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Is Puerto Vallarta Safe in 2022? | Safety Concerns

Is Puerto Vallarta Safe in 2022? | Safety Concerns

Puerto Vallarta is known for its rich Mexican culture, beautiful coast, and tasty delicacies. Located along Mexico’s Pacific Coast in Jalisco state, Puerto Vallarta is one of the most popular vacation destinations worldwide.

However, being part of Mexico creates the perception that the city isn’t safe for travel, and many tourists wonder, “is Puerto Vallarta safe?”

The answer is that Puerto Vallarta is safe. Simple safety guidelines go a long way in keeping you safe while having fun. We look at some of them.

Is Puerto Vallarta Safe to Visit in 2022?

Mexican police patrolling the streets for a piece titled Is Puerto Vallarta Safe

Elena Berd/Shutterstock

Puerto Vallarta is the safest place for international tourists visiting Mexico. In fact, it’s regularly featured as one of the Friendliest cities in the World by Travel + Leisure magazine.

It’s also satisfying to know that local law enforcement is always up and about to ensure safety in the city. You’re likely to find officers driving around town and busy intersections. 

What’s more, they drive at night with flashlights on to make people aware of their presence. Such patrols create a sense of security among locals and tourists while warning those up to no good. 

Another factor that could compromise a tourist’s safety is the weather. Mexico is a hurricane-prone territory, and cities within this country are deemed such. Thankfully, Puerto Vallarta has the most conducive weather year-round. 

Its unique location (in the middle of Banderas Bay) and the fact that the Sierra Madre Mountains surround it protect it from the full impact of storms. Most storms making their way up Puerto Vallarta’s coast are diverted and pushed towards the sea. 

Banderas Bay still experiences storms, but they aren’t so severe to deter tourists from visiting the city. The last hurricane that caused significant damage happened 18 years ago (Hurricane Kenna in 2002).

The summer period is an excellent time to visit Puerto Vallarta because the weather is warm and more predictable. Mornings are characterized by sky blue skies allowing you to take on a range of water sports activities on white sandy beaches.

Significant technological advancement has helped meteorologists predict weather patterns accurately, and provide alerts of impending hurricanes and tropical storms, so timely precautions are taken.

Keeping up tabs with the news helps you know if there’s increased local crime in Puerto Vallarta, natural disasters, or new travel warnings. 

Crime in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is relatively safe compared to the neighboring Mexican cities like Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Statistics show the crime rate in Puerto Vallarta is 37.01, much lower than Miami’s 58.45 crime index. 

Home robberies and petty theft are pretty common, but travelers hardly have anything to worry about as long as they keep their valuables out of sight. 

Neighborhoods to Avoid

Although police officers patrol tourist zones to enhance safety, there are some pretty dangerous neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta that visitors must avoid. 

The traditional Romantic Zone and the area along Malecon are the safest places for tourists as plenty of people are out and about for most of the day. However, further inland from the beach is some of the most dangerous streets in Puerto Vallarta. 

Most crimes consist of break-ins, occasional late-night brawls, and a few incidences of violent crime. The latest crime news in Puerto Vallarta happened in December 2020 when a cartel assassinated Aristoteles Sandoval, Jalisco’s former governor. 

Violent crimes have been a bone of contention in Mexico since 2006 when the government decided to crack down on cartels. The cartels began targeting tourists after realizing they were a potential drug market.

As a result, tourist destinations like Los Cabos, Cancun, Mazatlan, and Acapulco transformed into the most dangerous places to visit in the world.

The last incident involving violent crime happened in 2021 in Cancun. According to the news reports, American tourists went scrambling for cover when gunmen opened fire on the beach. 

What are the Safest Neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta?

Main Square in Puerto Vallarta and Jalisco for a post titled Is Puerto Vallarta Safe

Diego Grandi/Shutterstock

Having known the neighborhoods to avoid in Puerto Vallarta, visitors should also acquaint themselves with safe areas they can visit. They include:

The Romantic Zone

The neighborhood isn’t just great for newlyweds and couples but LGBTQ members too. The Romantic Zone is regarded as the most gay-friendly place in Mexico.

It’s dotted with restaurants serving Mexican delicacies, lively LGBTQ bars, contemporary art galleries, and boutique hotels on cobblestone streets. The Romantic Zone is also known for its vibrancy and rich culture.

A visit to the famous flea market will help you to discover unique artisan treasures like Mexican-style blankets, dinnerware painted in striking colors, a range of beautiful textile products, and more.

Marina Vallarta

The Marina was among the first neighborhoods that sprang up in the 1980s as an alternative to Acapulco and Cancun. It’s a few miles off the main highway, south of the airport.

It’s a great spot to take walks and gawk at the luxury sailboats and yachts, and you never have to worry about getting mugged or robbed. The neighborhood is pretty safe and quiet owing to the older ex-pat community living here.

The Hotel Zone

Many tourists vacation here thanks to the vast range of all-inclusive resorts and high level of safety. White sandy beaches and the famous Galleria Vallarta Shopping Mall characterize this neighborhood.

The Hotel Zone also has plenty of shopping centers and condo buildings, including La Isla, a premier mall in Puerto Vallarta featuring state-of-art cinema and international shops. Transportation is also convenient as visitors can hire taxis at any time.

Nuevo Vallarta

Located in Nayarit state, right next to Puerto Vallarta, the neighborhood is another safe option for tourists.

No crime-related incidents have been reported for years making Nuevo Vallarta a haven for tourists to unwind and take night strolls. It’s also one of the quietest neighborhoods after Marina Vallarta.

Downtown Puerto Vallarta

A few miles away from the Romantic Zone in Downtown Puerto Vallarta. It’s a very safe area for tourists, and the vast range of restaurants and tourists means you don’t have to miss out on the fun.

Downtown Puerto Vallarta also provides access to the city’s beautiful beaches and attractions like The Municipal Market.

Is Puerto Vallarta Safe for Female Travelers on Solo Trips?

Female travelers must be extra cautious when on solo trips. Besides keeping up tabs with State travel warnings, they must be wary of scams and situations that compromise their safety. 

Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding areas of Riviera Nayarit are mainly considered female-friendly. The region is dotted with hostels and beach hotels where solo travelers meet and mingle. 

Traversing the city is also pretty convenient for solo travelers, thanks to the abundance of local buses and taxis. Tourist-friendly areas like the Zona Romantica, Zona Hotelera, and Malecon are well-lit, not to mention the abundant police security. 

Is Puerto Vallarta Safe for the LGBTQ Community?

This is another group that will likely have the most questions about safety in Puerto Vallarta. But there isn’t much to worry about in this city.

Puerto Vallarta is one of the most gay-friendly cities in Mexico, with cities like the Romantic Zone having exclusive gay bars. You’ll also find drag shows, pride parades, and LGBT-inclusive signs in many Puerto Vallarta restaurants.  

Is Public Transportation Safe?

Public transportation is safe, and it’s the best way to get around Puerto Vallarta. There are two ways to get around the city: bus and boat. Local buses make the most affordable ways of traversing the city, operating from 5:00 AM – 11:00 PM.

Since they run on loops, you’re sure to get a bus to your destination every five minutes. The most extensive bus terminal is at Plaza Lazaro Cardenas, but if heading south along the highway and beyond, take the white and orange Boca De Tomatlan buses.

Take water taxis traversing Mexico’s waters if looking for a little more adventure. Their routes run to the stunning sandy beaches on the south at Playa de Los Muertos pier.

Then they make stops at Yelapa, Playa de las Animas, and Quimixto. Whether you’re going by bus or boat, here are a few tips that will come in handy:

  • Wear a lifejacket
  • Layer up and apply sunscreen
  • Keep the ticket safe. Inspectors make random checks and not having one spell trouble 
  • The bus fare is for one route, and there’s no return ticket
  • For couples, a good rule of thumb is to allow your woman to board first and the male to pay the bus fare

What Travel Scams Should Visitors Look Out for?

Although Puerto Vallarta is relatively safe, you may fall victim to travel scams if you’re not careful. Here are the most common:

  • The Mustard scam: This is a pickpocketing technique where somebody smears you with salsa or mustard to distract you while stealing your valuables. If it ever happens to you, hold on to your wallet and walk away.
  • Walmart or Costco pickpocketing: These scammers target shoppers visiting either of these stores. They rack up as much as 15k on your card if you’re not careful.
  • Airport scams: This scam is pretty common at the airport as locals offer overpriced services. It’s best to organize a travel plan beforehand to avoid this tourist trap.

Things to Consider

For a piece on Is Puerto Vallarta Safe, the Palm trees and the beach by the ocean pictured

Diego Grandi/Shutterstock

  • Pair up with other tourists, especially if on solo travel.
  • Acquaint yourself with the native language. Knowing a little bit of Spanish makes interactions with the locals easy.
  • Opt for vacation rentals. The attendants vet hosts and guests before checking in, a critical safety feature in foreign places. Most vacation rentals are located in gated communities 
  • Avoid carrying too much cash and keeping all your cards in one place.
  • Avoid wandering off on beaten paths as they are potential crime spots.
  • Buy a local sim card upon arrival.
  • Drive during the day and stick to the main road when driving. Cartels are notorious for carjacking and making road ambushes at night. Also, avoid nighttime driving and avoid back roads. If you must travel at night, hire a taxi.
  • Have some local currency (pesos) in hand. Although some shops accept US dollars, they do it at a meager rate.
  • Keep up tabs on safety news through your travel agent or hotel concierge.
  • Opt for first-class bus companies as they’ve stricter safety measures. They make stops on toll roads that perform security checks on each passenger as they board.
  • Be sure to make copies of your travel documents. Leave some copies with a loved one at home and carry the others. Store the originals at the hotel when heading out.

Frequently Asked Questions

To help answer the question is Puerto Vallarta Safe, the Conchas Chinas beach pictured on a sunny day

Hello Cinthia/Shutterstock

Let’s take a look at some common questions regarding Puerto Vallarta:

Is Puerto Vallarta family-friendly?

Although Puerto Vallarta is a popular vacation destination for couples and newlyweds, it’s family-friendly too. There are plenty of activities for adults and kids to explore.

What is the safest way to travel to Puerto Vallarta?

You can take a direct flight to Puerto Vallarta and hire a taxi to drive you to your hotel. Alternatively, notify your hotel about your flight a day before, and they’ll send a car to pick you up from the airport.

How safe is it to rent a car in Puerto Vallarta?

Bus travel is the best way to get around Puerto Vallarta, but if you don’t like waiting on people, you could hire a taxi or rent a car. Car rentals are readily available, and you enjoy the much-needed freedom and comfort. Be sure to make online reservations as it guarantees the best deals.

Is tap water in Puerto Vallarta safe to drink?

Tap water is safe to drink thanks to the city’s state of art water treatment system. However, some buildings still have old pipes and may allow dirt to seep through. Ask the hotel if the water is safe to drink or stick to filtered water.

What is the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta?

The summer months (April-June) make the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta. The weather is warm and tolerable, and the hotel rates are pretty affordable. However, if you’re big on whale watching, the winter season (December-March) is the best time to visit.

So, Is Puerto Vallarta Safe?

Puerto Vallarta is undoubtedly safe for travel. Whether you’re on solo travel, on a honeymoon vacation at the Romantic Zone, or want to try out one of the gay-only clubs, you don’t have to worry about getting mugged, robbed, or hijacked.

You can also rest assured that Puerto Vallarta isn’t hurricane-prone as other Mexican cities. Its unique location averts any storms that may be affecting other regions.