Is Puerto Vallarta Safe? While there are many sites that tout the danger of visiting Mexico, there are also plenty of others that argue otherwise with me being the biggest proponent of traveling to Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta has been appointed as The Friendliest City in the World by Travel + Leisure magazine.
Its coasts are embraced by the Sierra Madre Mountains and sprinkled with beaches, islands, and coves, with stunning landscapes contrasting between the sea and the mountain.
Situated on Mexico’s Pacific coast in Jalisco state, Puerto Vallarta is surrounded by the clear waters of Bahía de Banderas (Banderas Bay), lush forests, and the ridges of the Sierra Madre.
And despite its scenic views, the city has maintained its authenticity.
In fact, walk down the cobbled and narrow streets, and you’ll find yourself in some of Puerto Vallarta’s most traditional areas, including the Romantic Zone, known for its lively atmosphere and its range of art galleries, and traditional markets, and eateries.
This guide on Puerto Vallarta safety will provide you with the facts you need to decide is Puerto Vallarta safe and I will point you in the right direction if you decide it’s not safe to visit Mexico right now.
I will also tell you what to do if you find yourself in an unsafe situation, as well as how to avoid those situations in the first place.
It’s important to check Mexico’s travel restrictions and warnings before planning your next vacation to ensure you really understand Mexico is safe for American tourists right now.
I will continually update the Mexico Travel Warning article therefore you will always find up-to-date information so that you can plan your vacation without worrying about your safety.
I will also discuss the following on Puerto Vallarta safety & Puerto Vallarta Travel Advisory.
- Is Puerto Vallarta safer than Cancun?
- Is Puerto Vallarta safe at night?
- Is Puerto Vallarta safe due to COVID-19?
- Is Mexico safe overall?
Is Puerto Vallarta Safe for American Tourists 2022?
Is Mexico safe and specifically Puerto Vallarta? That is the million-dollar question as Puerto Vallarta is the top luxury destination for many Black women looking to get away and chill, but violent crime is soaring in certain areas because American tourists are buying drugs from Mexican drug dealers.
Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful beach town situated on the western coast of Mexico on the Pacific Ocean. It is in the state of Jalisco, just south of San Blas and some 185 miles (300 kilometers) west of the state capital, Guadalajara.
The city also borders the state of Nayarit, which is home to sister destination Nuevo Vallarta on the Riviera Nayarit, sharing the same international airport on the edge of Puerto Vallarta.
Once an American tourist is murdered in Cancun or one of the neighboring cities travelers begin questioning whether Puerto Vallarta is safe. The stories go on and on about one murder after the other.
In November 2021, four American travelers were hurt in an attack in Cancun when gunmen opened fire on the beach. The month before, a California travel blogger and a German tourist were killed in a shooting in Tulum.
U.S. State Department Unveils New Mexico Travel Warnings
The U.S. State Department has released new official travel warnings for various parts of Mexico.
Instead of the warnings focused on COVID rates that were used over the last two years, warnings are now based on risk factors such as crime, kidnapping, civil unrest, and natural disasters. Warnings are also now made by state instead of the entirety of Mexico.
Typically, the State Department issues travel warnings by assigning a number from one to four based on the country as a whole, but this new advisory allows travelers to see safety warnings based on the specific area in Mexico.
This update comes on the heels of 6,000 troops being deployed in Cancun due to increased crime and drug trafficking as well as shootings that took the lives of tourists. To see the full list of warnings, you can visit the State Department website.
Covid-19 Update U.S. Embassy Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (June 12, 2022)
Location: Mexico Effective March 11, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 2 Travel Health Notice for Mexico due to COVID-19, indicating a low travel risk of COVID-19 in the country.
Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Mexico.
Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine.
Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC’s specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
The Biden administration will drop the Covid-19 testing requirement for inbound air travelers from abroad on Sunday, June 12, 2022, ending one of the longest-running travel restrictions of the pandemic.
The rule, put in place by the Trump administration in early 2021 and later tightened by the Biden administration, most recently required inbound travelers, including U.S. citizens, to show proof of a negative Covid test a day before boarding U.S.-bound flights.
Puerto Vallarta – Level 3: Reconsider Travel
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Mexico due to COVID-19, indicating a medium level of COVID-19 in the country
While there are travel restrictions in other parts of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta does not have any travel restrictions due to criminal activity and homicide as other cities in Mexico do.
Puerto Vallarta has largely remained uninvolved in cartel conflicts but this does not mean you should let your guard down and not use the common sense Gawd gave you.
Monkey Pox – U.S. Embassy Cancun, Mexico (July 27, 2022)
Mexico has confirmed 60 cases of monkeypox, Undersecretary of Prevention and Health Promotion Hugo Lopez-Gatell said on Tuesday.
To date, there have been no fatalities from monkeypox in Mexico, Lopez-Gatell said.
“Only about five or six people have been hospitalized because they had severe immunosuppression, but in general everyone has recovered in approximately 21 days,” he added.
The cases of monkeypox, which is related to the virus that causes smallpox but leads to milder symptoms and is rarely fatal, have been detected in 11 Mexican cities.
Over 16,000 monkeypox cases and five related deaths have been reported in 75 countries and regions, according to the latest figures released by the World Health Organization, which on Saturday declared the monkeypox outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.
People with monkeypox get a rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) and could be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.
- The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
- The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.
Other symptoms of monkeypox can include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle aches and backache
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
You may experience all or only a few symptoms
- Sometimes, people have flu-like symptoms before the rash.
- Some people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms.
- Others only experience a rash.
How long do monkeypox symptoms last?
Monkeypox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash 1-4 days later.
Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
U.S. State Department Travel Warnings
This year, the U.S. State Department revamped its travel advisory system. It previously gave Mexico an overall Level 4 warning for visitors to exercise caution but in March 2022 the travel advisory was reduced to a level 3 warning.
Violent crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery are widespread throughout Mexico.
Puerto Vallarta in particular is noted by the U.S. government for having zero travel restrictions.
Tourism is an important part of the economy therefore the local government has invested time, money, and energy into making sure there are not any Puerto Vallarta warnings and that Puerto Vallarta is safe!
Your safety in Puerto Vallarta is a priority for Puerto Vallarta Tourism so if anything does occur, your resort and the proper authorities will help you sort out any problems and answer any questions about safety in Mexico.
So, is Puerto Vallarta safe? Yes, but it wouldn’t be wise to assume that there’s never a petty crime.
It’s highly unlikely that any of your walks or excursions will lead you somewhere dangerous.
As you explore the city, exercise caution and avoid flashing a large amount of money or wearing expensive jewelry. These items as well as important travel documents can be kept in your safe at your resort.
If you’re going out at night, stay with a group, and don’t wander off on your own, especially if you’re a woman.
While Mexico is safe you should use safety precautions no matter where you travel, it is important to keep them in mind even in Puerto Vallarta.
If you use these simple tips and exercise common sense, you’ll stay safe in Puerto Vallarta during your vacation.
Puerto Vallarta Travel Restrictions for 2022
The last gang-related incident in Puerto Vallarta happened on July 18, 2020. A group visiting the Pacific resort of Puerto Vallarta was apparently attacked by suspected members of an organized crime gang, and one was killed and the others have disappeared and may have been kidnapped, Jalisco state authorities reported.
How many murders have happened in your hometown? I am sure more than one.
Do not let the over-exaggerated news stories deter you from traveling to this vibrant Latin American destination.
Aside from dangerous areas along the U.S. border and other regions where cartels operate, Mexico is safe and I firmly believe it is safe to travel to Mexico including Puerto Vallarta.
In general, if you’re not taking part in illegal activities you don’t have anything to worry about.
To put things in perspective, Level 3 is the same tier given to many other tourist hotspots that have an uptake in criminal activity including the following countries:
Italy has the same level 3 warning so why is Mexico considered more violent and why are you asking is Puerto Vallarta safe?
Is it Safe to Travel to Puerto Vallarta?
No matter where travelers go in Mexico, even if their destination is a place like Puerto Vallarta with no travel restrictions, they should still consider safety suggestions by the State Department.
Puerto Vallarta achieved Sharecare health security verification, becoming the world’s first VERIFIED™ travel destination.
This designation signifies that the majority of the hotels and resorts in the destination continue to ensure that their health protocols are in compliance with over 360 expert-validated global standards.
The seven-step system evaluates and strictly implements health and safety protocols across the airport, transportation, accommodations, restaurants and bars, tour activities, the beach, and throughout the local community.
Is Puerto Vallarta Safer than Cancun?
Both Puerto Vallarta and Cancun are relatively safe but Puerto Vallarta has less crime than Cancun.
Cancun has made headlines in recent years for spiking murder rates and other unfortunate statistics. However, the government there has taken steps to improve safety, especially in tourist areas.
You’ll likely see multiple levels of police roaming the beaches around resorts to protect travelers.
Puerto Vallarta has a strong police presence as well but has far less recorded crime.
While Puerto Vallarta has less crime you should stay aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables secure. Tourist-targeting pickpockets and scammers are common in both Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and other Mexican cities.
How to Deal with Police Extortion in Puerto Vallarta
We’ve all heard the stories about the corrupt cops south of the border. With stories ranging from extortion to kidnapping, the police in Mexico and the rest of Latin America do not have the best reputation.
Police extortion of tourists detained for minor offenses is often a problem and there have been some grotesque incidents. The authorities cracked down hard, however, and dismissed hundreds of officers, including some top officials. They claim the problem is under control.
If you are stopped for a traffic violation in Mexico, you will be asked for your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and possibly proof of insurance. You will also be told what you did wrong.
Of course, in the U.S. we would then be issued a ticket that requires us to pay a fine or appear in court at a later date.
If it is a minor infraction don’t bribe them, even so, it is possible that they ask for some money, the amount depends on the seriousness of the infraction, if you passed a red light it is better if they only give you the traffic ticket
If you drive without a license, the car must be impounded and the fine is higher, in that case, I suggest you offer $ 200 pesos (if you look Mexican) if you are blond with blue eyes maybe about $500 pesos
If you are stopped drinking alcohol in the street, the fine is $ 1500 pesos or 24 hours of jail, you will probably have to pay your full fine
Those are the most common crimes for which a police officer can pull you over, obviously, if you steal or kill, the amount will be considerably higher
The key is to remain calm and accept your mistake and when it is inevitable that they take you to jail then subtly offer a bribe, it is like a negotiation, start with a low amount and they will go up to agree on an amount.
The strategy you Should NOT use to Deal with Corrupt Mexican Police
Don’t be a tough guy or gal
This is the worst thing that you can do. If you act tough and get angry and make threats, the officer will simply arrest you for being disorderly or assaulting him or her, etc.
This is a very big no-no. Towing your car is technically something that the officer can’t do, even though they will threaten it, but if you give them enough of a desire to cause you to harm they will absolutely find a way to make it happen.
While most officers will not do anything illegal beyond soliciting bribes for traffic violations, they most certainly can act above the law when they really want to.
Don’t give them a reason to want to, because you will not win. Having your car towed (and potentially never seeing it again) is a lot more expensive than paying him one hundred bucks.
Puerto Vallarta Safety vs. the U.S. Safety
Mexico is statistically much safer than the United States.
So why is the U.S. State Dept. sending out Travel Alerts, calling Mexico “A Failed State”, and saying that ALL parts of the country (including popular tourist resorts like Puerto Vallarta and Cancun) are now unsafe for travel?
There has been a lot of news coverage about violence in Mexico. But very little of it notes that Mexico is a HUGE country with thirty-one states (+ the Distrito Federal).
They also fail to mention that most of that violence is drug traffic-related, or that you could count the number of tourists who are affected by it on one hand.
Did you know that, according to the FBI, an estimated 15,241 persons were murdered in the U.S. in 2009 111 U.S. citizens were killed in Mexico last year, and almost all of them were involved in illicit drug trafficking, gun-running, or smuggling people across the border to/from the U.S?
Imagine 111 people out of the nearly 8 million visitors (about 1 million of whom make Mexico their full-time home). Do you know who else had 111 murders in one year?
Well, Boston for starters. Then there was Las Vegas. And Orlando. And Indianapolis. Is the State Dept. advising tourists to stay away from those places?
Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 U.S. citizens died in Puerto Rico, but did anybody raise a red flag about that? The State Department can’t issue a Travel Warning, because it is not a foreign country
How big is your own city doing when compared to Mexico? Here are the annual numbers of MURDERS, given by MSA (or Metropolitan Statistical Area)
- Atlanta – 325
- Baltimore – 298
- Boston – 111
- Dallas/Ft. Worth – 310
- Detroit – 447
- Houston – 462
- Indianapolis – 111
- Jacksonville, FL – 120
- Kansas City – 163
- Las Vegas – 133
- Los Angeles – 68
- Miami-Boca Raton – 377
- New Orleans – 252
- New York City – 778
- Orlando – 111
- Philadelphia – 436
- Phoenix – 302
- San Francisco – 392
- St. Louis – 210
- Washington, DC – 325
To put things in perspective, consider that the murder rate in Mexico’s Yucatan State is 2 per 100,000.
That is about the same as Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Or Evansville, Indiana. Mexico City’s murder rate is 8 per 100,000, despite being the second-largest city on the planet. That is on par with Albuquerque.
20 Tips to Stay Safe in Puerto Vallarta
Although a travel advisory is in effect, it’s important to remember that tourists flock to Mexico every year without incident.
The Mexican government is highly motivated to keep tourists safe in order to preserve the tourist trade but you must also do your part when traveling to Mexico.
Traveling anywhere requires a little bit of a safety precaution. So, remember to enlist these general rules during your vacation and you will not have to continually ask is Puerto Vallarta safe?
Here are some precautions that you can take in order to make sure your trip goes as planned:
- Keep Your Nose Clean: As mentioned above, much of the criminal activity in Mexico revolves around the drug trade and sex trade. Although many Americans go south of the border to have a little fun remember the last thing you want is to end up in a Mexican Jail.
- When Driving, Stick to Main Roads, and Daytime Travel: One of the most popular methods to extort money and protect cartel turf is through carjacks or roadblock ambushes. Avoid back roads and nighttime driving and hire taxis and driving services through the hotel where you’re staying.
- Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date about safety news through a few methods. First of all, talk with your travel agent and/or hotel concierge about safety updates, and where to go. They’ll have the most current read on the situation. As an American Citizen, you should also consider signing up for STEP, the Department of State’s Safe Traveler Enrollment Program. This will sign you up for travel alerts, put you on the consulate and Embassy radar, and make it easier to work things out if there’s an incident.
- Leave a copy of your passport and itinerary with someone at home.
- Keep your valuables locked up when you leave the hotel.
- Learn the language as much as possible (This is not just for safety, but also for courtesy, which can actually keep you safer too!) Remember the old saying you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
- Trust people who are invested long-term in making your stay a good one, like booking agents and hotel staff, and be on your guard with one-off opportunities.
- Research your destination: Make sure you are up to date on the current travel warnings.
- Keep windows shut and doors locked in a car: especially at traffic lights
- Use first-class bus companies– these bus companies take toll roads that have security checks on passengers as they board.
- Don’t walk around by yourself late at night: You are asking for trouble.
- Be careful taking money out of the ATM: these are good spots to rob people.
- Use a money belt: Keep the thieves at bay.
- Don’t get scammed: If someone is asking you for your personal information will are likely scamming.
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry – looking like you are balling out of control will get you robbed. Leave your LV and Gucci in the states.
- Ask for a hotel concierge: The hotel staff will be able to provide full tips about where to eat and what attractions you must see.
- Avoid getting DRUNK: you need to know where you are at all times.
- Don’t try to buy drugs: Don’t ask about buying drugs and don’t even think about buying drugs.
- DON’T travel at night: Most crime occurs at night.
- Only use well-known tour operators: Most of the cheaper tour operators will not have up-to-date equipment and experienced guides.
Beach Safety In Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is an internationally well-known beach destination due to its warm waters, exotic natural beauty, and top-notch facilities that blend in with its warm hospitality.
There are plenty of beaches to discover and to choose as your favorite, each of them with a particular enchantment, some of them are accessible only by boat, hidden and surrounded by magical sceneries, others with plenty of life going around them
Finally, while I understand you are in Mexico and “dranking” is at the top of your to-do list remember the heat and too much alcohol do not mix well and can lead to massive dehydration.
Avoid swimming at the beach when a black warning flag is posted. Cover your child with sunscreen or protective clothing before heading to the beach.
There are two main beaches in Puerto Vallarta, Playa Camarones (Camarones Beach) and Los Muertos Beach (or Playa de Los Muertos), the first beach is along the northern part of downtown and the second beach is in the “Romantic Zone” or Old Vallarta, south of the Cuale River.
Wear Sunscreen in Puerto Vallarta
You didn’t fly to Mexico to stay inside but please beware that Mexican rays are intense and can lead to a severe burn or sun poisoning, especially during the warmer spring and summer months.
The sun in Puerto Vallarta is pretty strong and high in damaging UV rays. Stay hydrated and limit the amount of sun you get based on your skin type.
• Staying in the shade as much as possible.
• Protecting skin with clothing.
• Applying sunscreen to protect skin from harmful rays.
• Wearing a hat preferably with at least 2-3 inches brim all around.
• Wear sunglasses to protect yourself from UV rays.
The Mexican authorities do not tolerate excessive drinking and rowdy behavior and here are a few laws a tourist may not be aware of when vacationing in Mexico;
- Foreigners must have a valid tourist card or a resident visa to be in Mexico; it is illegal to overstay your visa.
- Vehicle insurance is mandatory in Mexico if you are renting a car you need insurance with liability coverage. Consider purchasing a policy that includes legal representation and the cost of the bail bonds from a service provider who is available 24 hours a day.
- Many tourists come to Mexico to indulge and take in the nightlife, but did you know it is illegal to be drunk and disorderly in public, even in Mexico.
- It seems logical but drunk driving is a serious crime in Mexico; foreigners do not get any special privileges regarding drinking and driving, and if you cause an accident you will end up in jail.
- Under Mexican law, possession and trafficking of any illegal drug is a federal offense; you may be fined or imprisoned.
Eating Too Much Puerto Vallarta
Vacations are often synonymous with overindulgence – whether it’s too much food, water, the sun, party, or even rest.
This is why it is called a vacation. And when you are in Puerto Vallarta – you are bound to overindulge in all the above. But when it’s over, it’s back to reality.
Puerto Vallarta offers variety in its cuisines and budget. Take your time, it’s a vacation, not an eating marathon.
• Packing a few healthy snacks with you.
• Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Avoiding ordering the “fancy drinks” available at pool bars. Packed with calories!
• Take in a run or head to the hotel gym every morning before heading out sightseeing.
Is Puerto Vallarta Safe for Families?
Mexico is safe but if you are traveling with small kids the beach resort areas of Puerto Vallarta and other popular Mexican cities are popular vacation destinations for families with young children.
These areas provide you with the opportunity to introduce your kids to a new culture, new food, and a different way of life.
Is it Safe to Rent a Car in Puerto Vallarta?
For the most part, bus travel is the best way to get around in Mexico, but if you are anything like me I prefer to be on my own time and not have to wait on other people.
Getting around Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay is quite easy, even if you don’t speak Spanish.
While public transportation is efficient and taxis are affordable, renting a car offers so much more freedom of movement and comfort.
Booking online can save you money and give you access to the best deals, just be aware that the prices quoted online do not always include the costs for obligatory insurance coverage. You are also recommended to opt for full coverage.
Is it Safe to Drink the Water in Puerto Vallarta?
Not only has Puerto Vallarta’s water been rated as perfectly safe for human consumption with a certificate of purity for 17 consecutive years, but it is also one of only two vacation destinations in the country to achieve this important distinction.
Moreover, the city is well known for its attention to the quality of drinking water as a part of local culture, and major hotels and other accommodations often have their own dedicated filtration systems on top of the municipal filtration system.
Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta
The best time to visit Puerto Vallarta is between April and June when the weather is pleasant and the room rates are affordable.
During these months, rain is scarce and there are fewer tourists compared to the winter high season. If you’re interested in whale watching, however, visit from December to March.
Just prepare yourself for the area’s most astronomical travel fares.
What Not To Miss in Puerto Vallarta
There are many great activities for those spending just a day in PV.
- Explore the beautiful Malecón the boardwalk that runs parallel to Banderas Bay.
- Los Arcos or the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe – two of the most iconic images of the city.
- Botanical Gardens of Vallarta
- The Northern seaside town of Bucerías.
- Signing up for one of the best Puerto Vallarta tours
Millions of people visit Mexico each year and 99% of travelers do not run into any trouble but the 1% that makes the news is all that you hear about and you began asking yourself is Puerto Vallarta safe.
Mexico Travel Warning
ASSISTANCE FOR U.S. CITIZENS
Mexico, D.F., Mexico C.P.
Conclusion: Is Puerto Vallarta Safe
Is Puerto Vallarta safe? Yes, if you stay abreast of all Mexico travel warnings, exercise common sense, and pay attention to news about safety in the city you are visiting I don’t think you will have any issues.
Keep in mind that bad things can anywhere not just in Mexico but I am sure there are crimes taking place right in your very own neighborhood.
No matter where you go in Mexico, follow the common-sense rules that are listed above like drinking only in moderation, getting a cab instead of wandering around after dark, and leaving your expensive watches and rings at home.
Mexico is safe to visit so long as you stay out of trouble, take precautions, don’t buy drugs, and ladies do not allow men to buy you a cocktail and I don’t care how cute he is. BUY YOUR OWN COCKTAILS!
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