How Safe Is Puerto Vallarta For Tourists?


Puerto Vallarta is a tourist-packed paradise beach town attracting millions of visitors every year! Although, many people are hesitant when visiting due to the potential safety risks. I’ve traveled to Puerto Vallarta as a tourist multiple times now, but, naturally I was curious just how safe Puerto Vallarta was for a tourist such as myself, my first time visiting. Here’s what I’ve discovered.

Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest cities in Mexico for tourists in terms of crime rate. Main concerns include corruption, bribery, and petty theft. However, the streets of Puerto Vallarta are protected by the Mexican National Guard who roam the city on foot 24/7. Puerto Vallarta is safe to walk around day or night.

The first city I ever traveled to outside of the USA was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Now, as a gringo from Idaho (you know, the potato state) I stand out quite a bit. There was not a single moment where I felt uncomfortable or unsafe. In fact, the people who visit Puerto Vallarta are very friendly and so are all the locals who live there.

Is It Safe To Walk Around Puerto Vallarta At Night

Malecon Boardwalk at night

My wife and I explored the entire city of Puerto Vallarta until midnight one evening. We walked deep into town and even found a few exceptional places to eat, all while staying safe.

According to Numbeo.com, Puerto Vallarta’s crime index is on the low side and the safety index is above average, especially for Mexico. As well, hundreds of people who have experienced Puerto Vallarta chimed in and noted that walking both day and night in Puerto Vallarta are considered safe.

I don’t necessarily condone walking around at night, but in my experience it was a great time. There are some things you can do to improve your overall safety as well, such as:

  • Use a bright flashlight
  • Avoid walking alone
  • Carry as little money as possible
  • Don’t draw attention to yourself by being obnoxious or flashy

Using common sense when walking around Puerto Vallarta any time of the day is advised. Even good people make bad decisions, so it’s best to not temp them with the ease of taking advantage of you.

Are There Cartels In Puerto Vallarta

I know many people fear Cartels in Mexico and due to the media and their portrayals, some are hesitant to visit Puerto Vallarta. But, are there actually in cartels in Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is known to have cartels and have seen a few cases involving cartel rivalry, most recently in 2020. However, these occurrences are rare and generally only involve members of the cartels. Tourist should not expect to experience any cartel activity as long as they aren’t involved with the wrong people.

Be aware though, one of Mexico’s fastest-rising cartels, known as Jalisco New Generation is currently active in the state and in some parts of Puerto Vallarta. This new cartel has already established a reputation as one of the most violent cartels in Mexico.

I have no intentions of instilling fear into any of my beloved readers, but I do want you to be aware that cartels exist, they are active, and you can find them in every city in Mexico.

Similarly to U.S. There’s not one city in the United States that doesn’t have some level of crime. Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in. But don’t let that stop you from having a good time!

Top Tips To Stay Safe In Puerto Vallarta

Overall, my initial impression of Puerto Vallarta is that it’s one of the safest towns in Mexico, making it perfect for any tourist or first timer. However, being that danger may present itself anywhere in the world at any moment, it’s best to take precautions and know what to be on the lookout for, as well as how to stay safe.

Here are some of my top tips for staying safe while visiting Puerto Vallarta:

1. Do Not Get Involved With The Wrong People

Puerto Vallarta is full of friendly people. Also, there are some sketchy people, if someone approaches you and offers any type of illegal substance or service (and they will), simply keep walking.

Don’t stop and chit-chat and definitely don’t let them think you are interested in any way, they will keep insisting especially if they think you are a potential customer. If you have to, say NO. Then keep walking.

Generally these “type” of people are gathered along the boardwalk for obvious reasons and once you’re there for a few days, they aren’t difficult to spot. So try to avoid them if you can.

2. Don’t Carry Around More Money Than You Need

If you want to ball-out and carry all your cash on you, I’m telling you right now—don’t do it. Instead, only carry the amount of money you need on you at all times. If you have a considerable amount of money that you need to carry with you, at least split it up so it’s not all in one spot.

You can stash some in different parts of your wallet or purse, in your shoe, your pockets, anywhere except for all together. Collecting all your cash in one spot is not only risky, it’s just not smart. If you happen to misplace your wallet, there goes all your cash. Or, if someone decides to take your wallet, again, you’re out of luck.

Another word of advice I will share; do not flash your money. Whether you do it intentionally or not, either way it’s unacceptable in my opinion. The moment the wrong person is aware of your money, the moment you become a target.

That’s why it’s smart to have your money separated, know how much you have in each spot ahead of time and don’t let anyone know how much money you have. Simple.

3. Avoid Leaving Any Personal Items Unattended

If you leave any personal item unattended, you are just begging for someone to take it. Trust me, it will be gone before you even realize you set it down. Just don’t do it. I don’t care if it’s at your dinner table, the beach, a bus, it doesn’t matter.

This includes your drinks as well, don’t leave your drink unattended and never let a stranger buy you a drink. You never know what is actually in it or what someone could put in it.

It’s safest to buy your own drink, watch the bartender when they pour it and never let it out of your sight until you finish it, comprende?

4. Tell No One Where You Are Staying or For How Long

This is really basic and may seem like common sense, but common sense isn’t common for everyone so I had to say it. Don’t let anyone know where you are staying or for how long you’re in town. Sure, they may just be nice people who are trying to converse, or they may be a criminal mastermind waiting to strike. The question is; are you willing to take that risk?

If so, more power to you but I advise keeping personal things personal. The only people who should know where you’re staying and for how long, are the people you are traveling with.

If someone does ask you and you don’t want to come off as rude, just make something up. Maybe say something more general and don’t be so specific. For example, I’d say: I’m staying in a hotel and for about a week. When in reality I’m staying in an Airbnb and I’ve only got two days left. What they don’t know won’t hurt em’, and more importantly will keep you safe.

5. Use A Flashlight If You Walk At Night

Like I said before, walking around town at night in Puerto Vallarta is safe in my experience and I have done it on more than one occasion over the years. Too make it an even safer experience, I recommend bringing an EXTREMELY BRIGHT flashlight, the brighter the better.

Not only will it light your path, but you’ll have the ability to temporarily blind anyone if you need to. It’s a win win.

6. Apply An Ample Amount Of Bug Spray

Bugs in Puerto Vallarta are abundant and they especially love chomping on tourist. It’s one thing to wear a bunch of bug bites, but it’s an entirely different story when your risk of catching the Zika virus is hirer in Mexico.

This is why it’s extra important to ensure you apply bug spray when you are heading outside. Especially if you are out early in the morning or late in the evening, this is when the bugs are out and about, waiting for their tourist snack.

7. Stay Hydrated — Drink Bottled Water, Not Tap Water

I can’t stress this one enough, YOU NEED TO STAY HYDRATED. It’s hot in Puerto Vallarta, especially if you travel there anytime between June-September; the hottest months out of the year.

My first time traveling to Puerto Vallarta was similar to being in a steam room the entire time. I was hot, pouring sweat (literally my shirt was soaked), plus I walked everywhere. This is the perfect combination if you want to experience dehydration, which I doubt you do. Although I didn’t personally get dehydrated, I saw someone who was.

There I was, minding my own business eating some tacos when I notice a man across the street pass-out. Everyone gathered around him, he had been drinking a lot, but it wasn’t water. . . He had been consuming a bunch of alcohol and as a result, ended up dehydrated lying face down on the sidewalk. Let that man be the example, don’t let it happen to you. He ended up being alright after he woke up and got some water.

With that being said, when you drink water make sure it’s not tap water. The tap water in Puerto Vallarta is not okay to drink and you will most likely get sick. It may be okay to brush your teeth with (I do), but don’t swallow it.

Instead, go down to the local market and get yourself either a gallon jug or a large pack of single bottled waters. You can always buy more, so just start with one pack or 2 gallons. As well, most of the water at the restaurants should be okay to consume however, I always opt for a bottled water if it’s available, or better yet just bring your own.

8. Wear A Lot Of Sunscreen

Don’t end up being a walking lobster, use some dang sunscreen. Even if you only plan on being outside for a little while you are likely to burn. For my pale skin, it usually only takes 30 minutes of direct sunlight until I start crisping up. Even for my Hispanic wife who is already very dark, she burns as well.

There’s nothing worse than having your trip ruined because your skin is too tight and you can’t even move. Planning a beach day? Make sure to apply your sunscreen 15-30 minutes prior to getting in the water, or whatever your sunscreen directs you to do.

Make sure you cover all the forgotten areas as well, don’t skimp out on the sunscreen application. Ensure your ears, forehead, nose and anything else exposed is lathered in a nice layer of sunscreen.

It’s best if you can find the “reef -friendly” sunscreen. Not only does it protect you, but it’s environmentally friendly and doesn’t harm the ocean life. Also, any excursions you partake in will most likely require you to use “reef-friendly” sunscreen only. Otherwise, they may confiscate your normal sunscreen until your excursion is over. Yikes!

9. Try Not To Eat Any Perishable Food That Is Sitting Out

Along the boardwalk you will find delicious food stands and vendors selling just about everything. I recommend you try it all, with the exception of anything perishable that is not stored at the proper temperature and here’s why.

During my most recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, I decided to try some cheesecake that was being sold on the boardwalk. It was DELICIOUS. Some of the best cheesecake I have ever tried. There was just one problem I didn’t take into consideration at the time of indulging; the cheesecake had been there since the afternoon (it was evening time) and it was warm.

Well, about 1-2 hours after eating this delectable cake, I began to experience extreme stomach pain. You can probably imagine what happened next, it wasn’t good. I woke up the following day and was in so much pain, I ended up staying in bed the entire day. Then the next day came, I decided to get up and tough it out but STILL, extreme pain throughout the day and I wasn’t able to enjoy any food, just liquids.

To think this could have all been avoided if I had known what to look for, as well as what to avoid. That’s alright though, I live to tell the tale and warn others of the potential danger of eating food that is not stored properly. You have been warned!

10. Don’t Trust Anyone

I know, I hope I’m not sounding to cynical but you really shouldn’t trust anyone other than your travel companions. I’m not saying don’t be nice and respectful to others, but rather watch your back.

The thing is that you just never know, so it’s best to just assume that no one has great intentions for you. Stay aware, use common sense, enjoy your vacation, it’s really that simple. If something doesn’t feel right or you feel uncomfortable, leave, seek help, do something, but don’t be a sitting duck.

Arm yourself with these tips and you should have a delightful and safe experience in Puerto Vallarta.

Have questions, comments, concerns or more tips? Feel free to drop them in the comments section below, I’d love to hear some feedback.


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AlexWhiteGomez

I'm Alex, born and raised in Boise, Idaho. I love the outdoors and traveling. My favorite Country to visit is Mexico. Recently, I realized just how much I enjoy writing and sharing my travel experiences with everyone else. My goal is to help others with their traveling questions and concerns, and ultimately encourage others to take a leap of faith and venture out into the world, it is life-changing.

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