Health & insurance
If you have a medical emergency or a need for healthcare in Puerto Rico, the array of pharmacies and hospitals is good compared to most other places in the Caribbean.
For medical emergencies, dial 911.
Before You Go
Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations should be up-to-date before you visit Puerto Rico. Hepatitis B and Rabies vaccinations are also recommended.
- DEET-based insect repellent
- Immodium tablets (for diarrhea)
- Re-hydration tablets
- Antiseptic cream and sticking plasters
In Puerto Rico
Availability & Cost of Health Care
Cities and larger towns will have at least one high-standard hospital. Elsewhere there is usually at least one good clinic. The service is of a standard comparable to elsewhere in the mainland US.
Tap water does not taste great but is safe to drink.
Dengue fever is a viral infection found throughout the Caribbean. In Puerto Rico the incidence usually peaks between September and November. Dengue is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which often bite during the daytime and are usually found close to human habitations. They breed primarily in artificial water containers such as jars, barrels, plastic containers and discarded tires. Dengue is common in urban environments.
Dengue causes flu-like symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, headaches, nausea and vomiting, often followed by a rash. The aches may be quite uncomfortable, but most cases resolve in a few days. Severe cases usually occur in children under age 15 who are experiencing their second dengue infection.
There is no vaccine and no treatment for dengue fever except taking acetaminophen/paracetamol (Tylenol) and drinking fluids. Severe cases may require hospitalization. The cornerstone of prevention is protection against insects, so use DEET-based mosquito repellent.
Animals Do not attempt to pet or feed any animal, except domestic animals known to be free of infectious diseases. Spiny sea urchins and coelenterates (coral and jellyfish) are a hazard in some areas.
Mosquitoes Except for infrequent outbreaks of dengue fever, mosquito-borne illnesses are usually not a concern in Puerto Rico. A bug spray containing DEET is best to ward off insects, but use sparingly as it kills natural organisms in island bays and inlets.
Sandflies The notorious ‘no-see-ums.’ These invisible bugs come out mostly in the early evening. Culebra and Vieques can be particularly thick with them, so lay on the DEET.
Sun Yes, it's subtropical, so apply high-protection sunscreen liberally.
Zika is a viral infection transmitted primarily, as with Dengue fever, through Aedes mosquitoes. It was first identified in Uganda in the 1940s, but a severe outbreak across the Americas in 2015 and 2016 also affected Puerto Rico with particular seriousness. As of early 2017, the tally of Zika cases was over 30,000.
The relatively mild symptoms include slight fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and normally last for two to seven days, after which sufferers normally make a complete recovery. However, the main risk with Zika is in how it affects pregnant women. There have been studies showing a link between infected pregnant women and babies born with microcephaly (particularly small heads).
Infection can be transmitted through the bite of the mosquito, most likely during the day in early morning and evening, but the infection can be sexually transmitted too. Cases were declining as of early 2017, but the risk of catching the infection has deterred many visitors from Puerto Rico.