12 Surprising Facts that I Learned After Living in Puerto Rico for Six Months

After extensive Preparation (read about it here), we are loving living in Puerto Rico! After six months we are still considered “new”residents and everyday we learn new things about this beautiful island.

Here are 12 surprising facts about Puerto Rico:

12 Surprising Facts Puerto Rico

(I only knew the first five before we moved to the Island!)

  1. Puerto Ricans are natural born US citizens.
  2. As a US territory (part of the United States of America), US citizens can come and go just like crossing any state line in the US.
  3. Monetary currency is US dollar.
  4. Bank of America and other “US” banks are not present in Puerto Rico. Banking in general is a different animal altogether.  Almost all transactions involve going into the branch for cashier assistance, except for cash withdrawals.  PR Banking is about the same level as US banking in the 1980’s.
  5. Puerto Rico was never under British rule. Independence Day is more of a mainland holiday, but a great excuse for a long weekend holiday.
  6. The drinking Age is 18 years old unlike the mainland restriction of 21 years old. It never occurred to me that PR would have a different age restriction.
  7. Police lights are not limited to red and blue. Different municipalities have green and blue lights, red and green, or just blue lights.
  8. Flashing lights are not limited to Police and emergency vehicles. School Buses, trucks, and “party” buses have white and color strobe lights driving down the road.  So far I have never been pulled over by a school bus, but you never know!
  9. Gambling is legal for ages 18 and over. Our little community has a casino and almost every major chain hotel has an attached casino.  Most surprising – we have walked through several casinos, but not gambled a penny since moving here.
  10. Residents of Puerto Rico are allowed to vote in the Presidential primaries, but do not get a vote for the US Presidential election.
  11. Puerto Rico has three main Political Parties; Popular Democratic Party (PPD), New Progressive Party (PNP), and Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP). More surprising, after elections signs are immediately removed from public view!
  12. Beaches are considered Public Domain. Private property can restrict parking and certain roadways, but private parties cannot own or restrict the beach.
Isla Verde beach

How many of these did you know? 

After living in Puerto Rico for six months that I learned about #6-12! 

More Weird and Fun Facts about Puerto Rico

63 thoughts on “12 Surprising Facts that I Learned After Living in Puerto Rico for Six Months”

  1. My company is considering opening a branch in Puerto Rico. Is it true that Puerto Rico employees get holiday pay on holidays like Three King’s Day, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday (or the following Monday)?

  2. Just spent like 40 minutes here reading and watching! Thank you for such great job a question from a worried mom, if you allowed-earthquakes, tsunami and hurricanes – is there any part of the island which is statistically less affected by natural disasters? (Please say “yes”)

    1. Unfortunately, natural disasters are common in the Caribbean. Hurricanes are statistically more likely on the East coast of Puerto Rico, and usually Northeast corner is the hardest hit. Tsunamis are very rare, but any area near the ocean is at risk. Earthquakes tend to be the Southern half of the island lately, but seismic activity can occur anywhere on the island.

  3. There are some interesting facts about Puerto Rico here. The legal age of drinking and gambling and drinking being only 18 must attract a lot of tourists from the mainland. It’s interesting about the flashing vehicles too, party buses!!!

  4. I didn’t realise Puerto Rico was a US territory and the citizens. It’s pretty handy not to need a passport to cross the border. What’s the main language? Spanish or English?

  5. Very cool that you live there! I visited for a few days when I was 13 and I can’t remember much of it, unfortunately. Would love to return! Pretty interesting about the amount of casinos, hey?!

    1. There are so many casinos, and we only go when people are visiting the island. There is just so much to do here, there is always something better than the casino!

  6. Cool post. I think for me the most interesting tidbits where that residents can’t vote in presidential elections and private entities can’t own the beach. I like that second one! There are so many private beaches in the US.

  7. I was not aware of many – probabl #3-5, so I really appreciate you sharing this article with us.

    I know it’s quite hot in Puero Rico, isn’t it?

    They speak both Spanish and English there, don’t they?

    1. Yes, most people speak Spanish (Puerto Rican dialect) and English (at least a little). It is tropical temperatures 82 degree F/27 C year round.

  8. What a great list! I definitely learnt a lot from this article. About the only thing that I did know was that US residents can cross to PR without needing a visa, etc. And I know that because when I had a US working visa I was planning to go (but didn’t! Still on the list).

  9. I knew a lot of the political / US-PR tie facts, but there were a few in here I didn’t know. I love that the beaches are all public land! I hate when people + companies with the most money are the ones that get to go to the best beaches! I also think it’s interesting that the banking is a few decades behind! I would’ve have thought that! Great tips!

  10. The differences were starting to sound a little Canadian until I read 10/11. If they can not vote for a President, who is their president. Is it still Obama (atm)… I guess that leads to my next question, how do they have their own parties.
    I don’t believe Canada has territories in the same way America does so some of these terms are foriegn to me

    1. Puerto Rico is like a neglected step-child when it come to voting. They are governed by whatever the US decides for President, but local representatives are voted on my residents.

    2. The different parties(there are three main ones) represent those who are against being a US territory & seek independence vs those who want to continue being a US territory

  11. I must admit i had never known about any of these facts regarding Puerto Rico apart from the fact that it is a beautiful place with beaches. I think six months is time enough that you start getting used to the place you are living in and start digging out fun facts about the place , its history/culture/ society etc etc.

  12. Very interesting about PR banking! I did not know some of these facts, like the one about PR political parties. I did know about the gambling though because the only time I’ve been gambling was in a casino in San Juan. I won 25 dollars!

  13. I didn’t know all of the facts you’ve listed here. I always thought that Puerto Rico is a different country and that Puerto Ricans are Latinos and not U.S. citizens. I learned a lot from reading this article of yours. Very fascinating read!

    1. Being Latino is just a cultural classification. Puerto Ricans are Hispanic because they speak spanish and Latinos because they are part of Latin America, but being a US citizen doesn’t matter what your culture is. As long as you’re born in Puerto Rico or one of the 50 states, they are United States citizens.

  14. These are really some good to know facts about Puerto Rico. I was not aware that 18 is the age when you are allowed to drink and gamble in PR. Also never knew that Puerto Rico was never colonized by the British.

  15. I had no clue about those facts and that’s so interesting to know! I’ve never been to PR, and I’ve always though it was one of the US state and had the same legal rules, you know! Such interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  16. I LOVE posts like this, as the rules and facts are often so unusual and yet, they seem to fit the country! I’ve never been to Puerto Rico but I understand it is a lovely country to visit for the beaches as well as the weather!

  17. I admit I don’t know any of these haha since I’m living in the Philippines and well away from Asia. I would love to hear about some cultural and behavioral things you’ve learned about Puerto Rico and its locals after living there.

  18. I shamefully only knew very few of these facts, but that’s why I loved to read your very infomative post even more!
    Those huge beaches really look gorgeous, it’s good to know they’re public. I would love to visit Puerto Rico, maybe someday. 🙂

  19. I only knew a handful of these. Best fact I learned when we were in Puerto Rico was the amazing roadside fare. Driving around and being able to stop at food stands was the best!

  20. Whenever I hear about Puerto Rico, all I can imagine are beach resorts, and awesome summer music that I would love to dance with the beat!

  21. I only knew a handful 🙂 I love learning little facts like these (bring it on, trivia night!) and it’s interesting that they can vote in the primaries but not in the presidential – strange?

  22. I think the lower drinking and gambling ages are certainly interesting! I hope to visit PR next year and there are some key learnings in your post.

  23. The whole voting thing really blows my mind. Guam is in a similar boat… which is particularly crappy because of the millitary presence there (and lot of Guam natives serve in the armed forces– but still can’t vote!)

  24. These are some interesting facts. I like that the Beach is not private, and is allowed for everyone to access. I am sure it would make for some interesting Parties.

  25. #6 – I never thought the drinking age would be different either, since they are still part of the U.S.! Actually a lot of these facts surprised me. I guess I just assumed since they are part of the U.S. that their laws and practices would all be pretty similar to that of the mainland. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Diana – me, too! We are part of the USA, but sometimes I feel like I am living in a completely foreign country!

  26. I would love to og to PR soon. Interesting facts by the way. And I was a little bit surprised about the alcohol age restriction there. It is probably obvious that lots of under aged Americans visit PR to party. Hehe.

  27. I had no idea that Puerto Ricans are actually born with American Citizenship and that the national currency is the dollar. This is very interesting. Funny with the lights, how do police signal emergency then?

    1. The Police are always signaling for emergency, so no one pulls over for them! It is pretty crazy. I am writing an entire post for Driving in Puerto Rico to help navigate the madness!

  28. So interesting! Thanks so much! I enjoyed learning many new things from this post! 🙂 Plus I LOVE LOVE LOVE the name of your blog! 🙂

  29. Wow, I didn’t know quite a few of these. I’ve been hoping to go there for my birthday. But since I’m working on a line, it may have to be a celebration next year! Thanks for the great info.

    1. Nope. Not Costa Rica (which is in Central America), Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island, and a US territory. People constantly confuse the 2 names! Big difference.

  30. I think that six months is a reasonable time. even you already know a lot about puerto rico. This island is quite interesting ..

  31. This is an interesting list! It is good to know that the beaches are public, since it always seems like fancy resorts pick the nicest stretches of sand. I find it sad (and honestly appalling) that Puerto Ricans can vote in the primaries but not in the elections. You’d think that being citizens of a country would at least give you the right to vote!

  32. These are interesting facts. They remind me of a lot of the laws in many African countries. The police lights seem like they could confuse people (tourists).

    1. The police lights are so confusing! Fortunately, the cops never seem to pull anyone over, the lights are used to get people to move out of their way.

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