Getting To Know Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta has a population estimated to be 350,000 (including the town of Pitillal) in an area of 800 square miles. It would be very difficult to get an accurate count of the population due to the in-migration and out-migration of long term tourists and the shifting national population.
Due to the excellent weather and the beautiful ocean beaches, tourism provides the greatest economic benefit to the region. To take advantage of the tourist industry, the related construction of new hotels and condominiums, houses and businesses also fuel the economy. This in turn requires the upgrading of roads, streets and highways. More and more agriculture, which was a dominant industry, is playing a smaller role in the economy, but the area still produces large quantities of tropical fruits, tobacco and corn.
Most of the tourists come to Puerto Vallarta by airplane from various parts of the world. It is not uncommon to find tourists from the U.S., Canada, Europe, South America and Asia basking on the beaches. Improved highways have also encouraged more United States and Canadian citizens to drive down to this resort city. Buses and automobiles contribute significantly to the influx of tourists and new residents. Construction of large marinas in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta have encouraged more marine traffic and one can find vessels from many different ports throughout the world.
No longer does one find chickens and pigs accompanying them on buses. This may still be true in isolated rural areas, but the intercity bus lines now feature modern, air-conditioned buses that rival any that one may find throughout the world. The quality of the intra-city buses and local buses may not be as good as the inter-city buses, but they do provide an economical means of getting about the area. The local buses provide the bulk of the capability of moving people about, but taxis are numerous (fairly economical) and private autos have increased markedly.
Bus fares as of early 1999 were 2.50 pesos for local service; transfers are non-existent. Each separate bus ride requires a separate payment. When you board the bus and you pay your fare, the driver will hand a receipt. Be sure and keep the receipt while riding the bus. Inspectors frequently hop on the bus and may ask to see your receipt. Failure to have a receipt may not only cause problems for the driver, but may cause you to pay an additional fare. To wait more than 5 minutes for a local bus is very unusual. Interurban and intercity buses may require a longer wait.
As previously stated, taxi fares are quite reasonable, but let the rider beware. The taxis do not have meters; double check with the concierge or the bellman or a local person as to the fare to the desired location. Also ask the cabdriver what the fare will be before you enter the taxi. This can prevent any misunderstanding upon arrival at your destination.
Many tourists arrive in Puerto Vallarta and are satisfied with spending their daytime hours on the beaches, the bars at night or just walking about downtown. This result in a false impression of Mexico. We must remember that Mexico is an emerging third world country, striving to match its neighbors to the north, struggling to gain prominence in the world. Although the people lack the creature comforts (materialistic things) of the U.S. and Canada, the people are relatively happy and do not endure the same pressures of everyday life that our lifestyle creates. To get a better "feel" about Mexico, you may wish to visit the outlying areas by going on a guided tour (private tours can be arranged), rent a vehicle to drive about, charter a van with other couples, hire a taxi, ride a water taxi, or ride the local buses. Each of these systems has its advantages, but the local buses provide the most economical means of seeing the countryside.
We have toured the Banderas Bay area aboard buses. Usually you can find a national or a long term tourist aboard the bus that will help you become better acquainted with the many sights that you will view. You'll enjoy the experience. Just hop on a bus and visit the various areas about town, or the outlying communities of San Juan, Los Juntas, Los Palmas, Ixtapa, Pitillal, Mismaloya, Bucerias, and Boca de Tomatlan. Punta de Mita and Yelapa are also villages that can be reached by bus or water taxi.
The point of origin of all local buses is the area directly east of Plaza Lazaro Cardenas located in the Playa Los Muertos district. If you wish to travel north towards hotel row and airport you may catch a bus at that point or you may catch a bus along the route going north. Similarly you can catch a bus going south towards Mismaloys or Boca de Tomatlan at "CENTRO" or along the bus route going south. If in doubt, ask the bus driver if he is going to your desired location.
A word of caution. Do not take the bus going north from "CENTRO" marked "TUNEL" if you are going north and wish to get off in the northern part of the downtown area or if you are north of town and catch a bus south and wish to get off at the malecon. The "TUNEL" bus by-passes the zone from a north boundary point near the Sheraton Hotel to a southern point bounded by "CENTRO". You should ride the "TUNEL" bus at least once to see the different parts of Puerto Vallarta.
Other points to remember: 1) To go to Nuevo Vallarta, you must take the bus marked "Nuevo Vallarta" (2) To go to Marina Vallarta area, you must take the bus marked "Marina Vallarta," or "Marriott", "Westin," or "Velas Vallarta" (3) You may get off the "Punta de Mita" bus at Bucerias (You must advise the driver of your intent when you board the bus because of the lower fare) (4) Similarly you may go to "Hoteles" on buses that go to the Aeropuerto, Pitillal, or other points further north.
The long distance buses load at their new terminal located just beyond the Puerto Vallarta International Airport on the other (east) side of the highway.
Again, be sure to check the destination painted on the windshield and if you're not certain, ask someone that appears to be English-speaking. The worst that can happen is that you'll take an unexpected scenic tour and end up at the same spot that you started from. The singers on board the busses, along with clowns and other entertainment are really fun!
Lastly, PEDESTRIANS DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY. If you rent a moterscooter or other vehicle, please drive cautiously. It is recommended that you do not travel on the highways outside of town with your scooter or bicycle. In town, ride your scooter or bicycle very cautiously, the taxis and buses are notorious for their driving skills. If you rent a jeep or other automobile, please remember that driving rules of the road are different in Mexico, although the "Locals" can spot a tourist driver easily. Drive safely and with caution, yield the right -of-way if in doubt. We want you to be safe and have a memorable vacation.
HAVE A GREAT VACATION!