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Each year the picturesque Mexican city of Puerto Vallarta attracts travelers from all over the world. The pristine white sand beaches of the Pacific Coast in Jalisco state, along with the vibrant local culture, delicious food, and exciting nightlife, have helped grow Puerto Vallarta into one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations.
Having lived in Puerto Vallarta, one of the questions we are frequently asked is whether or not Puerto Vallarta is safe for travelers. It’s absolutely a safe place to travel. However, as with anywhere, you’re going to need to use common sense, good judgment, and some basic safety practices to ensure that your trip to Puerto Vallarta goes smoothly.
Puerto Vallarta is a different vibe from the all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, where you hardly leave the nest of the resorts. In Puerto Vallarta, you’re immersed in authentic Mexican culture, experiencing the city alongside ex-patriots and locals alike. It’s a relatively large port city, so a lot is happening. Keeping some basic safety protocols is a good idea in any city, and Puerto Vallarta is no exception.
Is Puerto Vallarta Safe?
Spending too much time watching the news, which seems to always paint a picture of new or increasing violence in Mexico, may have you questioning whether or not it’s a good idea to visit Puerto Vallarta. The answer is that Puerto Vallarta is perfectly safe as long as you use common travel safety precautions and practices.
The truth is, petty crimes – like theft – will always be an issue in tourist destinations where there is a large income disparity. One of our biggest safety tips for traveling in Latin America is to be aware of pickpocketing.
With that said, the vast majority of the crime being reported, on the other hand, is happening in a tiny stretch of land along the US-Mexico border. It affects only a small percentage of Mexico.
The tourism industry in Mexico continues to explode, with people from all over the world flocking there each year, but it is still a developing nation. Mexico is an extremely large country with a variety of different regions. Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest destinations in Mexico.
The areas where crime is concentrated tend to fall outside of popular tourist areas, and most visitors won’t have any issues with safety or crime. The narrative that Mexico is dangerous is largely exaggerated. That being said – you’re encouraged to use caution, just as you would in any other city across the world.
Related Read: Traveling to Mexico City? Read our blog is Mexico City safe before you go!
Puerto Vallarta Saftey FAQs
Puerto Vallarta Crime Rate
Examining the crime rates in Puerto Vallarta should ease your fears if you’re still worried about whether or not it is considered safe. The crime rating in Puerto Vallarta is considered low, with a crime rate of 33.55/100
When compared to some popular U.S. tourist destinations, you’ll find that Puerto Vallarta is quite safe! Miami, Florida has a moderate crime rate of 51.64/100; New Orleans, Louisiana, has a rate of 67.34/100; and the ever-popular Maui, Hawaii has a crime rate of 58.53/100.
The crime rates in some of the USA’s most popular destinations are significantly higher than in Puerto Vallarta. New Orleans is almost 87% higher, and yet each year, hundreds travel there each day. The data shows that Puerto Vallarta is actually safer than some of the most popular U.S. beaches and tourist destinations!
To ease your worries even further, it’s important to understand that within the city limits of Puerto Vallarta, most of the crimes reported is the petty non-violent crime like theft. The most commonly reported crime in Puerto Vallarta is public drunkenness, and we can only imagine that part of this statistic comes from the throngs of tourists chugging tequila at all hours of the day and night.
Obviously, you will want to keep track of your belongings to avoid theft. Don’t leave your iPad neglected on a beach chair while you take a swim, carry around large sums of cash, or wear excessively flashy clothes or jewelry. Use situational awareness.
15 Safety tips for Visiting Puerto Vallarta
Staying safe in Puerto Vallarta is the same as any other city around the world. If you use common sense and good judgment, you’re unlikely to have any problems. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe on your travels in Puerto Vallarta and anywhere else you choose to venture.
- Don’t walk alone at night. Keep with a group. Stay in well-lit areas.
- Leave your travel itinerary and contact info on how to reach you abroad with loved ones.
- Verify license plates and driver’s names when using Uber.
- Learn a little Spanish ahead of time so that you can ask for directions or help if you need it.
- Don’t buy drugs or interact with drug dealers.
- Don’t carry around large amounts of cash.
- Avoid flashy clothes or jewelry – try to blend in.
- Keep your purse or wallet securely attached to your body.
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially when using ATMs.
- Keep your valuables within a safe or locked up at your hotel. Don’t carry them around.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers and maps.
- Watch out for fraudulent rental listings. Make sure they have reviewed and are verified.
- Don’t let anyone take your cards out of your sight to avoid bank card cloning.
- Avoid common pickpocket scams.
- Take photos of your passport or scanned copies.
- If you choose to drive outside of the city, stick to the main toll roads.
Food and Drink Safety in Puerto Vallarta
Generally, the food in Puerto Vallarta is safe for everyone to consume. With that said, you’ll still want to use some precautions to keep yourself from getting sick and avoid eating anything that isn’t cooked or peeled. The biggest concern for tourists in Puerto Vallarta is “Turista” – or traveler’s diarrhea.
As a tourist, your stomach might not be used to some of the bacteria and organisms that naturally occur in food, so something safe for locals might cause an upset stomach for travelers. Avoid questionable food that smells off or looks like it might have been sitting out for long periods.
The tap water in Puerto Vallarta is some of the cleanest in Mexico, and many locals might encourage you that it is fine to drink. It’s still a good idea to avoid drinking tap water unless it’s been filtered. Don’t drink water from the faucet or the shower. It’s okay to consume fruits and veggies that have been washed in tap water, as long as they’ve been cooked or peeled.
To be extra safe, stick to bottled water. It should be available everywhere, as most tourists prefer drinking bottled water in Mexico. Again, your stomach won’t be used to some of the bacteria that could be present, and nothing ruins a vacation faster than a stomach bug.
Is Solo Travel in Puerto Vallarta Safe?
Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest places in Mexico and is a particular favorite for solo travelers. You’re never really alone in Puerto Vallarta because there are so many opportunities to meet fellow travelers and make new friends!
The same precautions you would take anywhere that you travel alone should be applied to Puerto Vallarta. Be aware of your surroundings and try not to walk around alone at night. If you do walk at night, stick to well-lit areas. Keep an eye on your belongings to avoid theft, and don’t fall prey to scams. Avoid doing anything illegal, like purchasing drugs, and you should be just fine.
Make sure that you check in regularly with friends and family and tell them where you are and what you’re doing. You might want to create a daily check-in with a loved one back home.
Solo Female Travel in Puerto Vallarta
Most solo female travelers conclude their trips to Puerto Vallarta without any trouble. The same rules apply to all solo travelers, but women will want to be particularly careful about not walking around alone at night, not getting into cars with strangers, and keeping to well-lit, well-traveled areas of the city.
A particular concern for solo female travelers all over the world is being drugged via substances that can be slipped into drinks without detection. Never leave your drink unattended, even for a second. It’s safest to use a drink with a lid and a straw.
You can purchase gadgets like straws and coasters that detect common drink-spiking drugs ahead of time and use them during your travels, or even a one size fits all lid for your cup. Avoid leaving a bar alone at night, especially if you’re feeling intoxicated.
Puerto Vallarta has a thriving LGBTQ community, which is absolutely wonderful, but it means that men should also take precautions, especially in areas like the Romantic Zone.
Overall, drink spiking isn’t a major problem in Puerto Vallarta, but for solo female travelers, it should always be a concern, and it’s important to be careful and take precautions. Keep in mind that other tourists are just as likely to use drink-spiking drugs as locals are, so don’t assume that you’re fine as long as you’re with another traveler.
Related Read: Read our story about when we got robbed at gunpoint in Brazil!
Travel Scams to Watch out for in Puerto Vallarta
If you do become a victim of a crime in Puerto Vallarta, it is more than likely going to be an instance of petty theft or a travel scam. Again, use common sense and situational awareness to avoid becoming a victim of a travel scam.
Travel scams are always evolving and changing, so trust your intuition. If something feels off, then chances are it probably is. There are a few common scams that are known in Puerto Vallarta, and they’re easy enough to avoid.
The Mustard Scam is probably the most common in Puerto Vallarta right now. It’s a pickpocket technique in which someone will walk by you or brush up against you and spill or smear you with mustard, salsa, or some other gross goop.
They might either begin to apologize profusely or simply point out that you have stuff on you before kindly offering to help clean it off. This is all a distraction to have the opportunity to pickpocket you while you’re distracted.
So, if someone mentions you have something spilled on you, hold on to your bag or wallet and walk away quickly without further interaction. Do not accept help or let anyone touch you.
Airport scams are also common, although not necessarily illegal. As soon as you pass outside of customs, you’ll be offered all kinds of services like transportation, lodging, and timeshares – the list goes on and on. Usually, these are overpriced tourist traps. Avoid them and stick to your predetermined travel plans.
Costco or Walmart pickpocketing is actually a scam you need to watch out for. As a local to the area, I often shopped here and heard many times on the Puerto Vallarta ex-pats group of this happening inside the shops. This is often because people let their guard down in these large malls, don’t! Within minutes, they can rack up 5 to 15k in charges on your card – this is an organized crime operation and goes deep into the banking system in Mexico.
Card skimmers are common around the world, and they can be attached to ATM machines and other credit card scanners at shops and restaurants. A card skimmer will feel a little bit loose or out of place when you insert your card. Always inspect ATMs before you insert your card. There is also the extra risk with a pay pass – which I turn off on my card when in Mexico.
Cash transactions are best performed using Mexican pesos. Try to gain a bit of an understanding of the exchange rates before you begin spending cash. Using cash other than Mexican pesos is a good way to ensure that you might be overcharged or short-changed.
Make sure to always count your change regardless of what kind of cash you are using. Avoid making purchases while under the influence, as this is a common situation in which tourists are short-changed or overcharged.
Diseases in Puerto Vallarta
Before you travel anywhere, make sure your basic vaccinations are up to date, which you can check with your doctor before traveling to Mexico. Hepatitis A and typhoid are commonly transmitted through unclean food and water but aren’t especially common in Puerto Vallarta.
Mosquito-borne illnesses are present in Puerto Vallarta, although rare. These include malaria and dengue fever. It’s a good idea to use mosquito repellent on your clothes and body while traveling in Mexico, even though they’re less prevalent in urban areas.
You might even consider taking Malaria pills if your travels are going to take you outside of the city into tropical areas, however, in Puerto Vallarta, this is not required!
Check out the CDC’s guide to Mexico for more information on disease prevention in Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta Travel Insurance
As always, we strongly recommend that you get travel insurance for your trip to Puerto Vallarta.
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. It is what we both used when we lived in Puerto Vallarta for a couple of months. SafetyWing offers travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4-weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used both SafetyWing for different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive.)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Related Read: Check out our absolutes favorite day trips from Puerto Vallarta inlcuding visiting the nearby towns of Sayulita and San Pancho.
Getting Help in Puerto Vallarta
A variety of excellent medical care and emergency services are available in Puerto Vallarta, so if you do happen to find yourself sick, injured, or in need of emergency services, you should have no trouble accessing them and getting the care you need quickly and effectively.
Those of you from the United States or Canada should have no trouble remembering the emergency phone number, as it’s exactly the same in the U.S. Simply dial 911 in the event of an emergency.
Puerto Vallarta has some excellent medical services. Our favorite hospital is CMQ.
- CMQ Hospital Puerto Vallarta +52 322 223 1919
- Hospital Joya Marina Vallarta +52 322 226 1010
Suppose you happen to have an unfortunate dental emergency in Puerto Vallarta, like a cracked tooth or something of the sort. In that case, you’ll be relieved to know that Puerto Vallarta has world-class dental care at affordable prices. Many people actually travel to Puerto Vallarta to save money on dental work in a growing trend known as medical tourism.
A few great emergency dental clinics include:
- Mexdental Puerto Vallarta Dentist network +52 333 143 4467
- Clinica Dental Plaza Marina Puerto Vallarta + 52 322 221 0165
Some other emergency numbers that you might want to keep on hand during your Puerto Vallarta travels include the Consular Agencies for your home country. You might want to contact the Consular Agencies if you have any kind of emergency including being arrested, hospitalized, or losing your passport.
- U.S. Consular Agency +52 333 268 2100
- Consular Agency of Canada +52 322 293 0098
The Vallarta Tourism Center might also be of assistance in answering any questions you have regarding situations that arise while traveling.
- Vallarta Tourism Center +52 322 221 2676
Safest Areas to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
There are lots of options when it comes to where to stay in Puerto Vallarta, as each neighborhood of this vibrant city offers something different. Although most of the city’s accommodations are in relatively safe areas, we recommend staying in either Zona Romantica, Nuevo Vallarta, or the Hotel Zone.
Zona Romantica is perfect for a laid-back traveler who enjoys vibrant nightlife, cultural dining, and lots of shopping. Nuevo Vallarta is great for those who prefer a resort experience with a more chill beach ambiance. The Hotel Zone, on the other hand, provides less of an authentic cultural feel but does allow plenty of opportunities for shopping and fine dining, as it’s home to some of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.
There are tons of activities to keep you busy near all three of these areas, so you really can’t go wrong no matter which one you choose. Below are our personal favorites hotels in Puerto Vallarta in the safest areas:
Zona Romantica – Casa Nicole Boutique Hotel ($$$)
For a stay in the Zona Romantica district, we recommend checking out the Casa Nicole Boutique Hotel. This luxury hotel offers a blended design of colorful Mexican tiles and antiques mixed with the sleek, contemporary features of a modern hotel. They offer a wide variety of both Mexican and American-style dishes, and incredible on-site amenities. A King suite at this hotel will start from $225 USD per night.
You can check the booking availability for this hotel on Booking.com.
Zona Romantica – Posada de Roger ($)
The Posada de Roger was one of our favorite places to stay during our time spent in Puerto Vallarta! This hotel will give you a true Mexican experience with its tropical gardens, adobe architecture, and the adjoining authentic Mexican restaurant Fredy’s Tucan. It’s also just two blocks away from Puerto Vallarta’s Malecón boardwalk, so only a couple of minute’s walk to the beach. This hotel also has a rooftop terrace and even better, a huge pool! A double room here starts at $80 USD per night.
You can check the availability on Booking.com.
Nuevo Vallarta – Villa del Palmar Flamingos Beach Resort ($$)
Nuevo Vallarta is home to one of our favorites, the Villa de Palmar Flamingos Resort! This gorgeous Mexican resort includes incredible amenities like a state-of-the-art fitness center, a lagoon-style pool with private cabanas, a relaxing spa, and even a poolside bar! Each spacious suite includes a kitchenette and dining area, a fully-furnished balcony, and our favorite part – incredible ocean views from the balcony! A junior suite here will start at around $326 USD per night.
You can check availability on Booking.com.
Nuevo Vallarta – Marina Banderas Suites Hotel Boutique ($)
Marina Banderas Suites is a boutique hotel located in the heart of Nuevo Vallarta. This charming hotel sports a 70s throwback charm with its colorful designs and patterns found decorated all over the hotel! The hotel also includes a dockside, open-air restaurant that serves up all the Mexican classics for you to indulge in. Each suite includes a full-service kitchen complete with modern appliances. Studios and Junior Suites start at around $80 USD per night.
You can check availability on Booking.com.
Hotel Zone – Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta ($$$)
Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta is a premier resort located in the Hotel Zone of Puerto Vallarta. This all-inclusive hotel and spa offers a luxury experience for families, couples, and solo travelers to Puerto Vallarta. Not only do they have their own on-site golf course, but this resort also boasts a therapeutic spa, fine dining restaurant, and relaxing lounge chairs alongside the lagoon-style pool. Superior and Deluxe Suites at the Fiesta Americana (all-inclusive) start at $900 USD per night.
You can check availability on Booking.com
Hotel Zone – Fiesta Inn Puerto Vallarta Isla ($)
For travelers looking to party while on a budget in Puerto Vallarta, Fiesta Inn Puerto Vallarta Isla is a top hotel choice. Not only is its design fresh and modern, but it’s located right in La Isla shopping center and is incredibly affordable! This pristine hotel offers a 360° lounge, business center, updated gym facilities, and even a convenience store. A stay in this budget hotel in the heart of the Hotel Zone will cost you about $103 USD per night.
You can check availability for this hotel on Booking.com
Related Read: Learn about how to plan the best honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta!
Renting a Car in Mexico
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car.
I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Mexico in 2019, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically.
I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend.
The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too.
Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit.
Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper!
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Thanks for reading!
We hope this guide was helpful in showing you how to stay safe while enjoying all that Puerto Vallarta has to offer. Remember to use common sense and follow the basic safety tips we outlined, and you’re sure to have a great time. We know you’ll enjoy your stay in this beautiful city!
Before you go, check out some of our other Mexico posts to help you better plan for your trip!
BEST things to do in Mexico City
Friday 20th of January 2023
Do you know of any car rental companies that will accept debit card for deposit? Also thanks for this article !!!!! Super helpful!!!
Sunday 22nd of January 2023
Specifically a debit card? Not a credit card? I am unsure about a debit card. You could try, but worst case, you would need to give them cash.