Mexico is dangerous. The cartels are everywhere. You’ll get kidnapped if you go. These all-too-common phrases have been ingrained in so many travelers-to-be minds. So, if you’re planning a trip to the land of tacos and tequila, it might get you wondering—is Puerto Vallarta safe?
Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest cities in Mexico. It’s a tourist-oriented destination with relatively low crime and the kind of charm that turns tourists into expats.
As a solo female traveler, I felt safer in Puerto Vallarta than in nearly any other place I’ve visited in Mexico (and the list is long). So, I’ll help you understand the ins and outs of safety there.
First Things First: A Disclaimer
I’ve traveled to Puerto Vallarta several times as a solo female, all of which were positive experiences. But the information I share here, with the exception of statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on personal experience.
Everyone has unique experiences that shape their perception of any given destination.
So, take what you want from this and leave the rest. And above all, never let your guard down just because I or anyone else tells you that a destination is relatively safe.
Trusting your gut and following best safety practices are vital to keeping you secure in any destination.
May I Ask A Favor?
Since the recent bad press about safety in Mexico, we’ve seen an uptick in readers looking through our Mexico safety articles. I’m doing my best to answer the questions I receive. However, the safety situation in any destination can change fast, and I’m not currently on the ground in Mexico.
So, I’d appreciate you returning to this article after your trip and leaving a comment about your experience in Puerto Vallarta.
There’s nothing like recent firsthand experience to paint a more realistic picture of Puerto Vallarta’s current safety situation.
An Overview of Mexico’s Safety
Before we talk about safety in Puerto Vallarta, the chart below offers insight into the health and safety of Mexico as a whole.
|Organization||Index score||Country ranking|
|Global Health Security Index||57.0||25 of 195 (good)|
|Global Peace Index||2.61||137 of 163 (bad)|
The U.S. Government’s View of Safety in Puerto Vallarta
If you’re wondering, “Is Puerto Vallarta safe right now?” I encourage you to check the Mexico Travel Advisory page on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
You’ll find the most updated information there.
As of January 2023, Puerto Vallarta gets a clear pass from the United States, as government employees can travel there without restrictions.
It can get confusing, though, because the state of Jalisco, which Puerto Vallarta is in, has a “Reconsider Travel” warning from the Department of State.
That said, the Department of State lists the areas where it’s dangerous to travel within Jalisco, including the following:
- The Jalisco-Michoacan border
- Federal Highway 80 south of Cocula
- State Highway 544 between Mascota and San Sebastian del Oeste
The bottom line?
If you’re only visiting Puerto Vallarta and/or the Riviera Nayarit, the U.S. government currently deems it safe to do so.
You can even visit Puerto Vallarta from the Guadalajara Metropolitan area, which is what I pretty much did (I took the bus from Guadalajara to Sayulita before visiting Puerto Vallarta).
Is Puerto Vallarta Safe From Cartels?
Cartel conflict is relatively low in Puerto Vallarta compared to many other destinations in Mexico.
That’s not to say that there aren’t any cartels in Puerto Vallarta, though; the Jalisco Cartel has a presence there.
But the situation is relatively stable given that, unlike the deadly shooting between rival cartels in the popular tourist spot of Tulum, no major cartels appear to be trying to nudge their way into the Jalisco Cartel’s territory.
Nevertheless, in late April 2022, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico announced that Mexican security forces increased their presence in Puerto Vallarta. The Mexican government cited doing so because of the potential for confrontation between criminal groups.
It can sound scary, I know.
But before you jump to conclusions thinking that Puerto Vallarta is too dangerous to visit, try checking out the safety stats on the nearest city where you live.
Your city’s statistics may or may not be what you expected, but I bet it doesn’t stop you from visiting there if they’re worse than you thought.
Puerto Vallarta Safety for Female Travelers
So, is Puerto Vallarta safe to travel to as a female?
Yes, it is from my experience. I found locals in Puerto Vallarta to be extremely respectful. I experienced next-to-no street harassment besides the occasional drawn-out “Holaaaaa!”
The Malecón and Zona Romántica, which are tourist areas, were also exceptionally pleasant for exploring on my own as a solo female. Locals and tourists alike abound there, and pretty much everyone minds their own business.
I didn’t even experience typical tourist vendor harassment in Puerto Vallarta. The same can’t be said about Los Cabos.
I’m not a big night owl, but even at night, the Malecón and Zona Romántica areas were packed with people, making me feel completely safe to wander around.
Needless to say, when people ask me, “Is Puerto Vallarta safe for travel on my own?” the answer is an easy “yes,” in my opinion.
Transportation Safety in Puerto Vallarta
Are you wondering how safe is Puerto Vallarta for travel within the city?
It’s very safe. You’ll have four main options for getting around: Uber, taxis, buses, and a car/scooter rental.
Is Uber safe in Puerto Vallarta?
Uber is as safe in Puerto Vallarta as it is in any other part of the world. You’ll have access to all of Uber’s safety features on their app. You should also do your part by checking the vehicle’s license plate and asking the driver to confirm your name before riding with them.
The downside to Uber in Puerto Vallarta is that there’s high demand and few drivers. So, be prepared for a wait of 15 minutes or more at times.
If you have an important place you need to be—like the airport for your flight home—I recommend using Uber’s reserve a ride feature. You can prearrange a ride up to 30 days in advance.
Are Taxis Safe in Puerto Vallarta?
Taxis are safe in Puerto Vallarta if you call one. However, you should never flag down a taxi off the street in Puerto Vallarta because it could be a pirate vehicle.
Pirate taxis are sadly an issue in many parts of the world. But thanks to apps like Uber, it’s easier than ever for people to call a safe cab.
Is It Safe to Take Buses in Puerto Vallarta?
It’s very safe to take buses in Puerto Vallarta. The city is well-connected with public buses, and for around 50 cents, you’ll be able to travel between Puerto Vallarta’s districts.
I took the bus several times while in Puerto Vallarta and never had an issue. All buses have buttons you press when you want the driver to let you off at the next stop.
Is It Safe to Rent a Car or Scooter in Puerto Vallarta?
Renting a car in Puerto Vallarta is very safe. The roads in Puerto Vallarta (PV) are easy to get around, although you’ll need to prepare for cobblestone and potholes.
Scooters are another popular rental in PV, and you can drive them along the coast to Boca de Tomatlan. That said, driving a scooter along this road, while beautiful, can be dangerous, given that there isn’t much of a shoulder.
Is Puerto Vallarta Safe for Families?
Puerto Vallarta is arguably one of the safest places in Mexico for families.
Not only is the area around the Malecón and Zona Romántica well-populated day and night with a combination of tourists and locals, but the beaches are safer for children than destinations like Los Cabos.
That said, you won’t find as many all-inclusive Puerto Vallarta family hotels compared to places such as Cancun. Much of this is because Puerto Vallarta has a large retirement population. Read my article on Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun for more details.
Puerto Vallarta is also a popular place for the LGBTQ+ community and people wanting to party (although it doesn’t get nearly as rambunctious as places like Cancun or Cabo).
So, while Puerto Vallarta is very safe for families, you might find that there aren’t as many activities for kids compared to certain other destinations.
Puerto Vallarta Beach Safety
When considering the question, “Is Puerto Vallarta, Mexico safe?” beach safety might not be at the top of your list. But if you plan on venturing into the water, it should be.
Puerto Vallarta has relatively safe water for swimming, given that it sits in Banderas Bay. Therefore, its water is more sheltered from strong waves and rip currents than destinations like Los Cabos.
Nevertheless, rip tides happen. So, it’s crucial to check the flags on the beach to determine how safe the water is for swimming.
As for cleanliness, I wasn’t impressed with the water clarity during my visits. Then again, it’s unfair to compare the Pacific Ocean’s water with Mexico’s Caribbean Sea destinations.
The good news is that ten of the beaches around Puerto Vallarta have Blue Flag status, meaning they have excellent environmental standards and the water has insignificant amounts of harmful bacteria.
Food & Water Safety in Puerto Vallarta
By now, you’ve hopefully gathered that it’s pretty safe to travel to Puerto Vallarta. But you might be wondering—what about food and water safety?
This is Mexico, after all.
Yes, it is. But it’s also a touristy part of Mexico, so restaurants typically take extra special care to prevent the “traveler’s stomach.”
Furthermore, Puerto Vallarta spent millions of dollars to install and maintain municipal water that meets international standards for safe drinking water.
So, this means that not only is your food cooked in safe water, but you can technically drink Puerto Vallarta’s water straight from the tap.
I’ll admit it—I stuck with drinking water from water bottles when I was in Puerto Vallarta. But this information is yours to proceed with how you see fit.
Safest Areas to Live in Puerto Vallarta
So, is it safe to vacation in Puerto Vallarta? In my opinion, yes, it’s very safe.
However, safety depends on the neighborhood you’re living in. So, some of the best areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta for a combination of safety and access to nearby attractions include:
- Zona Romántica
- El Centro (includes the Malecón)
- 5 de Diciembre
- Marina Vallarta
What constitutes the best neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta depends on personal preference. If you want to be in the heart of the tourist area, I recommend El Centro or the Zona Romántica.
Alternatively, if you’re interested in an upscale, more modern type of stay, Marina Vallarta is an excellent choice. Finally, 5 de Diciembre is one of the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta if you want relatively cheaper accommodation that’s still close to the tourist sites.
Is Nuevo Vallarta Safe?
Nuevo Vallarta is a very safe place to stay as a tourist or expat. Translating to “New Vallarta” in English, Nuevo Vallarta sits north of downtown PV and is mostly composed of more modern city sprawl.
That city sprawl happens to encompass a long, beautiful strip of beach, though, offering a more spacious beach experience than the smaller beaches around the Malecón. Nuevo Vallarta also has a marina and is home to some golf courses.
So, as long as you practice basic safety precautions, you should be just fine staying in Nuevo Vallarta.
Tips for Staying Safe in Puerto Vallarta
Sometimes the better question than “Is Puerto Vallarta safe to travel to?” is “What can I do to stay safe?” After all, petty theft and crime happen in even the safest places in the world.
Below are some tips to help keep you and your belongings safe during your time in Puerto Vallarta. Some of them might seem obvious. But as the saying goes, common sense isn’t always common practice.
- Use a money belt
- Never walk down desolate streets
- Don’t walk around with flashy jewelry or electronics
- Carry a copy of your passport with you, not the real thing
- Travel with at least two credit and/or debit cards and leave at least one in your room
- Use a VPN when connecting to public WiFi networks
- Always take out money from an ATM inside a bank, not on the street
To make your life easier on the off chance someone steals your belongings, write down your credit card/bank contact information and keep a copy at your accommodation.
It’s also wise to leave these contact details and copies of your passports with someone you trust back home.
What to Do in a Medical Emergency
Hopefully, you don’t need to see a doctor when you’re in Puerto Vallarta. But if you do, you’ll have access to a range of private and public health clinics and hospitals.
Some have set hours, others are open 24/7.
In almost all cases, you’ll need to pay for your medical services upfront. However, health care in Mexico is cheap (I’ve been around that block a few times).
Your travel insurance or health insurance at home might also cover emergency expenses abroad. So, this is something I recommend investigating before you travel.
Other Safe Destinations in Mexico
I’ve explored much of Mexico as a solo female traveler and have felt safe in several other destinations besides Puerto Vallarta. They include:
But should you be considering a trip to Cabo, learn why I don’t recommend it for solo female travelers.
So, Is It Safe to Travel to Puerto Vallarta?
It’s generally very safe to travel to Puerto Vallarta. While you should always check the U.S. Department of State’s website for the most up-to-date information on Puerto Vallarta’s safety status, PV is generally considered one of the safest places for tourists to travel.
Do you have questions that I didn’t cover here? If so, leave a comment, and I’ll be happy to help.
I’d also love to hear about your experience and takeaways once you visit Puerto Vallarta. I’m sure future readers will appreciate hearing more than one perspective on Puerto Vallarta’s safety 🙂