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13 PUERTO VALLARTA TRAVEL TIPS FOR FIRST TIMERS

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If you are traveling to Puerto Vallarta for the first time, these Puerto Vallarta travel tips will help you plan your itinerary, chose the right area where to stay and make the most of your trip.


I lived in Puerto Vallarta for two months while I was housesitting beautiful cats and a sweet dog while working on my other blog Boundless Roads. I made time to enjoy the quaint city and discover its secret corners and find my way around living like a local. I will tell you about all the amazing things to do in Puerto Vallarta. In this post, I would like to focus on sharing with you some Puerto Vallarta practical tips that I consider important information to know before getting to the friendly city, so it’s Puerto Vallarta called.

Where is Puerto Vallarta Located?

First thing first, location. Puerto Vallarta, called PV by the locals, is a tourist city in the state of Jalisco, on the Mexican west coast, right in the middle of the huge Banderas bay. It’s actually one of the largest in the country, stretching all the way to the state of Nayarit up north and the state of Jalisco in the south. The bay is surrounded by the beautiful lush vegetation of the Sierra Madre mountains, which keeps Puerto Vallarta a little more protected from the Hurricane’s fury.

AREA: 1300 sq.km

POPULATION: 325.000 inhabitants

When is the best time to travel to Puerto Vallarta?

The climate is tropical humid. The average temperature is around 28 C (82F). The rainy season is from late June through October. However, you can find rain all through the year and the sun too. There is a higher risk for hurricanes from August through October.

The low season, which is from May through November is normally the cheaper and less crowded. For this time of the year you can easily find great hotel and home deals.

Read also: Best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta

What’s the local currency?

The Mexican Peso is the local currency although US and CA dollars are accepted. It is always better to exchange your cash in banks where the exchange rate is always more convenient. Remember to carry your passport otherwise, you won’t get the service.

How to move around in Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is pretty much walkable wherever you go, but it’s a huge city and to move from one Zone to the other you will need transportation. Uber is available in Puerto Vallarta, in case you are wondering.

How to move around in Puerto Vallarta by bus

Urban buses run around the city quite efficiently. The fare is  8 pesos per person and segment, and you pay when you get in. There is no “transfer” ticket. Therefore every time you board a bus, you have to pay the same amount, no matter the distance.

How to move around Puerto Vallarta by taxi or Uber

Taxis have set rates according to the zones. Remember to agree on the price before boarding a taxi. You can also check the rates in the hotel lobby if you are staying in a hotel. There are fixed prices from the Airport and the Marina. From Airport is about 340 pesos to the city center. (Uber is 140, so if you have data on your phone, it is definitely more convenient). A taxi from the center to the Airport or the “Central de autobuses” is instead 200 ( Uber 110).

Also remember that the city cab, yellow colored, charge by the ride and not by the passenger.

Remember to take the identification number of the taxi in case something happen or if you forget something in the cab.

Is tap water drinkable in Puerto Vallarta?

Tap water is not drinkable, just like anywhere in Mexico but the majority of hotels in Puerto Vallarta have a purification system. However, if you want to be sure, you can purchase bottles anywhere. It’s very important though that you stay hydrated in such hot climate, especially when you go on a tour or stay on the beach.

What’s the time zone in Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta and the southern part of Nayarit are on central time, whereas north of Guayabitos and San Blas is on a Mountain time. However be careful to check the time on your phone if you are in Sayulita or San Pancho because it could happen that they change automatically to the mountain time and if you have an appointment, like a tour,  you can miss it. It happened to me with a car rental 🙂

How to make phone calls in Puerto Vallarta?

Always check how much the hotel charges to make a call abroad from the room, because most of the time rates are very high, up to 7 USD per minute.

How do you tip in Puerto Vallarta?

Tipping is usually around 10 to 15%  in restaurants and bars, and although it is not mandatory, it’s always expected. It is also common practice to tip bellboys, taxis, waiters, maids at the gas station, and the baggers and parking lot guardians, in the supermarkets.  

Puerto Vallarta beach

What are the business hours in Puerto Vallarta?

Some offices typically close from 2 to 4 and reopen till 7 or 8 pm. Banks normally open from 8 or 9 am to 4 pm. Some banks open or Saturday morning as well.

Where can I exchange money in Puerto Vallarta?

Banks always offer a better rate than any money exchange office but, oddly enough, if you change at the airport you can get an even better deal. Remember to bring your passport when you exchange at the bank.

Puerto Vallarta safe travel - Boundless Roads
A sunset view from the Malecon

A pet-friendly community

During my one-month stay in Puerto Vallarta, I have noticed a strong sensitivity towards pets, especially strained dogs and cats, which are a lot. There are a huge pet rescue community and a lot of pet rescue associations, which I find amazing.

If you want to adopt a dog or a cat and live in the US or Canada, keep in mind that it is effortless to do it, and some associations help you with the documents. If you cannot adopt but still want to help, there is often a need for a lift, meaning that adopted pets need to be taken to their new home, and you might want to help take them on your way back home. You can contact a local animal shelter for more info: 2933690.

What are the best areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta?

The city offers a huge variety of hotels of all price ranges, services, and in different locations.

The Zona Romantica and Old Vallarta are my favorites since they have the romantic feel of an old colonial town and full of art galleries, and nice restaurants. Many vegans and vegetarians, but with a vast choice of flavors and cuisines. Here you can also find the best beaches. Zona Romantica and Old Vallarta are the beating heart of Puerto Vallarta.

If you want to find out more about the different areas and you are looking for a nice place to stay, my guide on The best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta will be of help.

Vallarta Pride

Puerto Vallarta is known, among other reasons, for being one of the most gay-friendly cities in Mexico. It is actually the first destination for gay tourism in North America.

Every year in May, they have celebrations all over the city center with parades, concerts, and shows. If you wish to participate in the next edition the next years, you can check out the Vallarta Pride Facebook page for more information. The Vallarta Pride event, held every year in May, brings more than 15.000 tourists to Puerto Vallarta, exclusively for the festival. “It has been created to celebrate the diverse and vibrant  LGBTQ community that lives and visits Puerto Vallarta and that over the years has influenced and integrated its culture, heritage, and history.” (source: PV mirror, city paper)

Is Puerto Vallarta Safe?

I would say yes, for a short answer. Petty crime do exist just like in any other city of the world. So common sense is required.There are other kinds of dangers though, that are worth mentioning:

Hurricanes

Puerto Vallarta weather is similar to the Caribbean coast and subject to be hit by hurricanes in the wet season, from June through October. Although historically there haven’t been as many hurricanes as in the Caribbean, there is still a chance of being hit in the summer. So make sure you check the weather forecast if you are traveling in the summer time.

Sea Currents

Probably you have heard about the Mexican Pacific Coast for the amazing surfing spots that attract professionals from all over the world to enjoy the greatest swells. In fact, the Pacific Coast is Ocean and differently from the calm Caribbean sea, it’s very dangerous for those who are not professional swimmers and surfers. So even if Puerto Vallarta has apparently tranquil bays keep in mind that there are very strong currents underneath the surface that can be dangerous.

Mosquitos

Mosquitos are part of the environment and love us, humans, especially in the wet seasons. (June to October).

Zika and Dengue have been detected in Mexico, and it’s not deniable. If you are subject to allergies or particularly sensitive to mosquito bites, make sure you protect yourself with repellent and long sleeves and trousers during the night.  If you are pregnant or planning to be, both you and your partner should avoid places with risks of contracting the Zika virus as it can affect the baby’s health.

Please consult your doctor before leaving. If there is no pregnancy involved Zika virus it’s innocuous.

Sunburnt

Oh well, I shouldn’t even have to say this but the sun is strong even behind the clouds, so make sure you always wear sunscreen even when you are not on the beach, especially if you have sensitive skin. Better if the sunscreen is eco-friendly.


Do you think of anything I have missed or do you have a question? Please ask away in the comments below!


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