Rental cars, motorcycles and scooters are available from major rental car agencies (they have locations at the airport, hotels and downtown). Another form of transportation are the pangas (small boats) along the beaches & near the Marina. Boat trips can be arranged to some of the exotic locales in and around Banderas Bay. And last but certainly least, riding horses are a nice diversion in Mexico.
Even if you don't speak Spanish, it's really easy to get around Puerto Vallarta. There are taxis everywhere and you can get almost anywhere you need to go around town for about $5 or less, depending on the distance. There are also a lot of buses, which are a lot cheaper than taxis, but noisy and crowded. Walking is also a great way to see the town. Go downtown to the Malecon, and there are tons of restaurants, gift shops, markets, shoe and clothing shops all within several blocks.
When you arrive in Puerto Vallarta the best (and cheapest) way to get to the hotel is to get a cab. Just make sure you get an official airport cab. You will find their booths close to the airport exit, just after you are passing the two glass slide doors on your way out.
We paid $14 US dollars for a ride to our hotel, which was a decent price. If you take a cab back to the airport from your hotel, expect to pay less as prices are cheaper if you get a cab outside the airport (I guess the same rule applies all over the world!).
While you are in town, you can also hail a cab to take you from one place to another. They are fast, cheap and more comfortable than a bus. Just make sure you agree on a price before getting in!
I agree that you will not need a car if you go to just one town and plan on staying there the whole time, but if you are like us and want to explore the area as much as possible, then you would need a car. It gives you lots of flexibility and in the end it is cheaper than taking organized tours to the places you want to go to. Plus it is way more comfortable than any local bus!
During our visit to Puerto Vallarta we had a car rental for 5 days. You definitely need to make the arrangements prior to leaving to Mexico as the prices are a little bit higher if you rent the car while you are there.
After doing a lot of research, we decided to rent a car from Gecko for 5 days since they had great reviews: http://www.geckorentcar.com/faqs/index.php
They proved to be very reliable and I would recommend them highly! Their prices are a little bit lower compared to other car rental companies in the area and they include all the taxes and all the insurance that you can get (including the theft one!). You will also get a discount if you pay cash for the rental.
To make a reservation or to get more information on their cars and their prices, just go to their web site, click on the "Reservations" link, fill out the form and send it to them. You will hear back from them in no more than 1 hour!
We had our car delivered to our hotel exactly on time, as we agreed when I made all the arrangements. They give you really good maps of the area and also of all the places you want to go to (just tell them what towns you plan on visiting and they give you maps and directions on how to get there, places to stay, things to see, etc). Dropping off the car when you are done could not be easier! They met us at the airport the day we left, since they do not have an office in the airport and it was more convenient for us to drop off the car there.
If you want to drop off the car at their office, you can do so and they will give you a ride to the airport for free.
(According to the Lonely Planet's Puerto Vallarta book I bought in 2008, there are buses every 15 minutes leaving from Puerto Vallarta across from the Sheraton Bouganvilias Hotel in the Zona Hotelera. The trip takes 30 minutes and costs US$2. In Bucerias, get off at the second stoplight and walk inland to the plaza.
from what i remember, there are blue buses that take you right into nuevo vallarta. when you exit the airport on the ground level, you (will have a million people asking if you want a cab... but you're going to say "no, gracias") exit LEFT and walk to the left of the airport. it's a small airport so you won't have any trouble finding the side of the airport.
the bus will have a sign on the top top to tell you where it's going. you want the bus that says "centro". it will cost you around 50 cents. it looks like it is going the wrong direction, but it turns around. then you have to tell the bus driver where to stop.
if all else fails, just get a cab. it's around US$6
unfortunately, downtown puerto vallarta is not very handicapped-accessible; the streets are cobblestone and are about a foot below the sidewalks, and there are very few ramps. some of the other shopping areas are probably manageable, where the streets are almost even with the sidewalks. traveling on the local buses with a wheelchair would be almost impossible, but a taxi would be manageable.
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