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How safe is Puerto Vallarta Mexico? Here’s my personal experience of living here for 2 years

This Puerto Vallarta solo travel guide is from my experiences traveling here including stories on how I ended up living in Puerto Vallarta Mexico. I fell in love with this city and stayed here for a year! Here’s everything you need to know about traveling here on your own.

Dear Julie,

I am glad you are considering visiting Puerto Vallarta. At the beginning of my Riviera Nayarit adventures 3 years ago, I did not really feel PV was for me but then when I tried to stay here long-term, I realized how easy it is to fall in love with PV!

If having fellow foreigners around makes you feel more comfortable and safe, I assure you that Puerto Vallarta is an expat hub.

There are many Americans and Canadians who’ve been living here for years. I will also give tips on how you can connect with them. I meet with expat groups every week here.

Good luck and if you ever make it to PV, please don’t hesitate to connect with me via Instagram. I would love to show you around!

Xx,
Trisha

puerto vallarta travel
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⁉️ Why is Puerto Vallarta so popular?

There are many reasons for the popularity of Puerto Vallarta. I myself did not have any idea of what Puerto Vallarta was like. I also did not know that I will choose to live here!

Personally, I believe Puerto Vallarta is popular with travelers and tourists because of the combo charm of the city and the beach. You can enjoy both city and beach life in Puerto Vallarta and it’s an absolutely fantastic way of life!

is puerto vallarta safe
I lived in a condo in Marina Vallarta with ocean views and it’s honestly the best Puerto Vallarta apartment that I had!

💃 Is Puerto Vallarta safe?

My friends who visit PV always have the same comment: “there are a lot of gringos here.” In Spanish-speaking countries, gringo is a term used for Americans but sometimes it can be used for all types of foreigners who are not Hispanic or Latino. Even I myself am called “gringa” sometimes even if I am not white. Some use it as a general term for foreigners.

There is a big community of ex-pats here and I realized how some people use this as a basis for safety. It makes people more comfortable. For the more adventurous ones who want to avoid their fellow Americans at all costs, this can be a bad thing because they don’t like traveling all the way to Mexico just to hang out with their fellow gringos.

There are a lot of travel warnings about safety in Puerto Vallarta but I understand. It is not 100% crime-free though I can’t speak authoritatively about this since I do not have first-hand experience.

The most shocking news I heard while I was living here was when ex Jalisco governor was killed in Puerto Vallarta in December 2020. It was all over the news and it was kind of a big deal for Mexico. My mom immediately called me and I told her that I am fine and that I am far away from the crime scene.

puerto vallarta solo travel
There are many expats and digital nomads in Puerto Vallarta. I never had a hard time making friends when I moved (or traveled) here.

The thing about Mexico is that whenever something major happens (crimes, for example), everyone tends to generalize and give the area bad press but things like this happen not only in Mexico but in many parts of the world including first-world countries (USA, Europe, etc).

It’s just really hard to eradicate Mexico’s reputation of being unsafe but bear in mind that this happens everywhere.

Then again, safety is subjective. I may feel safe here but there are many individual factors on how we look at how safe a place is.

Personally, as a travel blogger who brings around lots of camera gear when traveling, I did not feel that I had to always watch my belongings or hug my backpack while walking the streets of PV.

I am not saying you can openly leave your stuff unattended but my point is the feeling – people in PV are very nice, welcoming, and kind, in fact, Puerto Vallarta brands itself as the most friendly city in the world.

You will see this sign all around PV though I cannot find data to back it up. With the number of foreigners visiting PV, they really are used to tourists.

puerto vallarta solo travel

🤵 Is Puerto Vallarta good for singles?

ABSOLUTELY!!! I once did an experiment when I first arrived in PV. Instead of using dating apps, I tried it organically. I went to a bar, sat by myself, and started drinking.

I know that’s weird to do especially I already live here but I just wanted to see if meeting people organically in Puerto Vallarta works.

In the beginning, no one paid attention. There were 2 guys who were sitting alone and chatting with the bartender but they didn’t come and offer me a drink. With the dating apps world we live in, I think most of us are so adamant about approaching people. I feel like we find it weird. What do you think?!

is puerto vallarta safe

I was sort of losing hope when a guy came to me and offered me a drink. Of course, like many people in Puerto Vallarta, he was an American expat.

We chatted the whole night and actually ended up going out for a few weeks. I wouldn’t usually do this because I am so fond of dating apps but it’s good to know that in Puerto Vallarta, it’s still possible to meet people without technology.

What I didn’t realize was Puerto Vallarta was also full of solo travelers that are looking for friends and company. Luckily, there are many places in Puerto Vallarta to do that.

PV is a very lively area with bars and restaurants always full of people. You’ll never run out of choices on where to randomly sit down and chat with strangers.

is puerto vallarta safe

Is Puerto Vallarta safe RIGHT NOW?

I now live in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (moved here in September 2021) but I frequently visit because I have my business there. My last visit was in May 2022 when I emptied my condo to permanently move to Baja California Sur.

As someone who knows Puerto Vallarta very well, I probably can’t differentiate the safety of NOW versus when I was living there but I still do not feel unsafe in Puerto Vallarta.

This article will also tackle what to avoid in Puerto Vallarta but let me tell you one thing: Puerto Vallarta is safe unless you involve yourself in buying drugs. This goes for the whole of Mexico as well.

Having said this, you know the drill – do not buy drugs in Mexico at all costs.

is puerto vallarta safe

🚶‍♀️ Is it safe to walk Puerto Vallarta at night?

ABSOLUTELY! I have a lot of friends who take Uber all the time not because they feel unsafe in Puerto Vallarta but Uber rides here are really cheap! They’re always less than $5 USD!

I have a car so my style, whenever I visit PV, is to park it in my spot and then walk from there. I found a very special spot at the entrance of the city that is somehow just always available for me. It’s funny.

Puerto Vallarta is a big city but I am only talking about walking the Malecon area (and around) as this is where all the PV nightlife is happening.

This is where most tourists go but I will discuss other areas in PV in another post. I just feel like this one is the more touristic one and needs to be discussed more.

The streets of PV are well-lit (thank God!). In my experience traveling the world solo, I always feel doubtful about dark streets and you should too, especially when you are not familiar with the area.

is puerto vallarta safe

The only time that I was brave enough for dark streets was when I was traveling solo in Sao Paulo, a Brazilian city known to be super unsafe but I was not being stupid.

I was already staying there for a long time and have become comfortable with my environment. I will never do this in places that I don’t have knowledge of, seriously!

Safety also entails boldness and bravery so if you know the terrain of the place you are traveling to and you know a lot of people, then you should be fine. But always follow your gut and instincts because, they are, more often than not, very accurate.

Another factor that makes me feel safe while walking around Puerto Vallarta by myself is the constant noise in every bar, and in every corner.

PV’s nightlife is very busy and there’s always something happening in every street. Even the private homes are so loud you’ll never feel you are walking alone even if it’s 3:00 in the morning.

is puerto vallarta safe

What should I avoid in Puerto Vallarta Mexico?

Avoid buying drugs at all costs. And honestly, this is the only thing you have to avoid in Puerto Vallarta Mexico. Many foreigners get into trouble by buying drugs.

I’m pretty sure you can survive your Puerto Vallarta vacation without drugs, right? You don’t want to involve yourself in this business, even if it’s just the tiniest gram of whatever it is you are consuming.

Don’t even talk to them or engage in conversations when you get offered drugs on the streets of PV. Walk away and ignore them at all costs.

If you really need it, then do not buy it yourself and ask a local to do it for you, especially if you don’t speak the language.

is puerto vallarta safe

🌴 How safe is Puerto Vallarta: my personal experiences

Let’s start with a story. I first traveled to Puerto Vallarta Mexico in 2018 not to actually go to Puerto Vallarta but to go to Sayulita. As expected, I stayed in Sayulita for a full 2 years because at the time, small towns were more appealing to me.

After a while, I got sick of living in Sayulita. But like many people who are living in that town, I was undecided. I didn’t want to leave the comforts of my home in Sayulita especially since I already made friends there and was part of a community.

I postponed it until I couldn’t take it anymore. So I packed my truck, and the dogs, and decided to move to Puerto Vallarta without expectations or knowing if life was going to be good for me there.

Moving there (at first) did not mean that I knew Puerto Vallarta Mexico very well so I had to explore it on my own and went traveling around my new home.

Below are some of the amazing things I can say about traveling and living in Puerto Vallarta Mexico:

Neighborhoods have different vibes

… but it doesn’t mean that some neighborhoods are unsafe. The first apartment I found was next to the baseball stadium and in the beginning, it felt a little bit sketchy.

I realized that it was only sketchy because I was so used to Zona Romantica which is more familiar because everyone’s speaking English.

It’s dumb reasoning to feel safe just because people speak English. But I do understand that most of us feel that way because I experienced it, too!

Even if I was fluent in Spanish, I felt strange in those ‘other’ neighborhoods but guess what? Nothing ever happened to me, even if I walked my dogs late at night in Puerto Vallarta!

Puerto Vallarta is big and my greatest advice is to not limit yourself to the neighborhoods within the Malecon. Try Versalles, Fluvial, and Marina Vallarta which are also great areas to visit (and stay in) in PV.

Catcalling… not so much

Where I live now (in Baja California Sur), catcalling is really rampant and I almost feel violated, especially by construction workings I walk past.

But in Puerto Vallarta, that rarely happened to me and I don’t really remember an instance when I was cat-called there.

Puerto Vallarta is dog-friendly

One of the greatest factors that made me move and travel to Puerto Vallarta Mexico is its dog-friendly environment. All the restaurants accept pets and when I come with the dogs, they always automatically give my dogs water bowls!

On some beaches in Cancun and Quintana Roo, dogs are now allowed to be unleashed on the beach but in Puerto Vallarta, my dogs can roam freely!

Uber drivers are kind and trustworthy

I am not only saying this based on one ride. When I arrived Puerto Vallarta in 2018, I met Juan, an Uber driver in Puerto Vallarta. He drove me to Sayulita for $50 USD and from then on, he became my taxi contact in Riviera Nayarit.

Juan and I have been friends since then and I am even a godmother to one of his many children! I can’t believe that I would make long-lasting friendships (especially on my first Puerto Vallarta Uber ride) and for me, human connections are really important when traveling solo.

If you arrive in Puerto Vallarta, don’t take the $150 USD taxi services – make sure to book with my local driver, Juan! I am vouching for his honesty and I love helping him grow his business by referring my blog readers to him!

The police in Puerto Vallarta are easier to deal with

My Mexican friends are also afraid of police presence (even if they are not doing anything wrong). It’s just something you also should avoid in Mexico. The police always terrify me!

For some reason, I always get stopped by the police as a woman driving a big truck. I don’t know if this is just a random check but they always do check me all over Mexico.

One thing I’ve observed is that police forces in Puerto Vallarta are more approachable than in other states. They actually don’t want to take money from you and in most cases, they will give you a ticket if you violated something (as opposed to asking for a bribe).

As a tourist, the police won’t necessarily stop you and if they do, they will probably just ask to see if your visa in Mexico is valid. Other than that, there will be no reason that the police will stop you or talk to you (except for drugs).

FYI, if you are going to take the Compostela Valley drive to Guadalajara from Puerto Vallarta, the police here will mandatory search your vehicle no matter what.

I don’t know why they feel they have the right to inspect a private vehicle without a warrant but they will just do it.

💃🏽 Why Puerto Vallarta solo travel?

Puerto Vallarta Mexico is mega-friendly to foreigners

Puerto Vallarta Mexico is used to foreigners so you don’t have to worry about getting attention here. Of course, those people who are selling drugs will be friendly to you but then again, ignore them at all costs.

In general, I have been well taken care of in Puerto Vallarta as a single woman. I’ve had the same housekeeper for years and she did take care of me like her own daughter.

The repair guys that come to my home are trustworthy but it took me many months to discover who to trust to enter my house freely. Lucky for me, people here are always scared of dogs so I have added protection from intruders.

Waiters in restaurants are super attentive but the tour operators roaming around the Malecon can be intrusive sometimes. They will offer tours even if you don’t want them and they are very tenacious about it.

PV is still cheaper than other Mexico destinations

Neighboring towns like Sayulita and San Pancho are more expensive than Puerto Vallarta in terms of travel and eating out.

It is still one of the Mexican cities that maintain proper pricing but if you want to live here, I regret to inform you that rent is getting crazier every year and has become ridiculously expensive.

So many things to do in Puerto Vallarta!

Puerto Vallarta is a combination of outdoors, city life, and beach life so expect many things to do! This is actually one of the factors that drew me to visit and live here.

If you like the great outdoors, which I believe that Quintana Roo is lacking (no mountains there), Puerto Vallarta has them and there are also over 12 beaches in Puerto Vallarta.

Below are some of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta that I recommend:

Puerto Vallarta is a resort city

Some of you may not be attracted by the all-inclusive resort’s vacation but you should know that Puerto Vallarta is big on this. The resorts in Puerto Vallarta are even way cheaper than Cancun!

A night’s stay in a resort (all-inclusive) for 2 people starts at $150 USD per night. Honestly, when I lived in Puerto Vallarta, I did many days of passes to resorts just because I want to experience what’s living in a resort city like.

Alternatively, if you feel like Puerto Vallarta is too crowded for you, you can also check out the resorts in Nuevo Vallarta which is an upper-scale neighborhood good for families traveling with kids.

There are many travelers and foreigners of all ages

There isn’t any particular type of traveler that visit Puerto Vallarta. Everyone comes here! Digital nomads, retirees, young travelers, couples – you name it! I still don’t see the Spring Break culture here as much as I did in Tulum in Cancun so I guess that’s a plus!

It is so amazing to live in Mexico and have different circles of friends from different walks of life. My Canadian neighbor is 75 years old and we regularly had coffee when I was still in Puerto Vallarta.

I do a lot of digital nomad meet-ups in Puerto Vallarta and I also have a regular salsa/bachata group there that meets once a week. Most of the foreigners in that group are about my age (early 30s’).

You will find many Mexico destinations to be exclusive for retirees or just young professionals but Puerto Vallarta is fit for all ages and genders.

I also don’t need to reiterate or put this into detail: Puerto Vallarta is the gay capital of Mexico and you’ll often see the big LGBTQ community in Zona Romantica.

💰 Is Puerto Vallarta expensive for solo travelers?

I’ve been traveling along for over 14 years and honestly, I’ve anchored myself to the fact that is is always more expensive when you are traveling by yourself (as opposed to sharing costs).

In Puerto Vallarta, I spent $1,500 (cost of living) and travel-wise, I believe it is still way cheaper. You can eat out for as low as $7 (in a good restaurant) while the ever-go-to street food is under a dollar.

To have an idea on how much do you need for your Puerto Vallarta travel, see these estimated costs below:

  • Bed in a dorm: from US$12
  • Hotel room: from US$35
  • Street food: from U$1
  • Meal in a restaurant: US$5
  • Fastfood (Mcdonald’s or similar): US$6
  • Beer in a pub: US$3
  • Cocktail in a downtown club: US$10

To see a full list of budget planning for Puerto Vallarta, you can search for my Puerto Vallarta articles in this blog by using the search button on the upper right hand of this website.

✨ Puerto Vallarta safety tips 

Join the Bachata and Salsa social group on Whatsapp

These guys meet every week and you will meet a lot of expats and travelers who are seriously learning salsa in Puerto Vallarta. You can click here to join the Puerto Vallarta salsa and bachata group. They are always meeting up and will be glad to welcome you to the group!

Bumble or Tinder in Puerto Vallarta

Dating apps are also a great way to meet people, however, in Puerto Vallarta’s Tinder radar, you will see a lot of expats. It’s definitely safe, don’t worry. When I first moved here, I actually learned more about PV from the expats than the locals.

Just make sure you meet in a public place like the bars and restaurants in the malecon. I always bring everyone to Colibri. HAHAHA!

Go to Colibri bar and meet people

El Colibri is expat owned so it’s very popular for pre-drinks and even late-night parties during the weekend. I went here for the first time in November 2020, when I first moved to Nuevo Vallarta and I never thought I’d end up chatting with lots of digital nomads and expats!

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Check Facebook events in Puerto Vallarta

Even if I was already living in Sayulita for years, when I moved to Vallarta, it was a different ball game. I had to find a way to make my own tribe in PV. There are many Facebook events in Puerto Vallarta that you can join and most of the people who come are foreigners.

Last week, I was just at a salsa/bachata party and the majority of the people who came are foreigners! There’s also a ‘Sunday Social’ event in PV where all the ex-pats gather for food, drinks, and chat.

It’s amazing how joining one Facebook event can give you long-time friends in a certain area you are in. I really find these random events that I attend by myself really helpful in building Vallarta as my base.

If you don’t feel comfortable walking alone, take Uber

Uber in Mexico is cheap and I always get a lot of questions if Uber work in Puerto Vallarta – it does! Coming from a small town like Sayulita where Uber does not work, being able to take Uber in Puerto Vallarta (for less than $5 USD per ride!) makes me feel safe and comfortable. I mentioned I have my own car here but still, sometimes, I take the Uber when I am invited to big parties.

I feel very safe with the drivers and Uber is how I met my now long-time friend, Juan, who is an Uber driver PV for a long time. You can always hire Juan for long drives outside or within PV.

We’ve been friends for years now and I always support his livelihood by recommending visiting friends to book a ride with him. You can book Juan’s services here.

Learn to speak Spanish

Puerto Vallarta is an English-speaking city and most people in the service industry can communicate in English very well – you’d be surprised!

I just always suggest speaking Spanish as a tool for safety because there are many instances where I needed to pretend like a local in order to feel safe.

And it always works! Whenever I feel threatened by a certain stranger talking to me randomly on the streets, I light a cigarette (another defense mechanism on how to make yourself look brave but that’s just me. You don’t need to do it) and start speaking Spanish really fast.

Luckily, I am fluent in Spanish but I did not learn this overnight – I really tried my best to sound like a local though I don’t really use Mexican slang since my Spanish is a mix of Spain and Argentina.

I realized that when I speak Spanish in Mexico, people always have the impression that I am a super local and have been living here for years, and that I am someone whom they cannot mess with.

It’s kind of a public announcement that “I know my way around here so find someone else to mess with.”

puerto vallarta solo travel
When traveling solo, I always make sure to make friends with locals. These are my Mexican friends in Puerto Vallarta and you should make some, too! It really helps!

Join Puerto Vallarta Expat Groups

Expats in Puerto Vallarta is my go-to Facebook group. Here, you will find a lot of foreigners who have years of experience living in Puerto Vallarta.

Use some search terms to browse the group or feel free to post questions about Puerto Vallarta solo travel safety. This is also where I found friends when I was new here.

If you are looking for trusted long-term apartments in Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta & Beyond Expat Rentals & Sales is a great resource.

Can you drink tap water in Puerto Vallarta?

No, and that goes for all of Mexico. When traveling to Puerto Vallarta, always order mineral/bottled water. If you are staying in an Airbnb or vacation rental home, the host will provide you with potable drinking water.

In Mexican Spanish, this is called “garrafon” so make sure to ask your host before booking your accommodations. If you are staying in Puerto Vallarta resorts or hotels, bottled water will be provided in the rooms but you have to purchase extra if you need more.

There is a joke that beers are cheaper in Mexico (than water) and that is super true and ridiculous at the same time. Bottled waters are at $3 USD while beers are only for $1 USD.

✈️ Ready for your trip to Puerto Vallarta Mexico? This blog thrives on reader questions so feel free to ask questions about safety in Puerto Vallarta by using the comment box below. You can also sign up for 1-on-1 coaching with me if you need more help!

🇲🇽 Puerto Vallarta Travel Planning

  • ✈️ Cheap flights to Puerto Vallarta: Use the code PSIMONMYWAY to get a 10% discount upon checkout on WayAway! This is what I use to find cheap flights.
  • 🚑 Mexico Travel Insurance: SafetyWing is the best. I only pay US$40 per month and this is very convenient for those who are traveling to Mexico for an indefinite time.
  • Puerto Vallarta Airport transfer: book with my local driver using the code PSIMONMYWAY10 upon checkout on Mexico Insider.
  • 🚗 Puerto Vallarta Rental Cars: Rent a car and go around PV and the Riviera Maya for only US$35 per day (credit card required for car deposit). Check prices at Rental Cars Vallarta.
  • 🚌 Puerto Vallarta bus transportation: traveling around Mexico by bus is pretty common. Use Busbud Vallarta to find the best routes and prices online.
  • 🧭 Puerto Vallarta Tours: find 100+ things to do in PV, day trips, and tours on Viator Vallarta. Tour prices start from US$25.
  • 🛏️ Puerto Vallarta Hostels: backpackers and young travelers, you can stay in a dorm bed in PV for as low as US$15! Check Hostelworld Vallarta for the best rates.
  • 🏨 Puerto Vallarta Hotels: there are many good hotels in PV for as low as US$65 per night (private room). Check Booking.com Vallarta for the best deals!
  • 🏖️ Puerto Vallarta Resorts: PV is a resort city and there are many all-inclusive resorts to choose from starting at US$200 per night. Check Expedia Vallarta for the lowest rates.
  • 🏠 Puerto Vallarta Airbnb: planning to stay in PV for a longer term? There are many Airbnbs, apartment rentals, and vacation homes available on Agoda Vallarta.
  • 📧 Puerto Vallarta Updates: subscribe to our newsletter and get honest and transparent updates about PV. NO SPAM. NEVER.

three − one =

Tina

Friday 23rd of September 2022

Hi, how did you connect with expats? Do they have a Facebook page or a way to connect with others? I also speak Spanish. Iโ€™ve been to Puerto Vallarta 3 times with my ex. Since we broke up, I still want to go back as there are things I was unable to do like sea turtles and Islas marietas. I would like to go for my birthday in a few months on a solo trip. But I donโ€™t want to be alone on my actual birthday. Please feel free to contact me.

This was a great read! Thanks :)

Debra Schroeder

Sunday 19th of September 2021

Iโ€™ve been to Puerto Vallarta many times solo and havenโ€™t had any issues. Like every city, you have to take precautions. Love that there are expat communities on Facebook. We just got back from Puerto Vallarta. We landed during Hurricane Nora so didnโ€™t get to go to the Malacon. Iโ€™ve been before but the hubby hadnโ€™t.

Paul Healy

Saturday 18th of September 2021

Facebook expat communities is a great way to earn about a new destinations. Locals just tend to know a place without knowing how they know it. Lots of great information for solo travel in PV. Thanks for sharing.

Linda (LD Holland)

Saturday 18th of September 2021

I must admit that most of what I had heard about Puerto Vallarta was so mixed that I was not sure about visiting. Your post provides a different perspective. Good to know that you found it a good spot to meet people. The salsa nights at La Bodeguita might draw me in. An expats group sounds like a good way to get started with good information.

Agnes

Saturday 18th of September 2021

I haven't been to Puerto Vallarta yet, but it's on my list as I love Mexico. I appreciate that you provide such helpful tips for solo travelers. It's great to know that there are many American ex-pats, so it's easier to find new friends. Colibri bar seems to be a perfect place to meet new people. I add salsa nights at La Bodeguita to my bucket list as well. I'm impressed that they have Uber in Puerto Vallarta!