Located on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta (PV) has become an iconic vacation and expat community.
From its roots of a once small village, today the greater Costa Vallarta area extends almost thirty miles along the shoreline of the Bay of Banderas.
Puerto Vallarta is a good place to retire for an affordable yet high quality of life. Reasons include a temperate climate, friendly people with lots to see and do. It’s also considered safe with an excellent healthcare system.
In spite of massive expansion and becoming an international tourist mecca, PV has somehow managed to retain its classic Mexican charm. This is a feat in itself with hundreds of hotels and all-inclusive resorts throughout Costa Vallarta.
In 2011, the Malecon boardwalk was completed as part of a renewal of the historical downtown. Today, the districts surrounding the old town area are vibrant; filled with shops, restaurants and boutique hotels.
As the second most visited tourist hotspot in Mexico (only behind Cancun), over 5 million tourists arrived in 2019. And, that doesn’t count all the passengers from cruise ships.
How Much Do You Need to Live Comfortably in Puerto Vallarta?
As a general rule, a retired couple can live comfortably for around $2,000.00 a month in Puerto Vallarta. This includes rent for a furnished two-bedroom apartment, utilities, health insurance and a decent standard of living.
Compared to the cost of living in the US, this becomes an affordable alternative. Your dollar stretches further while offering a comfortable lifestyle.
For those desiring more luxurious accommodation, upscale rental properties will be closer to $1,200.00 per month. Over the past year, real estate values increased 15% with the average home / condo costing around $350,000.00.
Retiree Discount Card (INAPAM)
Mexico’s government offers a retiree discount card for any citizens or residents over the age of 60. The catch is you have to apply in person, provide proof of residency and eligibility.
Many businesses advertise senior discounts. Simply present it before your purchase to get these savings. These can range anywhere from 10% to 50% and include:
The Puerto Vallarta Retired Lifestyle
The Puerto Vallarta lifestyle is both laidback and stimulating with a plethora of things to do. With a large expat community, there’s lots of get togethers such dinner parties, beach days or attending local events. In addition, they’re active in volunteering and giving back to the local community.
English is widely spoken and this might be one of the most retiree friendly destinations, making Puerto Vallarta a good place to retire.
With a relatively low crime rate, expats report feeling safe day or night. City buses are frequent connecting to, almost, everywhere. Taxis are inexpensive and even more convenient.
The city is famous for its culinary variety. Using the freshest ingredients prepared to perfection, you really can’t go wrong anywhere you eat. Reasonable prices abound with the average meal costing $10.00.
Things To Do In PV
One of the major attractions of this city are the pristine waters of the Bay of Banderas and miles of gorgeous beaches.
The weather's warm year-round with refreshing Pacific breezes. Almost every evening is spectacular as the sun slowly sets over the horizon.
What most impressed me were the many activities which include:
Is Puerto Vallarta a Safe Place to Retire?
Puerto Vallarta is a popular vacation destination and deemed one of the safest cities in all of Mexico. Tourism is embraced with expats reporting they feel safe and secure. Violent crime is rare with the greatest concern being petty theft.
In fact, the city compares favorably with American cities generally considered to have low crime rates making Puerto Vallarta a good place to retire.
As the chart below reveals, Salt Lake City is deemed safer; whereas San Diego has slightly more crime.
Just like at home, common sense needs to prevail. Any valuables left unattended, are likely to disappear. This equally applies to items left in plain sight inside a vehicle. The best policy is keeping your valuables locked up.
The second greatest concern is corruption. According to Transparency.org, Mexico ranks 124th out of 180 countries, which isn’t exactly stellar.
Unfortunately, corruption runs deep throughout all of Mexico. Besides creating distrust with law enforcement, this inherent corruption plays into the hands of the cartels.
What About the Drug Cartels?
Mexico is notorious for drug trafficking, homicides, kidnapping, robberies and more. The Global Peace Index ranks Mexico 140th out of 163 countries. The drug cartels have grown more powerful and dominate most of Mexico.
Acapulco, at one time, was the “haven of the stars” and the place to be.
Since then, organized crime has taken over and it’s become the 2nd most dangerous city in the world! In fact, Mexico lays claim to five of the top ten crime ridden cities with Tijuana in 1st place.
PV is considered much safer, but hasn’t exactly remained completely untouched. December 2020 marked the high-profile assassination of the former governor, Aristóteles Sandoval.
Allegedly, this was in response to the government’s “war on drugs” by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
Healthcare in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta has an excellent healthcare system consisting of world class hospitals, a multitude of clinics, responsive ambulance services and pharmacies making Puerto Vallarta a good place to retire.
For a relatively small city population wise, PV has an extraordinary healthcare network.
Many of its doctors and staff were trained in the US and are fluent in English. What really sets them apart is the care provided for patients which is much more personalized than you’d find in the US.
In addition, the cost of medical services is very affordable, creating a booming medical tourism industry. As mentioned earlier, medical expenses are considerably less in PV.
A doctor’s appointment is around $18.00 while dental cleaning is under $30.00. Prescription drugs are 40% to 60% less expensive.
Universal healthcare is provided through the government agency IMSS, costing a retired couple about $100.00 per month. The drawback, as with most public healthcare, it's basic coverage fraught with long wait times.
For these reasons, most expats choose to either supplement their coverage or subscribe to a full private medical insurance plan.
Private Healthcare Insurance
As a rough estimate, a retired couple can expect to pay around $300.00 per month. This depends upon a number of factors such as:
We’ve all heard horror stories about getting sick in Mexico. Without coverage, you can basically be held hostage until your bill is settled.
One story we didn’t share in our review of the Crown Paradise Golden was of a fellow guest taken to the hospital by ambulance. What a way to wreck a vacation!
Apparently, she’d been bedridden for two days with intense abdominal pain. As we’d gotten to know her brother-in-law, he shared the details on what happened. She was taken to Hospital CMQ, recognized for outstanding quality and patient care.
She was resting comfortably with an entire battery of tests scheduled over the next few days. As a Canadian, he was in disbelief the hospital demanded a credit card up front.
The bill for the ambulance ride and first night totaled about $500.00. Fortunately, she had medical insurance which would cover everything. As we left for home the following day, we never learned the final outcome.
How Easy Is It to Retire in Puerto Vallarta?
Mexico is one of the easiest countries to retire to for American citizens. Puerto Vallarta, in particular, has a large expat community, English is widely spoken with daily direct flights available to most major airports.
The US State Department estimated approximately one million US citizens were living in Mexico in 2019. According to Visa Guide, Mexico remains the top country for living abroad.
For decades, snowbirds have flocked to Puerto Vallarta to enjoy the warm weather and affordable lifestyle. They’re allowed to stay for six months without a visa and many have fallen in love with PV’s unique charm.
Personally, I have three friends who own property and plan on retiring there. An estimated 35,000 American and Canadian expats reside there year-round. Countless thousands visit during the winter months.
Additionally, it’s easy to get there or back home. The main airport, Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport, has daily direct flights to most major US airports.
For example, the flying time from Houston is 2 hours and 40 minutes with three daily flights.
Retirement Visa Process
The government encourages people to retire in Mexico with their Pensionada (pensioner) Visa. In comparison to most other countries, their process is one of the easiest. In fact, you can even apply online at Visas Mexico.
If you want to retire or stay longer than six months at a time, you’ll need to apply for a visa. One of the primary qualifications for eligibility is proof of financial means. The Pensionada Visa requires a minimum of one of the following:
Besides being a straightforward, albeit bureaucratic process, with the Pensionada Visa you’re also entitled to a one-time household items exemption. This is referred to as the Menaje de Casa.
An alternative is the Temporary Resident Visa which is good for one year and can be renewed for up to four years. At that point, you’ll apply for a permanent residency visa.
The financial criteria are slightly relaxed, requiring one of the following:
Closing Thoughts on Is Puerto Vallarta a Good Place to Retire?
Not only is PV a great tourist destination, as it turns out, it’s a wonderful place to retire. During the time we spent there, we had the opportunity to speak with several expats.
Not surprisingly, they all raved about the warm weather, the beaches and how much they loved living next to the ocean. The entire region has rapidly developed in recent years.
No longer the quaint seaside village of the past. Arguably for the better, with upgraded municipal infrastructure including modern hospitals, housing and clean drinking water. Two critical factors for myself include affordability and safety.
Without a doubt, prices have increased, yet the cost of living is dramatically lower than in the States. With respect to crime and personal safety, PV might be less dangerous than where you currently live.
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