Mexico is a lot in the media, specially when it comes to the drug war and the crimes committed during the latest crackdown by the Mexican government.
Is it safe to travel to Mexico and Puerto Vallarta?
"Unequivocally, yes,” said Peter Greenberg, well-known travel expert and Travel Editor for CBS’s “The Early Show” in an interview with Consumer Affairs." [April 2013 - source]
This is what the US State Department has to say about travel to Puerto Vallarta and Jalisco (Guadalajara). They tend to be extremely cautious (sometimes a bit absurdly so) when it comes to their travel warnings, maybe they are scared of being sued or something like that... On their most recent Official Mexico publication, from January 2014, they specifically exempt Puerto Vallarta:
“There is no recommendation against travel to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta. There is also no recommendation against travel on principal highways in Jalisco between Guadalajara including the portions that cross into the southern portions of the state of Nayarit.” (Jan. 2014)
It is important that readers understand that the violence you might hear of in Mexico-USA border towns and cities is not at all representative of what happens in the rest of Mexico, especially tourist destinations like Pto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas or Cancun, and that the main area in conflict is some 1200 and 700 miles away (Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez and Laredo). It's like thinking all of the US is as violent and dangerous as Detroit, Washington DC or New Orleans.
PV's Tourism Board hired a leading global investigative and security firm, Thomas Dale and Associates, in 2011 to review safety levels in the city, this year the company followed up with an updated 2012 report.
The city of Puerto Vallarta has approximately the same population as Anaheim, California (ie. Disneyland), which also has a high number of visitors to many attractions and numerous hotels. Anaheim and PV are both located on the Pacific Coast and are vacation destinations. This offers a credible and clear comparison for both cities and the real vs. the perceived risk:
The company mentions vulnerabilities, such as the surrounding areas that are used for hiking, bird watching, photography and other sports and activities, increase your risk of unforeseen events, both natural and man-made, as was the case of the group of 22 tourists in El Nogalito (1.5 hour drive from Vallarta) that were robbed in Feb. 2012, there were no injuries. The reports mentions that Methamphetamine will be the future drug issue and has to be contained.
TDA also mentions positive trends and actions that have helped improve the local safety, for example, the city has twice the national average of policemen required by the Mexican Federal Government. Another worthwhile program is the Taxi Safe alert system, read more here.
TDA mentions that Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest destinations for international visitors and is also very safe and preferred by expats too, something that is also backed up by the numbers provided by SECTUR, which mention that occupation has been up around 20% compared with 2011.
So then, is Puerto Vallarta safe? Yes, without a doubt. The numbers back it up, 3.9 millon happy visitors in 2013, the studies support this too and the fact no official travel warnings include the city, make it clear too. But don't take our word for it, use some of the resources we offer here and read for yourself.