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Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide

Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide

Everything you need to know about planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

PUERTO VALLARTA TRAVEL GUIDE CONTENTS

Quick Info | Planning Your Trip | Things To Do | Where To Stay | Restaurants | Nightlife | Budget | Resources


Puerto Vallarta is where you’ll find the best of both worlds – the city and the beach. It has been 2020’s favorite destination because of its many beaches and affordability to travel. It is still not as touristy as other Mexican destinations and you will still get to see Mexican culture here despite the many expats who live here. Remote workers and retirees who visited during the pandemic ended up moving to Puerto Vallarta and found their new home.

Backed by the beautiful Bay of Banderas with rich jungles and mountains, Puerto Vallarta has been the top destination on the Mexican coast. It is also close to small Mexican beach towns like Sayulita and San Pancho. These two towns are just an hour’s drive from Puerto Vallarta and can be easily visited during the day.

✈️ Puerto Vallarta quick info

🇲🇽 State: Jalisco

⏰ Timezone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT-5)

✈️ Airport: Puerto Vallarta International Airport

💲 Currency: The currency in Mexico is called the New Mexican peso (MXN).  $1 USD = $20 MXN. Mexico also uses the $ sign so don’t get confused. Most prices in PV are in Mexican peso.

🔌 Power plug: Mexico uses types A and B but in Sayulita, type A is more common. See all plug types here to know what to pack for Puerto Vallarta!

📱 Mexico sim card: The best provider that works in Vallarta area and the Riviera Nayarit is Telcel. See our complete Mexico sim card guide for more information.

🛃 Visa: Mexico no longer gives 180-day tourists visas. It all depends on your itinerary and proof of accommodations/tours. Mexico will not stamp your passport but they will give you an entry card. Don’t lose it because it’s your only proof that you legally entered the country. You will need to present it when you leave.

🤟 Language: Everyone can speak English in Puerto Vallarta although some local street food stalls can only speak Spanish.

🌵 Culture: There is a big expat and digital nomad community in Puerto Vallarta. This is one of the best places to retire in Mexico so expect to see Americans and Canadians who live here. I personally think there are more foreigners from Canada who are living here than Americans.


Where is Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is located in the state of Jalisco, bordering the state of Nayarit. It is often described as a resort city like Acapulco but they are very different.

Apart from the all-inclusive resorts, this Mexican city is known for its beaches, watersports, and restaurants. It’s an American and Canadian’s favorite travel destination in Mexico but it still has a very Mexican culture.


What types of travelers visit Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is definitely for everyone but most tourists who come here are from the US and Canada. I’d like to be more specific on the visitor types so you can assess if Puerto Vallarta travel is for you:

  • Families traveling with kids: Puerto Vallarta has a very friendly layout for families traveling with kids. Although there are some resorts and accommodations that say “adults only,” there are many other accommodation options if you are traveling with kids. Your children won’t also get bored as there are many things to do for all ages!
  • Honeymooners and couples: The all-inclusive offers in Puerto Vallarta are super affordable. For as low as $150 USD per person per night, you can have a vacation in a great resort.
  • Backpackers and solo travelers: Even if Puerto Vallarta travel is known for the resorts, there are many affordable hostels in Puerto Vallarta for backpackers and solo travelers.
  • Groups of friends: The most popular visitors traveling Puerto Vallarta are groups of friends who are celebrating birthdays, bachelorette/bachelor parties, or even a family reunion.
  • Digital nomads: There are many digital nomads in Puerto Vallarta who are staying for 3-6 months. Wifi in Puerto Vallarta is fast and the apartment rentals are cheap.

Overall, I’d say Puerto Vallarta is still one of the cheapest digital nomad destinations in Mexico and it’s on top of the list. Apart from digital nomads, Puerto Vallarta is also popular to expats and retirees.


Do they speak English in Puerto Vallarta?

YES, they do! I remember when I was living here, I barely spoke Spanish. First, my housemates were British and Canadian so when we go out to eat in restaurants, servers automatically speak English to us. I usually insist on speaking Spanish to service people but they are so used to having English-speaking guests that they continue responding to me in English.

Even if you are walking at the Puerto Vallarta Malecon, everyone who offers tours will speak to you in English. Puerto Vallarta has been so popular with US tourists that the locals here mastered the English language.

Everyone you see on the street will speak English. Servers and hotel staff are also fluent in English. You won’t have to speak Spanish here but for me, that’s a downfall since I can’t practice my Spanish.


Is it safe to travel to Puerto Vallarta Mexico?

ABSOLUTELY! First, if you are staying in Zona Romantica, the most popular part of the city for tourists, you don’t need to hail an Uber. You can simply walk to and from your accommodations. The streets are well-lit and the city is always bustling so you’ll never find yourself walking alone on the streets of PV. The vibrant Puerto Vallarta nightlife also makes the area safe as there will always be people around you.

Taking Uber in Puerto Vallarta is also safe, not to mention, cheap! You can get an Uber ride for as low as $5 USD. Since Uber works well in PV, I never really tried the white taxis so I can’t speak for its safety. The crime rate in Puerto Vallarta is low (36/100) in comparison to Miami and Maui which are both 58/100. As usual, do not involve yourself in drug transactions to ensure your safety.

The cartels in Mexico will not do anything to interrupt tourism in Puerto Vallarta but if you will involve yourself in drugs, there goes the problem. I know we base the safety of a place on statistics but in this article, I will share with you realistic instances and experiences that I had while I was living in Puerto Vallarta.

Overall, I feel very safe in PV and I was never paranoid or worried about wandering by myself, especially at night.


🌎  Puerto Vallarta Map

puerto vallarta map
Click here to open this Puerto Vallarta map in full view.

🧳 Trip Planning Tools


What is the best time of the year to visit Puerto Vallarta?

Like most of Mexico, the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta and the Pacific Coast is from late October to early June. Spending summer in Mexico is not really everyone’s cup of tea and Puerto Vallarta is super humid – I doubt you will survive July to September here.

October to early June is also known as peak seasons where accommodations and tours are more expensive. If you don’t mind the extremely hot weather, you can visit during the summer and find super great Puerto Vallarta vacation deals!


Can you drink tap water in Puerto Vallarta?

No, you cannot. Don’t even dare! My dog got sick when I was living in Puerto Vallarta. When I brought her to the vet, she told me that I have to change their drinking water to mineral water. If a dog can get sick from drinking tap water in Puerto Vallarta, imagine what that can do to you!

Restaurants usually have free “house water” but they are mineral water, I assure you. When in doubt, always order bottled water. You know yourself better than anyone!

Some foreigners also ask me what water they use when they wash vegetables in Mexico but I really can’t give any information about this because I wash my vegetables with tap water.

I use microdyn with the water and so far, I haven’t been sick. I can’t speak for the restaurants but I am sure they are doing the same. Microdyn is kind of a thing in Mexico – every household has it.


🛏️  Where to stay in Puerto Vallarta

Remember that when choosing a hotel in Puerto Vallarta, you need to greatly consider the neighborhoods first. The most popular neighborhood in Zona Romantica, an area well-known for its gay scene. It is not exclusive to gays though – many different types of travelers enjoy Zona Romantica because it’s super lively!

Right by the airport is Marina Vallarta with condo-type accommodations that are more popular on Airbnb Puerto Vallarta. Alternatively, many vacationers in Puerto Vallarta choose to stay in resorts that are all in the Zona Hotelera. It’s very easy to get around so you don’t have to worry about where you are staying.

The best platforms to use when booking a hotel/accommodation in Puerto Vallarta are Vrbo and Booking.com. For solo travelers, you can find budget accommodations on Hostelworld. Below are some of our favorite hotels in Puerto Vallarta.

🌮 Puerto Vallarta restaurants

Like accommodations, Puerto Vallarta restaurants also vary by area. The easiest you will find is within the Malecon – just walk around and you’ll find places to eat. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best restaurants in town.

We have an intensive guide about food in Puerto Vallarta with restaurants divided into categories. Puerto Vallarta has a rich gastronomical culture. You will not only find Mexican restaurants here but also European and many other dishes from all over the globe. Below are our highly recommended restaurants in Puerto Vallarta:

🍸 Puerto Vallarta bars

The nightlife in Puerto Vallarta happens mostly in Zona Romantica where the bars and clubs are open until 5:00 AM. Party places at the Malecon often end by midnight so many travelers who want to continue the party goes to this neighborhood.

Puerto Vallarta has everything: from classy cocktail bars to super-Mexican cantinas, you can check our PV nightlife guide for more but here are some of the spots you don’t want to miss.

💵 Money and Costs

To have an idea of how much you need to prepare for your trip to Puerto Vallarta, here are some price estimates. All prices below are in US dollars.

ItemPrice
Boutique hotel for 2from $40 USD
All-inclusive resort stay for 2from $150 USD
A bed in a hostel dormfrom $12 USD
1-way airport transfer (private)from $40 USD
Eating out in a restaurant (one meal)from $7 USD
Street food tacosless than $2 USD
Beer in a pub$1.50 USD
Cocktails in a barfrom $5 USD

💵 US dollars: Puerto Vallarta is still a cash society but many establishments, shops, and restaurants will accept USD at a lower rate.

If the current USD to Mexican peso exchange is 20 pesos per dollar, you can expect 17-19 pesos exchange from establishments.

🏧 ATMs: There are many ATMs in Puerto Vallarta. It is a big city so the big banks are here. The best Mexican banks to take cash out from are BBVA (Bancomer), Banorte, and Santander.

You will see many ATMs or small cash machines, especially at the Malecon. They are safe but if you are having doubts, you can just go to the major bank.

Some of these ATM machines are problematic (i.e. can eat your card, error in withdrawals, etc). All resorts also have ATMs within their property so you don’t have to worry about that.

💳 Credit/debit cards: Credit cards are accepted everywhere in Puerto Vallarta. Visa and Mastercard are the major ones and very few establishments accept Amex.

If you are going to explore street food and Mexican restaurants, they only accept cash. It’s still better to bring cash when traveling Mexico.

💸  Tipping: 10% is encouraged but if you liked the service, you can tip in Puerto Vallarta up to 20%.


Can you use US dollars in Puerto Vallarta?

Yes, you can! Many restaurants and establishments in Puerto Vallarta use US dollars but I don’t really recommend this to readers. We have lower rates here! For example, 1 USD = 20 MXN. When you pay USD in Puerto Vallarta, their rates range from 17 – 19 MXN. You might think that’s not a lot to lose but once it incurs, you will see the difference.

I really don’t have a hack about better currency exchange rates but I use an International bank account for travelers that works in every country in the world! Their currency exchange is better and I always get the actual currency conversion when I use this ATM card. Alternatively, you can also exchange USD at Puerto Vallarta International Airport.


🇲🇽 Puerto Vallarta Travel Resources

  • 🛫 Flights to Puerto Vallarta: use the code MXINSIDER to get discounted flights to Puerto Vallarta upon checkout on WayAway.
  • 🚕 Puerto Vallarta Airport transfer: book with our trusted drivers and they will take you safely to your hotel or around Riviera Nayarit for a cheaper price!
  • 🚗 Puerto Vallarta Airport rental car: you can rent a car at the airport for as low as US$30 per day. Check prices at RentalCars.com.
  • 🚌 Puerto Vallarta busses: find bus tickets via BusBud to and from PV, including some routes within Riviera Nayarit and the state of Jalisco.
  • 🏖️ Puerto Vallarta activities: book for the best things to do in PV: boat cruises, day trips, food tours, and more! Prices start at US$25 on Viator.
  • 🤝🏽 Puerto Vallarta tours: support our work in Mexico and book local tours with us. Use the code MXINISDER10 upon checkout on our website.
  • 🛏️ Puerto Vallarta hostels: solo travelers, backpackers, and budget travelers can book at Hostelworld PV for as low as US$20 per night
  • 🏨 Puerto Vallarta hotels: not a fan of resorts? There are many affordable hotels in PV that are under US$100 on Booking.com.
  • ⛱️ Puerto Vallarta resorts: find all-inclusive deals in Puerto Vallarta resorts. There are many resorts to choose from on Expedia.
  • Puerto Vallarta trip planner: we have local staff on the ground in PV who knows Riviera Nayarit well. Contact us and we will help you plan your trip for a fixed rate: no hidden fees, just simple charges.
  • 🏥 Mexico travel insurance: do not travel to Mexico without insurance. Check which plans work for you for as low as US$40 for full travel coverage on SafetyWing.
  • 📧 Puerto Vallarta updates: subscribe to our newsletter and get honest and transparent updates about Puerto Vallarta. You will love our monthly news in your inbox! NO SPAM. NEVER.
  • Buy us coffee: readers who support Mexico Insider help us continue bringing you the most honest content about Puerto Vallarta. Consider donating to our coffee fund if you like our content.
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