Puerto Vallarta is a popular tourist destination on the Pacific coast of Mexico. It is second only to Cancun in the number of visitors that travel here each year. That means around four million people a year ask themselves “Is Puerto Vallarta safe?”. And it would seem that around four million people a year decide that “Yes, Puerto Vallarta is safe!”. And it is true. On the whole, Puerto Vallarta is a very safe place to visit. You are unlikely to run into trouble if you are respectful of the locals and use common sense. As you would anywhere.
Puerto Vallarta town (or is it a city?) is in the state of Jalisco and is located overlooking Banderas Bay. Backed by lush jungle-covered mountains, this bay area is a nature and beach lover’s haven. Cruise ships dock here and passengers disperse onto the land in search of secluded beaches and jungle hikes. Ocean lovers hoping to spot Humpback whales visit every winter in the hopes of seeing the magnificent sea mammals.
The climate in Puerto Vallarta is tropically warm all year round which probably helps the mood of the locals here. Known for being super friendly they welcome tourists with a smile and this is one of the reasons that visitors return here time after time, and why foreigners choose to retire here every year. All you need to pack for a safe vacation here are your clothes, sunscreen, your smile, and some common sense. Even though Puerto Vallarta is safer than a lot of places, crime does happen. So, let’s explore the safety here in a little more detail.
Is Puerto Vallarta safe right now?
Citizens of the United States should always check with the U.S. State Department before they head off on their travels. You will get up to date safety information for anywhere around the world. Mexico does have a reputation for high crime levels and indeed, there is a travel advisory in place at the moment. You should read these advisories carefully because at first glance they can sound scary and might put you off going. But drilling down into the detail you will often realize that only certain parts of an area have warnings in place.
Right now, the advisory is at level 3 meaning “Reconsider travel”. If you read further you will see that Puerto Vallarta is not included in the no-go areas. The areas in the Jalisco state to avoid right now are further inland and not close to Puerto Vallarta. This is why it is important to always read the full advisory.
When you are researching destinations that are safe to travel to, the State Department should be your first port of call. From there you can enroll in STEP – their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. You should do this wherever you are traveling to, in fact, we already talked about it for people looking to visit the hotel zone in Cancun.
What’s the worst that can happen?
Honestly, we cannot play down the risk of crime in Puerto Vallarta, or anywhere. But the chance of falling victim to violent crime here is pretty slim. The crime rates are fairly low. But being a popular tourist resort you are going to find some crime.
Most of it will be opportune – the pickpocket, the con artist. The drunk stumbling out of a bar looking for a fight. You may be a victim of people like this or bag snatching for example. The good news is that you can do a lot to prevent this type of crime from happening. When you are walking around the city, or on the beach, don’t be flashy. Keep valuables hidden away. Seasoned world travelers know it’s best to leave valuables at home. Safe travel is about being conscious of your environment. Don’t put temptation in people’s way.
Make sure your travel insurance covers you for any eventuality.
Puerto Vallarta Travel Insurance
Always make sure to get travel insurance! Even if you’re only going for a short holiday, you should always take out travel insurance. Take our word, travel insurance can save you thousands of pounds – so make sure to get it before you leave.
We highly recommend using Safety Wing, but there are many insurance companies to choose from so make sure to shop around to find the best deal.
Is Puerto Vallarta safe for solo female travelers?
It is important to understand, how safe is Puerto Vallarta if you are a solo female traveling here. Puerto Vallarta is an authentic Mexican town. Tourism is steadily increasing here but it still manages to retain a more “real” feel of Mexican life. Resorts such as Cancun or the Riviera Maya are well known for being tourist hotspots with big sprawling hotel resorts. Conversely, Puerta Vallarta is more known for smaller accommodations and boutique hotels. It has something for everyone. Younger and older travelers alike. Those looking for adventure, or those looking for quiet.
Puerto Vallarta is enjoying being a hotspot for visitors and wants to attract even more than the four million that already travel here every year. This means it is investing heavily in the tourist infrastructure, including building a new airport. Being a safe destination goes hand in hand with this and should go some way to reassuring you of your safety on your travels here.
Many female travelers visit Puerta Vallarta solo. If you are female planning on going alone it is highly likely you will be able to connect with other solo females. If you wish to. Going to the beaches during the day, exploring all the lovely restaurants, taking a group tour. Everything solo travelers want from a vacation is at their fingertips. There is no reason you should be a victim of a crime if you are sensible.
Like before though, you do need to use common sense. Females especially should be careful not to be a victim of bag snatching. Take a travel safety belt with you. Avoid one of those large shopper type bags that you will forever be rummaging around in! While you are rummaging for your phone, or map, or lip balm, you are not aware of what is happening around you. Cross-body bags are a lot harder to get off you without making a fuss. Most of these types of criminals want it easy. So don’t make it easy for them.
A Travel Safety Belt is an effective and affordable way of protecting your notes, cards, and cash.
It’s really best to leave your expensive jewelry at home. In fact, if you can go without, consider not wearing any at all. A would-be thief may not be able to tell if a necklace is low value or not, so perhaps don’t present them with an opportunity at all. The only jewelry we would recommend as a solo female traveler is a small gold wedding band. If you are single, wearing a band on your wedding finger can indicate to (some) men that you are not available, or that you have a husband nearby.
In fact, there is nothing wrong with pretending you do. If you are approached by someone you don’t feel comfortable with, tell them you are waiting for your husband/friends. Don’t be afraid to say no. Call attention to the situation by shouting or screaming if you feel like you are in danger.
Be careful at night. Now, we would say this about any destination. Night-time is usually the time that sees crime increase, for obvious reasons. It is dark and easier for would-be criminals to surreptitiously lurk around corners. And alcohol comes into play more at night too. We mentioned you may meet another solo female. If you do, perhaps hang out together if you both want to go out at night. There is safety in numbers.
However you go out, solo, or with a new buddy, if you are having a drink then do be extra careful. Drink spiking is still happening in most places around the world. Never leave a drink unattended, and never accept a drink from a stranger that you did not watch being made.
Public transport is safe in Puerta Vallarta, but still, know how you plan to leave at the end of the night. Licensed taxis or Ubers are best. Read more about the taxi system further down the page. Never hail a ride down from the street as you cannot be sure they are legitimate.
It’s a sad day when we have to take these measures. But just using some common sense can save you a whole heap of trouble. Is Puerto Vallarta safe to travel to compared to other parts of Mexico? Yes! But that doesn’t mean letting your guard down.
Is Puerto Vallarta safe to live?
Most visitors to Puerto Vallarta go there for fun, obviously. This is true for the people that live there too. The Mexicans are known to be a friendly lot, fun-loving, and happy to mix with foreigners. Plenty of people from America and Europe have second homes in Puerto Vallarta, and even more have made it their permanent home. If you are thinking of moving there you may want to check out the crime statistics. These homicide stats from 2019 put the state of Jalisco at number 12.
In case you were wondering, guns are illegal in Mexico. This isn’t to say that gun crime doesn’t happen. In December 2020 the ex-governer of Jalisco state was shot and killed in a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta. He was on holiday at the time. This was a targeted and planned attack. Things like that certainly do not happen every day in Puerto Vallarta.
Some places in Mexico do have incredibly high rates of violent crime. This is usually down to drug cartels and organized crime. Unfortunately, this can skew crime statistics and when taken at face value, can make areas seem less safe than they are. Remember when we told you further up, that you need to read the whole of a travel advisory? This is why. Bad stuff happens everywhere. Take advice from the government and make decisions based on your comfort zone.
People want to live in Puerto Vallarta for many reasons. See how many awards it has won for a start! The climate is a big draw. People flock to Puerto Vallarta for the beach life. Being warm all year round makes it easy to enjoy the many wonderful beaches here. Choose the right one and you may feel as though you are in your own private piece of paradise. That’s certainly how John Huston felt when he set up home here in the seventies. But then he really was on a private piece of paradise. Las Caletas beach, which he leased from the Indians for several years.
We would even say that when it comes to beaches, Puerto Vallarta has the potential to be a close rival of Cozumel. And that’s saying something!
Is Puerto Vallarta safe at night?
Like many places, Puerto Vallarta is safer during the day. Night-time is a favorite time for unsavory characters to crawl out of the woodwork. After dark is also a time when people are drinking more alcohol. This leads to people letting their guard down. It can also lead to aggression and fights.
If you stay in well-lit, public places that are frequented by other tourists then being out at night in Puerto Vallerta should be safe. If you are with other people then even better. Stick to main roads and don’t stroll down any dark streets with your noise in your phone. We keep saying it, but it really is about using your common-sense. This, and not presenting an opportunity for thieves or pickpockets.
Another tip we can give you for staying safe at night is to avoid taking money out of an ATM. Do this during the daytime only, and then only at recognized banks. Taking cash out at night can be a big temptation to a robber.
Is the tap water in Puerto Vallarta safe to drink?
Yes! And no.
Rare to hear of in Mexico but Puerto Vallarta tap water is recognized internationally for its high standard. It has been this way for years. Only two places in Mexico have this distinction, Tulum for example does not! The government there has invested thousands and thousands into their water treatment facilities. Providing residents and visitors with clean drinking water is something they pride themselves on. It’s pretty much guaranteed that when the water leaves the treatment plant, it is of the highest quality. But, that’s where it can go wrong.
The water treatment may be world-class but the pipe system is not, unfortunately. The main areas of Puerta Vallarta should be okay. If you are in a rural area or an area that may have old pipes, then it might be best to stick to bottled water. If you are in any doubt at all then just don’t risk it. You can buy something called “Microdyn” which you can use to wash fruit and veg. It kills bacteria. Just in case you have a super sensitive stomach. Hotels and restaurants will all provide bottled water if you ask for it.
You’ll probably be absolutely fine using it to brush your teeth. Don’t worry about showering in it either. Unless you tend to drink shower water. But if you are on vacation for a short time then drink bottled water. Don’t run the risk of losing precious vacay time with a dodgy stomach.
A filter water bottle is an effective way of purifying water to remove any impurities or contaminants.
Are taxis in Puerto Vallarta safe?
How safe is Puerto Vallarta taxi system? Super safe. They are all licensed by the government and have set rates for the different zones of Puerto Vallarta. Check the rates card upfront or agree on the price before you get in the taxi. Most taxis will prefer to be paid in Mexican Pesos. Some will take U.S. dollars. Confirm the method of payment before agreeing to the ride as well. If you are paying with U.S. dollars then try and have some change. If the taxi driver doesn’t have change you could be leaving a big tip!
Avoid the airport scammers
When you arrive at the airport, you are going to want to get out as soon as possible. It’s vacation time after all. If you are looking for a taxi, keep moving through the airport until you get outside.
If people come up to you inside the airport asking if you want a taxi, tell them no thank you, or no gracias. They might pretend they know you. Some even act like they are from your hotel. Be polite but don’t engage with them. You could find yourself in a room of crazy people trying to sell you timeshares and other scams along the way. They are harmless, but annoying and not the best welcome to Mexico. Unfortunately, the government can’t, or won’t, do anything to stop this aggravating behavior.
If you haven’t arranged a private transfer then only take a registered airport taxi from outside the airport. They are more expensive than city taxis, but city taxis are not allowed to pick people up from the airport. They can only drop people off there. To get an idea of the cost, traveling to the Marina Vallarta area will cost Mex$80 (US$4) with a city taxi compared to Mex$240 (US$12) with an airport taxi.
To find the white registered airport taxis outside the airport:
Just come out of the main doors and you should see them there. They are white.
If you want to save on the cab fare and take a yellow city taxi or Uber then do this:
Come out of the airport and turn left. At the end of that road, turn left and you will see a pedestrian bridge. Head over there and you will see the yellow city taxis waiting there.
Never flag a taxi off the street. Only get a taxi from a legal taxi stand, or call a reputable company.
Top 9 Puerto Vallarta Safety Tips
So, is Puerto Vallarta safe? Let’s sum up with our top nine safety tips. We didn’t mention all of these above, so pay attention now!
1. Ensure your travel insurance covers you for travel to Puerto Vallarta and Mexico. Check your coverage, know how to contact them. Keep emergency numbers handy.
2. Join the U.S. Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Stay aware of any issues at the destination before you travel. While you are there, be alert and leave any areas that start to feel unsafe.
3. When swimming, or snorkeling in the sea, be safe. Check ocean currents and conditions. If you don’t go on a guided tour then be especially careful. Currents here can change quickly and land you in trouble.
4. Don’t flash the cash. Keep cash and valuables near to you and away from prying eyes. Only carry what you need each day.
5. While a lot of tourist workers speak and understand some English, not everybody will. Learn some Spanish phrases that could be useful in emergency situations. If you have dietary or medical requirements then knowing how to address these in Spanish would be helpful. If you can’t remember what to say, write it down.
6. Always be careful when it gets dark. Stay in populated areas and avoid any signs of trouble. Don’t get lost, and if you do, head to a public area like a restaurant while you get your bearings. Remember – do not hail a taxi from the street.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask local people for information. They know the area better than anyone else in town. Ask them about the places they would avoid. If they avoid them, then you can sure that you should too.
8. Check in with people at home. If you are traveling on your own this is extra important. Let people know your schedule, where you plan to be, and when. Make a habit of telling them when you have arrived safely. If one day you do not make contact then they will know to raise the alarm.
9. Last but not least. Try and blend in. Don’t stand on a street corner looking lost while staring at a map. Don’t drink so much that you start to get loud and draw attention to yourself.