Dozens of air departures, hundreds of long-distance buses, and a good paved highway network speed thousands of travelers to and from Puerto Vallarta daily.
Several major carriers connect Puerto Vallarta by direct flights with United States and Mexican destinations. Air arrival at Puerto Vallarta Airport (code-designated PVR, officially Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International) is generally smooth and simple. After the cursory (if any) customs check, arrivees can avail themselves of two 24-hour ATMs and a money-exchange counter open 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily.
If you don't rent a car at the airport, transportation to town is easiest by colectivo (collective taxi-vans) or taxi especial (individual taxi). Booths sell tickets at curbside. The colectivo fare runs about $6 per person to the northern hotel zone, $7 to the center of town, and $8 or more to hotels and hamlets south of town. Individual taxis (for up to four passengers) run about $15, $16, and $25 for the same rides.
Airport departure is as simple as arrival. Save by sharing a taxi with departing fellow hotel guests. Agree on the fare with the driver before you get in. If the driver seems too greedy, hail another taxi.
If you’ve lost your tourist card, arrive early and be prepared with a copy or you may have to pay a fine unless you’ve gotten a duplicate through Migración. In any case, be sure to save enough pesos or dollars to pay your $12 departure tax (unless your ticket already includes it).
By Car or RV
Three road routes connect Puerto Vallarta to the rest of Mexico.
From the north, Mexican National Highway 200 is all asphalt and in good condition most of its 104 miles (167 km) to Puerto Vallarta. Traffic is ordinarily light to moderate, except for some slow going around Tepic, and over a few low passes about 20 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. Allow about three and a half hours to Tepic.
A shortcut connects San Blas directly with Puerto Vallarta, avoiding the oft-congested uphill route through Tepic. Heading south from San Blas, follow the signed Puerto Vallarta turnoff to the right (south) a few hundred yards after the Santa Cruz de Miramar junction. Allow about three hours, either direction, for the entire San Blas–Puerto Vallarta trip.
The story is similar for Mexican National Highway 200 from Manzanillo via Barra de Navidad to the south (134 mi/214 km). Trucks and a few potholes may cause slow going while climbing the 2,400-foot Sierra Cuale summit south of Puerto Vallarta, but light traffic should prevail along the other stretches. Allow about three hours from Barra de Navidad.
The western route from Guadalajara route is nearly as easy. From Guadalajara take Mexican National Highway 15 D cuota autopista (toll road, about $20 per car, much more for motor homes) to Chapalilla. The expressway is a breeze compared to the narrow, winding, and congested libre Highway 15.
From Chapalilla, take the 22-mile Puerto Vallarta-bound cuota (toll) shortcut west to Compostella. The toll road joins up with Highway 200 about 80 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. Allow five hours from Guadalajara via the toll expressway, seven hours if you take the route.
Many bus lines run through Puerto Vallarta. The major long-distance bus action is at the new Camionera Central (Central Bus Station) about a mile north of the airport. Reservations and ticketing are efficiently computerized, and most major lines accept credit cards.
The shiny, air-conditioned complex resembles an airline terminal, with a cafeteria, juice bars, a travel agency, a long-distance telephone and fax service, luggage storage lockers, a gift shop, and a hotel reservation office (tel. 322/290-1014). The buses are usually crowded; don’t tempt people with a dangling open purse or a bulging wallet in your pocket.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition