Heading to the Caribbean paradise of Puerto Rico? Steps to get the right travel insurance in place.
Puerto Rico is a self-governed Caribbean island of the United States rich in natural wonders of mountains, waterfalls and the El Yunque rainforest. The country's vibrant history, tropical climate, diverse natural scenery and sport and adventure activities have long made it a popular destination for visiting tourists.
A number of historical sites and natural attractions, as well as plenty of resort, sport and adventure activities, mean everyone can find something in Puerto Rico.
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- Top three travel concerns in Puerto Rico
- How much does travel insurance for Puerto Rico cost?
- Activities to get covered for in Puerto Rico
- What happens if I have a medical emergency in Puerto Rico?
- What are the entry requirements for Puerto Rico?
- When is the best time to visit Puerto Rico?
- Travel insurance exclusions to watch out for in Puerto Rico
- Illness: The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been reported in Puerto Rico, and pregnant women may wish to avoid travel there. Although the risk of contraction is low, the potential consequences for unborn children can be very serious. In addition to this you are encouraged to have vaccinations before travelling, and may wish to consider discussing your plans with your doctor and receiving advice on which immunisations you may require.
- Consider travel insurance that covers medical events and medical evacuation and repatriation if you get seriously sick and need to be transported elsewhere.
- Theft: While serious crime is fairly rare, robberies and petty crime are relatively prevalent in Puerto Rico and travellers should take appropriate precautions with their possessions, making sure they are secured or safely within reach.
- If you will be travelling with valuables such as jewellery, electronics or expensive cameras, consider getting extra cover for these items.
- Depending on your needs, you might also look at luggage protection insurance to cover your belongings in transit.
- Weather events: Like many other tropical destinations, Puerto Rico has a hurricane season. From June to November you are more likely to encounter landslides, mudslides, flooding, blocked roads and essential service disruptions, although this potential risk is present all-year round.
- If you’ve pre-booked a lot of non-refundable services but a hurricane or other event means your flight is cancelled, travel insurance for cancellation can reimburse you.
- By finding a travel insurance policy early you can more easily get covered for events like missed flights, cancellations and other factors that may impact your trip before you’ve even left.
This table shows the average cost of select basic and comprehensive travel insurance policies for a month in Puerto Rico to give you an idea of price range and how much costs change according to age.
|Basic travel insurance||$65.60||$116||$140||$241||$645|
|Comprehensive travel insurance||$519.12||$333||$369||$561||$1,217|
- Adventure activities: Ziplining, ATV riding and a variety of other adventure activities are available in Puerto Rico. Depending on what you plan on doing it can be advisable to make sure you have an adventure travel insurance policy to cover these
- Rental car hire: The relatively small size of the island and the varied attractions that can be found across it mean renting a car can be a good way of getting around and enjoying the freedom of being in complete control of your own schedule. Consider travel insurance with rental car excess cover to protect yourself from the risk of an exorbitant rental car excess charge.
- Watersports: Unsurprisingly, this tropical island boasts a wide range of watersports, beach and water activities. Scuba diving has unique risks and may require special cover, while surfing and other watersports can also be covered with the right type of travel insurance.
- Cruises: Puerto Rico is a popular destination for many cruises. Consider taking out travel insurance with additional cover for cruise-related losses.
- Booze tours: Puerto Rico has long been a fun, popular destination for those looking to enjoy a cocktail or three. The city and distillery tours put art, culture and history on the menu along with drinks. Learn how rum is made at the world’s largest rum distillery or indulge yourself with some of the most highly recommended drinks on the island while taking in local history from a guide. To avoid missing out, or to potentially get reimbursed if you do, consider travel insurance for missed tours.
Puerto Rico is part of the United States, and has a developed healthcare system. However, you should be aware that:
- You will generally need to pay up-front for medical treatments. This means having a travel insurance policy that pays out up-front or being able to pay the cost out-of-pocket yourself and then claiming it back from your insurer later.
- If you require prescription medication then you should bring enough for the duration of your stay. Pharmacists cannot distribute prescribed medications without authorisation from a doctor.
If you do experience a medical emergency while in Puerto Rico, going to your nearest hospital is typically the most appropriate option as there are few significant differences in treatment quality or cost between Puerto Rican hospitals.
- Ensure that your travel insurance policy includes medical cover.
- Contact your travel insurance provider as soon as you are able to notify them of your medical claim.
- If your travel insurance policy pays up-front you can provide your insurance details to hospital staff so they can deal with the insurer directly to cover the cost of your treatment. If it does not pay up-front then you will need to pay the costs yourself and claim them back on insurance later if possible.
- Medical treatments can be particularly expensive in the United States, including Puerto Rico, and may run into tens of thousands of dollars. It may be advisable to ensure any pre-existing conditions are covered by your travel insurance if you don’t want to run the risk of enormous costs.
To make a claim, you should contact your insurer’s 24-hour claims helpline and follow the steps provided. You will typically need to offer a relatively in-depth retelling of the incident and evidence to support your claim where applicable.
For miscellaneous help or assistance with travel documentation, contact the Australian Consulate-General in New York by calling +1 212 351 6500.
Citizens of the United States, including those living in Australia, can freely enter and leave Puerto Rico without a visa and with nothing more than official photographic identification.
Non-US citizens must follow the same procedures as when visiting mainland United States, and need to get a visa before travelling. Temporary visas are for up to 90 days, but you should be aware that having one does not guarantee entry. You can still be denied entry based on failure to follow quarantine or customs regulations, or at the discretion of border control authorities.
- Obtain a US tourist visa (or other relevant visa type) from your nearest US embassy. There is one of these in each major Australian city, and with the exception of Canberra they can all process your visa request.
- Once you have the visa, you can travel to the US. If you are travelling with prescription medication, make sure you take a copy of the prescription along as well.
- You can expect your luggage to be inspected for prohibited mainland fruits, vegetables, soil and similar, much as it is when one returns to Australia.
Puerto Rico is good all year, enjoying a warm climate and open attractions. The three main time windows are:
- December – April: Peak tourist season, largely thanks to the cold weather and holiday period in mainland United States. Expect more crowds, particularly of American visitors, and marginally higher prices.
- July – August: Another peak period, this one coinciding with cold weather in the southern hemisphere and mid-year breaks. Fewer crowds than in December, but still busy.
- May – November: The lowest prices and smallest crowds can be found at this time of year, which is also peak hurricane season. If you want to save money, don’t like big crowds or simply don’t mind letting the weather dictate your vacation plans then this might be the right time for you to visit.
All travel insurance policies have exclusions, which are conditions where they will not pay out. Some exclusions you might want to watch out for when considering travel cover for Puerto Rico include:
- Being under the influence: If you’ve had one too many then you might not be covered by travel insurance. They reserve the right to not pay claims for losses resulting from you being drunk or under the influence of anything else, so remember to stay in control.
- Reckless or dangerous behaviour: Insurance pays out for reasonable claims, which generally doesn’t include recklessness. If you suffer a loss, or claimable event, as a result of your own reckless, irresponsible or needlessly dangerous behaviour, or the behaviour of someone else on that travel insurance policy, you might not be covered.
- Pre-existing conditions: If you have pre-existing health issues but have not raised them with your insurer, you cannot necessarily assume they are covered even with a more thorough health travel insurance policy. In most cases the condition will either be excluded or covered for an additional premium.
- Non-covered activities: Similarly, you cannot necessarily assume that all activities you undertake are covered by a given policy. Riskier activities, including many sports and adventure activities, as well as things like horseback riding and motorbiking, may not necessarily be covered.