PV, as it’s known for short, is one of Mexico’s most fun-loving towns. It’s a place where the pearly blue Pacific Ocean rolls against the shore, the Sierra Madre mountains offer trekking and horse riding just behind, and the famous Malecon walkway buzzes with life and spring breaker bars. But is Puerto Vallarta safe?
It’s a question that’s often asked by travelers looking to go south of the border, to a country notorious for its cartel activity and pockets of violent crime. And it’s a pertinent one, too, especially since onetime tourist centers like Acapulco have become pretty treacherous, and even resort towns like Cancun have seen an uptick in crime in recent years.
This guide will take a look at Puerto Vallarta on its own. It will offer some insights into how safe the salt-washed city on the Bahia de Banderas really is, what the main risks are, and just a few things you can do to ensure your trip goes off without a hitch. Ready? Let’s get started…
Is Puerto Vallarta safe for travelers?
Puerto Vallarta is actually among the safest cities in all of Mexico for travelers. That’s because it’s a major beach, surf, sun, and sand destination, so it’s well-versed in the tourist trade. The upshot? Most of the worst crimes that Mexico is known for – especially cartel-related crimes – tend to stay away from here, and the majority of trips to PV go very smoothly indeed.
Let’s crunch some numbers: Puerto Vallarta is rated at 38/100 by Numbeo for overall crime levels. That compares very favorably to other Mexican towns (Juarez, for example, is a whopping 79/100!). It’s also pretty good when compared to US cities – New York has a Numbeo crime rating of just over 50/100. The main worry according to the stats is corruption, while most things, from being mugged or robbed to having your car stolen, are conveniently considered low risk.
Of course, it’s still important you pay attention and have your wits about you whenever traveling to Mexico. Always check the State Department or FCO warnings for the country and remember that you’re traveling somewhere which has some of the most active drug cartels in the world. On top of that, you’ll need to be aware of common tourist scams, which happen frequently in the heart of the city, especially around the Malecon and the Zona Romantica.
Is Puerto Vallarta safe for solo female travelers?
Traveling anywhere as a solo female presents some extra risks. Not only will you have to pay attention to those Foreign Office or State Department travel warnings and be wary of scams and whatnot, but also be sure to avoid potentially risky situations. Thankfully, Puerto Vallarta, and the whole of the surrounding Riviera Nayarit is generally considered to be a fantastic place to go on your own as a lady.
The region has loads of welcoming beach hotels and hostels where you should find it a breeze to meet and mingle with other, likeminded travelers. Getting from A to B is very easy thanks to a convenient network of local buses and ubiquitous taxis (more on those later). What’s more, the main tourist areas of the city – from the Zona Hotelera right the way down to the Zona Romantica – have a solid police and security presence. The Malecon promenade is also very well lit, so you can use that for getting around after dark if you must.
There are some things solo female travelers should always consider in order to mitigate risks while traveling, though. For example, you should try not to head out at night on your own, always keep a close eye on what and the amount you drink while partying, and try to stay in well-known neighborhoods that are close to the center.
Is the tap water safe in Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta actually stands apart from the crowd when it comes to tap water. The city has been awarded potable water status for nearly two whole decades in a row, making it one of the very few places in Mexico to manage that.
There’s a very hi-tech urban water system that delivers drinkable water to most places, so, yep, it should be fine to imbibe. That said, we would recommend double checking with your hotel reception or Airbnb host just to make sure, since some buildings have older pipes that might cause issues.
Are buses and taxis safe in Puerto Vallarta?
Getting around PV is very easy. Not only is the city pretty darn walkable compared to other towns in Mexico (Guanajuato, we’re looking at you!) but it’s linked up by efficient bus connections and is served by loads of taxis. The main bus interchange is at Plaza Lazaro Cárdenas in the heart of the Zona Romantica. That’s where all the main public buses can take you up to the surf town of Sayulita and down to the beaches of the Bahia de Banderas. You pay for tickets on the bus itself and they run on loops, leaving every five minutes or so on the major routes. It’s all very well organized and safe.
Taxis are a different matter. They’re still safe but aren’t metered in Puerto Vallarta. That means you have to be certain to negotiate a price for the trip before you get in. Always haggle hard and then compare the price you’re about to settle on with a guidebook or blog average to ensure you’re in the right ballpark.
When traveling to the city center from the airport, we’d recommend using the licensed taxi service in the arrival hall, which ensures your transfer will be with a bona fide driver with all the necessary documentation. Uber is also an option. It runs smoothly in the city but might not be quite as safe as the proper licensed white taxis.
Dangerous animals in Puerto Vallarta
Is Puerto Vallarta safe on the animals front? Actually, there are some pretty gnarly creatures in the tropical Pacific forests that surround the town. They very rarely stray into the core of the city, so you should be relatively a-okay if you’re sticking to the Malecon and the Zona Romantica. However, many people will opt to travel north to towns like little San Pancho or south to places like Yelapa Beach. Doing that could bring you into contact with the following:
- Yellow bellied sea snake – Considered one of the most venomous sea snakes of all, these guys live all up and down the Latin American Pacific coast and can sometimes wash up in Puerto Vallarta and surrounding beaches. They can kill but usually need to bite and chew to cause enough damage for it to be fatal.
- Mexican west coast Rattlesnake – A member of the rattlesnake family that’s only found between Sinaloa and Oaxaca on the Mexican west coast, this critter has a highly toxic venom that can be fatal to humans. They usually reside in long grass and in shoreline jungles.
- Coral snakes – A coral snake is easy to identify thanks to its red, yellow, and black color pattern. They are venomous but not often aggressive.
The good news here is that less than 1% of snakebites in Mexico lead to death. However, there are other worries, like what’s in the ocean. Mhmm…the seas around Puerto Vallarta contain their own deadly animals. On the upside, the Bahia de Banderas that surrounds the city itself is generally considered safe because it’s protected from the open ocean. Venture north into the Riviera Nayarit and you could encounter everything from sharks to stonefish. Just a heads up for the surfers out there!
Top tips for staying safe in Puerto Vallarta
Here is just a handful of tips for keeping safe while traveling this buzzy city on the side of the sparkling Pacific Ocean…
- Plan to stay in the tourist-friendly parts of town – Puerto Vallarta is very tourist friendly but some areas more so than others. We recommend anywhere between the Zona Hotelera on the north side of town and the Zona Romantica (our fav) on the south side of town.
- Never leave your drink unattended in a bar – There have been issues with spiking in Puerto Vallarta, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on what you’re drinking here, especially in the popular spring break clubs on the main Malecon boardwalk.
- Always agree a price with the taxi driver beforehand – Taxis are unmetered in PV, so agree a fair price before you even get in the car. Remember to use the licensed taxi service in the airport once you arrive, too.
- Don’t travel around alone after dark – Most crime in Puerto Vallarta occurs after dark and being alone can increase your chances of becoming a target. We’d also recommend not driving around the Riviera Nayarit after nightfall, as there have been issues with cartels who might use the highways to transport drugs.
- Steer clear of drugs – It might seem obvious but always steer clear of drugs in Puerto Vallarta and in Mexico as a whole. They are illegal here and could land you in a Mexican jail that we can guarantee won’t be as nice as your beach-side hotel!
So, is Puerto Vallarta safe?
Is Puerto Vallarta safe? Puerto Vallarta is generally considered to be one of the safest cities in all of Mexico. It’s a hotspot for travelers of all ages and types, from beach-seeking families to party-hungry spring breakers. That means the whole city is well geared for tourism, and there’s nowhere near as much crime as in the most dangerous cities of Mexico – think Juarez or Tijuana, for example.
That said, there are some ongoing problems with serious crimes in Puerto Vallarta, which you can usually avoid by sticking to some simple safety rules. The city also has the usual measure of petty crime and scams, but that’s the same as just about anywhere on the planet. So long as you keep your wits about you and stay alert, the chances are a vacation here will go smoothly and without any issues.