And if this is your first time in the area, you might benefit from some advice with no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.
Puerto Vallarta is located in Mexico, where the official currency is the peso. Although some establishments may accept other currencies such as US and Canadian dollars, it is typically at a greatly disadvantageous exchange rate that can claim up to 20 percent of your purchasing power on each transaction.
For this reason, visitors to Vallarta should either order pesos from a financial institution in their countries of origin to receive the best rate or withdraw them from a Mexican ATM upon arrival to use during their stay in the country. By far the least preferable alternative is exchanging foreign currency for pesos at an airport currency exchange due to their exorbitant fees and extortionate trading rates.
The first thing visitors from either coast of Northern North America may be surprised to learn is that the region resides within the Central Time Zone, which, as anyone who owns an atomic clock will know, runs 6 hours behind the internationally recognized Coordinated Universal Time. Why Puerto Vallarta is in the same time zone as Pittsburgh is anyone’s guess, but it is certainly so and therefore timely travelers should set their watches accordingly.
Incoming visitors will first be processed through customs, where they can receive a tourist visa that is valid for up to 180 days. They will also have their luggage “randomly” screened for illicit goods as they arrive at the terminal, with travelers asked to press a button that will either flash red or green to either trigger a search or allow the individual to pass.
When the customs process is complete and you are free to exit the airport, you will pass through a large hallway populated on both sides by sales representatives unaffiliated with the airport. For the love of Ra, walk directly past them unless you actively intend on buying a timeshare during your visit to Vallarta. Resist the urge to make eye contact, they will use it against you and you’ll end up wondering how you spent half your vacation in a sales seminar.
Getting a Ride
Although visitors traveling especially light can even catch a bus into the city at the stop under the footbridge for just 10 pesos (approx.$0.50 USD as of writing), taxis are available directly outside of the airport.
However, municipal guidelines dictate that these cabs carry a higher rate than city cabs and so savvy travelers looking to save a souvenir or so worth of travel funds can take advantage of the elevated footpath over the highway east of the terminal and access cabs at the regular rate as well as ridesharing services such as Uber, which were officially authorized to operate in Puerto Vallarta as of 2019.
Regardless of whether you choose to cross the bridge or not, you should be sure to confirm the approximate cost of the ride before getting into any taxi, as these rates are fixed by zone and distance. It can also be helpful to write down the 3-digit number of a taxi before getting in, as this will make finding the individual cab much easier in the event you leave an item behind.
Vallarta’s sunny shores are perhaps the foremost feature of this tropical locale, and there are no less than a dozen distinct beaches within city limits.
Visitors staying in the Marina and Hotel Zone areas will be closest to Playa de Oro and Los Tules beaches, while those closer to 5 de Deciembre will find Playa Camarones within a few blocks. Those whose accommodations are in the heart of town will enjoy easy access to the famed Playa Los Muertos as well as a selection of beaches lining the region’s South Shore.
The local government of Vallarta places a strong focus on community engagement, and so there are a number of engaging events scheduled in town on a weekly basis.
Among these are the Wednesday evening ArtWalk leading the aesthetically appreciative on a tour of the most celebrated local art galleries as well as the South Side Shuffle, which opens the businesses along the cosmopolitan Basilio Badillo strip to visitors, welcoming them in with complimentary wine and other tantalizing treats. The Los Arcos Ampitheatre along the Malecón also plays host to cultural events on a regular basis, typically on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Thanks to a wealth of natural splendor and a notable global profile, tourism represents the main industry in Puerto Vallarta. Visitors who avail themselves of services should be sure to tip generously, as the typical salary for these employees can fall below the standard national minimum wage of about $4 USD per day. This includes baggers at grocery stores and supermarkets, who are part of a special program that relies solely on tips for their living wage.
Another important note concerns the national language of Spanish. Although English is commonly employed as a lingua franca in the service and retail industries, this is far from universal and should never be expected.
For these reasons, visitors looking to enjoy the absolute best of what the Banderas Bay region has to offer would do well to familiarize themselves with basic everyday Spanish phrases prior to their arrival…remember, speaking your weird foreign language at a higher volume does not translate the phrase!
This city has become one of the premier travel destinations in the Americas for its range of activities and welcoming character. Enjoying your time in Puerto Vallarta is pretty easy in any event, but becomes even more of a breeze with a few simple pieces of knowledge…like staying tuned to the We Love PV page for special events that just might happen while you’re here!