Photo: Miguel Naranjo
Once you get to Puerto Vallarta, you can save money and have a better trip by keeping in mind some things NOT to do. Below is a list of my top ten in the order that you will encounter on your trip.
1. Don't leave home on a trip to Puerto Vallarta without a pen. You will need one to fill out the immigration forms before you land in Puerto Vallarta. The airlines hand out the forms on the plane but don't supply pens. I remembered to pack a pen on my trip to Puerto Vallarta last month and was a hero to the couple seated next to me. Also, more airlines are no longer handing out the second immigration form that you will need to enter Mexico, so you will have to pick it up and fill it out after you land and before you get to passport control or you can fill it out in advance here. When you pass through Mexican immigration, you'll get a small visitor's card-- fold it up and keep it with your passport so you don't lose it. It will be collected from you when you fly home. If you lose it you'll have to endure more paperwork and pay a fine of about $35.
2. When walking out of the airport on arrival, don't make eye contact with anyone in the "shark tank." When you exit customs in the Puerto Vallarta airport, you have to run the gauntlet of timeshare salespeople, who, by the way, will never use the word "timeshare." They will approach you, sometimes with cold drinks telling you they can find you a taxi or a shuttle. They will usually ask you where you are staying and pretend that they represent a shuttle service for that hotel. They have incentives to sign people up who are staying at high-end hotels so they will be especially aggressive if they hear you are staying at a nice place. No matter how nice they appear, walk straight ahead and don't make eye contact. You have to walk through a large room full of this nonsense, but just keep going. They are not allowed to follow you out. (See my undercover video walking through the airport shark tank here.)
3. Don't exchange money at the airport. Unlike Mexico City, where you can get the best exchange rates at the airport, the opposite is true in Puerto Vallarta. You will get a much better deal at a bank, ATM or a money exchange booth in the city. If you do change money at the airport, only do enough to hold you over until you can get to a bank. Banks offer the best rates for exchange, followed by storefront money exchange booths and hotels. Just be sure to check the current exchange rate (about 19 pesos per dollar right now) before leaving home and know what rate you are getting before you do the exchange. It is not customary in Mexico to be charged a separate fee to exchange money. They make their money on the exchange rate they offer you. If you exchange money in a bank, you will have to show them your passport and give them a copy that they can keep. Banks usually won't make a copy for you, so bring copies before you leave. Of course, you can bypass the exchange game by using your ATM but you will likely be socked with fees from your bank and the Mexican bank. I am a big fan of banks that will reimburse you for all ATM fees when traveling at home or abroad.
Read the rest at SF Gate.
Chris McGinnis is the founder of TravelSkills.com. The author is solely responsible for the content above, and it is used here by permission given to PVAngels (Thank you Chris). You can reach Chris at email@example.com or on Twitter @cjmcginnis.
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