Now that you are coming...
 

 

NOW THAT YOU ARE COMING TO PUERTO RICO


Before departure

In this section, we include a number of important topics to consider before you begin your studies in Puerto Rico. Please, keep them in mind to make sure that you are well prepared for this wonderful experience.

 

  1. Luggage
  2. Customs
  3. Life Cost
  4. Health
  5. Educational System
  6. Steps to Follow Prior to Your Trip

When preparing your luggage, you must bear in mind the regulations established by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (DHS) ) through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), The TSA is in charge of supervising the articles permitted in flights to the United States. Among other regulations, all liquids, gels and sprays in your carry-on must be in containers up to 3.4 ounces (100ml). These containers must be placed in a clear, plastic, zip-top bag. The bag must be visible on a tray while you go through the security checkpoint at the airport. There is a list of prohibited items along with additional norms regarding permitted luggage. For more details, visit the TSA web page..

Before preparing your luggage, contact your airline and ask about the weight, size and number of suitcases allowed on board. Usually, there are restrictions that vary depending on the selected airline.

In Puerto Rico, the same U.S. immigration and customs laws apply. The entity in charge of securing the U.S. borders, collecting customs duties, ensuring legitimate trade, and impeding the entrance of weapons and threats to our country is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP). This entity works in collaboration with the U.S. Drug Administration (USDA) and their Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), to ensure that the norms controlling the importation of all kinds of products are followed. The agency determines which products represent threats to the country and which do not. The entry of perishable food products, such as vegetables, fruits, meats, plants and other products of animal and vegetable origin, is forbidden since they represent a risk of plagues and diseases propagation.

Similarly, there is a series of restrictions regulating the entrance of animals. This is something you must bear in mind if you are considering bringing your pet along. For example, it is required that dogs are vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to entering the country. The exceptions are puppies younger than 3 months of age, and dogs living (for at least six months) in areas considered to be free of rabies.. You must present a certificate signed by an authorized veterinarian, which must include the date of vaccination, expiration date, and identification of your dog. Learn about all the requirements for the entry of animals at the APHISor at the U.S. embassy in your country.

On the other hand, if you are planning to bring to the island an amount of money greater than $10,000 USD, it will be necessary to do so through the Customs Office. If you prefer not to carry large amounts of money during your trip, you can receive money periodically from your relatives while you are in Puerto Rico through our financial entities or companies such as Western Union. You can learn more about financial topics in the “During Your Stay” section.

The life cost for an international student in Puerto Rico is less expensive than the life cost in other cities in the United States and other parts of the world. You must consider variables such as the city, the institution and program of studies, and the type of lodging or means of transportation of your choice. The following includes information related to such topics that you should keep in mind before coming to Puerto Rico to study. It is important to know that our official currency is the US dollar (USD).

Housing: The lodging may cost between $75 and $1,500 per month approximately, depending on the amenities. Many young people live on-campus while others decide to share private houses with other students in order to reduce their living expenses. When renting a place off-campus, you must consider the cost of water, electricity or internet, which are complementary services that you may acquire.

Food:The estimated cost of food can be around $250 per month approximately. U.S. citizens have the right to receive federal funding for food, housing, health, etc.

Transportation: You should know that Puerto Rico has an integrated transportation system. The Metropolitan Area of San Juan has an urban train and a bus system (AMA-METROBUS), which are the most inexpensive way to travel to the main places in the area. Find out about the schedules and fares that apply. In this area, there is also a ferry service known as “Acuaexpreso”, located in Pier 2 of the San Juan Port in Old San Juan. The service consists of two routes: San Juan-Hato Rey and San Juan- Cataño. There are other collective transportation systems that operate in other areas of the island. Your academic institution can provide information about the most convenient transportation options.

Health Insurance: It is very important to consider high-coverage health insurance options overseas before traveling to Puerto Rico. The country has all the necessary medical services. Through the coverage of a health insurance provider, you will be able to access these services. Some universities offer basic health coverage. Their international offices can provide more information about this topic. Drugstores are easy to find and most supermarkets usually have a large selection of mediations for minor ailments.

Tuition and materials: These expenses vary according to the academic institution and the program of your choice. There are subjects of study that require specialized books or materials such as scientific calculators, lab equipment, tools or sports equipment, among others. You can calculate the cost of your tuition in the section “Our Higher-Education Institutions” in order to have a better idea of the costs, according to your interests. There are multiple subventions available, so to explore the topic of tuition and materials we suggest that you visit the “Financial Aid” section for more information.

Taxes and gratuities: In Puerto Rico, we pay the Impuesto por Ventas y Uso (IVU) or Sales and Use Tax, which is about 7% of the value of many ordinary purchased articles and services. Usually, gratuities are between 15% and 20% of the check’s total in restaurants and other services.

Puerto Rico is a tropical country. For this reason, there are certain precautions you must follow to take care of your health while you are on the island. The intensity of the sunlight is considerable most of the year, so you must use sunblock and avoid long periods of sun exposure to avoid skin damage. We also suggest using an insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites. Just like medications for minor ailments, you will find all kinds of repellents in supermarkets and drugstores.

It is recommended that you have all the required vaccines, for example the Hepatitis A vaccine, up to date before arriving to the island. Most educational institutions have healthcare services available for emergencies and minor health issues.

To enter the university system in Puerto Rico, it is required to have completed at least 12 years of study distributed in elementary school and secondary school. Puerto Rico’s higher-education system follows the same model as the United States. Four academic degrees are offered: associate’s degree (short careers at the undergraduate level), bachelor’s degree (undergraduate level), master’s degree ((first graduate level), and doctoral degree (second graduate level).

Associate’s degree: Also known as technical degree or short career is equivalent to two years of full-time study. This short program allows the student to complete a professional degree in a technical career such as nursing, or office administration systems.

Bachelor’s degree: A bachelor’s degree is equivalent to 4 or 5 years of full-time study in an educational institution, depending on the academic discipline. This degree is required to continue master’s and doctoral studies, and it is the equivalent to a “licenciatura” in Ibero-America.

Master’s degree: A master is equivalent to 2 or 3 years of study approximately. In most cases, it requires that the student pass a comprehensive exam and, in many instances, the presentation of a thesis as the result of an original investigation focused on some area of the academic discipline.

Doctoral degree:It is the highest academic degree and it entails being a specialist on a specific topic with substantial research experience. On average, a doctoral student takes between 5 to 7 years to complete the degree, whose requirements include a series of specialized courses for the discipline and supplementary subjects. Additionally, the degree requires a period of time completely devoted to the production of an original investigation and a doctoral dissertation.

Most of the higher-education centers in Puerto Rico have institutional accreditations granted by private entities (recognized by the U.S. Department of Education), that certify the academic and institutional quality of the educational centers. These accreditations bestow great value to any higher-education institution. On the other hand, there are professional accreditations granted to certain academic programs after an external evaluation by local and international specialized organizations. These accreditations guarantee the quality levels of such academic programs.

When selecting the academic institution and program of studies of your choice, learn about their accreditations, to ensure educational excellence.

There are certain procedures such as the admissions application, the flight reservations, visa application, or the housing reservation, among others, that require to be started several months in advance (6 months or more in some cases), before students can integrate themselves into their chosen programs of study. In Puerto Rico, most educational institutions divide the academic year in two semesters (August-December and January-May). Some institutions divide their academic year in trimesters. You must consider in advance, before the date of your desired arrival, all the requirements and deadlines for all of those procedures. In that way, your process will be completed successfully. In other sections of this site, you will find more information on this.

Upon arrival

In Puerto Rico there are 8 airports, but most of the travelers from other countries arrive at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, located in the municipality of Carolina (Metropolitan Area of San Juan), 5km to the Southeast of the capital city. The airport has a hotel with 125 rooms, a chapel, a bank, shops, restaurants, parking, and car rental companies, among other services.

We suggest that you follow the steps below to complete the arrival process without any inconveniences.

  1. 1.

    Immigration: Once you are done, we suggest to go to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company located on Terminal C. They will facilitate maps, information and advice regarding how to travel from the airport to your lodging. Ask information about the Metropolitan Bus Authority (Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses, AMA-METROBUS), they routes, fares and schedules. 

  2. 2.

    Information: Once you are done, we suggest to go to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company located on Terminal C. They will facilitate maps, information and advice regarding how to travel from the airport to your lodging. Ask for information about the Metropolitan Bus Authority (Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses, AMA-METROBUS), their routes, fares and schedules.

  3. 3.

    Transportation: In order to reach your lodging, you may take a bus, a taxicab or rent a car. If you prefer to take a taxicab, go to the arrival level on Terminals A, B or D. We suggest that you double check with the driver the cost of the service before the ride starts. Click here to see the taxicab rates from the airport to various destinations on the island. To take the bus, go to the departure level on Terminals A and D. There you will find the AMA-METROBUS bus stop. If you choose to rent a car, you must go to the multilevel parking building where you will find the best known car rental companies on the market.

  4. Please, do keep in mind that both AMA-METROBUS and the urban train (Tren Urbano) operate in the Metropolitan Area of San Juan only. We suggest that, before your trip, you ask for information at your educational institution about public and private means of transportation to reach your lodging.


 

During your stay

Below, you will find very useful information about a variety of topics that will help you get the most out of your stay in Puerto Rico.

  1. Communications
  2. Finances
  3. Transportation
  4. Time Zone
  5. Weather

Puerto Rico has a modern and reliable communications system with the same characteristics as those found in the United States and other parts of the world. You may place and receive international calls and connect to the Internet from any land or mobile phone. On the island, you will find various companies that offer a variety of equipment and prices where you may acquire this type of service either by contract or pre-paid. If you are considering to bring the phone you use in your country to use it while you stay in the island, we suggest to contact your phone company to inquire about the operability, restrictions and fares that may apply.

In Puerto Rico, phone numbers, either land or mobile phones, have 7 digits, and the area codes are 787 and 939. To call any national destination, you must dial [area code that applies] + [7 digit phone number]. The area codes 800, 888, 877 y 866 are toll-free when dialed from Puerto Rico or the United States.

The cost for international calls originated from the island may vary according to the destination. For these kind of calls, it is recommended to use pre-paid cards, available in most business establishments, or you may use Internet applications for phone calls.

Currency

In Puerto Rico, the official currency is the US dollar (USD). 1 USD equals 100 cents. There are bills of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations. Unlike other countries, all the bills have the same size, so you must be mindful when paying. US coins have the following denominations: 1 cent (Penny), 5 cents (Nickel), 10 cents (Dime), 25 cents (Quarter) and 100 cents (Dollar).

Currency exchange

It is recommended that you exchange foreign currency for US dollars (the official currency in Puerto Rico) before you travel. If you prefer, you can easily do so here at any currency exchange office, financial entity or upon arrival at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport , in San Juan.

Receiving and sending

In Puerto Rico, you can receive and send money to your country through companies like Western Union, which provides this type of service and operates in almost 200 countries. This is the fastest and most efficient way to do this kind of transaction. There are also money orders that allow you to send a specific amount of money anywhere in the world through the US Postal Service.

Banks

Puerto Rico has a huge variety of banks and financial institutions, among which you will find several branches of the main American, European, Canadian and national banks. Most of these entities are usually open from 9:00am to 4:00pm, but many offer extended hours, including Saturdays and even Sunday mornings.

On the island, you will find a great variety of cash machines (known in the island as ATM) readily available in the streets, supermarkets, shopping malls, banks and restaurants. These machines operate 24 hours a day. Many of them, like most business establishments, accept international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, Carte Blanche, Discover, MasterCard and Visa.

In Puerto Rico, you will find branches of international banks as Banco Santander, Scotiabank, Oriental Bank, Bancolombia, among others. If you have an account with any of them in your country, we suggest to inquire there about the use of debit and credit cards in Puerto Rico. If you prefer, you can easily and conveniently open an account at any financial institution on the island while you are here.

Taxes and gratuities

It is convenient to know that in Puerto Rico there is a tax that all consumers pay when we purchase articles or services, or when we attend an entertainment event (sports, recreation, exhibitions, etc.). This tax is known as the Impuesto sobre Ventas y Uso (IVU) or Sales and Use Tax, which is about 7% of the value of the purchased or consumed product, depending on the municipality where you are. On the other hand, in our country it is common tipping the waiters and waitresses, but usually the gratuities are not included in the bill. It is recommended to leave between 15% and 20% of the check’s total.

You may travel to practically anywhere in the country by different means. Your destination will determine which means of transportation is most convenient for you:

The Metropolitan Area of San Juan has an urban train and abus system (AMA-METROBUS),which are the most inexpensive way to go to the main places in the area. Find out about the schedules and fares that apply to each of them. On the other hand, the use of taxicabs is common in the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport area, in some shopping malls or in the touristic areas. It is convenient to contact them by phone, and to confirm with the driver the cost of the service before departing. You may check out the taxicab fares from the airport to different places in the island here.

Renting a car is the most recommended way to travel outside the Metropolitan Area of San Juan. Internationally known car rental companies operate at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, and in areas of Isla Verde, near the Airport, or in the main cities of the island. You can travel easily and comfortably anywhere in the country with the help of road maps or a GPS. There are also collective transportation systems from the capital city to strategic places in the island, such as Línea Sultana which travels from San Juan to Mayagüez. These systems are inexpensive, reliable and travel very frequently. Learn about them!

There are two ferry terminals in Puerto Rico: “Acuaexpreso” in Old San Juan, and the terminal in Fajardo. The “Acuaexpreso” ferry is located in Pier 2 and covers the routes San Juan-Hato Rey-San Juan, and San Juan-Cataño-San Juan. From the terminal in Fajardo, you can travel to our off-shore islands of Culebra and Vieques. These routes have certain restrictions, so find information about the maximum amount of passengers permitted on the ferry, schedules and daily departures.

Puerto Rico uses the Atlantic Standard Time or GMT-4:00 (Greenwich Mean Time), but the Daylight Savings Time, used in many countries, does not apply since there is not much difference between dawn and dusk throughout the year. On the island, sunrise usually occurs around 7:00am in the winter and 5:30am in the summer. Sunset happens around 5:40pm during the winter and 7:10pm during the summer.

In Puerto Rico, we enjoy a tropical warm and humid weather all year round. The general average temperatures are around 82°F (28°C) during the day and around 73°F (23°C) during the night depending on the month of the year. The Southern coast is the hottest, whereas the central zone is coolest. There the temperature is around 60°F (16°C) most of the year. Thanks to this blessed weather, we can enjoy ample mountain zones, dry forests, and rainforests, and a great variety of coastal and marine ecosystems. Given these characteristics, we suggest that you pack in your luggage the following: sunblock, insect repellent, a swimsuit, lightweight clothing and outfits for night-outs, comfortable shoes, accessories for rainy days, a hat and sandals.

You should know that in the Caribbean area the storm or hurricane season is from June to November. Puerto Rico usually experiences some kind of atmospheric phenomena including cold fronts, thunderstorms, rainfalls, and variations in the atmospheric pressure. However, in most cases, we just have strong winds and rain. There are protocols and mechanisms for the detection of atmospheric systems, and for the implementation of preventative measures to face these type of phenomena, but you must always be informed about their development.

To learn about the meteorological conditions and how to get ready for the hurricane season, we invite you to visit the following webpages: the National Weather Service (Servicio Nacional de Meteorología), the Weather Channel, and the State Emergency and Disaster Management Agency (Agencia Estatal para el Manejo de Emergencias y Administración de Desastres or AEMEAD).

  1. Measurement system
  2. Electricity
  3. Postal Service
  4. Holidays
  5. In Case of Emergency

In Puerto Rico, we use the US and Imperial Customary Measurement Systems whose basic units are:

  • Units of length: inch (in), foot (ft), yard (yd), mile (m.)
  • Units of weight: pound (lb), ounce (oz)
  • Time: second (s), minute (min), hour (hr)
  • Temperature: degree Fahrenheit (°F)

Puerto Rico uses the same voltage, frequency and plug type as the United States: 110 V and 60Hz.

Puerto Rico is part of thethe US Postal Service (USPS) ) so the same service fares apply. You will find postal offices in various areas of the island, open during business hours from Monday to Saturday. To mail packages lighter than 16 ounces (453 grams), such as letters or documents, you can use the blue mailboxes located at the corners of housing complexes, on the streets and in commercial areas. These mailboxes are identified with the post office logo. For each package, you must purchase the appropriate postage at the post office or at some supermarkets. Do not forget to include the ZIP code in the receiver’s address information. The ZIP code allows the postal office to control and organize deliveries more efficiently. If you need express delivery, you can also use companies like FedEx, UPS, Emery, RPS or DHL.

You must know that all kind of packages from abroad will be inspected by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If it is necessary to pay customs duties for the package, this office will attach a form with the due amount. This payment can be made at the postal office.

You can send mail overseas by ground or airmail. To ship packages, you will need to fill out a green customs declaration form available at the post office.

For more information about the shipping process, check out the Customer's Guide to Mailing.

As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico celebrates both local and U.S. national holidays. The following are the main holidays celebrated on the island:

  • January 1st: New Year’s Day
  • January 6th: Three King’s Day
  • Second Monday of January: Eugenio María De Hostos’ Birthday
  • Third Monday of January: Martin Luther King’s Birthday (EE.UU.)
  • Third Monday of February: Presidents’ Day (EE.UU.)
  • March 22nd: Emancipation Day
  • April 20th: José de Diego’s Birthday
  • Depending on the lunar calendar: Holy Friday
  • Second Sunday of May: Mothers’ Day (EE.UU.)
  • Last Monday of May: Memorial Day (EE.UU.)
  • Third Sunday of June: Fathers’ Day (EE.UU.)
  • July 4th: Independence Day (EE.UU.)
  • July 20th: Luis Muñoz Rivera’s Birthday
  • July 25th: Puerto Rico Constitution Day
  • July 27th: José Celso Barbosa’s Birthday
  • First Monday of September: Labor Day (EE.UU.)
  • October 12th: Columbus Day
  • November 11th: Veterans Day (EE.UU)
  • November 19th: Discovery of Puerto Rico
  • Fourth Thursday of November: Thanksgiving Day (EE.UU.)
  • December 24th: Christmas Eve
  • December 25th: Christmas
  • December 31st: New Year’s Eve

Check out your educational center’s calendar to know exactly which holidays your institution celebrates.

Your educational center: Most educational institutions have centers that offer orientation about many topics related to student life as well as services to support students in case of medical or psychosocial emergencies. Once you arrive to Puerto Rico, find out about all the services available to you as an international or non-resident student, and keep their contact information handy. They provide primary assistance in any emergency you may have during your stay in Puerto Rico.

911 Emergency System: : In case of an emergency in which your life, physical integrity, belongings or security are threatened (robbery, fire, assault, accidents, major physical injuries, mental or emotional health crisis, etc.) you should call 911. This system works 24 hours a day and manage calls related to the Police Department, Fire Department, Emergency Management, Medical Emergencies and the Social Emergencies Program, among others. They will help you as soon as possible.

Your country’s consulate in Puerto Rico: A consulate is the official representative of the government of one country in the territory of another country. Its job is to issue and renew different types of official documents (birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, etc.), to look out for those nationals who have been arrested on the island, and to oversee the legitimacy of the applicable legal proceedings. They are also in charge of issuing visas for foreigners and providing information about residency or work authorization. Puerto Rico hosts consulates from 42 countries from the Western Hemisphere and Europe, most of which are located in the Metropolitan Area of San Juan. In case of an emergency it is recommended to contact the Consulate General of your country in Puerto Rico as soon as possible. They will be able to contact your relatives and work on possible solutions.

Other useful phone numbers: Police Department (787) 343-2020. Fire Department (787) 343-2330.Medical Emergencies (787) 754-2550. State Emergency and Disaster Management Agency (787) 831-5454. American Red Cross (787) 729-9400. First Psychosocial Help or Línea PAS (Primera Ayuda Sicosocial) 1-800-981-0023.

After you leave

In addition to living an incomparable student experience, many of our students continue exploring other possibilities that Puerto Rico has to offer, even after finishing their studies.

Some come back to visit their friends.  Others find love and even decide to begin a family on the island.  There are others who are enchanted with the country and come back to get to know its touristic assets better.  Some graduates return to participate in international events, whereas others come back to continue studies in other academic areas.  Still others begin their working lives with Puerto Rican companies or American companies located on the island, or there are others who decide to stay in Puerto Rico permanently to live and work in the country.

Whatever your choice, learn more about the requirements and procedures needed for the homologation of academic degrees, professional licenses (some have geographical restrictions), certifications, visas, or any other procedure that you should consider in order to enjoy everything Puerto Rico has to offer during and after your studies.

 

Contact Information

State Department of Puerto Rico
P.O. Box 9023271
San Juan, PR 00902-3271
1 (787) 722-2121 ext. 4292, 4295, 4350
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