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An Expat Talks about Moving to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Puerto Vallarta

Name three things that you wish you had brought and three you wish you had left at home.

I wish I had brought more electronics, books, and computer software. All are easily double or triple the price in the US. This includes computers and pc accessories, cell phones, stereos, tv's, books, and magazines, etc.

I also wish I would have brought a dehumidifier- they are impossible to find here but absolutely essential. Quality cosmetics, beauty products, and health products are not available here and what is, is limited or made with locals in mind- for example, products for dark hair and skin tones or health shakes made from a local cactus. Linens here are often not as soft and comfortable as we are used to in the states and Egyptian cotton is impossible to come by. Comfortable furniture- beds, sofas, and chairs are usually hard as rocks here with rough fabrics. What I could have left are most of my designer clothing and high heels- cobblestone streets ruin shoes and humidity eats fine fabrics. It's not uncommon to go to your closet and pull out a shirt with mildew on it after even a week. If you're not too attached, there's no need to bring decor items- the art scene here is great and plenty of international decor shopping and boutiques.

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What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?

There are a few neighborhood guides online, including on insidepv.com, with pictures and video of the areas. It's relatively easy to choose where you want to be, because Puerto Vallarta is divided into 5 distinct areas- Marina, Hotel Zone, Centro, Old Town, Mismaloya.

The marina is pricey, surrounded by a golf course and yacht slips, fine dining and art galleries. The hotel zone is a strip of resorts and modern shopping centers. These two areas resemble southern California or Florida. Centro is downtown Puerto Vallarta where the famous malecon boardwalk is located- loud, popular with tourists, fast paced Old Town Puerto Vallarta is slower paced, trendy, more traditional with cobblestone streets, residences, bars/clubs- this is also the popular gay area and has become quite stylish. Mismaloya is farthest south with different areas along the way, marked by "the crescent beaches." This area is lush in tropical jungle and lined with villas and luxury condominiums overlooking private beaches and the ocean.

What type of housing do you live in? Is this typical for most expats in your area?

I live in an apartment/condo. This is typical housing when living in town. Condos were built around the older homes of the locals which are usually very poor, built for convenience rather than for comfort.

If living out of town, or up on the hills surrounding Puerto Vallarta, villas and luxury condos are common and frequent. Some of latin America's most famous architects have designed villas in these areas.

How did you choose your neighborhood and find your home or apartment?

I initially chose to move to the marina area which is quite nice and a bit pricey but far from downtown Puerto Vallarta.

I then moved to the Southern area of Puerto Vallarta, Old Town. This is a very trendy area and the prices are often far higher than other neighborhoods, despite this being the less modern area.

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Are your housing costs higher or lower than they were in your home country? What is the average cost of housing there?

Much lower. I moved here from New York where my rent was close to 3,000 USD for a loft. My rent now is around 700 USD for a very nice 1 bedroom.

Inland, apartments start at $100-$300 USD for decent apartments. To be near the beach however, expect to pay no less than $600 for something decent, and around $1000 for something really nice.

Utilities are unpredictable but inexpensive for the most part. I work for InsidePV.com so I have at least 2 computers running all day, and occasionally run the air conditioner. This runs me about $35 USD per month. If I run the air conditioner regularly, the bill can easily jump to double or triple.

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Comments about this Report

Sep 29, 2010 23:24

Why are you even there? Egyptian cotton? How pretentious. Do you even want to be in Mexico? Perhaps you should have move to Paris.

Oct 8, 2010 16:23

For the past 14 years, we've been staying in PV several times a year for a month or more at a time. We've found that the prices for books, electronics, and computer software at Sam's Club and Wal-mart to be equivalent to, but not more than, in the States. If you feel you must buy only American quality linens etc you can also purchase them there. However, we love the charm of Mexican products and usually choose those. Their pottery, pewter ware, and glassware are wonderful and its fun shopping for local items. We love PV and in fact are in the process of finding a long term rental or purchasing a condo there. I'm sorry you aren't enjoying the PV adventure as much as we do. Yes, there are challenges at times; but the friendliness of the people, their culture, dining experiences and all the other great things about PV more than make up for any of the "inconveniences". Signed: A future expat

Jan 20, 2011 17:25

Thanks for your ideas! And ignore those comments from those expats who think they are more "culturally sensitive" than you! I especially appreciate the dehumidifier suggestion and would never have thought of it myself. We live in Phoenix where the air itself is so dry that stores wouldn't even carry such a thing.

May 16, 2011 12:58

My family and I have been visiting Puerto Vallarta twice yearly for the past 9 years. We love it there!! We remodeled one of those world designed townhouses you talk about and I was left with absolutely nothing nice to find and to buy in Puerto Vallarta. I flew to Guadalajara. I hired a taxi for the day who took me to almost every furniture store...it was in and out sort of day, all of them had the same stuff that I could find in P.V...until I found what it is the most expensive place to buy furniture and on a Thursday I bought all my furniture, paid with my Amex and two days later the truck was in front of my house with the delivery. All arrived in perfect condition. I hired help to bring the stuff upstairs. For stuff for the house, I visited Liverpool in Guadalajara and it was extremely expensive....so, next time we flew back to our home in P.V. I filled two suitcases for each kid of mine with stuff that we needed and throughout the years we have been bringing whatever we need. I don't know if it is the water or the detergent in P.V. but our clothes are ruined when we do the laundry there...for food I love to go to the local markets where everything is organic and cheaper...and for tacos...we have come across a few taco stands that have the best food in humble surroundings...personally, I don't care for Nuevo Vallarta or Marina Vallarta and the 'feel' of the old town is what attracted us there from the beginning. The P.V. people, the natives, are wonderful and warm people...oh...and about the humidity, our closets are as old as the house and air gets inside the closet but it has not been a detriment. One more thing: CFE...the electric company. I just learned that there is a fee for X mount of electricity consumed, if you exceed that amount the rate goes higher, after this X amount used, if you use more then you pay more. An interesting way to make the consumer to use less, in this case, air conditioning! We love PV! in fact, our gorgeous Balenese cat, former homeless Vallartanse I brought to the USA, was baptized PeeVe!

Jan 26, 2012 11:00

Thank you for your report - its pretty comprehensive - and I would agree with the general assessment of the different areas . Question : How can I get a job as a Nurse ? not in a hospital preferably . Any suggestions welcome. Email :- hpg421@yahoo.ca Hilary

Feb 20, 2012 13:35


Mar 27, 2012 10:18

Thank you for your detailed report. I am in PV right now looking for a place to retire, My question is - would you invest hard earned dollars into a condo on the beach in old PV near the boardwalk? Your comments would be appreciated.

Mar 7, 2013 14:23

Why cose PV vs Sayulita or ??

Mar 8, 2013 17:35

WHY move to PV. V. CRica or???

May 14, 2013 17:37

UPDATE FROM THE AUTHOR - Wow, I wrote this quite some time ago after being asked for an interview and wasn't aware it was re-published! Just an update on my status: I lived in PV for about 5 years and Cabo San Lucas for 1 year. I just finished a 3 year trek traveling the world and am now moving back to Puerto Vallarta. I have returned to PV frequently between my travels and as many have surely noticed- much has changed! I'm happy to offer a few insights taking these changes into consideration. I have thoroughly enjoyed living in Puerto Vallarta. It has been an amazing, very rewarding experience from both its ups and downs and I wouldn't change it for the world! First, I'll address the "haters" - Ease up guys! I was interviewed for this quite some time ago and answered honestly, and appropriately for the current state of what was available etc. Myself and many of my fellow expat friends often joke about preferring not to sleep on sheets that feel like wool and having to search high and low for furniture that is not micro sized and hard as concrete. (When I say micro-sized, I mean it- much of the furniture looks like what is sold for children in the states.) I can only assume those who said these things haven't yet seen what I'm talking about. Regardless, everyone has their own preference. Updates- With the arrival of Sams Club, Walmart and Office Depot, have come an increased availability of electronics etc. The prices have become much more comparable to what you would find in the states as well. You can buy pretty much anything you could need right here, from a shiny new Mac laptop to a glass top desk now. However, if you want a top of the line Mac with your specifications... you will be better off getting that sort of thing in the states. In other words- whatever you need, you can probably find it here, but you won't have too many options to choose from. Quality towels, linens etc can be found but I still prefer to bring mine from the states- much cheaper and much more variety. If you really need something once you're already in pv, there is an upscale department store at the Galerias Mall called Liverpool. Brand names galore, but very pricey. There is also a Nike store in this mall, a Prada, and Levi, as well as many cute shops for beach wear. Beauty products- happy to say, with the arrival of Walmart, John Freida and many other brand names can easily be found. No more buying jugs of generic soap labeled shampoo that turns your hair orange! haha I wish there were more names for the comments above- I'll just do a Q & A approach to above comments: Commentor who found all her furniture in Guadalajara- obviously someone that knows what it's like to move to Vallarta! I would love to know which furniture store that was! I've had the same experience and have ended up finding some great things in G. I am moving into my new villa along the crescent beaches and paid extra for the furniture they already had there- very impressive quality and I found out much of it was imported. Q: Regarding kitchenware and decor. A: I will agree with one of the comments above- I loooove the more traditional glassware and artistic home decor available in stores throughout the city. Half the fun is in hunting through the hundreds of shops that offer these things and finding fun pieces. Q: How can I be a nurse in Puerto Vallarta? A: I would suggest going the private route. I have known several expats and retirees that kept a nurse on private staff. I know at least one of them found their nurse through the Mano a Mano publication. This is a small local booklet that is released every friday with classifieds. It's really a very important publication for the locals in PV for finding rentals, work, pets, selling and buying items, and that includes real estate by locals. You can find some great deals in this since it is not targeted at tourists in general. manoamano.com Q: Would you invest hard earned dollars into a condo on the beach in old PV near the boardwalk? A: Absolutely. Especially if it is something that can be fixed up a bit. Tthis is a very trendy spot, it can be one of the more expensive locations in the entire city. Over the last 5 years in particular, many buildings here have been redeveloped into luxury condos and with good reason; this location is easy to rent out and is always in high demand. Q: Moving to PV vs. C.Rica? A: You know, I haven't been to C.Rica yet so I can't really offer a comparison. I will just say that the reasons I have opted to move back to PV full time, is: 1. It's only a 2.5 hour flight from LA. 2. Inexpensive beachfront luxury. 3. Endless modern amenities available. 4. HUGE American and Canadian expat community. 5. Major intl airport with lots of direct flights. 6. World class dining, golf, spas etc. 7. The people are amazing, friendly, & always helpful. 8. It's stunningly beautiful and peaceful. 9. Beautiful, touching culture (Christmas pageants, colorful festivals, and always something to do! Q: What do you mean by inland apts? How far from the beach. A: You can find something decent just 5 blocks inland for well under $1000. In fact there are plenty of options within short walking distance to the beach. As with anywhere else, the farther inland you go, the less expensive. Q: Why PV vs Sayulita? A: Very simple choice for me. Sayulita is the same as living out in the country. It's secluded, quiet and there are no major stores etc there. It's beautiful and I love the traditional touches here but I prefer modern amenities, always having something to do, and being close to my friends in PV for meetups at La Palapa Restaurant, etc. I hope this helps you all in moving to PV or even deciding if this is the right choice for you. I'm looking forward to being back in Vallarta.

Jul 28, 2013 19:08

Thanks for your posting . I go back and forth every month from Phoenix as I have r salon on Olas Altas in the Romantic Zone and r salon in Phoenix on Camelback Rd. I do most of my shopping there at Costco because the only real rule of thumb I have when it comes to my purchases is I NEVER buy anything at Walmart . Costco pays their employees a living wage and gives benefits. I don't care what country I am in Walmart is the last place I will give my $. Rick @ r salon

Dec 28, 2013 17:49

What is the name of a good Furniture store in Guadalajara? We are going there in Feb. Any suggestions of a furniture store in PV or NV? We need 2 small accent chairs for our condo. We purchased a sofa-bed from SOlutions Mexico in Bucerias and had end tables and a dining table made of termite resistant wood.

May 27, 2014 12:02

Dear Author, what is your name? I just read your update. thank for all the information. I am thinking of buying a condo in P. V. I want to be near the beach. I am reading a lot about being in old town and also about being on a hill. And in your report you talk of renting,but I am interested in buying. What area would you recommend buying a condo in that has good resale value and is nice to live in? Can you comment on this please. And what is your profile so I can message you privately?

Sep 15, 2014 18:01

Is there any demand for Acupuncturists? We visit PV about once a year and I would love to live there. I have been a licensed acupuncturist for 14 years and I was wondering if there is a market for me. Any advice would help. Thank you.

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