What’s it really like living in Mexico? Is it worth the hype? Why is EVERYONE moving to Mexico right now? These were my thoughts before packing my life into a 75L backpack and moving to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico one month ago. I needed a city with good wifi, a beach (necessity), and a community of cool humans. From what I heard, Puerto Vallarta seemed to have it all.
Here’s the full scoop on living in Puerto Vallarta and a few personal updates after month one.
Flight From Chicago to Puerto Vallarta
I bought a one-way ticket on a whim, packed my 65L backpack and left Chicago on February 7th.
I was here 5 years. In 2016, I hitch-hiked up from the Guatemala border to Guadalajara, Mexico. It’s when I fell in love with mole, tortas, micheladas, Frida Kahlo, pueblos magicos but more importantly the energy, the culture, and the people of Mexico. When I left Mexico I knew I would one day come back to live here. It’s a special country. If you’ve traveled to Mexico, I know I am preaching to the choir.
Related post: Tips for flying from USA to Puerto Vallarta
Arriving in Puerto Vallarta
I arrived on a Sunday afternoon, nervous and anxious to start a new chapter of my future travel memoir titled “Mexico.” I planned to get an Uber from the airport, but upon opening the app outside the airport, I realized I had failed to update my Uber app. I laughed then walked across the street to a little restaurante for some wifi to figure out what to do next. I drank a limonada, sweating from the Mexican heat and from carrying everything I own on my back across a hilly pedestrian bridge. I made it, I thought. There’s no going back now.
After 7 years of nomadic life, I still get nervous arriving to a new place. The good kind of nerves. I chatted with the waiter in Spanish, my shitty Spanish slowly coming back to me. After I finished, I asked for la cuenta (the check) and prayed they had a card machine. They didn’t. So, I overpaid in dollars. I approached a taxi acting confident in where I was going, like I’d been to Puerto Vallarta plenty of times. “Hola señor, I’m going to a hostel close to the center – how much is it?” He told me the amount. I pretended to think about it and he lowered the price a few pesos. I agreed while not remembering the dollar to peso conversion rate and not having any pesos in my wallet.
Puerto Vallarta is absolutely stunning. Along the ride, I passed multiple resorts, a Walmart, and a fancy outdoor mall with a H&M. The streets are lined with palm trees. This city has the comfort and convenience of American stores while still preserving the flavor of Mexico.
I have this white notecard of a vision of my “perfect life” written in present tense that I wrote while living in South Korea. It reads “a spanish-speaking town with cobbled stone streets and colorful colonial buildings.” I teared up knowing while Puerto Vallarta might not be my forever, it is where I am supposed to be. I had manifested my life here. While I thought I’d be hiking through Spain right now, the Universe had other plans.
What’s it Like Living in a Hostel?
I’m living in a hostel for my first month here (El Sunset Hostel). I have a private room with a bathroom on the second floor of the hostel for $200/month. The hostel is outside of the center, about a 30-minute walk to the downtown area and a 5-minute walk to the beach.
There are others living in the hostel; “my roommates,” I call them. One 25-year-old woman from England who is attending an in-person TEFL program nearby. One retired, divorced 70-year-old man from Syria who owns a condo in Argentina and is waiting for the borders to open back up. One 27-year-old guy from Colorado who came here for a 2-week vacation who decided to quit his job and stay in Mexico two days before his departure date. One Canadian woman in her mid-thirties who got divorced and sold everything who plans to travel slowly around the world. One 30-year-old American military guy who quit his job and is “searching for the meaning of life.” One Mexican guy who lives and works part-time here. Then there’s my best friend here: the hostel owner and his Norwegian pup, Vikingo (Viking).
Welcome to mi casa:
What’s Puerto Vallarta like?
Puerto Vallarta is a resort city on the Pacific coast of Mexico. It is filled with restaurants, beautiful beaches, a cute downtown area, and is surrounded by majestic mountains.
Puerto Vallarta is a perfect hub for digital nomads. There’s co-working spaces, affordable housing, work-balance, and a community of expats that live here.
My neighborhood, Versalles, is home to quaint coffee shops and diverse restaurants. It’s a more residential area, away from the chaos of the center.
I spend most of my days chasing good wifi (aka working in a cafe). I grab dinner at the taco place near the hostel (tacos for around a dollar) or cook at the hostel. At around 6:30pm, I walk to the beach for sunset. At night, I hang out with friends or chill with hostel roommates. On the weekends I adventure out. Nothing too crazy.
How’s the LGBTQ scene in PV?
Zona Romantica is the LGBTQ+ neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta filled with 98.2% attractive, beefy gay men vacationing with their hot husbands. There are drag bars and clubs, rainbow flags, and men in tight speedos galore. Paradise, no?
Make sure to check out Los Muertos beach (gay beach) and go to a drag show at The Palm Cabaret and Bar.
LGBTQ+ Resource: Puerto Vallarta Gays: Everything You Need or Want to Know (Facebook group)
Weekend Trips from Puerto Vallarta (El Tuito and Mayto)
There are tons of fun day trips from Puerto Vallarta accessible by bus or water taxi. You can head to popular destinations like Sayulita, San Pancho, Tequila, and more by bus. Or, secluded beach destinations like Yalapa and Mayto.
Last weekend, I took a trip to a small beach town called Mayto on the coast about an hour and a half from PV. I left my computer at home and went off the grid for two nights. I camped on the beach under the full moon and swam naked in the ocean. I was reminded of the importance of unplugging and enjoying this vida loca (crazy life). Pass it on.
I am apartment hunting with Sarah, my friend who inspired me to come to Puerto Vallarta. Sarah (@thesarahszuba) is a fellow queer travel content creator and Life Path Coach from New York. I met her on Instagram about a year ago. She also backpacked Central and South America by herself. We have loads in common and have since decided to be temporary roomies in Puerto Vallarta.
Where do you find an apartment in Puerto Vallarta? Lots of places! Most people use Facebook groups to find month-to-month or long-term leases. Most of the people posting on the Facebook groups are local realtors. They can help you in your search. Kind in mind, these will be on the more “expensive” side. If you speak a little Spanish and are on a budget like us, I recommend walking around neighborhoods you like and looking for “se renta” (for rent) signs. There are multiple options especially in the Versalles neighborhood, north of downtown.
How much are the rentals in Puerto Vallarta? We looked at five or so apartments. Our budget is $300/month (per person). We’ve found everything from $100/month to $1,000/month. I’m sure there are luxurious beachfront home rentals for thousands. There’s something for everyone’s needs and budget.
UPDATE: We found an apartment and we move in TOMORROW!!! *YouTube video and photos coming soon*
If you’re thinking of moving to Puerto Vallarta (or wherever), do it. I was (really f*cking) nervous about moving to Mexico. I replayed the thought, “am I making the right decision?” over and over in my head. When I got to Puerto Vallarta, those doubts went away. You know those moments where time stops? You look around and think, “THIS is life.” I’ve felt it while watching the sunset on the beach, having deep chats with hostel roommates, watching the drag show with Sarah, and salsa dancing at the Cuban bar. I feel at peace. A deep knowing that everything will be okay.
That’s all I got for ya. Hope that was informative, interesting or maybe a bit inspiring (or whatever).
If you have questions about moving to Puerto Vallarta, drop them in the comments or DM me @courtneytheexplorer on Instagram!
Check out this Puerto Vallarta Resource: Best Tips for Traveling to Puerto Vallarta in 2021!
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