San Juan, Puerto Rico, has gotten a lot of attention in recent years as a travel destination but also increasingly as a place where you might want to move. If you’re thinking about moving to San Juan, whether it’s with your family or on your own or perhaps to retire, the following is a guide to some of the most important things you need to know about this idyllic city blending old and new.
1. A San Juan Overview
San Juan has a history going back five centuries to when it was a fortified city. Now, it’s the capital of Puerto Rico and one of the Caribbean’s top destinations. It’s just a three-hour flight from many U.S. cities, and you don’t need a passport, which can be a draw in and of itself.
San Juan is a unique mix of old and new. It’s the 46th-largest city under the United States jurisdiction, and it was originally founded by Spanish colonists in 1521.
It’s the third oldest European-established capital city in the Americas.
San Juan is the hub of culture, finance, and tourism in Puerto Rico, and it’s also the most important seaport. Around 76% of Puerto Rico’s population lives and works in the San Juan area.
Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, there aren’t entry restrictions for U.S. citizens. The taxation system could be appealing because qualifying residents can take advantage of it under Act 60. If you’re a qualifying business or individual, you’re exempt from taxes on interest, capital gains, and royalties. You only have a 4% corporate tax rate with other benefits.
With that being said, you have to meet strict requirements before you can use these benefits. For example, you’re required to live in Puerto Rico for 183 days out of the tax year, and you can’t have any tax home outside of the territory. You’re also expected to buy and live in your primary residence in Puerto Rico and donate a minimum amount to a registered charity on the island.
There is also something called the closer ties test, requiring an applicant to prove no ties to the U.S. or the rest of the world stronger than the ones with Puerto Rico.
There are a number of great neighborhoods in San Juan. For example, Santurce has seen revitalization over the past few years, and it’s got a thriving artist community. If you want to live in Old San Juan, the history, galleries, and European feel might appeal to you. Ocean Park has some of the most beautiful homes in the city, and it’s a pedestrian-friendly, gated community.
2. The Pros and Cons of Moving to Puerto Rico
In general, if you like the beach and tropical weather, all of Puerto Rico is going to seem heavenly to you. It’s warm or hot throughout the year, with temperatures averaging around eighty degrees. There are a lot of sunny days, with nice breezes from the sea.
The culture is another perk of moving to Puerto Rico, and since it is a U.S. territory, the transition is easier than moving to a completely new country.
Of course, there are downsides.
One of the big ones is the cost of living. The cost of living in Puerto Rico is around 13% higher than the average in the U.S. Under the Jones Act of 1920, everything that comes to Puerto Rico has to be shipped to the states first and then re-shipped to the island by U.S. transport, which greatly increases the costs. Groceries are around 23% higher than on the mainland on average, and sales tax is 11.5%.
Property in Puerto Rico can be as expensive as it is in high-cost U.S. cities like Miami and Los Angeles.
Puerto Rico is also still in the process of rebuilding after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and they were just hit by another hurricane, causing flooding and damage.
The cost of water and electricity in San Juan is comparable to the U.S. The temperatures are usually no lower than the mid-70s year-round, so residents don’t need heaters which helps with electric bills. The air conditioners in houses are often only run during July and August, and most people will use fans and take advantage of the breezes.
A lot of households in Puerto Rico will heat water with a solar tank from the roof of their home.
4. Health and Medical Care
Puerto Rico is not a state, so there isn’t Affordable Care Act coverage available to people who live there. Employers don’t usually provide insurance. Typically people in Puerto Rico buy health insurance from the private sector, but the plans tend to be less expensive than they are in the U.S.
Most doctors in Puerto Rico don’t take appointments. Instead, you go to the office, and you put your name on the list, and you’re seen in that order.
5. Working in Puerto Rico
Manufacturing accounts for more than 40% of the GDP in Puerto Rico, but the industries aren’t as labor-intensive as they once were. They’re more capital-intensive now. A lot of people who work in manufacturing are involved in producing chemicals, electronics, and machinery. Pharmaceuticals are also produced on the island, and they’re often sent to the mainland. The pharmaceutical industry accounts for nearly 100,000 jobs on the island alone.
Puerto Rico is considered a high-income economy, but the median household income has been declining for around the past ten years. Still, it compares favorably to other Caribbean nations.
In your free time, there’s an abundance of things to keep you occupied in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico. Old San Juan includes cobblestone streets and brightly colored homes. There are waterfronts, forts, museums, and plazas. There are also great restaurants and shopping.
The New San Juan is a growing part of the island that feels modern and innovative. There are amenities of any modern city, as well as beaches, luxury hotels, nightlife, and great dining. San Juan is Puerto Rico’s cultural center, with endless festivals and events throughout the year. There will always be something going on.
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