a lone palm tree along the malecon

Is Puerto Vallarta Safe for Travel? 2024 Advice

Despite the fact that it’s one of Mexico’s most popular beach towns and millions of tourists visit every year, the question, is Puerto Vallarta safe, is asked frequently in online forums and in travel groups. In fact, travel safety in Mexico, in general, is a hotly debated subject. So, is Puerto Vallarta, Mexico safe? In this article, we’ll examine official government data and I’ll weigh in on my personal experiences as a woman traveling solo, concerned about safety in Puerto Vallarta.

Is Puerto Vallarta Safe?

I absolutely love Mexico and have been traveling south of the border since I was 15 years old. While I haven’t been to every state – yet – I have visited more than half of them and Puerto Vallarta and Jalisco, the state where Puerto Vallarta is located, are two of my favorite, and most visited destinations, in Mexico.

After traveling to Puerto Vallarta many times, I feel confident in saying that it is very safe. And it’s not just me that says that. Puerto Vallarta regularly appears on safe cities to visit in Mexico lists. It’s also secure enough that thousands of Canadians and United States citizens have emigrated there and many other snowbirds spend their winters there.

Puerto Vallarta Safety Stats

However, don’t just take my word for it. You can research crime and is Puerto Vallarta safe for travel using the website Numbeo. A useful resource for travel, Numbeo, is a cost of living database and collects its info from actual humans living in the city it’s providing data for.

Numbeo looks at different types of crime and breaks those down into categories. When you look at the data on the website it clearly shows that Puerto Vallarta is safe and comparable to Merida in all the categories. Merida is the capital of Yucatan state and was recently ranked one of the safest cities in Mexico.

Using Merida as a gauge, comparing Puerto Vallarta and safety with Merida’s safety on Numbeo, you’ll see the only real difference is that Puerto Vallarta is higher in property crimes such as vandalism and theft, homes broken into and things stolen and also in the corruption and bribery category.

As a traveler, I can’t speak to home theft or vandalism. However, I’m in enough local groups to know that it does happen. Especially since many tourist destinations were impacted economically by the pandemic. But as someone traveling, I personally have not experienced anything stolen while visiting Puerto Vallarta. Not a purse, a wallet or a phone.

Quite the opposite, in many of the online groups I’m in, it’s not uncommon to read about a tourist leaving their phone in a taxi or a restaurant and many times when they go back, it’s still there. I’ve even read about taxi drivers tracking clients down to return personal items.

As far as corruption or bribery, I also haven’t had an issue with that. Granted, Puerto Vallarta doesn’t have as big of a a problem with this, at least for tourists, as other cities like Cancun, Tulum and border towns have, but it does exist. However, once again, I’ve never been extorted or bribed in Puerto Vallarta. (Or anywhere in Mexico for that matter).

For reference, I did a quick comparison between Puerto Vallarta and Atlanta, my hometown, and the results are astounding. Atlanta rates moderate and high in almost every category. No wonder I feel much safer in Puerto Vallarta.

a vibrant colored mural in Puerto Vallarta that says Puerto Vallarta and answers how do you say Puerto Vallarta

The U.S. Government on Puerto Vallarta Safety

Let’s also look at what the safety Bible, the United States State Department, has to say about travel safety in Puerto Vallarta. As you may know, one of the State Department’s jobs is to keep U.S. citizens safe even when they’re on foreign soil. They regularly monitor and update travel advisories via their website for travel to other countries.

It’s no secret that Mexico regularly shows up in the United States news cycle and politics. And at times, it’s justified. As a country, Mexico has problems with drugs, gang violence and yes, cartels. The State Department currently has several travel warnings for Mexico. But what about Jalisco? Is it safe in Puerto Vallarta according to the State Department?

The State Department assigns travel warnings to countries, and areas within countries, using a 1 to 4 safety rating. 1 is safe and 4, the highest rating, is unsafe. Overall, Mexico is a Level 3 – or reconsider travel. Currently, there are six states on the State Department’s Level 4 – do not travel list of states. But Jalisco, and therefore, Puerto Vallarta, is not on the list.

Jalisco is assigned a Level 3 – reconsider travel due to crime and kidnapping status. Although, when you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that the reason for such a high level travel advisory for the state is because of cartel violence in a few specific areas, far away from Puerto Vallarta.

Quoting the State Department: “Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of Jalisco state. In Guadalajara, territorial battles between criminal groups take place in tourist areas. Shooting incidents between criminal groups have injured or killed innocent bystanders. U.S. citizens and LPRs have been victims of kidnapping. There are no other restrictions on travel for U.S government employees in Jalisco state which includes tourist areas in: Guadalajara Metropolitan Area, Puerto Vallarta (including neighboring Riviera Nayarit), Chapala, and Ajijic.”

US State Department

Notice there are ongoing issues around Guadalajara but not Puerto Vallarta. Government employees have no restrictions to travel to Puerto Vallarta. One of the reasons that Puerto Vallarta is a safer Mexican beach town is because the cartels mostly avoid violence in tourist areas. Crime isn’t good for tourism. When tourism is down, it affects the cartels. Who do you think they are selling most of their products to?

Is Puerto Vallarta Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

Is it safe for a woman to travel alone to Puerto Vallarta? Based on my experience – yes, I think it is. As a frequent solo traveler to Puerto Vallarta, I’ve always feel very safe there. Last year, I took my young, adult daughter with me for the first time. We had a great time, walking everywhere from our condo in the Romantic Zone. We spent time on the malecón and took Ubers to and from the airport.

Even though we didn’t go too far out of town or take any day trips this time, she had a pretty good introduction to the city. Later on, I asked how she felt about Puerto Vallarta, is it safe and did she feel comfortable there as a female? She wholeheartedly said yes, that she was very comfortable and never felt unsafe or threatened in any way.

Also, I would never take my daughter somewhere that I didn’t feel safe myself. After my many solo trips there, I have never felt unsafe in Puerto Vallarta. My experience includes leaving my resort to explore the rest of town, walking alone at night in the Romantic Zone, Downtown and the Hotel Zone and riding in various modes of transportation – taxis, Ubers, and buses. I’ve done all of that, and more, and felt very safe.

colorful tiles on a wall in Puerto Vallarta that says nos encanta Vallarta and makes you wonder is Puerto Vallarta safe

Safety Concerns and Scams in Puerto Vallarta

Just like any city, Puerto Vallarta isn’t exempt from petty crime but in reality the biggest safety concern you’ll have is getting too sunburned or having an extra fee added to your dinner bill. If for some reason you were to have your purse snatched, or wallet stolen, violence is rarely involved. Most thieves prefer a distraction method, targeting tourists because they are easy marks and carry money around.

One of the most common distractions I’ve read about in Puerto Vallarta happens someone approaches and falsely claims that you have something on your clothing. At times, they will actually put food, mustard is a common ingredient, on your clothes. While offering help, and when you’re distracted, a second person swoops in and steals your bag.

Another scam I regularly hear about happens at the ATM. There’s a bait and switch where thieves offer help and somehow swap your bank card for a a different bank card without you even realizing it. If you any experience issues when using an ATM, cancel your transaction and leave. Don’t accept help from anyone.

It’s also good to note that third party or sketchy looking ATM’s found in convenience stores or restaurants in Mexico or anywhere really should be avoided if possible. Only use ATMs associated with well known banks.

And even though these two scenarios are the most common distractions, or scams, I’ve read about and heard of, that doesn’t mean Puerto Vallarta isn’t safe. Plus it doesn’t mean it will happen to you. Just be care with your money and bags and you will be fine.

What Not to do in Puerto Vallarta

Besides the things already mentioned, how can you keep yourself safe in Puerto Vallarta? Here are a few more things not to do in Puerto Vallarta.

  1. Don’t leave your phone laying around. Phones are still quite expensive in Mexico and phone theft is common everywhere not just Puerto Vallarta. It’s best to keep your phone in your bag or on your person when you aren’t using it.
  2. Don’t carry all your money with you. When you go out only carry what you need. That way if you are the victim of a crime, or lose your wallet, you still have some cash on hand. It doesn’t hurt to travel with an extra credit card as well.
  3. Don’t overindulge in alcohol. To remain situationally aware and know what’s going on around you don’t overdo it on the cocktails. If it’s a special occasion and you plan on celebrating and drinking a lot of alcohol then at least have one friend that drinks less, or not at all, to watch over everyone else.
  4. Don’t carry a big open purse. Stick to crossbodies and compact bags with sevure straps. Even small backpacks are okay as long as you carry them in front zipped up in crowded places and tight quarters.
  5. Don’t buy drugs. Enough said.

Safety Tips for Puerto Vallarta

Besides the things not to do in Puerto Vallarta, stay safe by implementing other helpful travel safety tips and these very important three things:

1. Purchase Travel Insurance

Puerto Vallarta has excellent health care, urgent cares and pharmacies. You should have your choice of several types of facilities if you were to get sick or injured. Just remember that most healthcare facilities in Mexico require payment up front.

Before traveling, check your health insurance to see what it covers when traveling. Some policies like Blue Cross Blue Shield provide global policies. If you find you don’t have any coverage out of the United States then travel insurance can help in the case of emergency or if you need medical assistance.

Companies like Allianz and World Nomads are good choices and cater to long-term travelers and digital nomads. Or sites like TravelInsurance.com make it easy to compare a bunch of travel insurance plans with coverage aimed to casual travelers. You can even add in trip cancellation and interruption.

2. Pay Attention to the Ocean

When discussing the topic is Puerto Vallarta safe, since the city is located on the Pacific Ocean, where the waves can be more intense and rougher, water safety is one of the things you want to prepare for. Even though they are around, most beaches don’t have a huge lifeguard presence.

That puts it up to you to pay attention to swimming conditions and the beach warning flags. You should know what the different colors mean and when to stay out of the water. Green is safe, yellow is caution and red means you should stay out of the water. Purple flags means wildlife, like crocodiles or jellyfish, have been spotted.

Crocs generally aren’t an issue on beaches unless the beach is near one of Puerto Vallarta’s many rivers that empty into the ocean. It’s not uncommon to spot crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks. In the last few years, there have also been reports of injuries. For your safety, avoid the ocean around the rivers and don’t swim at night.

Playa Camarones Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

3. Watch What You Eat and Drink

Out of all the places I’ve visited in Mexico, I’ve had the least amount of problems with the food and water in Puerto Vallarta. Maybe this is due the fact, according to people that live there, the water in Puerto Vallarta is superior to water in other cities in Mexico. To the point that people will tell you that it’s safe to drink from the tap.

I personally wouldn’t do that mainly because bacteria in other parts of the world is different from the bacteria in your home country and introducing a different, or bad, bacteria can make you very sick. To be as safe as possible, stick to bottled water. Most resorts and hotels have water filtration systems or have ice, made from filtered water delivered so you don’t have to be too concerned with that either.

All and all, it really all just depends on you body and how sensitive it is. If you are predisposed to having stomach issues when traveling, what helped me, and I did this for my daughter when she was younger too, was a taking a Pepto before meals to protect the stomach lining. Note: I’m not a doctor nor am I offering medical advice, I’m only saying what has helped in my experience.

The good news is Puerto Vallarta has excellent healthcare so if you were to get sick, the city has plenty of urgent care facilities, hospitals and and pharmacies in the tourist areas.

Final Thoughts About is Puerto Vallarta Safe?

Puerto Vallarta, like any destination, has its safety considerations, but it’s generally regarded as a safe place for travelers. The city prioritizes tourism and takes measures to ensure the well-being of its visitors. However, as with traveling anywhere, it’s wise to always be aware of your surroundings.

Stick to well-lit and populated areas, avoid displaying valuables openly, and be cautious when engaging in nightlife activities. By staying informed and using common sense, visitors can enjoy all that Puerto Vallarta has to offer with peace of mind.

See you on the road!

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