12 April 2016

Puerto Vallarta Essentials

Puerto Vallarta has just been rated number 10 in the list of the most desirable places in the world to retire.

So what do you need to know if you are coming here for the first time?

There are many of these boards around in case you get a bit lost

What to bring

The weather is around 28°C (82F) during the day, sometimes a few degrees hotter but no more than 30°, so you will need light clothes. Nights are 10°C (15F) cooler but you will be fine in whatever you have been wearing during the day when you go out for dinner. Shorts, skirts, t-shirts, maybe one pair of light long pants and one long sleeve shirt and a light jumper (sweater).

The streets are cobbled, so depending where you are staying you might need runners, rubber sandals like Teva's for walking on the beach as sand will ruin leather ones. You don't need to dress up here.

Hat, sunscreen, water bottle, backpack. If you are only taking carry-on, you won't be able to bring any bottles larger than 100ml or aerosol cans, but shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream etc can all be bought at supermarkets here. In nearly four months during winter, it has only rained a couple of times and it was mostly during the night - very civilised.

On arrival

You do not have to pay an entry fee into Mexico as this is included in your air ticket.

Mexican currency

Mexico's currency is the peso which is expressed as $. The note denominations are $500, $200, $100, $50, $20. Coins are $20, $10, $5, $1, 50c, 20c, 10c. Not many people use the 20c and 10c, they just round it up. I have noticed two types of 20c & 50c. The old ones are bronze and hexagonal, and the new ones are silver and tiny. Some people just hold out some money and let the locals take what is due.

On the street and in some shops, when people say dollar it could mean US dollar or pesos, so you might need to check. Some places take both US dollars or pesos and there is an ATM that dispenses US currency down on the Malecon.

There are currency exchange booths on the Malecon which show the conversion rates for USD and CAD. The better one opens around 11am. HSBC won't change currency, I'm not sure about any of the other banks will, it might be worth checking. The rate given at hotels is highly in their favour, so don't use them.

There are ATM's at the airport, but there are also many in town. The ones at the airport are to the left of the exit when you come out. There are a number of ATM's by various banks and they charge a conversion fee and an ATM fee around 46 pesos regardless of the amount you are withdrawing. You cannot go into a bank and do a cash advance on your credit card, but you can withdraw large amounts from the ATM. I was able to withdraw 12,000 pesos, just under $1,000 Australian which is the daily amount my bank allows.
Map of Banks in PV.

Transfer from the airport to your condo

We organised a one way transfer from Puerto Vallarta Tours. We booked and paid for our transfer online before we came. It cost $US13 each to zone 2, which is south of the town, so places closer to the airport are cheaper. A lady was waiting with our name on a card as we came out and took us to our driver, and everything went smoothly. A yellow taxi from town to the airport is around 150 pesos but you can't get one inside the airport as that is reserved for the more expensive government white taxis, so you need to walk outside across a bridge.

Getting Around Puerto Vallarta

Map of PV bus routes
The standard price seems to be 7.50 pesos. The driver's have change. They prefer you to give them coins, not notes.

Many of the buses will have some of the names of the places they are going to such as Walmart, Hotels etc. That doesn't mean they go straight there. On a trip to play golf down near the hotel zone, the bus went up into the outskirts taking an extra hour than normal. He missed his game!

Map of PV water taxi's
The closest water taxi's from Old Town leaves from the pier at Los Mertos beach. The map above shows other destinations.
Link to schedule and pricing from PV to Yalapa
Link to schedule and pricing from Yalapa to PV

Water taxi

Puerto Vallarta Supermarkets

If you are here on holiday, you will probably eat out every meal, but long term, you will want to buy food and alcohol. There are two Walmart's here, one Costco, some large local supermarkets, local family run grocery stores and OXXO which is like 7-Eleven. You could bring a couple of bags back on the bus, but if you have a lot, you might want to take a taxi. A taxi from Walmart back to our condo in just south of town cost 120 pesos. You will find that wine is more expensive than a mixed drink such as a Margarita, if you buy a bottle it may well be more than your meal.

If you ask a taxi to take you to Walmart, he will take you to the one near Sam's as this is the one most of the tourists go to. Don't expect it to be like Walmart in the USA or Canada because it's not. There just isn't the variety of items. We prefer the Walmart near Costco.

Ley's supermarket is at the end of the Malecon. You can get pretty much everything here that you will need. It's about a 40 minute walk from Old Town.
The Pharmacie Guadalajara in old town is good for getting things you've forgotten.

There are lots of items you are used to that you won't be able to buy here, so you might have to alter your menus.

You won't find taco mix, we did find the single sachets in a speciality store, but they were a ridiculous price, you can't buy the spices to make it either.

Learn to make your own guacamole, it's easy and avocados are cheap.

Supermarket Map


Mega supermarket is down near the hotel zone and has a lot of items that you can't find at the other supermarkets. Probably the best supermarket.

Mega bread department

We buy all our vegetables at the Mexican market. The first market you come to has better quality and higher prices and they tend to round things off. The second one has some good stuff if you pick carefully. You can choose your avocados here (28 pesos a kilo about $A2.14, $US1.54) where you can't at the first place, she chooses them for you (35 pesos). The second place gives you a printed receipt, so you know you are being charged correctly. Buy fruit at the first place.

the local mercado in old town

More info on markets

More about food

Butter is called Mantiquilla and comes in 90g sticks. We bought margarine by mistake and it was so horrible we threw it out. Most of it is unsalted "sin sal", if you want salted, you want "con sal". The local butter tastes different to what we are used to, so try and get a Danish or New Zealand brand.

We bought the wrong oil, it seem to have a scent and made the food taste awful. After using olive oil for a while, we looked up the different oil names and got a vegetable one.

You will have to hunt for normal (black) tea, as the supermarkets only stock one or two brands and they do sell out, so buy up when you find them.


They advise you to drink bottled water but for washing vegetables or making ice, you can use microdyn which you can get at supermarkets. Add the required drops and wait 10-15 minutes. Now that we have been here longer though, we wash our vegetables using sink water and we haven't got sick.

He calls out agua, agua 20 pesos for 20 litres of water

Finding Properties to Rent

Booking Websites

Flipkey, Airbnb, VRBO, Craigslist, HomeAway, and of course if you only want a hotel, look at Expedia, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Kayak.
Be aware that Flipkey can charge between 5 & 15% booking fee. We got charged 7% and 13% on the two places we rented. I believe Airbnb is similar but I've never worked it out.

Real Estate Agencies

The Property Girl, Vistalegre, Vallarta Sunset, MyPVRentals

Most places will come with weekly cleaning included where they will also wash your towels and sheets etc, but not your clothes. Some places include water and gas but charge extra for electricity as many tourists leave the air conditioners on when they go out or leave the windows open when they are turned on.

Where to stay

PV is divided up into areas. The main ones in order from the airport are: Marina, Hotel, Centro, Romantica, Amapas. The Romantic zone is Old Town.
  • If you want to do the country club thing, stay in the hotel zone.
  • If you want to experience Mexico and don't mind a bit of noise, stay in the Romantica or Centro zones
  • Amapas, depending on how far out of town, you will need to either walk or take a bus


MedAsist is where the locals send the tourists as they speak english. It's on the corner of the main highway and Manuel M. Dieguez in old town, one block up from Basilio Badillo.

There is a doctor right next door to the Guadalajara Pharmacy on the main road in Old Town who would be a lot cheaper.

Activities in town

Friday night: South Side Shuffle: Last Friday in November to the first Friday in April, every second Friday 6-10pm along Calle Basilio Badillo, Old Town. Art, Jewellery, Fashion, Live Music, Drinks, Food.

Every Friday night: Only during peak season - Dec-mid Feb. Down at the Farmer's Market - Dinner and drinks from different stalls and a show - usually traditional dancing and music. When that finishes another band starts up in the rotunda. 

Saturday morning: Farmer's Market and there is usually a band who start playing at 12pm for an hour or so. Lots of stalls covering a wide range of items, including food for home. Eat lunch there and watch the band.

Farmer's Market

Sunday morning: Market up at La Cruz - you need to get a bus to Walmart, then another to La Cruz, about 50 minutes from town. Similar to the Farmer's Market with a few different vendors right on the harbour.

La Cruz market

Other Mexico Posts:

1. A very different place for us
2. Life's a beach
3. Living in Old Town
4. A seaside village only accessible by boat
5. Wrapping up Puerto Vallarta
7. Puerto Vallarta Essentials

*Prices quoted are from early 2016

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