Puerto Vallarta is a city of over 300,000 people and is sandwiched between the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains to the east and Banderas Bay to the west, which means that traffic routes through the city are limited. Puerto Vallarta transportation can be a problem, especially if you are driving. Parking is hard to find in Centro and Zona Romantica, even with the construction of multi-floor parking garages.
Buses are an inexpensive and reliable way to get around the city. Three bus companies cover most of the city and generally run from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Traveling in the wee hours of the night? No problem, there are night-owl buses called “servicios buho” from 11 p.m. – 6 a.m.
Bus fares are for one-time use only and there is no change available on board, so make sure you have exact change. You should be able to go most anywhere for about US$.50. Keep your ticket in a safe place so the inspectors can check that you have a ticket.
Also be sure that you are taking the correct bus. Buses that are marked Centro go through different neighborhoods to make their way downtown. Buses marked Tunnel also go through different neighborhoods in the city and end up downtown.
Buses also connect Centro and Zona Romantica with outlying areas. Buses that are marked Ixtapa, Las Palmas or Mojoneras connect the downtown area with those towns. Buses marked Mismaloya connect expats living south of Puerto Vallarta with downtown. And, buses marked Marina Vallarta also provide easy access to the central part of the city from the hotel zone.
For trips to outlying destinations, Greyhound or Autotransportes (ATM) buses can take you to Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerias, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Punta Mita, Sayulita and points north. Service runs from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. and generally is available every 5-10 minutes.
Taxis are also plentiful and relatively inexpensive compared with U.S. taxi fares, although higher than most inland cities in Mexico. They do not use meters, instead charging per ride based on zones in the area. Local taxis are yellow and fares differ depending on distance travelled.
If you would like to spend the day in Yelapa or other villages on the southern shore of the bay, you can use a water taxi. They leave from the pier at Playa de Los Muertos or farther south in Boca de Tomatlan. Prices vary depending on destination. Water taxis also link La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and Nuevo Vallarta with Puerto Vallarta.