico): +1 202 462 3939.
New Zealand Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Puerto Rico): +1 202 328 4800.
Emergencies: 911

Customs

Social etiquette in Puerto Rico is typically Latin American, with some North American influences (such as a stronger sense of female independence, and a toning-down of the ideal of ). Western visitors to the country should feel comfortable, and 'at home', in most social situations. Hygiene, cleanliness and personal appearance are viewed as matters of self-respect, so travellers who've been 'on the road' for a little while might consider neatening up their beards or trimming their hair, especially if they want to make a good first impression. A final, important aspect of Puerto Rican social life, is the concept of . Generally shy of direct confrontation and open criticism, refers to the gentle, joking manner in which Puerto Ricans will bring up uncomfortable issues around each another. Visitors should be aware of this technique, as they may, on occasion, be required to 'read between the lines' to discover what locals are trying to express.

Passport/Visa

All passport holders must have an onward or return ticket and documents necessary for further travel. Entry requirements for Puerto Rico are the same as for the United States of America. When arriving from mainland USA there is no immigration control. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.