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Living in Puerto Rico

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013   10:37 am |  Category:   Retirement locations, Travel   |   29 Comments  
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If you expect life in Puerto Rico to be a paradise and that’s why you’re considering retiring here, think again. People who live in Puerto Rico are real people with real lives. If you want to have a satisfying lifestyle here in Puerto Rico, you have to either be flexible or have a strong desire to develop this characteristic. Retire in Puerto Rico, Sunset at San Juan beach, Puerto Rico It’s not easy to prepare for life in Puerto Rico unless you are familiar with the culture. Do you remember the beginning of the movie, “The Descendants” where the main character Matt (played by George Clooney) says: “My friends think that just because we live in Hawaii, we live in paradise. We’re all just out here sipping Mai Tai’s, shaking our hips and catching waves. Are they insane? Do they think we’re immune to life? How can they possibly think our families are less screwed up? Our heartaches, less painful?” Similar to Matt’s idea about people who live in Hawaii, island life in Puerto Rico is life in the real world – piña coladas and all- and it’s complicated.


Though Puerto Rico has had a hundred (plus) year long relationship with the United States, it continues to be unsettled. Puerto Rico has a government that functions much like a state but it is classified as a Commonwealth or territory. People here are legal citizens of the United States and consequently, have unlimited travel to the US without a visa. Often many Puerto Ricans live for some months in the US and then go back to Puerto Rico for the rest of the time. Families frequently travel to visit relatives in the US and vice versa. Some Puerto Ricans work in the US for an entire career and then decide to retire on the island and conversely, others will move to the United States for retirement.


Puerto Ricans are citizens but do not have a right to vote for the President of the United States. If they move to the US, they can automatically vote in a presidential election. However, Puerto Ricans can vote in the primary elections. In fact, the last time a nomination was held, Hilary Clinton was chosen as the Democratic candidate. Puerto Ricans are extremely political and have a high percentage of active eligible voters. Sometimes people from the US come to Puerto Rico and assume that everyone wants to be a part of the United States but this is not true. There are three prominent parties in Puerto Rico – the Statehood, Commonwealth, and Nationalist parties. Respectively, the first party, would like to become a state in the Union, the second would like to maintain the status quo, and the third party members prefer independent governance. It is possible that in one family there will be members who vote for any of the three parties.


Puerto Ricans proudly remember their more than five hundred year history of cultural development. Before the US arrived to claim the island in 1898, the Spanish had inhabited it for nearly four hundred years. In fact, resistance to the Spanish colonial government continues to be celebrated by many Puerto Ricans on the holiday, Grito de Lares (Cry of Lares) on September 23, 1868. Though not all political parties recognize this day; historically, the University of Puerto Rico does consider it to be a national holiday and often the campus is closed. Considering holidays – Puerto Rico celebrates all the traditional United States holidays as well as nine Puerto Rican holidays – a fact that can make for unexpected closures at the bank or government offices if you are uninformed.


Because of the country’s political history, most people speak a bit of English but everyone speaks Spanish. That means that all business transactions will be conducted in the Spanish language first but often someone is around to help you in English. Buying a home, going to the doctor, solving an insurance or tax problem will probably be conducted in the Spanish language with a bit of English thrown in; however, official documents will probably be in Spanish. This means that you can buy property in Puerto Rico (with US currency) but the transaction will likely need to be facilitated by an agent who is proficient in both languages.


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  1. Ileana Apr 13th 2014  10:26 pm

    Good evening, I would appreciate some info on things like utilities and cost, internet and cable and/or satellite TV. Is Puerto Rico able to get American TV shows? Thank you and have a great night.

  2. Cynthia Pittmann Apr 14th 2014  2:00 am

    Puerto Rico has the same services you would expect I the United States, Ilianna. You can have cable to obtain American TV, use a dish or Wifi. It’s not more expensive than the US. You could research online for more specifics.

  3. Darlene May 26th 2014  8:19 pm

    Does Puerto Rico participate in Medicare & Supplement Insurances? Since it is part of the United States.

  4. Cynthia Pittmann May 27th 2014  5:00 am

    Yes, Puerto Rico does have the same coverage and plans but I think the amounts might vary. You’d have to check. We do have social security and medicade/Medicare.

  5. Dick Jun 4th 2014  6:21 pm

    what is the average cost per month to live and what areas are safer to live in. my wife is a R.N. is there a demand for them there

  6. jacsan Jun 5th 2014  4:09 pm

    Dick, I live in Puerto Rico. I could not tell you exactly the monthly cost here. I can say utilities like electricity and water are expensive, house rental cheaper (a house in a suburb can be from $450 to over $900) it all depends the city and the place you live.

    Almost everyone owns a house, and eventhough there are many places to rent, there are not a lot like in US. Of course, that can change depending on the city. I live in the largest city in the south of Puerto Rico.

    Medical expenses are much cheaper than the US as well as diferent services that you can find here ar a much cheaper cost than the states. As of your wife, if you mean she is a registered nurse, yes, the demand is real high here, but I don’t know how much are they being paid. Your wife would find a job in a flash cause there is a big lack of nurses and doctors here.

  7. Joel Jul 4th 2014  10:04 pm

    I have been involved in financial services for several years but prior to that I was teaching at the university level (business and marketing). What opportunities might there be for a full or part time position at the university or community college level?

  8. David Green Jul 8th 2014  2:42 pm

    I am looking into moving to Puerto Rico. I am on a fixed income of 2100 a month can I live comfortably on that

  9. Cynthia Pittmann Jul 9th 2014  9:03 pm

    @Joel – If you have a MA and are willing to work for less than what you would earn in the US, finding a part-time teaching position is quite possible. However, you would need to speak Spanish for the most opportunities. I believe that determined person could find a job without knowing a lot of Spanish.
    @David – If you are a frugal person, it can be done. However, it cost more to live in San Juan (Condado area, Old San Juan, and Isla Verde). If you want to speak English with your neighbors, I recommend that you live in a tourist area.
    @Dick – RN work pays much less here than the US (as jacsan wrote). In fact, many trained (bilingual) nurses move to the States for this reason. Gated communities and tourist areas are the safest. However, I felt safe living in the mountains – very peaceful.

  10. Ana Fauteux Sep 6th 2014  3:26 pm

    I was born in PR but raised in NYC. I would like to retire in the next 7 years. I will be on a fixed income. Which areas on the island tend to have affordable housing (homes or apartments) as well as low crime? Are there any affordable elderly complexes? Thanks!

  11. Cynthia Pittmann Oct 8th 2014  3:31 pm

    @Ana Many people who retire in Puerto Rico stay in an enclosed community or an apartment building and feel safe under these conditions. Crime is a problem everywhere in the US and PR so I cannot recommend a completely safe area. I wish you the best.

  12. Jaime Oct 11th 2014  6:13 pm

    Quality of life in Puerto Rico can be better than some parts in the US for retirees due to its people, the low level of stress and the freedom (read “less rules and regulations”). The west cost is perhaps the safest as it is farther from San Juan than other areas. Specifically Cabo Rojo / Mayaguez. You can find everything you need from good hospitals to good quality groceries. Property taxes are low compared to the US and if your income is from the US you are only subject to the federal income tax. You have an airport in Mayaguez that has daily flights to San Juan from which you can go non-stop to the US, Europe or other Caribbean islands. There is an airport in Aguadilla (45 min from Mayaguez) with daily flights to NY and NJ. I have an apartment there and intend to move to PR when I retire. The air you breath is very clean and fresh due to the constant breeze from the ocean and it rains a great deal (tropical climate). I would say that 2 people can live comfortably with $2,000 per month (2014 prices, that is) and it is very safe if you choose the right neighborhood, like anywhere else in the world. Go visit it and do your homework. I guarantee you will love it.

  13. Cynthia Pittmann Oct 11th 2014  11:02 pm

    Thanks for the input, Jamie! I live on the busier eastern side of the island in San Juan but I’ve visited the West side. We have lots going on over here. There’s traffic, people, and bikes on the road. It’s more like a beach city here. Good luck on your move and enjoy Puerto Rico!

  14. john donnahoe Oct 24th 2014  10:53 pm

    My wife and I are already on medicare, would we need to do anything or make any changes to continue utilizing it if we moved to PR.

  15. Cynthia Pittmann Oct 27th 2014  3:41 pm

    I really am not an expert on medicare and other specific details. Maybe one of the readers here could help.

  16. Carmen Garcia Oct 28th 2014  2:30 am

    There would be no need for changes if you already have Medicare, and would like to continue using its benefits at Puerto Rico. Medicare is acceptable in all the hospitals and specialized doctor offices.

  17. Reggie Heyward Nov 9th 2014  10:04 pm

    My wife and I recently visited the West side of the island…Mayaguez, Aguadilla, Rincon…We have an 7 and 8 year old. How are the schools? Are they Bi lingual?

  18. drew Jan 1st 2015  10:20 pm

    Do pets need to be quarantined prior to moving to PR

  19. addie Feb 1st 2015  10:47 pm

    How easy is it to move a dog and cat to Puerto Rico, what are the requirements?

  20. Jojo Feb 26th 2015  2:42 am

    Where do people that work in Hato Rey usually live?

  21. Cynthia Pittmann Feb 26th 2015  5:15 pm

    @Reggie The public schools are generally not bilingual. There is an English language class in all schools. If you look for a bilingual school, verify that it really is bilingual. All private schools are not the same. There are a few special public schools that emphasize the arts, science or are bilingual in San Juan. The children compete to be selected to enroll in those schools; otherwise, your neighborhood determines where your children would attend school.

    @drew No, as far as I know pets from the US to PR do not need to be quarantined or from PR to the US. I have both brought pets here and know people who have sent cats and dogs to the US.

    @addie It is the same as in the US. Health certificates are required.

    @Jojo Hato Rey is part of San Juan. If you work in Hato Rey you can live in Santurce, Condado, or in Hato Rey. It depends more on transportation needs. There is a good Urban Train route in Hato Rey so you can take it to Bayamon or any of the other areas on the route. Check Google Maps.

  22. Eva Roman Mar 7th 2015  7:57 am

    David Green you should be fine . My hubby and I are doing the same. On a fixed income. we are looking into Aguadilla. We donot want the hustle and traffic from SJ,

  23. Robin Mar 7th 2015  9:54 pm


    Hi, I am a retired US Veteran, reading all the above posts sounds like I will be visiting the west-side of PR & I’m considering moving there.

    (Cabo Rojo /Mayaguez/Aguadilla/Rincon) west-side right?

    I need a one-bed/bath & would love ocean views. I too live on a fixed income of $1,000. needing an all inclusive apt. is it possible? thank you

  24. Ce Mar 9th 2015  9:38 pm

    How is the postal system? I am a jewelry designer/artist and sell my wares, online. Would I be able to continue running my business out of my home in PR? I would simply need a way to mail purchases to the US without it costing an arm and a leg. Thank you.

  25. Cynthia Pitttmann Mar 10th 2015  10:51 pm

    @Robin I wish I could provide you with more information but I would think about how much I could spend on rent and other necessities. 1000.00 seems a bit tight to me. You would have to find a small place and there is no harm in trying!

    @Ce The postal system is the same as the US. It does not cost more. Sometimes the mail is slower. Another problem is that some countries/businesses don’t know that Puerto Rico is not considered international. It’s more like a state in the way pricing is done. That situation is more of a problem for the sender if you are receiving mail. I work around it by making calls to the uninformed company. I hope that helps. My son”s girlfriend has a web based mail order kind of business and she manages fine.

  26. Soy Mar 18th 2015  1:48 pm

    Mainlander looking to visit Rincon area to explore retirement in 2 years. Searching for 1-3 month winter rental in walking distance to beach and bars. THANKS FOR YOUR INFO!!!!!!!!!!

  27. AV Mar 27th 2015  7:08 pm

    Soy, Rincon is a wonderful destination with many retirees (mostly from the NY area). Life is quiet with just about enough to keep us busy. I recommend that you follow this link for a quick look at everything going on in Rincon You will find plenty of real estate leads on rentals. Good luck

  28. Rey Apr 5th 2015  4:26 pm

    I am considering retiring in Puerto Rico, maybe to Fajardo, Ceiba or Humacao. I will have Social Security income and will be drawing also from my IRA account. Will I be paying Federal Tax and PR Tax? It is confusing, anything about this would be helpful. I am budgeting retiring with an income of 5,000 a month or 60,000 per year.

  29. Miss Laura Apr 10th 2015  4:33 pm

    1.) What areas have the best sand beaches?
    2.) When you moved to Puerto Rico, what type of information did you learn the hard way, and wish you would have known before you moved there?
    3.) Does Puerto Rico allow domestic rabbits?

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