Depending on where you are staying in town you'll have different options to move around.
This is the best way if the distances aren't too large, you'll see the town, meet the people, enjoy the views, take photos, breathe and smell the experience.
Though distances can be large if you choose a hotel far from the city's downtown area, it is still possible to walk almost anywhere in the urban area if you are in the right shape and have the right shoes.
There are sidewalks all over town and you won't need to be worried when crossing bridges or parks, there'll always be some way to walk through. If you stay at the Marina area or further north, walking into town will be more of a hike and is not recommended unless you are into really looong walks.
If you stay in the downtown area, you'll be within walking distance of it all, so if you are planning to get to know the city (which we recommend) it's best to choose a lodging option within downtown Vallarta and the Romantic zone (Old Vallarta).
Do be careful when crossing the streets, cars, taxis, and buses always feel like they have the right of way and you should always treat them as a threat, it's strange, but that's just how it is. They are supposed to give way when they turn, but even there, be sure to make eye contact before crossing, just to be on the safe side.
Taxis are all over town at any time of the day or night. Just step outside your hotel or onto any street curb and wave as they approach. Taxis are really very convenient and cheap to use, and you won't have any problem using them.
All hotels can hail one for you and many have regular taxis parked in front waiting to take you wherever you want to go. If in doubt ask your hotel concierge what the going rate is for your destination.
What is a fair fare? Good question, and one even locals are not sure of until we ask. Things are less and less primitive and most taxis now have a rate meter that will give the correct taxi fare, depending on the time and length of the taxi trip and the time of day, which changes the fare rate too.
Over the last years, the Taxi Syndicate has worked towards having established rates for all areas of Puerto Vallarta. In most cases, the driver will give you the correct fare. However, ask before getting in the cab and not at the end of the trip when it's a little more difficult to negotiate. If you are close to your destination, only a couple of miles, it shouldn't be more than 30 or 40 pesos ($2.5 or $3.5 dollars).
If you are going to a specific restaurant or a tour provider, do not let the taxi driver talk you into going to some other "better" place, he's probably taking you to his buddy's restaurant or one he'll receive a commission from.
Regarding Über, I mostly used their services around town on my last trip, things work smoothly, with no incidents with the local taxi service (things seem to be sorting themselves out among them).
Anyway, I tried to be discreet and did not expect them to leave or pick me up in Federal zones, like the harbor area or the airport. I would also not request them from taxi zones, nor did I walk into the back seats of the car, I would act as if I knew them and they were a friend (don't know if this is necessary, but I did it that was just the same).
The app works without a hitch and the drivers were all very calm, friendly and it was, all in all, a great experience, plus prices were roughly half those I'd pay in taxis, it's a combination that's very hard to beat.
The buses are a very convenient way to get around town, they may be a bit scary to start off on, but you get the hang of them in a breeze. Buses here are privately owned, and some look a bit funky, but they do get you where you want to go and you'll experience the true Mexican lifestyle during your journey as this is how most the local population moves around town, when not on foot. Even so, there are newer buses being added to the mix and very soon the old "picturesque" buses will be a thing of the past, so hurry up! (If that's your thing).
On my most recent trips in the local buses down south, there weren't any, but don't be surprised if entertainers leaps on board to belt out a song about lost love and overdue rent. Mexicans tend to tip a few pesos whether the entertainment is Vegas caliber or not. And, if you're really lucky, you can get some bubblegum, chocolate or garlic shopping done during your journey too (you'll understand when it happens to you).
Bus signs are blue with a picture of a bus and the word "parada" means bus stop.
The fare to go anywhere in town is around 60 cents.
- Buses marked "Centro" go to downtown and on to Olas Altas
- Buses marked "Tunel" take the bypass to Olas Altas (thus avoiding most of downtown Puerto Vallarta)
- Buses to the Airport are marked "Ixtapa," "Juntas", or "Las Palmas."
- Buses to the Marina, El Pitillal, Mismaloya, Nuevo Vallarta and Punta de Mita are marked accordingly.
- Buses to Nuevo Vallarta charge around 2 dollars.
- You can read and see all the bus lines here.
- Autotransportes Medina (ATM) starts off at Brazil 1410 (south of the sports stadium) to Punta Mita (every 7 minutes) and to Nuevo Vallarta (every 10 minutes). Fares: Bucerías around $1.00 USD, Nuevo Vallarta $1.10 USD, Punta Mita $1.90 USD.
- Compostela-Pacífico (white and green) go to Sayulita for a bit over $3.00 USD travels by San Pancho and Rincón de Guayabitos but leaves you on the highway, not in the town itself.
- El Tuito, the bus starts from Venustiano Carranza and Aguacate streets in the Romantic Zone, the fare is 2-3 dollars and takes around 50 minutes.
- Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlán around $0.60 USD. Buses going south depart from Constitucion St. and Basilio Badillo St. (photo above).