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Playa las Animas near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Playa las Animas near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Playa las Animas near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Sep 08, 2022

Summary: Puerto Vallarta is a very popular destination for expats, retirees and digital nomads. With a population of close to 300,000 (close to 500,000 in the metro area), PV is diverse and LGBTQ-friendly. Life in PV revolves around beaches, nightlife and recreation (golf and fishing are popular here). Temperatures in PV range from highs in the mid 80s most of the year to low 90s from June through September. Real estate tip: rent before you buy so that you can decide which of the many neighborhoods is right for you (Centro, Conchas Chinas, Southside, the Marina, Neuvo... the list goes on).

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What do I need to know about living in Puerto Vallarta?

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When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Puerto Vallarta, they said:

"We visited Puerto Vallarta for 15 years before moving here. I would tell my friend to visit at least 6 times, renting in different places each time. The areas of this city/region are quite different, so that person should rent in Centro, Southside, Conchas Chinas, Mismaloya, the Marina, the Hotel Zone, and even in Nuevo and Bucerias before he or she commits to anything long term. Of course, I would also advise my friend to start learning Spanish and start saving money. Most real estate transactions are in cash because interest rates are very high here. There are long term rental opportunities, if one is comfortable living with a certain amount of uncertainty about availability year to year. I would also tell my friend that, after buying our condo, we have never been happier or so free of financial worries. We love living here," added another expat who made the move to Puerto Vallarta.

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What do I need to know before moving to Puerto Vallarta?

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When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Puerto Vallarta, they said:

"I suggest you begin by renting in the Versalles neighborhood--it is still affordable, well laid-out, and pleasant, and is central enough to give you good access to a variety of amenities and other neighborhoods. The deciding factor in choosing where to live will be whether or not you plan on owning a car. There are some gorgeous areas with spectacular views that you would probably not choose to live in without either your own transportation, a very nearby bus stop, or a willingness to use Ubers/taxis pretty much every time you go anywhere," added another expat who made the move to Puerto Vallarta.

"Franvan, Versalles is reasonably priced. Las Gaviotas is reasonably priced. Vallarta Villas (gated condos) maybe comparable with Fluvial pricing. 5 Diciembre (There are some newer gated condo properties in some of this area. Most of Centro/downtown and the Romantic Zone will have electricity and water/flooding problems during the rainy season. Fluvial, a residential area has both homes & condos for rent & sale with some being newer (all electricity underground, including internet/phone with Telmex). The Marina area will have more condos than homes for rent and you'll pay more than all of the above most of the time," explained one expat living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

"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," mentioned another in Puerto Vallarta.

How do I find a place to live in Puerto Vallarta?

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We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"I am currently happily settled in Puerto Vallarta, where I find there are more activities that I am comfortable joining than I found in Mazatlán. Though Vallarta is more "verticle" than Mazatlán (which is one of the features that appeals to former Vancouverites), there are also plenty of flat areas with nice homes and amenities and, personally, I rent 4 blocks from the beach (the last block before the hill)," remarked another expat living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

"Versalles, Aralias & Fluvial just to name a few. Rentals are found easy with boots on ground. You need to view in person and no deposits until you arrive. Otherwise, most likely, you will have a problem with your deposit and may never see it. In Zona Romantica (my opinion is that it’s for visitors/tourist) you will have fireworks almost every night, many tourist, road blocks for celebrations/water repairs, spring/winter breaks, flooding during the rainy season, and parties non-stop," added another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

"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," remarked another expat who made the move to Puerto Vallarta.

What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Puerto Vallarta?

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"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," remarked another expat living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

What is the average cost of housing in Puerto Vallarta?

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If you are thinking about moving to Puerto Vallarta, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"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," mentioned another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

How do I meet people in Puerto Vallarta?

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When we asked people living in Puerto Vallarta about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"Stroll the malecón in the evening, hang out at Captain Don's bar in 5 de Diciembre neighborhood, and at probably lots of bars in Old Town ("Zona Romantica")," said another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

"Take a look at Incanto: https://www.incantovallarta.com/ I've attended several events there and have made friends in this environment via Bingo & Theater. The owner is a great and friendly host. Stroll within the calendar, as well, since you teach Improv. The current calendar looks like its still within the high season. This and many other options are available in Puerto Vallarta," added another expat who made the move to Puerto Vallarta.

"Expats Vallarta is active and easily found on the Internet. They offer monthly get-togethers and other social events. Although mostly geared to people who vacation here every year, there is also a group that meets at Pour Favor every Tuesday evening. We have found, however, that going to the pool in our condo building is the best way to make new friends," explained one expat living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

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Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

What should I bring when moving to Puerto Vallarta?

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People living in Puerto Vallarta were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"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," mentioned another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

Will I be able to find a job in Puerto Vallarta?

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When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Puerto Vallarta, they reponded:

"The main industry here is tourism. That is probably followed by construction. I am retired, so I don't know how one goes about getting a work visa or finds a job. I do know there are opportunities for those fluent in Spanish in real estate," added another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

What is life like in Puerto Vallarta?

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When we asked people living in Puerto Vallarta what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"For Mexicans, it is all about family. Many expats here are retired and spend their time golfing, socializing, enjoying the beaches, painting, or writing. Other expats are working in real estate or own businesses like restaurants or art galleries," added another expat who made the move to Puerto Vallarta.

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What do expats in Puerto Vallarta appreciate most about the local culture?

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"I loved seeing how immaterial material things were. I became friends with a woman who lived in a 2 room dirt floored house. She and her family were happy and content. She had 4 children with her and they all slept in one room. It made me realize that in the US we have so much materially but it really doesn't help us be happier. I felt sorry for her in the beginning and yet ended up a little envious after getting to know her and her family," added another expat who made the move to Puerto Vallarta.

What do expats find most challenging?

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"The way there is nothing set when dealing with police. Or at least, what I experienced a few times. I got pulled over over something but there was an unsaid dictum that all I had to do was give the policeman some money and drive away," added another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Puerto Vallarta accepting of differences?

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"People here are very accepting of differences. The dominant religion is Catholic. There are a few storefront nondenominational or Protestant options in our area. There are few people of African descent here. This is an international city, however, with expats from the US, Canada, Germany, England, Italy, and other countries in Central and South America. It is a gay friendly area, offering many bars, clubs, and even resorts that cater to same sex weddings and events. People here are warm and welcoming, managing to cross any language barriers with smiles and laughter," mentioned another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

What are the schools in Puerto Vallarta like?

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"We had a very mixed experience. We wanted our daughter to experience another culture and learn Spanish. In this respect, we were very successful. Our daughter speaks Spanish fluently and with a Mexican accent. And, exposure to a new and different culture has left her a more mature person. Further, Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful place to live. On the down side, this success did not come without a cost. Mexican children are very class oriented, they are good at treating people (and often teachers) as 2nd class citizens. New students are treated as 2nd class. Our daughter reacted to this with righteous indignation. This brought down a tidal wave of pressure and isolation. Other new students seem to be better at figuring our the power hierarchy and moving with it, instead of against it - and they seem to have a somewhat easier time. But this is not an easy school to be "new" at. Finally, the school is behind the USA academically. The school tests their students against MAP scores. MAP scores seem to use the USA public school students as a base. Our daughter scores in the 90th percentile in MAP. However, when we tested her in ISEE (Independent Schools Entrance Exams) comparing her against U.S.A. private school students, she scored in the 40th percentile. So, the school would count as a very good U.S.A. public school, but significantly below average as a U.S.A. private school. However, in fairness, most of the children in the school are not native English speakers, so you must make some allowances when comparing them against NYC private schools," explained one expat living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

What are the pros and cons of living in Puerto Vallarta?

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Expats, digital nomads and retirees living in Puerto Vallarta responded:

"The culture shock has taken two years to acclimatize to, and it's not over yet for me. However, people here laugh more, smile more, and sing more than in the United States. The narco violence reported in the news is completely overblown. Private medical services, which is why we moved here, are superior to the US and are 1/20 the cost," mentioned another expat living in Puerto Vallarta.

"Great "starter" city for an expat, lots of available information, great community that allows you to integrate, lots of options, just plain "easy". That said, weather isn't for everyone, and a little dirty/trashy, plus choice of neighborhood makes a huge difference," said an expat in Puerto Vallarta.

"We loved our time in PV. The weather was beautiful, the location was beautiful, the expats were wonderful & gave us a great community to experience the area with. As far as finding the 'right' housing you really do have to take a chance on an area to see if it is a fit for you. Our first apt was very quiet, in a suburb of the town. We had access to grocery, dining, etc. within walking distance. We left that location for one in 5 de decembre. This was a true local neighborhood. The apt was brand new & we were the first tenants. We liked the building & the proximity to restaurants, businesses, the malacon, etc. However, we did not enjoy the weekends with music blasting from midnight to 4 am every Fri & Sat. So we moved to a location with more expats at the beginning of the pandemic. This place was heaven! It was 2 bed, 2 bath with a wonderful balcony, a pool for the building & just beautiful. The best place to isolate in. However, we determined it was not the right long-term location for us due to the humidity. We have lived in low humidity locations in the US for most of our lives, so Mexico was very uncomfortable for us. Good to know! ," remarked another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

"1. Slowness to responding to repairs 2 humidity and summer heat 3. Not having some USA products like Allegra, spices and clothing sizes and shoe sizes for women," added one expat living in Puerto Vallarta.

"PV is beautiful. Tropical mountains and beaches. The winters have perfect weather, but the summers are difficult because of the heat and humidity. The Mexican people are happy and friendly, and Mexico is much safer than its reputation. Rental prices and home prices in the expat areas are only somewhat less expensive than the U.S. because it's a very popular town. We are retired full-time residents, and the culture shock has been difficult for us even though we have lived in Mexico for two years. As private healthcare cash customers, medical costs are 1/20th of what they were in California, and the quality of care is better. Speaking some Spanish helps immensely. Food costs, both restaurant and grocery, are about 1/3 of what they were in California. We miss East Asian, Southeast Asian, and South Asian food, lol.," commented one expat who moved to Puerto Vallarta.

What type of social life can someone expect in Puerto Vallarta?

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When we asked expats and global nomads about their social experiences in Puerto Vallarta, they replied:

"The possibilities for social interaction in PV are just about anything you might prefer. There are socially interactive activities and venues everywhere. Physical, culinary, educational, exploratory, etc., opportunities are constant," commented one expat living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

"Large expat community that extends into the local community, great way to integrate," remarked another expat living in Puerto Vallarta.

"People are pretty friendly and helpful. I never see locals arguing with each other. Mexicans seem pretty happy most of the time," said one expat living in Puerto Vallarta.

"PV has a huge gay population so if your a straight single your options are limited," mentioned another expat inPuerto Vallarta.

"There's a large North American expat community in Vallarta, especially in winter. We have many ways of communicating and keeping in touch, so knowing Spanish is very helpful but not absolutely required. Many Mexican nationals here speak at least some English, which makes things easier even in the off-season," mentioned another expat inPuerto Vallarta.

"We didn't make friends with native neighbors but we did meet several natives in the restaurants we frequented. They are all very friendly," commented one expat who moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

What advice to expats in Puerto Vallarta have about housing?

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"PV is a boomtown. Consequently, rental prices and purchase prices are higher here than most places in Mexico, with no corresponding rise in quality," remarked another expat living in Puerto Vallarta.

"A lot of the rentals have become Airbnb's because they can make more off them then monthly," said one expat living in Puerto Vallarta.

"PV is booming. Prices for rentals and real estate are very high in expat areas of town. Outside of the expat areas, prices are much more Mexican, but so is the quality," mentioned another expat inPuerto Vallarta.

What are medical services in Puerto Vallarta like?

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When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Puerto Vallarta, they replied:

"As cash customers of healthcare services in both the US and Mexico, we have found that private system medical costs all across Mexico are 1/20 of what it used to cost us back in California. We have also found the quality of care to be better," said one expat living in Puerto Vallarta.

"Have to find equivalent medications or alternatives, but manageable. Have to find the right doctors, but that is the same as with the US," mentioned another expat inPuerto Vallarta.

"Health care providers seem to care about you and not just calculating how much money you need to pay them," commented one expat who moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Puerto Vallarta?

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"Ask for receipts as many places don't issue one.....my health insurance would not cover my pedicures even though I went to the hospital for medical pedicures as the person doing it was not the officially accepted PODIATRIST. My massage visits are wonderful and reasonable 500 pesos for 75 minutes! My insurance companies pay those to a limit as long as the receipts show all necessary info... so check with your insurance company what is necessary. Many Mexicans don't or can't write properly, so make sure they spell your name correctly and have all the info correct, even the date as on one of my receipts the girl put 2010 when it was 2017 and my insurance company refused it even though I had submitted many receipts together and it was an obvious error. There are many walk in clinics with doctors, but quality is questionable, so stick to well known ones in your area. Similaries are good and lower cost. I also lived in Mexico for 2 yrs and worked and had the local Seguro Social medical coverage... covers basics. I speak Spanish so it worked out ok, but it was a bit of a drive and a different process... so when I felt stressed I just used the local private clinic and paid 500 pesos to see the doctor," mentioned another expat inPuerto Vallarta.

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
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