Travel Advice for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Travel Tips on What to pack, the very important issue of exchanging money, Dollars to Pesos, Using Credit and Debit Cards in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Choosing a Mexican cell phone plan for your Trip and Cellular data plans for Puerto Vallarta Mexico, that you will need to address before you leave your home, for your Mexico Vacation.
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What Are The Best Times To Come To Puerto Vallarta Mexico?
So what are the best times of the year to come to Puerto Vallarta? I have a discussion with JR about that in the next episode of the show, but in short…November 15th through mid April are the best months to visit. June 15th till the end of October are the hottest and rainiest times of the year. I actually really like coming to PV in mid October. They call it the shoulder season and flights are always really reasonable and room rates are still at off season lows. You will need to be ready for a little rain, but when it rains, it’s just for a short time, usually in the late afternoon. The popular restaurants are coming off of their off season vacations. Many of them close during the entire month of September and half of October, so I try to get in while it’s cheap, not too crowded and not too unbearable as far as the heat and humidity. Look, I like coming to Puerto Vallarta whenever I can get here.
So what should you pack?
Pack light. Think cool. It will be humid here in Vallarta. Depending on the time of year, hot and humid.
If you are a guy, you should have a nice pair of jeans for going out to clubs at night. A collared shirt or two for a fancy occasion and maybe a pair of nice slacks and dress shoes for that or those fancy occasions too. You will need a hat, although if you forget one you will have absolutely no shortage of hats to choose from when you get there from any number of venders you will encounter on the beach or in shops. A pair of sunglasses for sure, but if you forget those, you know you can get a pair or two in PV. You will need swimming shorts and a couple of pairs of short pants too. Sandals are a must, and if you are planning on going on a hike, bring some tennis shoes for sure. Socks, underwear, and lots of t-shirts. Remember it is hot and humid and you will be sweating some. So will you be needing a jacket or sweater? Probably not, but it can get chilly on some late December and January evenings. With that said, you will probably not need that wrap. Chances are the only time you will need something warm will be on the plane to and from Vallarta. Otherwise, stow that puppy away boys and girls, you aren’t goanna need them. That pretty much covers the clothing for you guys.
For the ladies you will need Casual, summer clothing and beachwear. Especially during the hot and humid summer months you’ll want to pack cool fabrics that dry quickly when moist, offer good ventilation. You’ll need a few dressier outfits if staying at an all-inclusive resort where you may be asked to wear dressier dinner attire, or if in the evenings you plan to go out dancing or to fancy restaurant. You may want to bring a sweater for your return flight. You may need it if you go out on an evening or early morning boat ride, or if you happen to get an unlikely cool evening. You should remember to pack sleepwear, underwear and bras and other girl stuff.
If you want to get a good idea as to what the current weather and dress attire is down in Puerto Vallarta, here’s what I do. Call me a voyeier, but…
I’m almost always going to www.cuatesycuetes.com and check out their webcam. It’s right on the boardwalk just north of the Los Muertos Pier on the Southside of town. You know, the pier where there is this structure that lights up at night that looks like a sail? That’s where you can catch a panga to take you out to a beach or fishing or snorkeling. Anyway, this webcam is just pointing down the boardwalk, and you can see how the visitors, the locals and the tourists are dressed, in real time. You can see if they are sweating and struggling
under the hot, humid tropical conditions, or if they are doing fine. You can see thunderstorms in the summer that will blow your mind too, really, so if you want to see the latest fashion being sported on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta. And If you wait long enough, the webcam swivels around 360 degrees so you can see the tables set up on the beach, the boats waiting to give a vacationer a ride on his panga, the people walking on the pier, and then the people inside the restaurant. So I bet you are wondering what the heck Cuates Y Cuetes means? I looked it up and kinda pieced it all together, so I’ll give it a try. I’m pretty sure some listener or reader of my blog, did I mention you can read my blog and shownotes at www.puertovallartatravelshow.com? Anyhoo, I just know someone is going to tell me I have it all wrong, but here it goes, in Spanish Cuates means Friends, and Cuetes means a couple of different things but two make the most sense to me. Cuetes can mean either fireworks or a firecracker, or most likely, this other translation fits better where it says Cuetes means a little drunk, buzzed or tipsy. So it’s either friends and Fireworks or Friends and Getting drunk and tipsy. Either way, just go to that webcam at Cuates y Cuetes.com. I have a really great webcam page on this site. Just go to the top of any page and click on the Puerto Vallarta Webcams tab and see the bay in real time. You can even catch a Puerto Vallarta sunset if you play your cards right. Just go to the page and you will see what I mean.
So getting back to what to wear, Essentially, how much you pack and what you pack depends on you and your habits. I’m just giving you some guidelines.
Me and my wife on the other hand like to pack light like just a carry-on and a daypack each if we can get away with it. That way we can bypass the baggage carousel and head right for the immigration line. That’s how we beat the crowd. Another way to beat the crowd to the front of the immigration line is to make extra sure you fill out the tourist card that the flight attendant gives you before you land. Bring your own pen because these attendants never have enough, and fill the card out properly. Even on the bottom where lots of us forget to look. Just fill it in. Then, before your plane starts the final descent into PVR, hit the restroom on the plane before you land.
If I do go the travel light route, what that means is that I have to have my laundry done for me about half way through my stay. I take it down to the local lavanderia in the morning, and if I’m lucky, I get it back the same day in the afternoon, although there was one time, I kept coming back for my clothes and the lady always seemed to be closed. Bad timing on my part I’m sure. I wrote a blog about it and you can find that story at my website at www.PuertoVallartaTravelshow.com along with all of the show notes to this episode including this packing list. Anyway, if you do happen to take your clothes to a lavenderia, they charge you by the Kilo, they wash and fold and wrap up your clothes for you in a neat cellophane package. It’s really cheap and pretty darn handy. Plus…I like to give them the business. They do a great job. Just remember, they aren’t your local dry cleaner like at home. If you have expensive tricky to wash clothes, don’t give those to them. Do everyone a favor including you and that perplexed looking local washlady a favor and leave your easy care washables in your suitcase. If you are not in town or in a place where there are lavanderias, , the hotels will do your laundry for you. Some are cheap, others get pricey depending on the property. If you are staying in a condo. You will either have a machine in your condo, or a laundry room somewhere on the property. Look, if in doubt, ask one of the housekeeping crew, they may be able to help you out for a reasonable fee. Who wants to do laundry on vacation right? Of course, if you pack lots of stuff, you won’t have to think about doing any laundry till you get home. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea?
- Bug spray
- Make-up (for the ladies)
- Toothbrush and paste
- Nail clipper/nail file
- Contact lenses and saline solution
- Extra pair of sunglasses/reading glasses
- iPad or Kindle
- Camera / charger / memory card(s)
- A good book or two
- Ink pen (to fill out immigration and customs forms on the plane)
- Wristwatch (if you will not be using your cell phone abroad)
- And Print out all of JR.s maps and bring them along. You can find these maps at my website on the links page or you can go to JR’s website www.vallartainfo.com.
Remember, if you forget any of these items, you will be able to get them in Puerto Vallarta. With the exception of your meds. Make sure you don’t forget those. I also have this list in my show-notes which you can access at puertovallartatravelshow.com.
Now, what to do about your cell phones and internet?
If you are living in the 21st century, chances you have a cell phone or smart phone, iPad,laptop you get the picture, with data plans and Wi-Fi. How are we going to use these in Mexico?
Most US cell providers have special Mexico US plans that include calling, texting and data. They aren’t too expensive either. My plan is with Verizon and I get their Canada Mexico plan. It’s really cheap! You should check with your carrier and use the Mexico plan that works best for you. AT&T has a good plan as well. Remember to make sure you change your plan before you leave for Mexico. And don’t forget to take the plan off when you get home. Some tips are to download google maps of the city and surrounding areas to your phone to be able to use offline while roaming. You can use this tip at home too.
If having internet in your Puerto Vallarta room is a must, check with the property first. WI-FI is available in most hotels now a days, although some places only have internet connection in the lobby. Others will charge you a daily rate on top of your room costs so if you are on a budget, and you need the use of the interwebs, figure that in to your vacation nut. And make sure that your phone is connected to the Wi-FI when you are at the hotel, condo or wherever you are staying. If you need internet, check ahead. There are also many internet cafe’s in Puerto Vallarta so if things get really, really tight, you can find something. Even in a Starbucks for goodness sake. You can always bring a mobile hotspot as a back-up. We all need a plan B and talking about a plan B, let’s talk Money.
Exchanging Your Dollars to Pesos in Puerto Vallarta
If you are coming from the US, Canada, Eurolandia, Australia, Central and South America, forget about your US Dollars, your Canadian dollarettes your European Euros or your Australian Dollars. There was a time when we would bring US dollars to Mexico and either exchange them in Hotels, exchange booths or waited in line in a bank. No longer ladies and gentlemen. Here in Puerto Vallarta the peso is king. It’s the coin of the realm. They don’t want your dollars. Imagine if you will, you are back in the States and you are working at a McDonalds. Okay maybe you can’t imagine that, imagine you are working as a barista at a Starbucks….okay maybe you can’t imagine that either, but just play with me here, at least I’m not making you a cashier at Walmart… okay but suppose you are any one of these salespeople in the US, and a Mexican National came to your line and wanted to purchase his basket of groceries, or maybe his fries and big mac, or his cup of frappe late expresso presto chango with Mexican Pesos. How would you deal with that now mr. the American, Canadian, you fill in the occupation barista you? You would look at him and ask, what do you expect me to do with this?
It’s too much of a hassle for these shop owners to have to wait in long lines to exchange your coin of your realm, and they don’t want to do it, and…they will make you pay for the inconvenience you put them through. I finally learned my lesson when I tried to pay for a dinner in a Guadalajara Restaurant and I took a good 30% haircut on the exchange rate. Sheesh!
So what do you do? Money is pretty important so get it right, and have a plan B and a plan C just in case.
There are people out there who insist on bringing large amounts of cash, dollars with them, to exchange along the way. I would recommend against that. Bring a couple of hundred dollars with you for sure, but only in case of emergencies. Remember, you will get the worst exchange rate for dollars anywhere you try to spend or exchange them in Mexico. The exception is Banco Azteca where you can exchange dollars for pesos. Make sure you bring your passport.
Some people get pesos from their bank before they leave home by ordering them in advance. Banks do tend to offer pretty poor exchange rates. If you live in larger urban town you can find local money exchange companies that give pretty good rates and a little peace of mind to the traveler who doesn’t want to have any surprises upon arrival in PV. It is more costly however because the exchange rates are not as good as others.
The best way to get pesos for your trip is to use your bank ATM card at the airport. That’s right, your ATM card at the airport.
First, before you leave the country, like a week before you leave the country where you live, call or go into your bank, and let them know that you will be using your ATM card in Mexico. Tell them know you will be in the Puerto Vallarta area, and let them know for how long. If you don’t tell your bank, you will more than likely be unable to access your money while in Mexico. So, don’t forget to tell your bank and confirm before you leave.
Now, why do you need pesos when you arrive at the airport? Because if you use pesos instead of dollars to pay for your taxi or van to your hotel or resort, you won’t have to take that exchange rate haircut I was talking about that I took in Guadalajara. Just remember that if you pay for your airport transportation in your funny money, it will just cost you a little more, that’s all. So no big deal guys. You don’t have to do the money ATM dealie at the airport if you don’t want to. Just sayin that if you get into the swing of things with a little practice at the airport ATM, you will have a more comfortable time navigating the Money machines during the rest of your stay.
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After you arrive at the airport, pass through immigration to the area where you pick up your bags, you will look around and see manned money exchange booths. You see the smiling faces of the workers behind the glass in these booths along the wall. Avoid these as they will charge you a high fee. Wait to buy your pesos until after you pass through customs with your baggage, walk through the “Shark Tank” to find out more about the Shark Tank, you need to listen to episode 3 of the podcast, and finally emerge into the airport lobby where you will see about 5 or six bank affiliated ATM machines, BBVA Bancomer, HSBC, Banorte, Banamex, Scotiabank and Santender. All of these machines are fine
for you to use with your ATM card. You should be able to withdraw up to 7,000 pesos or approximately $350 US at one time. Depending on the Mexican bank ATM, you will most likely be charged a 25-40 pesos service fee, or approximately $1.50 mexican host bank transaction, plus, whatever your bank gets for the withdraw. Now that’s not bad considering I get charged $3-3.50 as a service charge whenever I use an unaffiliated ATM machine, so $1.50 fee, I’m okay with that. Now, my bank is a credit union and they don’t charge me to use their card at an ATM in Mexico, so I just pay the $1.50 transaction fee. This is how you will get your very best exchange rate, US or Canadian dollar.
The PVR airport ATMs are all bank affiliated: HSBC, Santander, Banamex, BBVA Bancomer and I believe Banorte. These machines will pay out in pesos of course. If you see a machine that says Cashola, turn and run.
While you are out around town, make sure you use bank affiliated and attached ATM’s as well, and use the ones inside or attached to a bank to avoid possible number skimming devices that have made it down to PV.
You can also bring cash and exchange it at Azteca Banks but bring your passport. Also your hotel can exchange your money but, as I have
stated earlier, this is not a good way to obtain a good exchange rate. Same with the money exchange cambio booths you will find around town. They are good in a pinch, but hey, get with the program and use your ATM card for those peso pop.
Lastly, if you have no ATM card, or maybe you just don’t want to use one of those plastic thingies, send yourself the money using MoneyGram. You can do it online or go to your local Walmart and open an account to send money. Using MoneyGram you can send yourself up to $950 for $9.90, up to $50,00 for $4.90. You can pick up your money in the form of pesos at any HBC location in Jalisco Mexico, any Farmacia Guadalajara, Walmart, Banco Azteca, and others that you can discover when you are sending the money. You can also send yourself multiple MoneyGram’s that you can retrieve as you need them throughout your trip for up to a year, so if you want to send yourself more than you will need, remember you can get your money back when you get back home in dollars instead of pesos if unclaimed in Mexico. It’s very important to note that you are given a receipt with an 8 digit number on it. You are also instructed to write the recipient’s full name, spelled correctly on the form that you present to the MoneyGram Representative, and the recipient must have legal form of ID that matches exactly the name on the money transfer. Now here’s something that you should do if you use this MoneyGram method, the other day, I was in my neighborhood Vallarta Market, by the way, if you are ever in the Los Angeles area and get a chance to go inside one of these Vallarta Markets, do it! Modern, Mexican, a huge butcher section, bakery, restaurants, prepared Mexican food to take home, just remarkable, at any rate I asked the MoneyGram lady if was cool to send yourself money and here’s what she said, you are better off having a relative or friend send you the money because often times the MoneyGram place will look at the name of the sender and the name of the receiver and determine that there is some sort of fraud going on and not deliver the funds. So, bring Junior or your best friend to the MoneyGram place and have them be the sender. That way you won’t be looked at sideways when you arrive to pick up your dough. Just remember to keep your secret number secret, and don’t let some scammer try to get the info from you. If you lose the number or give it to someone else, you cannot ever get your money back. There is no recourse so be careful with MoneyGram. It’s not foolproof.
So your money plan A should be to use your ATM card. Let your bank know before you go. Plan B, bring some cash and or pesos along, and plan C, send yourself a MoneyGram or two, for a back-up. Hotels and many finer restaurants and shops will take your credit cards, so there is always that option.
Wow, we are going a little long, next week we will talk with JR about mosquitos and other bugs, the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta and
everything you need to know about arriving at the airport, what to expect when you arrive at the Puerto Vallarta Airport and Lastly, we will get you from the airport to your hotel safely. Just join us and let us be your guides.
Until then, remember, this is an interactive show where I depend on your questions and suggestions about all things Puerto Vallarta. If you think of something I should be talking about, please reach out to me by clicking on the Contact us tab and sending us your message.
And remember, if you are considering booking any type of tour while you are in Puerto Vallarta, you must go to Vallartainfo.com, JR’s website and reserve your tour through him, right from his website. Remember the value for value proposition. His experience and on the ground knowledge of everything Puerto Vallarta in exchange for your making a purchase of a tour that you would do anyway, you’re just doing it through him as a way of saying thank you. It costs no more than if you were to use someone else so do it. Really. And when you do take one of these tours, email me about your experiences. Maybe you can come onboard and share with others what you liked or didn’t like about the tour. Again contact me by clicking on the Contact us tab and sending off a message.
Next week we will get right into how to prepare for and what to expect when you arrive in Puerto Vallarta for your dream vacation.
And one more favor please, if you like this podcast, please take the time and subscribe and give me a good review on iTunes if you would. It would be so appreciated if you would just take the extra time to do that for me. That way we can get the word out to more and more people about the magic of this place.
So, thanks to you for listening all the way through this episode of the Puerto Vallarta Travel Show. This is Barry Kessler signing off with a wish for you all to slow down, be kind and live the Vallarta lifestyle. Nos Vemos amigos!