Puerto Vallarta Travel Information
The Mexican beach resort city of Puerto Vallarta is located on a narrow coastal plain at the foot of the Sierra Madre Occidental on the Pacific Ocean’s Bay of Banderas. The Cuale, Pitillal and Ameca rivers flow through the valleys and hillsides. The city itself is divided into: the hotel zone, which extends north along the shoreline; the Romantic zone, a historic section south of the Cuale River that is full of interesting small shops and authentic local restaurants; El Centro in the middle, the top place for bars, restaurants and shopping; and the residential area to the east of the hotel zone.
Getting to Puerto Vallarta
Most people enter by plane, flying into the Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport (IATA: PVR) just north of Puerto Vallarta proper. Most major US airlines service this airport, in addition to Aeromexico, Interjet, VivaAerobus and Volaris. You should be able to fly for around $200 from LAX.
Once you land, be careful to avoid lucrative transportation offers from hucksters trying to sell you timeshares. It is best to arrange your own private transportation prior to landing to save time and money. You can also board a bus marked “Centro” or “Zona Romantica” and reach these destinations in about 30 minutes for about 50 cents.
Necessary travel documents include:
- U.S. Passport
- Mexican Tourist Permit
Driving in Puerto Vallarta
If you are feeling really adventurous, you may drive the 27 hours from Southern California to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. There are modern, maintained toll roads to the border, but the road becomes a bit more rugged in Mexico, passing through smaller towns at slower speeds and hilly areas.
Here are a few considerations if you plan to drive:
- You will need Mexican car insurance from a Mexican insurance company. American insurance is not valid. You may purchase this insurance online or at the border for a premium. Rates range from $8 to $15 a day.
- You should avoid traveling at night and plan to book accommodations at least once along the way. The unfamiliar roads can be dangerous in the dark and you may run into crowded trucking corridors.
- “Bandidos” are not as prevalent as they once were, but loose burros, horses and cattle still cross the roads throughout Mazatlán. For your safety, it is best not to stray from Highway 15 or 40 in these areas.
- If you suffer a mechanical breakdown or require emergency first aid along the way, you can call the Green Angels at 01-800/903-9200. Never leave your vehicle sitting on the side of the road if you wish to leave with all the parts intact.
- You’ll find a combination of free roads and toll roads along the way. Despite costing about $60 to take the toll roads, you’ll save a day’s driving time, have a smoother ride and enjoy more well-maintained rest stops.
Mexican customs and border crossing
Be aware of import restrictions like plants and seeds, cigars and cigarettes (up to 20 packs per person), liquor and wine (up to 3L), film and videocassettes (up to 12 per person), medication (must have prescription), and firearms (hunting allowed with valid permit from Mexican consulate). You may bring up to $10,000 in US currency.
Ground Transportation in Puerto Vallarta
Once you are in Puerto Vallarta, you can get around by:
- Taxi –You can arrange for taxi service through your resort, from the airport, or hail one in the city. You are not likely to find taxis with working speedometers or seatbelts, but they are an inexpensive, easy way to get around.
- Bus –Buses run frequently, but can be hot, crowded and slow, as they stop every five to ten blocks. Green buses will get you around the city or you can take a gray bus to places like Mexico City, Guadalajara or Mazatlán.
- Rental Car – You’ll have easy access to all of Puerto Vallarta’s attractions with your own car, but rates are very expensive and the roads can be harrowing due to poor maintenance.
- Foot – It is not always necessary to arrange for transportation within Puerto Vallarta – particularly if you stay at one of the fabulous beach resorts set up through Seaside Mexico.
Puerto Vallarta safety information
The U.S. State Department has issued the following advisories for traveling in Puerto Vallarta:
- Exercise caution, particularly in rural areas and when using secondary highways.
- Avoid the border between Michoacán and Zacatecas, where security is lax, and night travel.
- Do not go into establishments with gambling or adult entertainment.
- Avoid flashing indicators of wealth such as expensive jewelry, watches, or cameras.
Emergency assistance in Puerto Vallarta
Should you have an emergency, you may dial:
- Police/Fire/Paramedics: 060
- Red Cross & Ambulance: 222-1533
- Motor Vehicle Department: 224-8484
- Consumer Protection: 225-0000
- Immigration Office: 221-1380
- American Consulate: 222-0069, 223-0074 – After hours: 01-333-268-2145
Hospitals in Puerto Vallarta
There are three main hospitals in Puerto Vallarta for travelers to consider. The small AmeriMed Hospital (226-2080) can handle most emergencies and tests. Across the street is the San Javier Hospital (226-1010), an ultra-modern facility capable of taking on more complex emergencies like heart attacks or strokes. The Cornerstone Hospital (224-9400) is the newest facility, which specializes in radiology, dialysis, emergency pediatric care, cardiac emergencies, and ophthalmology.
These hospitals accept most international insurance and veterans benefits. With low prices and excellent service, high levels of satisfaction are reported with these establishments. Of course, there are still a number of smaller, older and less capable hospitals still in operation as well.
Puerto Vallarta weather
Puerto Vallarta has a nice tropical climate similar to Hawaii. There are over 300 sunny days a year. Temperatures range from 60 to 95, depending on the time of year. The rainy season lasts from mid-June through mid-October. In July, up to 336 mm of rain falls. Of course, there is still plenty to do in Puerto Vallarta on those rainy days – from resort spa treatments and Galerías Vallarta shopping, to a visit to Biblioteca Los Mangos or the Vallarta Naval Museum.
When to visit Puerto Vallarta
- Weather: January – March (Evenings are cool, around 60, but daytime temps soar to the mid-70s and there is very little rain. The trade-off is that it’s more expensive to book your stay. This is also whale watching season.)
- Low Traffic: April – June (Aside from Easter week, travel dies down this time of year, but the temperatures are still a reasonable 70-80 degrees. Resorts may offer deals this time of year.)
- Cost: July-September (Temperatures and rainfall are at their peak, but you can enjoy deep discounts.)
- Activities: October-December (Tourism picks up for the Sailfish & Marlin Tournament and Gourmet Festival in November, as well as the Historic Center Art Walk. Christmas vacation is naturally a popular time to visit, too.)
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