So you finally booked those tickets to Puerto Rico and are sitting at your desk daydreaming of warm beaches, white sands, and all-day piña coladas when suddenly you wonder, exactly how much of that dangerously delicious Puerto Rican rum can I bring back home with me? Worry not dear foodies, we’re here to help you stock up on as many local goodies as possible before the USDA officially considers you a smuggler. 😉
Now what exactly can can you bring from Puerto Rico to the US? And how much of it? Since Puerto Rico is officially a U.S. commonwealth, traveling there is no different than traveling to any other state and U.S. citizens don’t need special documents or visas. This means all vacationers need to remember in their carry-ons is a government-issued photo ID. It also means visitors are free to bring back a large number of local goods back home without having to jump through too many hula hoops at customs.
While there is no customs per se between the mainland and the island, all baggage is required to pass through a screening process by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prior to leaving Puerto Rico. At the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, travelers will find large conveyor belt-style screening machines ready to scan bags curbside. Make sure to do this before checking your bags, otherwise you’ll have to make the line again. If you’re carrying any type of fruit or or produce, be sure to let them know. Suprises not so welcome.
Of course a large part of visiting a new destinations means visiting the local stores and shops and stocking up on souvenirs to bring home. If you have a doggy or house sitter, you might find yourself wanting to bring back even more local gifts. Most visitors to the island of enchantment fall in love with its strong coffee, smooth rum, and delectable tropical fruits. Packing some of these foodstuffs in your valise can get tricky when you are talking about food and beverages on a plane. Check out our findings below as to what you can and cannot bring from PR to the US.
You Can Bring:
- Alcohol – 5 quarts of your favorite spirit (we suggest opting for the local rum!)
- Cigars- 50 cigars
- Cigarettes – 2 cartons
- Condiments – including vinegars, oils, pickled goods, spices, coffee, tea, and some cheeses and baked goods are permitted
- Souvenirs – you can bring back any local artwork, but be conscious that items made with turtles or taino artefacts are strictly prohibited (although the likelihood of coming across either of those is pretty non-existent)
- Fruits and Veggies: Avocado -Papaya -Coconut – Plantain – Cassava – Batata – Yautia
You Can’t Bring:
- Citrus (all varieties)
- Passion fruit
- Cotton, cotton cuttings
- Fruits (fresh)—all fruits are prohibited except those on the preceding list
- Crafts made from Palm fronds
- Insects (live)
- Pigeon Peas (fresh)
- Plants in soil
- Seed cotton and cottonseed
- Snails (land)
- Seeds or nuts (pulpy)
- Sweet potato
- Vegetables (fresh)—all vegetables are prohibited except those on preceding lis
Maybe, Maybe not? Items up for Debate: Palm Fronds and Fruit
Palm fronds and fruit are in an iffy grey limbo of exportable travel goods, mostly dependent on the disease issues of the day. While you can find a list regarding allowable items posted in the airport, generally speaking it is hard to say what is and isn’t permitted. We can suggest, however, that you will have more luck getting foodstuffs through security clearance when they’ve been purchased from a grocery store and are packaged, versus items bought at a local fruit stand. Fresh green palm fronds are strictly prohibited on the other hand. But good news, there’s a looophole! If you purchase an item crafted from palm fronds, put it in the freezer before leaving. USDA will permit palm fronds that have been cured or dried.
For details on what can and cannot be transported to and from Puerto Rico, contact the U.S. Agriculture Department or call 787-253-4505 or 787-263-4506
Written by Mikol Hoffman, manager Flavors of San Juan
Sources: http://caribya.com/puerto.rico/customs/ ; http://aeropuertosju.com/en/pasajeros/usda/ ; http://caribbeantrading.com/what-can-you-bring-from-puerto-rico-to-the-united-states/