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Is it safe to travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico? Advice from US State Department

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In response to recent inquiries about whether it is safe to travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the SF Gay Travel Examiner is offering this updated information, which was accurate as of Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013

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Puerto Vallarta is the most visited gay destination in Mexico. It is especially popular with residents from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Is it safe to travel to Puerto Vallarta?

In a word, the answer is yes, it it safe to travel to Puerto Vallarta. PV is part of the very diverse and large Mexican state of Jalisco. Some news outlets have incorrectly reported that the US State Department is warning against all travel to Jalisco.

***Click here for an updated 2014 story on Puerto Vallarta safety.

Below is the the US State Department's official warning as it pertains to Jalisco, the state that is home to Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara. It was last updated on Nov 12, 2012:

Jalisco: Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta are major cities/travel destinations in Jalisco -see map to identify their exact locations: You should defer non-essential travel to areas of the state that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas. You should also exercise caution when traveling at night outside of cities in the remaining portions of this state. There is no recommendation against travel to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta. There is also no recommendation against travel on principal highways in Jalisco between Guadalajara including the portions that cross in to the southern portions of the state of Nayarit. The security situation along the Michoacán and Zacatecas borders continues to be unstable and gun battles between criminal groups and authorities occur. Concerns include roadblocks placed by individuals posing as police or military personnel and recent gun battles between rival TCOs involving automatic weapons.

So once again, the US State Department's warning does not specifically apply to travelers to Puerto Vallarta. But the department does warn that tourists should "defer non-essential travel to areas of the state that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas."

Is Puerto Vallarta safe?

Puerto Vallarta's tourism board has commissioned a study from the security consulting firm Thomas Dale and Associates. The firm found that "the number of negative events involving foreigners or non‐foreigners is fractional compared to the large ex‐pat resident population and the millions of visitors that come to vacation each year in Puerto Vallarta"

The study found that "visitors to the destination feel safe and continue to visit Puerto Vallarta numerous times through their lifetime and that the destination’s support services are well above the average standards and dedicated to serving the visiting public. In relations to the drug wars, TDA found that the limited land transit makes the smuggling of guns and drugs through Puerto Vallarta very difficult and thus a non‐issue in the destination."

So, the general consensus is that it is advisable for tourists to exercise the same cautions in Puerto Vallarta as any city in the US. But the US State Department's warning does NOT apply to Puerto Vallarta.

Crime against tourists is relatively rare in Puerto Vallarta. Many of those involved in the tourism industry have long complained that Americans paint Mexico with a broad brush. When violence is reported in one part of the country, all the cities are tainted by association. Few Americans would judge the safety of Beverly Hills by violence in West Los Angeles, but many Americans judge safety in Puerto Vallarta by crime in the Mexican border towns.

This column has long advocated travel to Puerto Vallarta, so it bears repeating, Puerto Vallarta is a safe destination. It is safe to travel to Puerto Vallarta.

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