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Puerto Rico to keep its borders closed to non-essential travel indefinitely

By Kaeli Conforti
September 29, 2021
Puerto Rico
©Photo Spirit/Shutterstock
The US territory is keeping its borders closed due to the accelerating COVID-19 outbreak.

It looks like The Bahamas won’t be the only popular Caribbean destination stopping U.S. travelers from visiting this summer. Puerto Rico, which reopened briefly on July 15, will remain closed to domestic and international tourism indefinitely following a recent spike in Covid-19 cases. No new reopening date has been released yet and Discover Puerto Rico’s travel advisory states that until further notice, only essential travel will be allowed to the island, while “a continuous assessment of the situation in Puerto Rico and in the United States will influence Island-wide orders that prioritize health and safety.”

In other words, you probably won’t be able to visit Puerto Rico this summer, and if you’re already there, it’s definitely not going to be your typical carefree vacation.

Last week, Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced announced the latest round of health and safety measures being taken to better protect residents. For starters, face masks must be worn at all times—over your nose and mouth whether you’re inside or outside—or you could face fines, and you’ll need to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet from anyone outside your group whenever you’re in a public space.

As of July 17, all bars, clubs, gyms, casinos, theaters and other attractions are closed until further notice, and you won’t be able to buy alcohol anywhere after 7 p.m. Restaurants and museums can stay open as long as they’re running at 50% capacity and everyone is social distancing. Hotels are still open but guests must maintain proper distancing measures and wear masks in all public areas. Malls, hair salons and spas are open by appointment only, while hotels and restaurants are conducting temperature checks to ensure guests have temps under 100.3 degrees before they’re allowed to enter. Public transportation is also suspended and there’s an Island-wide curfew in place between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. through July 31.

Additionally, you’re only allowed to go to the beach between the hours of 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. if you’ll be jogging, swimming or surfing—no strolling on the beach or sun tanning here—and any recreational activities involving boats are off the table right now. All marinas, tourist attractions and tours are closed for the foreseeable future, as are hotel pools and fitness facilities. You can, however, go to the golf course Monday through Saturday. Tourists also aren’t allowed to take the ferry to Vieques or Culebra, as that privilege is reserved for residents only. Things are even more strict on Sundays, when alcohol sales are prohibited and all non-essential services—except gas stations, supermarkets, pharmacies and restaurants providing pick-up or delivery—are closed.

Beyond that, if you are planning any essential travel to Puerto Rico or want to visit whenever it officially reopens, be aware that arrival procedures have changed due to the pandemic. Mask-wearing and social distancing are mandatory as soon as you enter the airport, and thermographic cameras are there to monitor your temperature as you proceed through customs. You’ll need to fill out a Travel Declaration Form ahead of time online through the Puerto Rico Health Department’s website, and upon landing in San Juan, present negative test results from a molecular Covid-19 test taken within the last 72 hours.

If you’re unable to show a negative test result, you might be able to do a Covid-19 test locally, but you’ll have to self-isolate until you can prove you have one. In some cases, especially if you are showing symptoms at the airport, a rapid COVID-19 test may be conducted and a 14-day quarantine may be ordered. In all situations, you’re expected to pay for any associated medical or accommodation expenses.

Puerto Rico has done a decent job keeping Covid-19 under control, thanks to a series of health and safety guidelines aimed at keeping both visitors and residents from spreading the virus. As of this writing, The New York Times reports there have been 12,940 cases in Puerto Rico since the start of the pandemic, compared to the rest of the U.S., which has now surpassed 3.9 million cases.

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