What is it like to visit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, now during the peak of the worldwide COVID pandemic? Should you go or should you cancel? Can you safely travel there and what can you expect if you do? What do the so-called red button restrictions mean?
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is in the state of Jalisco. On January 18, 2021, Jalisco was declared to be among ten Mexican states in the highest level of restriction designated by the color red. Those restrictions will be lifted on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.
The restrictions mean that bars can only open if they also serve food. Beaches must close at 3 p.m. but that rule appears to be only loosely enforced. Most of Puerto Vallarta's restaurants have outdoor seating so travelers can easily eat out without a significant risk of contracting COVID-19.
Los Muertos Beach on Feb. 9, 2021 after the 3 p.m. closure
The activation of the so-called red button or emergency button has been done three times now in Puerto Vallata. Jalisco's governor has touted the sucess of the lockdowns while others have questioned the effectiveness of the closures. But there is no dispute that the lockdowns have had a devastating impact on working people in Puerto Vallarta who depend on tourism. There is no government-sponsored unemployment insurance in Mexico.
You are not required to have a COVID test to enter Mexico but you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire in advance of your trip. You can fill out the questionnaire online and print out the form with the computer-generated QR Code to show when you arrive at passport control. For those not computer-savvy, you can also pick up a form at the airport and many airlines distribute the form onboard. More on how to get a COVID test in Puerto Vallarta here.
Man walks past closed nightclub in Puerto Vallarta on Feb. 9, 2021
You will need proof of a negative Covid test before returning the the United States. Puerto Vallarta's airport offers a rapid test for about $22 US. Many larger hotels offer the test free to guests. There are also a number of laboratories in the city that will do the test but the airport rate is about the cheapest you will find anywhere. If you are doing the COVID test at the airport before your flight, just be sure to allow at least three hours but better yet, get your test a couple of days before you plan to leave. If you get a false-positive result, there is time to retest before your flight leaves if you give yourself enough time. You must get the test 72 hours before departure. You will be issued a written copy of your results and some airlines will allow you to upload the results in advance to its Web site.
Couple pose for a photo along Puerto Vallarta's Malecon on Feb. 9, 2021
Is safe and is it worthwhile to visit Puerto Vallarta now?
If you visit Puerto Vallarta because you like being in crowded bars and nightclubs until the wee hours of the morning, the answer is no.
But if you want to enjoy the sunshine, beaches, culture and restaurants, now is a great time to visit the city with the precautions you would normally take anywhere else. But since most activities are outdoor-based, you will have plenty of options.
Most airfares are at record-lows and many hotels are offering deals unheard of during the busy winter season. Most flights are well-below capacity. You will be faced with short or no lines at the airport or when entering passport control and customs in Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta's famed El Faro landmark on the Malecon on Feb. 10, 2021
Masks are required in all public spaces in Puerto Vallarta with the exception of restaurants when you are eating or beaches. Although indoor dining is permitted, when given the option, it is always best to eat outdoors.
If you take the normal precautions, you can have a safe and inexpensive getaway to Puerto Vallarta and in the process, help the working people and small businesses in the city that would otherwise be unable to take this unprecedented economic hit.
Closed nightclub along Puerto Vallarta's Malecon