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6 things not to do in Puerto Vallarta

1. Don’t leave home on a trip to Puerto Vallarta without a pen. You will need one to fill out the immigration forms before you land in Puerto Vallarta. The airlines hand out the forms on the plane but don’t supply pens. I remembered to pack a pen on my trip to Puerto Vallarta last month and was a hero to the couple seated next to me. Also, more airlines are no longer handing out the second immigration form that you will need to enter Mexico, so you will have to pick it up and fill it out after you land and before you get to passport control or you can fill it out in advance here. When you pass through Mexican immigration, you’ll get a small visitor’s card– fold it up and keep it with your passport so you don’t lose it. It will be collected from you when you fly home. If you lose it you’ll have to endure more paperwork and pay a fine of about $35.

2. Don’t exchange money at the airport. Unlike Mexico City, where you can get the best exchange rates at the airport, the opposite is true in Puerto Vallarta. You will get a much better deal at a bank, ATM or a money exchange booth in the city. If you do change money at the airport, only do enough to hold you over until you can get to a bank. Banks offer the best rates for exchange, followed by storefront money exchange booths and hotels. Just be sure to check the current exchange rate (about 19 pesos per dollar right now) before leaving home and know what rate you are getting before you do the exchange. It is not customary in Mexico to be charged a separate fee to exchange money. They make their money on the exchange rate they offer you. If you exchange money in a bank, you will have to show them your passport and give them a copy that they can keep. Banks usually won’t make a copy for you, so bring copies before you leave. Of course, you can bypass the exchange game by using your ATM but you will likely be socked with fees from your bank and the Mexican bank. I am a big fan of banks that will reimburse you for all ATM fees when traveling at home or abroad.

3. Don’t take an airport taxi. In fact, avoid taking taxis at all in Puerto Vallarta and use Uber instead. On a trip last month, I was quoted a rate of 345 pesos (about $18) for a cab from the airport to the Zona Romantica area, just south of downtown. But you can get an Uber ride for as little as $6 or $7 for the same route. You can also save about a third of your the taxi fare by walking across the pedestrian bridge that goes across the street from the airport. Taxis are generally waiting in front of the Tacón de Marlin restaurant that is just on the other side of the bridge.

Taxis are not metered in Puerto Vallarta; instead you pay by zones. Be sure to establish the fare before you ride. But again, you may find it easier and cheaper to take Uber. Uber can drop off clients at the airport curb but is not allowed to do pick-ups there. To pick up Uber from the airport, exit the airport and turn left, at the end of the airport building turn left again and you will see the pedestrian bridge. Both the bus stop and Uber stop are just in front of the bridge. You can also cross the bridge and call the Uber from the other side. If you don’t have a data plan on your smartphone, the Puerto Vallarta airport has free wi-fi but it often doesn’t work. On the other side of the bridge, The Tacón de Marlin restaurant has free WiFI and the password for it is written on signs in the restaurant.

It is not customary to tip taxi or Uber drivers in Puerto Vallarta but you can give a modest tip if the driver helps you with bags or gives an extra service. If you do take a taxi, if you only have large bills, make sure the driver can change it before you take the ride.

4. Don’t be afraid of the city buses. I usually take a city bus into town from the airport. The fare costs 10 pesos, which is a little over 50 cents. The city buses are safe and fast and there is a stop just outside the airport next to the pedestrian bridge, the same spot where Uber is allowed to pick up travelers. Before you get on the bus from the airport ask the bus driver “Vas al centro?” which means “Do you go downtown.” If the driver nods, you know you are on the right bus. I usually enlist the help of other people at the bus stop who are usually happy to help. Just remember the words “El Centro.”

I have felt much safer on the buses in Mexico than on any of the rides I have taken lately on BART, Muni or SamTrans. The bus drivers will also make change — but don’t press your luck by expecting change from a big bill. If you are a first time visitor to Puerto Vallarta, it is probably a better idea to take a taxi or Uber until you can get the lay of the land. Also, the buses don’t have luggage racks, so take a taxi or Uber if you have big luggage.

5. Don’t forget the mosquito spray. The rainy season in Puerto Vallarta starts in June and runs through October. It is also the time of year when the mosquitos are in full force. I sprayed myself with repellant religiously except for my last night in PV when I was getting tired of the smell. I paid for it with about ten nasty bites on my back and legs.

6. Don’t just hang out at your hotel or resort. Puerto Vallarta has some of the most beautiful, modern resort hotels you will find anywhere. But most of the mega resort hotels are in the hotel zone, which is between the airport and downtown.

Source of information: SFGATE

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