Virgins in the Puerto Vallarta Airport
Cruising The Red Light District
Puerto Vallarta airport has grown recently from the compact airport we were used to, but it’s still very easy to get around. After getting off the plane you walk 200 yards or so to go through customs. Just submit your passport and customs form to the inspector and then go to the luggage pickup area. You then pass through a gate by pushing a button that lights up either a green or red light. Stay together – normally only one person per family has to get searched if you get a red light. Most people get a green light, but if you are “lucky” enough to get a red light, you will have to have your luggage examined. Just take it in stride—it’s over in a few minutes and is mostly a formality!
Swimming The Shark Tank
Once through the red light district, you turn left and go through what locals affectionately call the “Shark Tank” (just before you get to the main lobby of the airport.) You will be approached by official looking people asking you if you need a taxi ride – in reality they are time share salesmen and tour reps. First time visitors sometimes find themselves confused or intimidated by this. The key: relax – it’s really no big deal! Just keep walking straight ahead toward the stand marked “Taxi”, look straight ahead, and don’t make any eye contact.
Tip: If someone does approach you, just smile and say “No, gracias” and keep walking. Better yet, say “No thanks, I live here” (No gracias, vivo aqui) or “No thanks, I own a villa in Conchas Chinas” – a sure deal killer since people who live in PV rarely buy time shares! (Unless of course, you wish to be tortured for 3 to 4 hours just to get the freebies they offer!)
Rounding Up Cheap Pesos
As you come out into the main lobby of the airport, you will see two Taxi Booths—one by each exit door. This is where you want to go. Before you catch a taxi though, it’s a great time to pick up some pesos–just make a right turn down the hallway to the ATM machine. There you can pick up pesos with your credit card at a rate that is better than the Cambios (exchange houses). It is better to use a debit card—using a credit card will cause you to incur cash advance charges as well as possible “conversion” charges (ask your card issuer).
Now head back to one of the two Taxi Booths. Taxis in PV do not have meters. The rates are set by zone and you pay in pesos or US dollars. Depending on your luggage you can normally take up to 3 or even 4 people in a taxi. They will charge you the regulated amount and give you a receipt. Someone will then show you to your vehicle.
Taxis and minivans at the airport are federal regulated taxis, so their prices from the airport are higher (almost double the normal zoned rate). They are white in color and are the only ones allowed to operate from within the airport. The regular taxis that operate in PV are yellow. As of this date, an airport taxi from the airport to Villa Encantada in the south zone is approximately $26. Your return trip to the airport in a normal taxi will only cost you about $12. (the only time you are forced to use the more expensive taxis is when you are actually at the airport).
Tip: If you are energetic and want to save a little, walk out the doors of the airport where the taxis are, turn left, and walk with your luggage over the footbridge that crosses the highway (about 200 yards). There you will find normal taxis. Since they are wise to the fact that you will be paying more at the airport, they sometimes try to overcharge. Just offer about 60% of the airport rate for your zone and they will normally accept. If they don’t, just walk a block past the end of the taxi line and flag down a cab before it pulls into the line. They will always accept your offer, because it is still more than the zoned rate for the city. If you do go over the bridge and want to grab something to eat, the shrimp burritos at Taco de Marlin Restaurant are very good.
Local Buses: Yes, you can catch a local bus from the airport, but unless you just have a carryon, it won’t work very well. The buses are crowded and it’s hard to carry on full size luggage. That said, it’s not impossible to do if you need to.
Write Down Your Taxi Number: You Won’t Regret It!
Tip: Write down the number of the taxi. If you forget any items in the taxi, you will be able to locate the taxi later. Puerto Vallarta has over 1000 taxis – there are a lot of tourists who wish they had remembered this!
Some Mexican ATM’s will limit you to withdrawals of $500 or $700, but others will allow you to withdraw whatever your personal bank permits. Be sure to have a 4 digit PIN and inform your bank you are going to Mexico, so they don’t flag it after your first withdrawal and freeze your card. Remember to also ask your bank to raise your limit on withdrawals while you are gone if you need to. You will normally get the best exchange rate from an ATM. The ATM’s pay out in pesos. It is better to use a debit card—using a credit card can cause you to incur cash advance rates and sometimes international charges (ask your bank). In most cases the debit card has no “conversion” fee, whereas using the credit card can cost you a conversion fee of anywhere from $3 to 3% of the transaction—ask your card issuer.
Oxxo Store (southside): There is an ATM machine at the Oxxo Store just south of Villa Encantada. Go to the highway and turn left. Go south for approximately ½ mile until you see the Oxxo Store on the right. Says $300 limit—not sure if it will go higher or not.
Zona Romantica: There are two ATM locations on Olas Altas, waterside of the street, near the internet café at the corner of Basillo Badillo. They say $500 limit but will actually go to higher limits if your bank has approved you for them.
Zocalo: The Town square right next to the Malecon has a Banamex ATM on the southside.
Airport: There are ATM machines at the airport. Once you come out the final doors past the time share people, turn right and go down the hallway. ATM’s are on the left.