Table of Contents
- Housing & Utilities
- Transportation & Groceries
- Moving to Puerto Rico
- Benefits of living in Puerto Rico
- Cons of living in Puerto Rico
Has the thought of moving to a tropical country with sandy beaches and warm waters been on your mind?
If the hurricane season doesn’t scare you, you’ll be happy to know the cost of living in Puerto Rico is 14.2% lower than in the USA. During the past couple of years, because of the situation worldwide, working remotely became something many people chose to do. Puerto Rico has low wages, but if you work remotely, or if you consider this to be your retirement destination, you will have a more than comfortable life with $2000/month.
A smaller budget won’t be much of a hassle either, but let’s look at all the factors that will determine the monthly spending of one person.
Housing & Utilities
Renting or buying a home is one of the main reasons why Puerto Rico is more affordable than the US, with a significant 40%-50% lower price on housing. A 1-bedroom apartment ranges from $450 to $700, depending on its proximity to a city or to a popular tourist destination. US citizens can freely buy a home in Puerto Rico, and don’t need a visa or a passport to travel.
You can find small apartments all over Puerto Rico for $45.000-$50.000, but with a bit of digging, you might find even cheaper ones. Houses start at around $65.000 in Jayuya, but you can find very affordable ones even in San Juan. The average property price is $135/sq ft.
Utilities tend to be on the higher side, about 20% compared to the US. The average $150 for electricity, water, and garbage, combined with $60 for internet will depend on how much you use the AC, and how fast of an internet connection you prefer.
Transportation & Groceries
Locals and tourists mostly rely on buses when it comes to public transportation. A one trip ticket cost around $1.50, which is 33% less than most areas in the US. Gas tends to be a bit more expensive, usually staying about 40 cents higher than in the US. If you are in a rush and want to hop in a taxi, the price/mile is close to the same as in the US, at $2.40, however, you’ll only really find taxis in the zones that are popular as tourist destinations.
When it comes to groceries and household items the prices differ. Milk is double the price than in the US, but for the most part prices are not drastically higher. Imported goods are more expensive, so buying local brands will significantly reduce your grocery bill. Overall, your groceries might end up being higher than in the States, but reported to the cost of living you will save money from other expenses. The price for dining out in Puerto Rico is lower than in the US, which is great considering that is unavoidable in such a beautiful location.
Looking at a budget of $2000/month for living in Puerto Rico you will end up spending it more or less for the following needs:
- Rent/Mortgage: 20.7%
- Groceries & Household Items: 39.2%
- Dining out: 14.3%
- Transportation: 9.9%
- Utilities: 8.9%
That will leave you with 3% to spend on whatever else you need.
Moving to Puerto Rico
Because Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the USA, there are no requirements to moving there. You won’t even need a passport. It’s like moving to an exotic country, but without actually leaving the country. The unemployment rate is quite high there, but if you keep your US job and work remotely (especially now that our of office jobs are becoming more and more popular) it will be easier to accommodate. You must keep in mind that the cost of living is higher, so make sure you can afford to do the switch.
If you plan to work in Puerto Rico, you’ll be happy to learn about the Puerto Rico tax shelter of Acts 22 and 20. There are many industries that fall under this law, and business owners have been flocking there to take advantage of it. Basically, US citizens that become residents of Puerto Rico may not have to pay federal taxes on capital earnings. Learn more about it here.
Benefits of living in Puerto Rico
Aside from the tax shelter that we mentioned above, there are various other benefits of living in Puerto Rico. Even though the food found in most supermarkets is more expensive because of the import taxes, the region is proud to have rich farmer’s markets where you can find local produce. It’s a wonderful way to support the local economy and eat healthy. You can find roadside stands almost everywhere if you’re in sudden need of veggies for dinner.
If you have children, the education system in Puerto Rico is well-structured. The only downside is that Spanish is the main language, but English is widely taught as well. Even the public school system is excellent and with a high literacy rate, residents have the option to enroll their children in private school, which does cost a pretty penny.
Puerto Ricans are keen on having a good time, so aside from living in a tropical environment with access to beaches and wonderful recreational spots, there are many festivals to enjoy, such as Festival de la Novilla, Carnaval Ponceño, Fiestas de la Calle San Sebasti, Fiesta de Los Reyes Magos, Noche de San Juan, and others. Use these opportunities to learn the culture and, as a resident, join the locals like a true Puerto Rican. They generally are friendly and eager to teach you their customs.
Cons of living in Puerto Rico
Unfortunately, there are some not so pleasant aspects of living in the archipelago. Probably the worst one is the medical system. The hospitals are well-equipped, and the doctors know what they’re doing, just like in the US, but there is no way to get state health insurance in Puerto Rico. Despite it being a commonwealth of the US, there’s no Affordable Care Act. The only way to have health insurance is by purchasing a private one, but these tend to cost less than health insurance in the US.
Another thing about the healthcare system is the way you have to handle your appointment. Actually, there are no appointments. If you want to see a doctor, you’ll have to have your name put on a list in the morning, and visit the doctor again when they decide the doctor has an opening. It can be quite a stressful situation.
Hurricanes are a problem here. Because of Puerto Rico’s geographical position, it’s in the path of many hurricanes that form above the ocean. With them comes another issue: poor sanitary conditions. We saw the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, but we did not talk enough about the problems locals had to face. The water was contaminated, which led to an infectious outbreak. In general, tap water should be boiled before drinking it, that if you don’t want to only drink bottled water from the store.
When it comes to general safety, things could be better. It’s not necessarily a dangerous place to live in, but the drug trade is flourishing despite government intervention. There are some neighborhoods in San Juan where these things happen more often, so those should be avoided. Even though muggings happen quite often, the criminals don’t seem to target expats and tourists more than locals. You should practice common safety precautions such as not wearing expensive jewelry, or not leaving your can windows open.
Overall, Puerto Rico is a wonderful place to live in. Before deciding to relocate here, do your research and put the pros and cons in balance. It works differently for everyone. For official up to date information about Puerto Rico, please visit the government website.