One of the biggest surprises from my recent trip to Mexico was how expensive Puerto Vallarta was. While I figured it wouldn’t be as cheap as traveling in a country like the Philippines, I thought prices would be a lot less comparable to U.S. prices than they were.
However, it’s not impossible to save money in Puerto Vallarta. After being in the area for 12 days, I picked up a few money-saving travel tips that will spare your travel budget.
Stick to DIY Tours
Whatever you want to do or see in Puerto Vallarta, chances are it’s possible without a tour. Seeing a place on your own not only saves you money on tour fees, but it usually makes the experience more memorable.
If you’re not sure where to start in planning your own DIY adventure, try the following:
Do some research online
Someone has probably already been there/done that, and written an article on it.
Locals are often familiar with tourists’ questions and may be able to help. To find someone who speaks English, try asking the shop and restaurant owners near the Malecon.
Stay in an Airbnb
Choosing to stay in an Airbnb over a hostel was one of the best decisions of our trip. While I normally stay in hostels, many Airbnb prices were significantly lower than the cheapest dorm room hostel rates.
While staying in a hostel is often the best way to meet people, Yuting and I were happy to save money and not share a room or bathroom with anyone. We also got extremely lucky with our host, Guillermo, and his wife. They helped us navigate the city and also prepared a complimentary breakfast each morning (saving us even more money).
** Check out Guillermo’s Facebook page if you’re interested in learning more about his Airbnb
* First time Airbnb users: you can get $40 of free credit by using this link to create your Airbnb account.
Eat Street Food and Comida Corridas
Street food in Puerto Vallarta is sooo much more than tacos. On the Malecon alone, you’ll find crepes, roasted corn, homemade ice cream, etc. Since these booths are right where tourists walk though, the prices aren’t incredibly cheap.
For street food that’s a better deal and actually doubles as a meal, head to Plaza de Armas next to the Los Arcos monument. At night, this plaza fills with food booths all serving homemade Mexican food for a cheap price.
Comida corridas are the Mexican version of lunch specials. At a restaurant called Lolita’s in Puerto Vallarta, the comida corridas comes with a choice of 2-3 entrees, a soup/salad side dish, and a drink. It was a better deal than a stand-alone meal, and offered a bit of variety.
Ride the Bus
Local buses in Puerto Vallarta are very affordable. For 8 pesos a person (about 50 cents), Yuting and I took a bus from the south end of Puerto Vallarta, all the way to Boca de Tomatlan. This was a lot cheaper than an Uber ride or taxi would’ve been, and a better cultural experience. Riding the bus gives you the opportunity to experience life as a local and appreciate your surroundings.
Other nearby places to consider riding the bus to:
Vallarta Botanical Gardens (200 pesos)
Punta de Mita
Read more: The Ultimate Sayulita Travel Guide
Take Advantage of Happy Hour
If you’re looking to drink in Puerto Vallarta, keep your eyes open for happy hour. Many of the bars along the Malecon offer a happy hour and keep the times posted on a sign out front.
One of our favorite deals we found was 2 for 80 pesos margaritas. YUM!
Do all the Free Stuff
If you keep your eyes open, you can find lots of free things to do in Puerto Vallarta. One of my favorite finds was at a shop called Choco Museo. The employees here teach people about chocolate and how it's made. While they offer a set of chocolate courses they charge for, you can tour their mini museum for free and also try a sample of each of their chocolate products.
For more ideas on free things to do (and a few cheap ones), check out Feather and the Wind's post: 20 Cheap Things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
Some of my best memories from Puerto Vallarta are from the hikes Yuting and I did. While hiking between Boca de Tomatlan and Las Animas, we were amazed by the beautiful jungle surrounding us, and the little crabs and lizards popping up.
Hiking is a great way to get out of the main tourist areas and not be tempted by merchandise booths and fancy restaurants. Since the outdoors is free, the only things you need to factor into your budget are transportation and food costs.
To keep those costs low, take local transportation and bring some snacks with you. If you end up hiking near remote villages like Yelapa or Las Animas, food can get a little pricey.
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How do you usually save money on your travels?
Let me know in the comments below!