When we tell people that we’ve lived in Bali and are currently living in Puerto Vallarta, we often get the same question over and over again – “How do you afford it?!” Many people assume that because these are touristy places near the ocean that it must be expensive to live in them. I’ll let you in on our little secret. We’re not independently wealthy. We don’t have trust funds. In fact, we’re just a couple of part-time English teachers and bloggers. By hunkering down in these places for a while and trying to live more like a local than a tourist, we’ve been able to live in paradise on a budget.
The Cost of Living in Puerto Vallarta
To give you a better idea of how you could do the same, we’re going to share some tips and stats on the cost of living in Puerto Vallarta in US dollars. Since the dollar was stronger during our first few months, we actually paid a bit less than the prices listed here.
The best part about Puerto Vallarta that it suits any budget.
You can find apartments, homes, and other accommodation for very little or you can pay well into the thousands of dollars. Street tacos are readily available for less than $3 or you can get the red carpet treatment at one of the many fine dining establishments.
You don’t need a car in Puerto Vallarta because there are public buses with routes all over the Bay plus there are plenty of taxis and Uber is around. However, if you do have a car, there are plenty of places to park and the traffic isn’t too bad.
We’ve spent a year total living in Puerto Vallarta, split into two 6-month segments. We first arrived in February 2016 and rented an apartment in the more residential area of the city. Then we went traveling around South America for 7 months. We missed PV so much that we returned for another 6 months after that big trip. Now, we’re back on the road for a few months before heading back to PV in May 2019.
I’m going to show you our costs from both times so you can see the difference.
*Puerto Vallarta is located in Banderas Bay, one of the biggest bays in the world! So, that’s what I mean when I write “the Bay”.
Cost of Accommodation in Puerto Vallarta
Your accommodation is going to be your biggest expense.
You might find it hard to believe, but our first 2-bedroom apartment here only cost us about $250 per month. That included fast internet (10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload), Netflix, and all other utilities.
The only extra things we paid for were the gas to cook and heat the water (a huge tank costs under $30 and lasts over a month) and drinking water (a 10-gallon jug is a buck and lasts about a week). We originally booked one month through Airbnb for $320 after fees and were able to negotiate a discount by extending our stay and paying for a few months up front.
This place was in a very local neighborhood about a 20-minute bus or cab ride away from downtown and the beach which is why is was so cheap. We’ve had some other friends pay $300-$400 per month for small, furnished houses and apartments. It takes some digging but you can find budget housing if you sign a 6-12 month lease.
With how cheap this place was, it was a no-brainer to stick around for a few months and save money. We really didn’t expect the cost of living in Puerto Vallarta to be so low, so finding this place was a pleasant surprise.
Now, we’ve moved to a place in Centro only 6 blocks from the beach. It’s one of three 1-bedroom units in a house up on a hill. We have a beautiful balcony with an ocean view and a shared rooftop complete with a plunge pool, bar, and barbeque.
The rent is around $750-$800 per month, depending on the exchange rate. That includes a weekly cleaning and fast wifi. Our electricity costs for 2 months are about $18. We don’t have A.C. which helps keep costs low.
We also found this gem through Airbnb!
Not on Airbnb yet? Sign up with our link and get $40 off your first booking!
Typically, it seems that 2-bedroom, furnished apartments in a more desirable location go for $600-$800 per month and require at least a 6-month deal.
A friend of ours had a 1-bedroom apartment in the Romantic Zone (Old Town) that she paid $400 for, then she moved to a small house in Centro for about $300 per month. Both were only partially furnished and she had to sign a 6-month contract. Now, she lives in a 2-bedroom apartment in Centro, also partially furnished for $600 per month.
Another friend got a sweet 3-bedroom house in Centro by the beach for $1100 per month but had to sign up for a year and bargain pretty hard for that.
Where and When to Look for Housing in Puerto Vallarta
Craig’s List is still widely used in Puerto Vallarta and Mexico at large. There are lots of listings for homes with a wide range of prices.
Many people post their listings in Facebook Marketplace. That’s how my friend found her $600 per month apartment.
There are also lots of PV Facebook groups. This group is a general group about life in Puerto Vallarta but I’m sure you could find someone who can point you in the right direction. I would suggest trying this group which is all about finding rentals for long-term visitors. If you’re interested in buying real estate then this group is for you.
The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to book an Airbnb or a hotel for a week or two, meet with people in person and see the places you’re interested in.
To get the lowest prices and avoid agents, you can wander the neighborhoods you’d like to live in looking for signs that say “Se Renta” outside the home. That means “For Rent” and the family is attempting to rent it out privately. This will require a bit of Spanish or a translator that can help you communicate. Most of these places won’t be furnished.
The best time to rent an apartment is during low season from May to October. Agents and landlords will be eager to get their place off the market and will, therefore, be more willing to negotiate a price. November to April is the high season when all the snowbirds come back and it can be really difficult to find what you want within your budget.
Accommodation Prices Around the Bay
Since we’ve been based here, we’ve also taken a few trips to the other towns up and down the coast.
We shared a house with my brothers and their friend in Sayulita for just $40 each for two nights. The hostel in Bucerias set us back about $20 for our overnight trip there and included breakfast.
Best of all, we stayed at a stunning oceanfront guesthouse in Yelapa for just $65 a night (during the off-season)! It’s called MiraMar if you want to look them up. Tell ’em the Grateful Gypsies sent you!
Read More: Things to do in Puerto Vallarta
A Note on Studying Spanish
When we first got here, we took a 3-week Spanish course at Spanish School Vallarta. It was a group class that met three times a week for three hours each time, and with the materials, it cost us about $250 each. There is another school in Centro called Spanish Experience Center. We didn’t study there but I do know their prices are a bit higher.
If you’re serious about moving to Puerto Vallarta, you could jump-start your Spanish abilities by getting a phrase book. Lonely Planet makes some of the best language dictionary and phrase books out there. Click here to check it out.
If you really want to improve your conversational Spanish skills and want to get started right away, you should check out Live Lingua. Their tutors are all native speakers and the lessons happen through Skype. You can even take a free trial class to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Cost of Transportation in Puerto Vallarta
For the first time ever, we are totally without wheels. When we lived in China and Bali, we always had either e-bikes or motorbikes. Those are expensive to rent here and there’s really no good place to park one at our apartment, so we decided to forget it and just stick to public transport.
The local buses go everywhere in the city for about $.50 cents.
For another $.50 cents, we can hop another bus and get down to the towns in the South Zone such as Boca de Tomatlan or Mismaloya. For just $2-3, we can head to the towns of Bucerias or Sayulita; a ride time of about 30 minutes and 70 minutes respectively.
Uber is here and it is slightly cheaper than normal cabs but cab drivers here are not out to rip people off. The cost is determined by the zones. Each cab driver has a list that you can ask to see if you’re skeptical. You should always ask for the price before agreeing to the ride. It’s usually only $4-5 per ride.
Water taxis are an option when going to the remote beaches down south and they’re also quite affordable.
Our total transportation costs are around $70 for one month.
Cost of Utilities/Bills/Laundry in Puerto Vallarta
At our first apartment, we’re fortunate to not have to pay utility bills as they’re included in our rent. Since the bills actually came to the apartment, though, we know that it costs about $20 per month for our internet and phone service.
Electricity and water were only $5-6/month. The electric bill went up in the summer as we were using the A/C more often. A/C is the biggest contributor to higher electricity bills. The less you use it, the lower your bills.
Our first 6 months living in Puerto Vallarta, we both got local SIM cards through Telcel when we arrived in Mexico. We usually paid $27 each for 40 days of service plus a few gigs of data. Quite often we’d burn through the data and add another $5 worth.
We didn’t have cable and we don’t pay for any subscription services. Our landlady has a Netflix account set up on the TV which we use and other than that we usually just watch YouTube.
In our new apartment, we have to cover our electricity costs at our new place. We don’t have A/C so it’s very cheap; only $18 for two months. However, I believe our hosts plan to add an A/C unit to the bedroom so we’ll keep you posted on the difference in cost.
The cable, internet, and cleaning services are included in our rent.
We now have cell phone plans with T-Mobile in the US because there are no roaming charges for using our phones in Mexico and their data plan is very generous. This saves us the trouble of having to get a new pre-paid plan every time we go back to the States.
Much to Rachel’s dismay, we don’t have a washing machine at our apartment here. We get it done once a week at the Lavanderia right next door and usually pay about $3. I hate doing laundry so that’s fine with me!
Cost of Shopping in Puerto Vallarta
One awesome thing about our local neighborhood in town was that everything we needed was in walking distance.
There was a little market nearby where we could get things like fresh fruit, veggies, eggs, tortillas, and juice. We would usually spend $10-15 there per week to stock up on the basics.
For bigger grocery shops we would go to Walmart or a Soriana a few blocks away. Generally, we’d spend $65-$85 each time we went to one of those and that would last a bit more than a week.
In our new neighborhood, there are also small markets and a grocery store called Ley. The costs are about the same, but we usually buy less at the grocery store and eat out more now that we have more restaurants nearby. A full shop at Ley usually costs around $45-$60.
There are also a handful of weekly local farmers markets that operate in high season.
Other than groceries, we don’t do a whole lot of shopping. We’re hitting the road again soon so we don’t feel the need to buy a bunch of stuff. Aside from a few silly souvenirs – a Lions Lucha mask, a Spartans skull, and a silly fish bottle opener – we haven’t bought much.
We did buy some furniture for our first apartment, but because it was so inexpensive, we were able to put it towards the rent. A bed frame and a desk plus a chair was about $200 total.
Cost of Food and Drink Puerto Vallarta
At the first apartment, we just ate at home for the most part.
Since we get up at 5:30 am to teach online with VIPKID, breakfast had to be small and easy.
Most days we would just have all meals at home as we didn’t do anything but teach English online, work on the blog, and go to the gym. We were ballin’ on a serious budget back then.
When we did go out to eat, it was usually very affordable.
Here are a few examples:
- Street tacos for $0.50-$1 each
- Huge quesadillas for $2
- Meal of the day at local vegetarian place for $3.50
- Fresh ceviche or aguachile for $6-$7
- Tuna salad and coffee at a nice cafe for $10
- Fancy 3-course dinner with a cocktail for under $30
You can join a street food tour if you’re wary of taco stands. The tour will take you to the cleanest and most delicious street food stands in the downtown area. They’ll teach you how to order and the names of the different toppings and sauces in Spanish.
Our food costs per month including grocery shops: $535 ($17 per day)
It’s no secret that we enjoy an adult beverage or two from time to time.
We can buy a 6-pack of Pacifico or Corona from the corner store for $5-$6. At certain times of the year, they sell 12-packs of Tecate for the same price ($6) on the weekends.
Even at bars downtown and on the beach, you can get a cold one for $1.
Los Muertos Brewery has pints during Happy Hour for around $1.75 and we usually take advantage of that.
Coco Tropical, another place we like on the beach, has 2-for-1 everything for their Happy Hour. We’ve enjoyed several margaritas and mango daiquiris for $2 or less. Monzon Brewery is the newest addition to our repertoire. They have a different deal every day of the week as well as a happy hour that includes food and beer.
Thanks to our early wake-up calls, we don’t party too hard here. By mostly buying cheap beers and being Happy Hour heroes, we don’t spend a ton on going out.
Cost of Health and Wellness in Puerto Vallarta
Since we love to eat tacos and drink beer, we have to exercise often.
We got a gym membership in our first neighborhood for $25 each. That included the sign-up fee and was good for two months. Their power went out – we don’t know why – but we signed up for two more months for only $14 each as a result. It was sweaty, but it kept us in shape.
We also discovered a good path for walking or jogging and went there once a week or so. There’s a big staircase that gives a pretty decent view of that part of town, so it was nice to just go hang out up there and talk sometimes.
Mexicans love group fitness like Zumba, and there were classes in the park across the street from our place twice a day. We never joined in but it’s an option! There are a couple of places to do yoga in town. There’s one studio that does Yoga teacher training!
Now that we live downtown, we joined The Fit Club. They have the best equipment in town. Plus, they’re the only gym with A.C. which is crucial in the summer months. They have a great deal for the low season, the sign-up fee is $26 and the membership fee is $34 per month – almost half of what it costs in the high season! The great thing about the discount is that you’re locked in as long as you don’t have a lapse in membership.
One of the big reasons we chose PV as a temporary base is because I desperately needed a root canal and crown.
Dentists back in the US quoted me at around $2,500 to have that done. I got it taken care of – plus a deep cleaning and x-rays – for only $570 here. And it was the nicest dental office I’ve ever been to, no joke. Rachel also needed a crown and got it for just $350, so she went ahead and took care of some fillings as well.
Look them up at DentoAmerica if you need some work done. We’ve sent several friends there and they all rave about it.
When Rachel got sick and needed to see a doctor and get meds, she was only out $20. The money we saved on medical and dental bills alone more than covered nearly two months of living here. Not a bad tradeoff if you ask us.
Rachel has now visited a Gynecologist, a Dermatologist, and a Chiropractor and paid out of pocket for all of it. Their offices were also very high-tech and super clean. The doctors are professional and speak English very well. The Chiropractor is actually American.
Cost of Activities in Puerto Vallarta
When we first arrived, we had to skip out on a lot of the popular activities here due to our budget constraints. We didn’t do any fishing or snorkeling tours. Nor did we take a ride on the pirate ship or see the Rhythms of the Night show.
However, this year Rachel’s parents came to visit and they did a lot of those activities. They saw the Rhythms of the Night show, went on a sailboat tour around the Bay with an open bar, and went on a day trip to San Sebastian del Oeste.
She said everything was amazing and well worth the price! I was busy traveling in Europe on my way to the World Cup in Russia but I was kinda jealous that I missed out on the fun. She’s working on a post all about those tours so stay tuned!
There’s a ton of awesome street art around Puerto Vallarta, so we always enjoy going out with our cameras and looking for it. We’ve even made friends with some pretty amazing graffiti artists, and we can point out their work to you if you come to town.
Another great free thing to do here is the hike up to the cross downtown. It’s a pretty easy hike that only takes 10-15 minutes, and you get incredible views as a reward.
Speaking of hikes, you can hike from Boca de Tomatlan to some secluded beaches for a great day-trip. You can end at Las Animas where there are a dozen or so restaurants to choose from for lunch.
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens are also just a bus ride away and cost about $8.50 to visit. They make for a great afternoon out of town and we highly recommend them if you visit.
On a couple of Friday nights, we checked out the Southside Shuffle downtown. A bunch of art galleries stay open late and pour free drinks to encourage people to come in and browse. We’re not exactly art collectors, but it’s sure nice to look at it with a free glass of sangria!
There are lots of fun activities in Puerto Vallarta that are reasonably priced. Rachel learned how to SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) this summer and got pretty into it. You can rent a board for $10 and paddle to your heart’s content.
Don’t worry if you’ve never tried. My friend Felix can teach you! He does a SUP tour to Los Arcos, a National Marine Park, where you can paddle out to the granite cliffs and snorkel in the caves. Check out his Airbnb experience.
These things only scratch the surface of all the awesome activities in Puerto Vallarta. Check out our guide on things to do in Puerto Vallarta for more activities like SUP and sunset watching!
Curious how we’re able to live in Puerto Vallarta? Read more here: How to Teach English Online and Travel the World
One Month of Expenses in Puerto Vallarta
We use the fantastic app Trail Wallet to track our expenses and highly recommend it. It allows us to set a budget and input our expenses by category so they’re very easy to track.
Here’s the breakdown of one month for our first stay in Puerto Vallarta:
- Accommodation: $253 (one month’s rent in PV plus one night in Bucerias)
- Food & Drink: $765
- Transportation: $31
- Entertainment: $66
- Misc.: $223 (includes the gym, phone, laundry, pharmacy, etc.)
- Dental Work: $560
- TOTAL: $1,898
That’s right, folks. One month in Puerto Vallarta for the two of us came in at under $2,000. I don’t know about you, but we know plenty of people in the US who pay substantially more than that just for rent. This includes over $500 worth of dental work and plenty of days at the beach, evenings out for dinner and drinks, and an overnight stay in another town.
Thanks to our awesome jobs teaching with VIPKID and blogging, we managed to pay for all that and still save $2,000 that month. By searching hard for an apartment, sticking to public transport, and eating plenty of street food while drinking street beers, we’ve proved that budget living in Puerto Vallarta is totally possible.
However, now we’re in a more comfortable financial situation. Since we live in Centro now, our costs are a bit higher because we go out more. We also take more Ubers and cabs. Plus, we joined a coworking space. It’s really nice and they have A/C so it gets us out of the house and helps us be productive.
Here’s a breakdown of our cost of living in Puerto Vallarta for 2018:
- Accommodation: $800
- Food & Drink: $715
- Transportation: $70
- Entertainment: $150
- Coworking Space: $220
- Misc.: $287 (includes the gym, phones, laundry, pharmacy, etc.)
- TOTAL: $2,242
So as you can see, even with the added expenses of a coworking space and US-based cell phone plans, we still have a lower cost of living than we would in the States.
My goal for this post was to show you that it’s possible to live on just about any budget in Puerto Vallarta. If you’ve found it useful I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a comment and let me know.
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