is puerto vallarta safe

Mexico’s bad press and how I am always told to not go to Puerto Vallarta solo

Reader Mail: Hello, Trish! I came across your blog through your Nuevo Vallarta travel guide. Congratulations on the move and thank you for the tips! I plan to visit PV soon and your blog is a gem! Is Puerto Vallarta safe? How is Puerto Vallarta solo travel? Do you think I can do it on my own? I heard about PV from some friends but I want to see if you can give me some local insight. I am still not very comfortable with traveling to Mexico so I want to know what you think! Thanks a lot in advance.
– Julie Huffman, Canada

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

I was on my way to live in Sayulita when I first graced Puerto Vallarta 3 years ago. As someone who grew up in a beach town in the Philippines, I continuously look for the best cities to live in, especially for a solo female traveler like me. Puerto Vallarta sort of gave me that feeling but it was put on hold because my intention was to move to Sayulita.

When you live in Sayulita where there are no supermarkets or grocery stores, you need to go to PV for all these things (FYI, we have Costco in PV!) so through these grocery trips, I learned to love Puerto Vallarta little by little. I began exploring it on my own and did a few weekend trips here and there. Sometimes, driving from Sayulita to PV is a pain – I still don’t sit well with PV traffic but now that I am living in the Vallarta area, I got used to it and came to realize it’s not that bad (compared to Mexico City traffic).

In this post, I will share with you my insights about Puerto Vallarta solo travel and how I felt safe while I was living and traveling around PV.

Puerto Vallarta solo travel: what’s in this post?

Click on the links below to jump to the content you are looking for. This post is pretty long but I’d love to give you the chance to skip to the topic you are looking for. Xx

  1. Is Puerto Vallarta safe?
  2. Can I walk by myself at night in Puerto Vallarta?
  3. Best things to do in Puerto Vallarta for solo travelers
  4. Puerto Vallarta accommodations for solo travelers
  5. Puerto Vallarta solo travel safety tips
Puerto Vallarta Solo Travel

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.

See also: Top things to do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico according to a local
puerto vallarta solo travel

The travel blogging crew in Puerto Vallarta: ever since I invited them here, they fell in love with PV and never left!

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 the 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.

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 about 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.

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Puerto Vallarta Solo Travel

Puerto Vallarta solo travel: can I walk by myself at night?

Is Puerto Vallarta safe? 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.

Read: Inside the most gorgeous Airbnbs in Puerto Vallarta and booking tips for your stay
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!

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. 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, 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.

Worried about your travel plans because of COVID? Let me help you. For the last 10 years, I’ve assisted, encouraged, and helped over 100 people plan their travels abroad, to almost any country in the world.

Know how Trisha can help plan your trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico »

Puerto Vallarta Solo Travel

Best things to do in Puerto Vallarta for solo travelers

Traveling alone and meeting people in Puerto Vallarta is very easy. There are lots of travelers in Puerto Vallarta (who are also by themselves, btw) so it’s very easy to connect with like-minded individuals. I’ve had my escapades of sitting alone at bars in Puerto Vallarta and I always end up with a big crowd at the end of the night! Here are the best things to do in PV if you are traveling solo.

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!

Get directions to El Colibri Puerto Vallarta »

Salsa nights at La Bodeguita

Go to Facebook and check all Puerto Vallarta events – this was the first time I knew about La Bodeguita, a Cuban salsa bar in Puerto Vallarta that has branches in Playa del Carmen and Mexico City as well. There was a salsa event in a private residence but the pre-drink/dance game was at La Bodeguita. This bar has a live band playing salsa and there are lots of dance partners on the floor who are always willing to take you! In Mexico, men lead the dancing so don’t worry – if someone is asking you to dance, they are just not hitting on you (well, that, too) but they just want to dance!

Get directions to La Bodeguita Puerto Vallarta »

things to do in puerto vallarta

Local tequila tasting in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

Stroll Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon

You will come across the word Malecón as it is widely used in Latin American countries. Almost all of them have a Malecon! It basically refers to any esplanade along a waterfront. Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon is one of the most iconic in the region. This is where you will find the vibrant local life of PV.

The most common sights here are the sculptures by the Malecon, made by renowned and famous artists. Rows of restaurants and shops dominate the whole area – from Mexican to Western dining options. There are also lots of Asian restaurants which I really love because when I lived in Sayulita, this was the thing I was missing the most. One of my favorite Indian restaurants is by the Malecon!

Check prices and availability for Puerto Vallarta walking tours »

Go around Puerto Vallarta on a bicycle

I have my own bike and PV’s malecon is always the best place to cycle! Alright, PV’s streets are cobblestones but the Malecon is flat so it won’t be a pain to bike the whole area (end to end). This is one of the best ways to experience Puerto Vallarta and you can always stop on your own. If you want a guided tour (where the guide explains every stop, history, and culture of this amazing city), I recommend joining Ernesto’s bike tours, a PV local who can give you insider tips about PV.

Join Ernesto’s bike tours in Puerto Vallarta »

Puerto Vallarta Solo Travel

Puerto Vallarta accommodations for solo travelers

Zona Romantica is my favorite neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta but I also like how different Marina Vallarta is. If you want to be near the center (center in PV means the malecon), then Zona Romantica is your best option. For a more local neighborhood, try my other favorite 5 de Diciembre (5th of December).

Many solo travelers who want to travel to Puerto Vallarta ask a common question: which accommodation type or hotel booking platform is the best when traveling PV solo? See my comparison below:

Booking.com is always my go-to and I’ve been using it for years. When I was backpacking for an indefinite time, I did not have a timeframe of when to leave (nor arrive) so this platform is the best for those who travel like that. Booking.com allows you to book without paying (not even a reservation fee!) so in the event that your plans change, no money was wasted for booking something in advance.

Everyone favors Airbnb because it’s cheaper and has a more private setting. There are lots of cheap Airbnbs in Puerto Vallarta that are very centric and are in safe zones so I also recommend this when you are traveling solo in Puerto Vallarta. If you are signing up for Airbnb for the first time, click here to get $73 USD off your first stay.

HostelWorld is good and cheap when you have fixed travel plans. For example, you forgot to book your accommodation while on a bus from Colombia to Ecuador. Long bus journeys like this make us plan our travels poorly so when that happens to me, HostelWorld always guarantees my last-minute bookings. They only charge a reservation fee so to guarantee your booking. The website is also very easy to use!

My favorite Airbnb in Puerto Vallarta

This PV loft is gorgeous I wish I can rent it long-term! The beds are comfortable and I really love the Lucha Libre artwork by local artist Misael. The loft has brickwork and high ceilings. You can also access the rooftop pool deck.

Check prices and availability on Airbnb »

Best all-inclusive in Puerto Vallarta

Well, some of us want to treat ourselves every once in a while in an all-inclusive stay. Puerto Vallarta has many of these and it’s one of the most famous accommodations in PV. I personally like Fiesta Americana because it has a spa. I live close by and when I want to unplug, I book a 2-night stay to take care of myself. It does not happen often but I’ve been here a lot.

Check prices and availability at Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta »

Puerto Vallarta Solo Travel

Puerto Vallarta solo travel and safety tips

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. I can share his contact if you like. We’ve been friends for years now and I always support his livelihood by recommending visiting friends to book a ride with him.

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 in 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.

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. This is where I found the apartment I am currently living in. There are also some tips on how to live in Puerto Vallarta here – promise, you will learn a lot from this group.

See also: Life in PV right now and more Puerto Vallarta COVID questions answered
puerto vallarta solo travel guide
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.”

Consider your source

Please don’t look at news websites whenever you are researching about Puerto Vallarta solo travel safety. Read blogs written by real people who share real experiences. I always do this whenever I travel and often use Couchsurfing to ask locals. I understand how family and friends (who have not been to Mexico) can discourage you to travel solo here. Believe me, I am from an Asian household where the concept of traveling solo in Mexico is foreign and unsafe. I’ve been told a lot about how ‘dangerous’ Mexico and Puerto Vallarta is, and yet, here I am, safely living here full-time.

Check out travel resources like Puerto Vallarta Insider

I recently joined a team of travel writers who live in Puerto Vallarta. We made a community blog called Puerto Vallarta Insider. While the website is still not up, we are now in the process of making meaningful content (written by real people) to give you more reasons why you should visit us in PV!

Do you like what you’re reading? Does it help? I take a lot of time creating valuable and meaningful content. If you like to support my content creation and my blog, consider donating to my coffee fund. Thank you in advance!

Ready to book your solo travel 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.

  • Airbnb: This is still my accommodation preference, especially if you want to have your own space during COVID. Airbnb is always cheaper and more comfortable than other accommodations.
  • 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!
Puerto Vallarta solo travel tips on Pinterest: save it for later!

puerto vallarta solo travel guide

Have you been to Puerto Vallarta? Did you feel safe? Where did you stay? What did you do? If you haven’t been, would you like to visit PV? Leave your thoughts and tips in the comment box below and let’s help other travelers plan their trip to PV!

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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