Is Puerto Vallarta safe? This question may be at the forefront of your mind if you are planning a trip to the little Jalisco beach town of Puerto Vallarta.
This is one of the most popular coastal travel destinations in all of Mexico. Indeed, Puerto Vallarta is second only to Cancun in terms of popularity.
Over 5 million tourists travel to this region every year. A large percentage of these are American and Canadian travelers and most visitors to the area are trouble-free.
Still, the sheer mention of traveling to Mexico fills some people with alarm. Despite the country’s popularity as a travel destination, Mexico has absolutely been the victim of a lot of unfair media portrayals.
Is Puerto Vallarta Safe to Travel to in 2022?
Statistically speaking, Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest places in Mexico. In a survey of several hundred Purto Vallarta residents, the vast majority said that they felt very safe in the city.
They had no worries about being mugged, attacked, or robbed and many people felt comfortable walking alone, even at night. Mexico gets a bad rep.
However, it is important to note that the country is incredibly vast. It’s the 13th largest in the world after all! The safety situation differs dramatically from city to city, state to state.
Puerto Vallarta is actually safer than a lot of US cities. While crime levels have been increasing across Mexico as a whole over the last few years, this has not affected Puerto Vallarta very much.
Since tourism is such a major contributor to the Mexican economy, the tourism board and the government do everything that they can to keep tourist areas safe. Generally speaking, parts of Mexico that face massive struggles with crime are not places that tourists would want to venture to anyway.
Visiting Puerto Vallarta and its Surroundings
Puerto Vallarta is a stunning place. You could easily while away a week or two relaxing on the beaches here, hanging out in the eclectic bars, and partying the night away.
However, the town also makes a great base for exploring the wider area of Jalisco and the nearby state of Nayarit. While Puerto Vallarta is safe, it can get crowded with tourists.
This is particularly true during the peak season. So, a desire to venture a little off the beaten track in the area is understandable.
From Puerto Vallarta, a visit to the little Pueblo Magico of San Sebastián del Oeste is well worth your time. This quaint little mountain village was once a very prosperous silver mining town.
It boasts colonial architecture, spectacular haciendas, organic coffee plantations, and raicilla distilleries. While you can absolutely see San Sebastián del Oeste on a day trip, it is very worthy of an overnight stay (or two).
The picturesque little town of Mascota, halfway between Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara, is also not to be missed. If you are renting a car in Mexico, you can drive along “El Circuito Rural”.
This is a 35km route through the towns of Yerbabuena, Santa Rosa, Cimarrón Chico de la Raicilla, Navidad, and Lake Juanacatlan. Essentially, you could easily spend as much as a month in Puerto Vallarta and Jalisco. You would still feel as though you had barely scratched the surface.
Puerto Vallarta Safety Tips
While the short answer to ¨Is Puerto Vallarta safe?¨ is yes, it is important to note that nowhere in the world is safe 100% of the time. Petty crimes, though rare, do happen from time to time.
Most petty crime in Pueto Vallarta is opportunistic. For instance, someone grabbing your bag in a crowded marketplace, or someone taking your laptop if you leave it unattended on a coffee shop table.
You don’t need to have any fears about traveling here. But you do need to take precautions and use the same common sense as you would when traveling anywhere else in the world.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance
If there is one thing that you absolutely must purchase before traveling to Puerto Vallarta, it is comprehensive travel insurance. This is imperative for wherever in the world you choose to travel.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, precautions, and planning, we never really know what is around the corner. If you were unfortunate enough to fall sick or have an accident in Mexico, you would be faced with exorbitant medical fees.
Don’t risk this. Purchase an insurance plan with comprehensive medical cover.
It is important to read the small print and check exactly what is covered in your policy and what is not. Many policies do not cover sports.
They may require you to purchase an add-on if you are going to be participating in adventure activities. Even activities like hiking and walking may be classified as adventure sports.
Consider purchasing a policy that comes with additional extras such as repatriation and the loss of luggage. If you are a Digital Nomad or you are traveling with expensive electronics/photography equipment, it is worth paying a little extra for a plan that covers their theft/loss.
Once you have purchased your travel insurance, make a note of the policy number or print out your confirmation. If you need assistance overseas, this will be the first thing that you are asked for.
Purchase a theft-proof backpack
If you are a victim of a crime in Puerto Vallarta, it is likely to be a petty or opportunistic crime. I.e, perhaps someone tries to snatch your backpack or purse in a crowded marketplace, or slashes it open from behind when you are not looking.
One way to remove that risk is to invest in a theft-proof backpack or money belt. These are a little pricier than your average travel daypack, sure.
But they come with a plethora of additional safety features. Theft-proof backpacks, like those offered by Pacsafe are waterproof, slash-proof, and come with a TSA-approved locking system.
They can be purchased in stylish designs so you would not suspect that they were any different from a regular backpack. Many come with multi-year warranties.
Take organized tours around Puerto Vallarta
There is an abundance of wonderful day tours and excursions that you can do around Puerto Vallarta, the wider state of Jalisco, and Nayarit. Public transport in Mexico is generally pretty good.
Buses to most Pueblos Magicos and tourist sites run on regular schedules and are clean, comfortable, and reliable. However, if you want to take some of the stress out of getting from A to B, you can visit many popular places like San Sebastián del Oeste, Yelapa waterfall, Mascota, etc, on organized tours.
Many of these include pickup and drop-off at your hotel as well as lunch and admission to historical sites and attractions. A lot of them stop at places that are tricky to get to without your own vehicle and are a good way to meet other travelers if you are traveling alone.
Always read past reviews and ensure that you are traveling with a reputable company. Consider reserving your place on tours in advance to avoid disappointment.
Puerto Vallarta Tours
A selection of reputable tours in and around Puerto Vallarta is detailed below.
- Yelapa waterfall and Majahuitas adventure
- Sayulita/Punta Mita zip lines with ocean view
- Puerto Vallarta: city tour, tequila and coffee factory tour
- Las Caletas beach hideaway experience
- Sayulita/Punta Mita horseback riding tour
- Puerto Vallarta: night cruise and dinner show
- Puerto Vallarta: luxury yacht and snorkeling tour
Watch your alcohol intake
Nightlife-wise, Puerto Vallarta offers a little something for everyone. Here, you will find chic cocktail bars where exquisite classic and bespoke cocktails are prepared by expert mixologists.
Similarly, if you are looking to dance and party into the early hours, clubs like Mandala and La Santa may be more your thing. Regardless, wherever you choose to go in Puerto Vallarta, you should always be sure to watch your alcohol intake.
Never leave drinks unattended and watch how much you drink. There are a lot of events for ex-pats and travelers in Puerto Vallarta and while people can be fun and friendly, be cautious about drinking too much and being vulnerable with strangers. You never really know their intentions.
Purchase an alarmed doorstop
An alarmed door stop is a handy thing to include in your Mexico packing list. These can be purchased for just a few dollars and act as a wedge to stop anyone from entering or forcing their way into your room.
Should someone force entry, an alarm will sound that can be heard up to several thousand feet away. This may be enough to scare the person away.
Alternatively, it will wake you up and give you time to move to another room if someone is trying to break in. Obviously, that sounds unnerving but hotel break-ins in Puerto Vallarta are not common. This is just one more safety item that is useful to carry when you travel.
Make informed decisions when booking your accommodation
Puerto Vallarta offers a range of accommodation options for every budget and travel style. Better yet, you can find very nice hotels and Airbnbs here that do not break the bank.
Use aggregator booking sites like Booking.com to browse several accommodation options before you book. Always check where your hotel is in relation to the map.
Ideally, you don’t want to be trekking miles each day to get anywhere and it is better not to be out in the sticks if you plan on going out at night. The Zona Romantica (¨Romantic Zone¨) is one of the best areas to base yourself.
Many of the best bars, restaurants, hotels, and things to do in Puerto Vallarta can be found here. You have everything that you need on your doorstep here.
Los Muertos beach is in the Zona Romantica and although it can get crowded, you are also just a short distance away from Mismaloya and Yelapa beaches here. Marina Vallarta is also a very nice area that is relatively close to the airport and filled with luxe resorts, hotels, and condos.
Stay connected with a Mexico sim card
If you have a US or Canadian cell phone, Mexico may be covered in your plan. However, if you are traveling to Puerto Vallarta from elsewhere, you may want to consider picking up a Mexican sim card to avoid an extortionate bill when you get back home.
Telcel, AT&T, and Movistar are the main network providers in Mexico. You can pick up a sim card for just a few dollars at any OXXO convenience store or phone shop.
Plans are incredibly economical and are a good way to stay connected. For 100 pesos (around $5 USD), you can get 1.3GB of data, unlimited calls/texts within North America, and unlimited social media for 15 days.
While traveling can be a good way to disconnect, it is handy to always have data and a local phone number just in case. This way you can easily Google information that you need to check, navigate using map apps, etc.
Use the same common sense you would at home
You will find it easy to stay safe in Puerto Vallarta if you use the same common sense that you would at home or anywhere else. For instance, don’t walk home alone at night and don’t walk down quiet, isolated, sketchy-looking side streets.
While there is nowhere particularly dangerous here, it is best not to venture off into random residential areas as it will be quieter and there will be fewer people around. Be wary of over-friendly strangers and if someone is bothering you, don’t hesitate to go into a shop and tell someone.
Check your local government travel advice
Your government travel advice page is a useful, free source of up-to-date information on the situation in Mexico. It provides handy details on the current entry requirements, any applicable visa requirements for people of your nationality, security concerns, etc.
They may come across as being sternly worded but they generally give a good insight into the current situation in different parts of Mexico. The USA travel advisory offers state-by-state safety warnings.
It is also useful to read the local news and follow any local social media pages so that you are aware of developments in the area. Severe hurricanes in Puerto Vallarta and the Pacific, though rare, can happen, so always read up on weather warnings.
Don’t let fear ruin your trip
If you head to Mexico filled with anxiety and you are constantly worrying ¨is Puerto Vallarta safe?¨ it will ruin your trip. Once you arrive, you will note that the situation on the ground is far better than anything you could have worried about.
Similarly, acting skittish, paranoid, and constantly looking over your shoulder is a sure-fire way to stand out and draw unnecessary attention. Relax and enjoy your trip!
Travel with multiple bank cards
It is a good idea to take multiple bank cards with you to Puerto Vallarta. That way, you are covered should you lose one.
When you head out, don’t carry all of your money and bank cards at once. Keep a spare bank card hidden deep in your suitcase with an amount of emergency funds.
It is also a good idea to make sure that you have your banking apps installed on your phone before you travel. That way, you can easily keep an eye out for suspicious transactions. You can easily freeze your card at the push of a button should it be lost or stolen.
Be smart about managing your money
Only used licensed bank ATMs and be careful about standalone ATMs in train stations, bus stations, etc. They are more likely to have been tampered with.
Be careful when you withdraw cash. Opt to do so during the day and only in crowded areas.
It is a good idea to have a little coin purse at the top of your bag with a small amount of cash that you are likely to need for the day. It makes sense that you may have to withdraw several thousand pesos at once.
So, keep the rest of your money tucked away safely in another purse at the bottom of your bag. That way, when you pay for dinners, purchases, etc, you are not flashing a lot of cash.
Food safety in Puerto Vallarta
If you travel to Puerto Vallarta without experimenting with Mexican food, sampling different street food dishes, and eating your body weight in tacos, frankly you haven’t been to Mexico. A lot of people worry about getting sick here.
However, Mexico is not synonymous with getting ill. Don’t be deterred from eating at street food stands.
Instead, opt for places that have long lines outside of them. That is usually a pretty good indicator that somewhere serves quality food.
Don’t eat questionable-looking meat, fruit, or veg that has been left out for a long while or has flies around it. That probably doesn’t look appetizing anyway so we don’t really need to tell you that!
It is good to carry something like Immodium in your luggage for any *ahem* emergencies. You can find a pill in Mexican pharmacies called Treda which is also pretty good.
Rehydration sachets are a must. If you get sick, you can drink electrolit. This is a health drink that rebalances your electrolytes.
Protect against mosquitos
Mosquitos are a nightmare in Puerto Vallarta, especially during the warm, summer months. Repellent spray and bite-relief cream are both essential.
It is not just a case of not wanting to walk around sporting golf-ball-sized welts. Mosquitos in Mexico also carry diseases like dengue and the zika virus. Always use plenty of sprays, especially at night.
Is Puerto Vallarta Safe for Solo Travelers?
Is Puerto Vallarta safe for solo travelers? The short answer is yes, but again it comes with the caveat that the traveler needs to follow the common-sense advice outlined above.
Puerto Vallarta is such a popular travel destination that it is extremely easy to meet people. Even solo female travelers can feel comfortable here.
Meeting other travelers
Couchsurfing and Meetup are good social platforms that enable you to connect with locals and travelers. There are also several Facebook groups dedicated to traveling in Mexico and Puerto Vallarta.
Sometimes, you will find social events posted here. But it is very easy to create a post introducing yourself and meet other travelers for coffee, lunch, etc. Digital Nomads will find it easy to coordinate coworking events and build a community in Puerto Vallarta.
A selection of useful Puerto Vallarta Facebook groups is detailed below.
- Puerto Vallarta: Everything you need to know
- Puerto Vallarta ❤️ Everything You Need Or Want To know -Information Zone 🇲🇽
- Living in Puerto Vallarta
- Puerto Vallarta Conscious Community & Events
- Puerto Vallarta: Everyone Helping Everyone
- Veggie Vallarta 🌱 Vegan & Vegetarian Group
- Puerto Vallarta Bears 🏳️🌈 🐻: Everything Gay You Need Or Want To Know
Don’t be naive
Be wary of over-friendly strangers and trust your instinct if someone makes you feel uncomfortable. When it comes to meeting people through Facebook groups and social platforms, always meet during the day in a public place.
Solo female travel in Puerto Vallarta
Solo female travelers can have a safe and wonderful time in Puerto Vallarta. The media and Netflix dramas may have you believing that Mexico is a terrifying place for women but for tourists that take precautions, traveling here can be wonderful.
Puerto Vallarta sees a lot of tourists and feels significantly safer than most of the country. Catcalling and street harassment can be problematic in Mexico and it is hard to escape that anywhere you go – even in the safest places in the Yucatan.
When it comes to unwanted male attention, it is best to ignore people who catcall, whistle, or make stupid noises. Don’t even give them the satisfaction of knowing they have bothered you or look at them.
Just continue onwards with your day as if they don’t exist. Unfortunately you never really know what someone’s mental state may be like.
So, it is better not to confront catcallers or call them out. You never know who may have a knife, etc.
If someone continues to bother you or you are being harassed, stay in a public place. Go into a local store and tell an employee you are being bothered.
For these instances, it is good to always have Google Translate on your phone if your Spanish is limited. In the worst-case scenarios, the emergency number in Mexico is 911 – just like in the USA.
Puerto Vallarta is very much a summer holiday destination. You will see plenty of tourists and local women exploring in sundresses, shorts, skirts, etc. You can comfortably dress however you please.