How I traveled Puerto Vallarta on a budget

Reader Mail: My husband and I got laid off during COVID. That’s when we decided to become digital nomads and work for ourselves. Our savings are not enough to have a luxury vacation but we’d like to do some budget travel in Mexico. We are a very simple couple and don’t really need much. What’s important for us is to leave the United States and just start hitting the road. We are not fancy people. I would like to pick your brain if it’s possible to travel Puerto Vallarta on a budget? Ideally, we’d love to spend at least $50 USD per day if that’s even possible in Mexico? Thank you for your tips!
-Jacqueline Brock, USA

Hi Jacqueline,

I am glad you are taking a positive step despite being laid off during COVID. I know it must have been hard for you but now, you can pursue your dream to travel the world while working remotely!

Mexico is really cheap and your $50 USD per day budget will go a long way here! I traveled to Puerto Vallarta with a $26 USD budget per day and it all worked out fine. You will be surprised how cheap Mexico is when you get here. I even feel it’s cheaper than my country (Philippines).

Good luck to you and your husband. If there’s any question that wasn’t answered in this post, feel free to send me a DM on Instagram. I really hope this article will help you!

Xx,
Trisha

Puerto Vallarta on a budget

Is Puerto Vallarta expensive?

No, not at all! Even if tourism is slowly growing in Puerto Vallarta, prices are still very reasonable, unlike Sayulita or San Pancho, two towns that are less than an hour away from PV but are very overpriced. Digital nomads in Puerto Vallarta only spend about $900 USD per month and are living pretty well. Take it from me – I live here! This post is applicable for travelers but I also have lots of articles about Puerto Vallarta on a budget, depending on the type of traveler that you are.

Puerto Vallarta on a budget

Typical costs in Puerto Vallarta

From living in Riviera Nayarit for the last 3 years, I find Puerto Vallarta the cheapest destination in my area. Even the high-end restaurants are pretty cheap. My favorite is Sunday brunches at Sheraton for only $400 MXN ($19 USD) with unlimited food and champagne! To better plan your trip to Puerto Vallarta on a budget, here are the typical costs:

Accommodation costs in Puerto Vallarta

There are many accommodation types in Puerto Vallarta. However, when you search on Google, it will only give you results on the all-inclusive stays since this area is well-known for that. There is very little exposure for hostels and small guest houses here but there are a lot! Oftentimes, budget travelers get discouraged in visiting Puerto Vallarta because they feel that it’s too expensive.

All accommodation types in Puerto Vallarta have the same range. All-inclusive resorts range from $100 USD per night for two people. This does not include all the services and amenities of the resort. You will have to pay them separately. But that’s not a bad price at all if you are looking for a fancy place to stay!

To have a better idea if all-inclusive resorts in Puerto Vallarta fit your budget, below are the resorts I recommend:

  • Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta: a deluxe ocean-view double room starts at $509 USD per night for two people. If you’re alone, it’s only for $350 USD.
  • Grand Park Royale Luxury Resort: this is one of the cheapest all-inclusive stays at Puerto Vallarta. Prices start at $272 USD for 2 people. They currently have the super saver promo!
  • Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta: a king room with a terrace for a family of 3 starts at $800 USD per night, all-inclusive.

Studio type Airbnbs range from $45 USD for two people in a very good area. Personally, I always use Airbnb when traveling everywhere since it has a more private setting. Hostels in Puerto Vallarta start from $15 USD for a bed in a dorm. Most of them offer free breakfast so cross one meal out if you decide to stay in a hostel. Below are the hostels I recommend in PV:

  • Los Muertos Hostel: situated at the most famous beach in PV (Los Muertos), this hostel has a standard 8-bed dorm room from $10 USD per night
  • El Sunset Hostel: one of the most top-rated hostels for backpackers, a bed in a dorm room in this hostel starts at $7 USD.
  • Oasis Hostel Puerto Vallarta: a bed in a 6-bed dorm starts at $9 USD per night per person.
All-inclusive resort

Daily accommodation budget in Puerto Vallarta

$350 USD for 2 pax
Airbnb

Daily accommodation budget in Puerto Vallarta

$45 USD for 2 pax
Hostel

Daily accommodation budget in Puerto Vallarta

$7 USD for 1 person
Food prices in Puerto Vallarta

The Malecon is the most popular restaurant area in PV with hundreds of restaurants facing the ocean. Although these restaurants are not considered high-end, they are, in my opinion, in the middle-priced category. A meal at a restaurant in the malecon range from $120 – $200 MXN ($6 – $10 USD) and these are big plates. There are also lots of 2 for 1 margarita promos at certain hours for only $5 USD.

Now if you don’t have a sensitive stomach and are willing to explore the rich street food culture of Puerto Vallarta, a street taco is less than a dollar and they’re all home-made by locals. In the next section, I will recommend some tasty (and clean) taquerias in Puerto Vallarta but of course, it is up to you to eat in food stalls. We all have a different reaction to food.

Restaurants

Daily food budget in Puerto Vallarta
$8 USD per meal

Street Food

Daily food budget in Puerto Vallarta
$3 USD per meal

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Some vacationers also prefer to cook at home since most accommodations in Puerto Vallarta have a basic kitchen for cooking. All Airbnbs and hostels have fully equipped kitchens. For you to have an idea of the grocery prices, here are the basics:

🍗 500 gr (1 lb.) of boneless chicken breast: $2.50 USD
🥚 12 eggs, large: $1.48 USD
🍅 1 kg (2 lb.) of tomatoes: $0.98 USD
🧀 500 gr (16 oz.) of local cheese: $2.75 USD
🍎 1 kg (2 lb.) of apples: $1.62 USD
🥔 1 kg (2 lb.) of potatoes: $1.06 USD
🍺 0.5 l (16 oz) domestic beer in the supermarket: $0.90 USD
🥖 Bread for 2 people for 1 day: $1.11 USD
🍷 1 bottle of red table wine, good quality: $10 USD

Puerto Vallarta also has big supermarkets where you can buy cheap products. Walmart, Mega, Chedraui, and La Comer are the most popular Mexican supermarket chains. We are also one of the few Mexican cities that has a Costco. If you don’t travel for food and are on a strict budget, you can easily spend $5 USD for two pax for cooking a meal at your accommodation.

Transportation costs in Puerto Vallarta

Uber is widely used in Puerto Vallarta. You can get rides from point A to B for as less than $5 USD. PV is also a walking town so if you are staying downtown, you can easily walk – it’s a great exercise! Mexico also uses InDrive app where you have to bid for the fare price. I prefer this over Uber since they can also take you to nearby towns like Sayulita or San Pancho. This app works like magic and there are always drivers available!

puerto vallarta on a budget

Foreigners who want to experience real Mexican transport also go for busses that will take you all over Riviera Nayarit. If you’re going to Sayulita/San Pancho from Puerto Vallarta, the bus costs less than $3 USD while taxis for the same route are at $45 – $75 USD.

If you’re looking for a trusted local driver, Juan and I have been friends for a long time and he’s actually my first friend when I came to Puerto Vallarta in 2018. His services are cheaper than anyone else and he won’t rip you off, as most taxi drivers do to white tourists. Click here to check taxi service prices with Juan!

Tour prices in Puerto Vallarta

While there are many things to do in Puerto Vallarta, most of these are costly if you’re looking at tour agencies. PV is known for luxury tours and travel agencies take advantage of this – tour prices in PV are sometimes super ridiculous! There are many food tours that are under $50 USD and this is my favorite activity in PV. Of course, you can always say you can do it on your own but signing up for a food tour will make your experience different. You won’t be able to find these things on your own!

Flight prices to Puerto Vallarta

When COVID started, I noticed how flight prices within the country decreased. Airlines even offer super cheap flights from the United States because they are encouraging people to visit. If you are coming from Cancun to Puerto Vallarta, flights are at $80 USD only and it’s not with a budget airline!

There are also direct flights from San Diego and Los Angeles that are less than $200 USD. I use Kiwi.com to search for the cheapest flights. It always gives me the best results and I’ve been using this for years!

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Puerto Vallarta on a budget

How I traveled Puerto Vallarta on a budget

I stayed in a hostel

If your goal is to explore Puerto Vallarta, you probably wouldn’t get expensive accommodation. You will be out all the time. I know it’s not ideal to stay in hostels for some people, especially during COVID but hostels in Puerto Vallarta don’t fill their dorm rooms to 100% capacity. I only paid $7 USD per night at El Sunset Hostel, a highly-rated hostel in Puerto Vallarta which has a 9.5-star rating on Hostelworld.

Hostels are a great way to meet people in Puerto Vallarta. They always cook together and go to dance parties together. I always feel like staying in a hostel, especially if you are traveling alone, is the best way to access insider tips.

I ate street food but also did restaurant dining some days of my trip

To be honest, I can be cheap with accommodations when I am traveling but never with food! I always allot most of my budget to food because it’s a very important aspect of my travel. When I was backpacking South America on a budget, I was young and didn’t have a stable job so I was always cheap with food. When I was more stable as a full-time travel blogger, I vowed to myself that I will not be cheap on food ever again!

But I am not like most Westerners who have a sensitive stomach. From moving around the globe for the last 12 years, my stomach has adjusted to changing diets all the time which helped me not to be sick on the road anymore. I am actually not sure what makes Americans or Canadians sick with food but I am sure they always find restaurants in Mexico cheap (i.e. $12 USD per meal is super cheap to them).

Here’s some amazing food I ate in Puerto Vallarta. I only focused on the food that I need to learn about. The good thing about eating street food is that you will get a chance to chat with the locals about the history of their food. That is if you can speak Spanish.

  • Birria (a typical dish from Jalisco): $45 MXN ($2.18 USD)
  • Street tacos (of course!): $25 MXN ($1.21 USD)
  • National beer (bars): $30 MXN ($1.46 USD). 6-pack beers in convenience stores are at $100 MXN ($5 USD)
  • Food tours: I also made sure to join food walking tours which also lets you experience walking around town on top of eating the best food in PV.
  • Restaurants: I ate in restaurants 3x preferably dinners. PV has a great restaurant scene and you can always find a good place for $200 MXN ($10 USD) per meal.
Backpacker

Daily costs in Puerto Vallarta

$26 USD per person
  • $3 USD per meal
  • $7 USD at a hostel
  • $10 USD for full-day transport
Mid-range

Daily costs in Puerto Vallarta

$150 USD per person
  • $45 USD for accommodations
  • $10 USD per meal
  • $50 USD for 1 tour
  • $25 USD for transportation
Luxury

Daily costs in Puerto Vallarta

$516 USD per person
  • $350 USD for accommodations
  • $12 USD per meal
  • $100 USD for a tour
  • $30 USD for transport

Ready to book your trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Most readers of this blog can easily plan their trips on their own and if it’s too stressful for you (especially because of COVID), you can always call or e-mail me – I do a lot of customized trip planning that guarantees your most authentic Puerto Vallarta trip experience. Below are the main things I use (and trust) when booking all my trips.

  • Hostelworld: I backpacked a lot for most of my formative years and always used Hostelworld. This is best for people who travel solo and want to meet friends on their trips!
  • Agoda: This platform has lots of deals and no other booking platform shows the best accommodation discounts!
  • Booking.com: Since I am always traveling indefinitely, I do not always have fixed travel dates. I use Booking because they don’t need a credit card to secure your accommodation. Most of it is on a ‘pay at the property’ set up so you don’t need to pay for a cancellation fee in case your travel plans change.
  • Kiwi.com: You can find the cheapest flights here with the best airlines. What Kiwi does is analyze your route and give you the best prices for your itinerary. Try it and see the difference with other flight booking platforms!
  • E-dreams: I use this platform when booking flights to and from Europe. All the flights here are guaranteed cheap. I once booked a Mexico-Madrid flight for only $300 USD!
  • Get Your Guide: I must admit – sometimes, I am super lazy to do things on my own so I always book the tours here! They are really cheap compared to other tour booking platforms and most of the tours here are not super guided. They give you a lot of free time!
  • TripAdvisor: I book tours here whenever I want to see real-time reviews. The reviews here are from real people so you can always compare their experiences! Tours are super cheap, too!
  • Travelwifi: take the internet with you! As a digital nomad, this is very important to me. If you decide to rent a portable wifi device, use my code PSIMONMYWAY to get a 10% discount.
  • Transferwise: As a digital nomad, handling money in different currencies have always been hard for me. Read my experience with Transferwise here – the best bank for long-term travelers!
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puerto vallarta on a budget

Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.

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