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What to Know Before Traveling to Puerto Vallarta

Whether you’re planning to come to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a week or a month, or six – you’ve come to the right place. Here’s everything I wish I knew beforehand: what to pack, transportation tips, the weather, COVID restrictions, Facebook groups to join, and more!

Disclaimer: this article is not advocating nor encouraging travel. Everyone’s situation and country resctrictions are different. I am sharing my personal experience during this time as a long-term traveler and nomad. I encourage you to save this post for when it’s the right time for you.

What’s the weather like in Puerto Vallarta?

Short answer: it’s f*cking amazing.

December-April is high season because, well, the weather is perfect and everyone comes here to escape the winter (note: tourism is down, the city is at around 25-30% of what it usually is). During the day, it’s around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit and at night it drops down to the mid-60s.

The best time to visit Puerto Vallarta is between April and June. The weather is great and there are fewer tourists.

The rainy season is from July to October. Summers get pretty hot. I recommend triple checking your accommodation has air conditioning.

mi casa en Puerto Vallarta (El Sunset Hostel)

What to pack

Something I wish I knew beforehand: don’t worry about packing everything! Puerto Vallarta has everything you could ever need. There’s a Sams Club, Walmart, Costco, H&M, cheap clothing stores, and more just a 10 minute Uber ride away! If you forget clothes, electronics, makeup, etc – all things can be replaced!

Another thing I worried about: what’s the weather like? Is it going to be super chilly at night? DO I PACK EVERYTHING?!? *lol* Answer: a light jacket will do. “Winter” in Puerto Vallarta is low of 60: no need to pack anything crazy. A jean jacket, one pair of jeans, and leggings will do.

Quick Packing List ~

  • Warm clothes: jean jacket, one pair of jeans, light sweatshirt (to sleep in or at night)
  • Tropical clothes: one sundress, 2 pairs of shorts, 2-3 tank tops
  • Outfit for clubs/nice dinner
  • Shoes: Walking shoes, flip-flops, pair of “nice” sandals
  • Electronics: chargers, camera, selfie stick/tripod
  • Misc: beach towel or sarong to sit on at the beach, travel towel, sunglasses, day pack/fanny pack
  • First aid: bandaids, COVID masks, hand sanitizer

I recommend packing layering pieces, neutral colors, and a few statement items. I don’t recommend expensive jewelry or anything that will make you stand out too much.

What I wish I brought: I didn’t bring my hiking boots. While they aren’t necessary, I usually travel with mine and I wish I had brought them. With the cobblestoned streets and (mild) hikes, I miss them. If you usually get by without hiking boots, ignore this. Sneakers are just fine.

60L backpacker, 25L REI backpack, converse sneakers – LISTO!

Related post: Female Backpacker Packing List

Transportation from Puerto Vallarta International Airport

I always get nervous arriving to a new city as a solo traveler. Foreign airports can be overwhelming. Let’s talk about the BEST option for transportation for you.

Before we dive in, I want to stress that everyone and their Mother will try to talk to you when you arrive. Even to the most experienced travelers, it can be overwhelming. Take a few deep breaths before. Do not talk to anyone inside the airport, most are there to sell you a timeshare. Say “no gracias,” speed walk, and do not make eye contact. Even if you are interested in a timeshare (okay but who’s actually interesting in timeshares?), they are overpriced at the airport.

Moving on.

Uber: Uber is your best option in PV, it’s cheap and only about $5-10 to get from the airport to most hotels, hostels, Airbnbs, etc. You can use the airport WIFI to order an Uber, but Ubers are not allowed in the airport parking lot so you must cross the street.

Or, you can order an Uber from across the street. When you exit the airport, turn left (walk to the end of the building), turn left again. You will see a bridge to cross the street. Use the bridge and catch an Uber from over there. If you do not have a sim card, you can use the wifi at Tacon de Marlin (password: taconmarlin) to order an Uber.

Tip: download maps.me app, download the Puerto Vallarta map, and save your hostel/hotel/apartment on the map before you get here. When you are in your Uber, you can follow the map to make sure you’re heading the right way. (It always makes me feel a little safer while traveling alone.)

Unfortunately, upon arrival, I realized I had not updated my Uber app and was not able to use it, so I got a taxi. There are taxis lined in front of Tacon de Marlin.

Taxi: while you can get a (super overpriced) taxi from inside the airport. I recommend crossing the bridge (see instructions under “uber”). I got a taxi from the airport to “el centro” (downtown) for 180 pesos ($9).

The taxis are not metered. The cost is determined by zone. You must negotiate the price BEFORE you get into the taxi. Prices range from 160 to 700 pesos depending on the zone.

Airport taxi: if money ain’t no thang, you can catch a taxi from the airport. A friend of mine paid around $17 for a taxi from the airport to Zona Romantica (340 pesos).

Bus: If you only have carry-on luggage, a bus is going to be your cheapest option. It’s only 10 pesos (50 cents) to take the bus.

Tip: do not exchange money at the airport unless you are in a pinch. Exchange rates are much lower in the Puerto Vallarta airport. I recommend getting money from an ATM or exchanging at a bank in town. I use my Charles Schwab debit card to avoid international ATM fees.

Getting Around

  • Bus: 10 pesos (50 cents)
  • Uber (I paid around $2 for a 10-minute ride across town!!!)
  • In-driver (app similar to Uber, but more common among locals)
  • Taxi (don’t recommend)
el centro

How to make friends and get connected

It seems Facebook groups are the way most people mingle and find friends. Here are some of the ones I joined:

Other ways to meet people: stay in a hostel, use Tinder to meet friends or dates, search the #puertovallarta hashtag on Instagram if you want to connect with other content creators, or simply go out to a restaurant or bar by yourself (locals and travelers are friendly – it’ll be hard NOT to make friends).

COVID in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: What’s the situation really like?

Although you do not need a COVID test before entering Mexico nor do you need to quarantine, I recommend both. I got a rapid COVID test from Walgreens (results within 24 hours). The test was free.

As of last Saturday (2/13): bars and clubs have reopened to normal time (3am). You must wear a mask inside establishments and some places take your temperature before entering. For example, when going to Walmart and Soriano, there is someone at the entrance to take your temperature. After, they squirt hand sanitizer in your hands.

Some stores (like Walmart and large stores) only allow one person per household to enter. You can wait for your partner outside while they shop.

You must get a COVID test to re-enter the USA. Hotels and resorts are starting to offer tests for guests. I recommend joining the Puerto Vallarta Facebook Group (see above) for updated information and tips on where to get tests. From what I’ve heard and seen on the Facebook groups, tests are accessible and somewhat affordable.

I always recommend doing your own research beforehand. Read multiple sources and blogs.

For updated information: COVID Information for U.S. citizens in Mexico

Puerto Vallarta FAQ

Is it easy to get by without speaking Spanish? Yes! BUT, to be honest, I speak (terrible) Spanish and it helps. I recommend learning key phrases (hello, goodbye, how are you, good morning, etc.). But, if you are unable to learn for whatever reason and are nervous about traveling to here, don’t be! This town is filled with tourists and expats, so most of the locals speak English and are used to travelers here who do not speak Spanish.

Related article: How To Learn Spanish for Free

Isn’t it touristy? YES. Puerto Vallarta is a resort city. The city is lined with all-inclusive resorts and the downtown area is filled with Senor Frogs on every corner with people trying to sell you ATV tours and PV bracelets. But, there is both an expat and backpacker scene. I think backpackers are initially turned off by the touristy-ness of PV, but I think the city is a perfect hub for slow travelers.

Is Puerto Vallarta vegan-friendly? OMG yes. There are vegan options at almost all restaurants. Even if there is not an option on the menu, the locals are friendly and will most likely make something for you.

How much is everything? Mexico in general is very affordable for travelers and expats. You can find a hostel for around $7-15/night or an airbnb for $20/night. Meals cost around $5 or less. The bus is 50 cents.

How’s the wifi? Mas o menos (okay). You can find good wifi at coffee shops and coworking spaces around the city. If you stay at a hostel or Airbnb, I think it’s a hit or miss. Read reviews beforehand if you need wifi for work.

SIM card? You can purchase a SIM card at Oxxo (they are located at every other corner) and recharge it there as well.

LGBTQ+ friendly? Puerto Vallarta is a gay mecca. Zona Romantica is the gay neighborhood and it’s filled with rainbow flags and drag bars. It’s amazing. There are also LGBTQ+ friendly resorts, hotels, and even a naked boat tour (for gay men). I will say it is majority gay men (which is wonderful), it takes a bit more digging to find the queer women scene. But, I just got here, I will keep you posted on what I find!


Hope that helps! Please leave any questions in the comments or other posts you’d like to see regarding Mexico or Puerto Vallarta in general! xoxo

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3 Comments

  • Jason Hull
    June 8, 2021 at 4:27 am

    I’m currently in Puerto Vallarta, and the cheapest place I saw to get a COVID test is at the Salud Digna (https://salud-digna.org/antigeno-covid-19/) by the Costco. Mine was $13.17, which is, if I recall correctly, 260 MXN.

    The Tacón de Marlin recommendation was right on the money. For folks with wheeled luggage, don’t let the pedestrian bridge daunt you; both sides have ramps, not stairs. Check the hours on Google Maps before you make the run, though, particularly if your flight is arriving in the evening.

    Reply
  • Carl Dieterich
    June 10, 2021 at 8:55 am

    If I want to take a month and go there to look around how do I find houseing

    Reply
  • Neil
    June 14, 2021 at 8:50 am

    Thanks Courtney for taking the time to write this article. I found it helpful, especially the information on traveling, weather, and costs. We are planning on spending December through March 2021-22 in PV. It looks doable, even on our limited budget. I have a feeling it will be lots more crowded by then, but we will stay away from the touristy areas.

    Reply

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