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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ober

Puerto Rico during Quarantine

I've been getting a lot of questions about Puerto Rico and COVID-19 ("Is now a good time to travel to Puerto Rico?'" and similar questions). In short, the answer depends on how flexible you are! Quarantine policies in PR are constantly changing, so planning a vacation 3 months out is difficult because you don't know what restrictions will be applicable and how they will be enforced. Let me illustrate with recent examples. Due to rising COVID-19 cases, the Puerto Rican government re-instated quarantine policies on 12/4/2020 that will be relaxed on 1/8/2020. Although some of the restrictions will be relaxed this week, the government has reserved the right to revert to stricter lockdown policies, if cases rise again. Restrictions included:


--Shutting down the beaches again (practically speaking, this means that you can still go to the beach for exercise, but usually no tents, umbrellas, chairs, etc. We've generally seen lax enforcement, but certain beaches still have a police presence [ex. Isla Verde beach in San Juan])

--Limiting restaurants to 30% capacity + closed bars (if they don't serve food)


--Practically speaking, restaurants and businesses close at 7:30 PM so that the employees can make it home before the curfew. Somewhat comically, this is the reason we ate Church's Chicken for New Years Eve -- it was the only restaurant still open at 7:30!


--Mandatory mask wearing, even outside and walking the street. Culturally speaking, most citizens of San Juan are very observant of mask policies (expect for at the beaches). Outside of San Juan, we have found people much more relaxed in their mask wearing. No judgment either way, just an observation!

--Enforcing a 9PM curfew with (theoretically) heavy fines. One practical impact is that Uber prices surge wildly near curfew time. Ex. We paid $22 for an Uber from Old San Juan...typically costs $5 for us. Uber shuts down at curfew, so watch your timing! Pro tip: if you happened to be stranded somewhere past curfew, you can still hail an Uber to the airport. As soon as you get in the car, tell your driver, change your destination within the app, generally be cool, and tip your driver well!


--Alcohol is not sold from 5AM Saturday to 5 AM Monday.


--Sundays are considered a 24-hour lockdown (side note: Ben and I had no idea what Sunday's 24-hour lockdown meant so we skipped church...only to realize that our church was still open. Basically the only things opened on Sundays are churches, grocery stores|pharmacies, and restaurants for take-out only)


--Marinas closed, meaning that popular destinations like Vieques and Culebra were only accessible via flights from San Juan. Ferries limited to citizens of those islands.


--Entry testing or quarantine is mandatory. Do you have to get COVID-19 tested before entering the island? No, but it's highly recommended. If you don't get a test then you will be asked to quarantine. You'll receive a text every day asking if you are experiencing any symptoms -- you are to reply 'yes' or 'no'. Do people quarantine, probably not. Since this is an island and healthcare is not the same as the states, it's best to get tested because several of the hospitals on the island are reportedly overcapacity with patients (COVID and non-COVID alike).

-- Only 50% Airbnb refunds! I repeat, if you need to cancel your airbnb, you will only receive 50% of your money back (+ say goodbye to your service fee altogether!) We planned a trip to Vieques but due to the marina closing and the outrageous plane flight cost, we decided to cancel our trip because our host mentioned that they would refund us any days they were able to rebook. WELL, they were able to rebook but at a much lower cost so we are out over $700.

You may also notice that not everyone 'obeys' the curfew. There are still plenty of people out and about on the roads. One night we were headed home right at curfew and the National Guard told us not to get caught by the local police or it would be a $5,000 fine. Later, a restaurant employee told me it's a $500 fine. Regardless, I don't want to pay either so that's just a heads up!


My opinion? I love living on the island even during quarantine. I'm able to go to the beaches to work out and swim. I know we are all itching to travel again but if you don't know anyone that lives on the island to help navigate your trip, it's best to save it for another time when the restrictions are lifted or either fly in to the Rincon area where restrictions are a little bit more lax. I will update this blog after the latest restrictions --January 8th.





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