Tag Archives: gay Puerto Vallarta

Should I Pay with Pesos or Dollars in Puerto Vallarta? Where Should I Exchange Currency?

You should pay in pesos, across the board in almost every situation. The only convincing point I have ever heard in favor of dollars is for one very specific situation: tipping strippers. But that was when the exchange rate was less favorable against the dollar. In that case, you may have wanted to bring a small stack of $1 bills (or a large stack—I have no idea how much/whether you love the strippers!). But now that 20 pesos equals almost exactly $1 USD, you can simply make sure you have a stack of 20 peso notes if you are visiting a strip club.

Paying in cash is preferable for all small transactions. The exchange rates are very high at the airport, and the fees at the airport ATMs are also quite high. I don’t like to waste money, so I prefer to get pesos at an ATM in town. For those who are staying in Zona Romantica (as all gay tourists should—see my advice on where to stay in Puerto Vallarta), the two most convenient ATMs that dispense pesos (be aware that some ATMs nearby only dispense dollars, so be sure to check the signage and messages carefully) are located at the Banorte at Olas Altas 246, one block south of the park (Parque Lazaro Cardenas), or the Intercam Banco at Ignacio L. Vallarta 130, which is the first block of Zona Romantica after you take the bridge over Rio Cuale from Centro Historico Puerto Vallarta. The Banorte ATM in particular can be quite busy, with a line forming on the sidewalk.

To use the ATM, you can first choose to use English or Spanish for your transaction. It will guide you through several steps, and at some point it will offer you the choice to accept an exchange rate set by the bank. DECLINE this exchange rate—many people accept thinking they must accept in order to continue, but that is not true. If you decline, you will get the daily best exchange rate rather than the somewhat inflated exchange rate they offer. My choice is to take out a large amount of money and then keep the bulk of it in the safe in my hotel, while carrying only enough for the day I have planned. I do this for convenience (fewer trips to the ATM) and also because the ATMs OFTEN RUN OUT OF MONEY, especially on very busy holidays or during events or celebrations. I have even found both of the usual ATMs out of money, in which case I walk over the bridge into Centro and visit the large Banco Azteca located one block north of the bridge.

At restaurants that cater to tourists or that are somewhat more expensive, you can usually use your credit card. A smart thing to do is to make sure your credit card does not charge a fee for international usage. And don’t forget to notify your credit card issuer that you will be traveling! There are few things less fun than being stuck in a foreign country with no way to pay for things!

So why should you pay in pesos? Out of respect for the local business people you are dealing with, and for your own benefit. It is an inconvenience (and an expense) for locals to convert dollars to pesos—they pay an exchange rate just like you do. Many restaurants will accept payment in dollars, but they set their own exchange rate, and across the board it will always be to their benefit, meaning they charge you extra for the inconvenience and expense they will incur when they in turn have to convert those dollars to pesos. It benefits everyone if you simply use pesos. And, a sidenote: there is a persistent myth that locals prefer to receive tips in the form of dollars. This is simply not true. Tip your waiters (and masseurs and taxi drivers and anyone else you may be tipping) with pesos.

My method for converting prices from pesos to dollars, so that I can better judge the expense of an item is to drop the last digit (rounding up or down to the zero or the next increment of 10), and then divide that result in half. This may require tweaking if you want an EXACT calculation, but for a quick-and-dirty estimate, it is useful. $100 pesos becomes 10 when the last digit is dropped, and divide 10 in half to get 5. So, 100 pesos is 5 USD. 750 pesosà75à$37.50. If it helps. You can also think of one peso as one US nickel. Ten pesos is 50 cents.

I try to judge my spending and my withdrawals to avoid having too many pesos left at the end of my trip. If I have more than I need to pay for the taxi to the airport, I prefer to exchange the pesos back to dollars in Zona Romantica, because the process at the airport is time consuming, tedious, and expensive—they charge something like a 13% fee. The place I have used is CIBanco at Olas Altas 513, just across from The Palm Cabaret and Bar, right in the heart of the gay area. They have always provided me with quick and convenient service.

Where Should I Stay in Gay Puerto Vallarta? Should I Do an All-Inclusive Resort?

NO. Most definitely, you should avoid doing all-inclusive when visiting Puerto Vallarta! That may be appropriate elsewhere, but it is a mistake most visitors to PV make only on their first visit. The city is charming and walkable, with many affordable and delicious restaurants and bars, and there are ZERO good options for all-inclusive resorts that cater to gay men.

The area where you will want to stay is known as Zona Romantica (sometimes also called the Pink Zone or La Zona Rosa, although that has been falling out of favor in recent years). It is the area on the far south end of the Bay of Banderas, south of the Rio Cuale. The gay beach is known as Playa de Los Muertos (or simply Los Muertos), and it is the section of beach south of the intersection of El Malecon and Abedul Street. A very handy landmark is Blue Chairs Hotel—but it is only to be used as a landmark! Do not stay at Blue Chairs (my strong opinion)! There are many good options nearby, and Blue Chairs is notorious for being an always-under-construction dump. Visit the rooftop bar if you want, but avoid the hotel. I also avoid the Blue Chairs section of the beach, as the only reason I could see to visit that spot would be the convenience of charging the food and drinks to your room. Since you won’t be staying there, you can simply skip it.

So, the question remains: Where SHOULD you stay?

My favorite options are to find a private condo via AirBNB, VRBO, or other such apps; or a gay-friendly private hotel with a liberal “guest” policy. Some specific suggestions and more info below:

Hotel Mercurio. Hotel Mercurio is a gay staple in the Romantic Zone. It is a specifically gay hotel with a private courtyard where they hold regular, weekly events. Those events do come with some liveliness and noise, so this is not the hotel for you if you require a silent and tranquil ambiance. The events take place in the central courtyard around the pool and bar area, and include weekend drag brunch and a Sunday afternoon event called Beers Boys & Burgers that includes go-go dancers and burgers and beer for a single affordable price. Unlike many hotels in Puerto Vallarta, Hotel Mercurio does not strictly monitor overnight guests or charge an extra fee for having such a guest.

Regarding bringing a guest to your room in Puerto Vallarta: many hotels simply do not allow this, while others charge an extra fee or have a strict check-in process for guests. Many visitors have been surprised to find that they can’t bring a friend to their room, and you can imagine their consternation. This is simply the way things are done in much of Latin America, and rather than causing a scene and having a bad experience, simply choose a different option: stay at a hotel with a liberal guest policy or at a private condominium that does not have a strict door policy and where the owner does not live on-site! Unfortunately, the economic inequality that exists between tourists and locals means that tourists are sometimes targeted for scams in all of their various various forms—robbing you in your hotel room, perhaps while you are in the bathroom; drugging you and robbing you; etc.—so I don’t mind a hotel that has a policy that requires guests to check in or leave their ID at the front desk. That helps to reassure you that the known scammers are kept out, and that the person has provided their name to the hotel and can be tracked later if there is a problem. So: strict check-in policy OK, “No Guests” policy not OK.

Another reasonably affordable option is the adults-only Hotel Amaca. This used to be one of the nicest gay hotels in PV, with a lovely rooftop pool and bar and a view of the entire bay—until the giant condominium project (and one of the tallest buildings in the Romantic Zone) Signature by Pinnacle was built directly in front of the hotel, completely blocking its view. The hotel still has a gay-friendly vibe and reputation, although it is not strictly gay any longer. It does allow visitors, and the rooms are comfortable and clean. Many rooms come with a balcony and/or in-room hammock.

Some of the other options that are centrally located and affordable include Amapas 115 (aka Amapas Apartments) and Villamercedes Petit Hotel. Hotels that have been known to cause difficulty if you want to bring a guest to your room include any of the super-cheap hotels (under $30 per night), Hotel Eloisa (guest policy inconsistently enforced), and these hotels that I would recommend all gay visitors avoid due to multiple reports of homophobic harassment: Emperador Vallarta, Hotel Tropicana, and Playa los Arcos.

If you decide to go the private condo route, it is best to read some previous reviews. You can usually glean from the description and the owner profile and previous reviews whether the place is gay-friendly or not. It is common for people who own buildings to rent out part of their building as guest units, and it is best to avoid that situation if the owner resides on-site, unless you know in advance that they cater to/accept gay guests and allow visitors. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are often scams set up to tempt you with a crazy-low price. If you see a listing for a cheap unit that has no reviews or only a single review, you may wish to choose a different option.

A few final tips:

  • Puerto Vallarta is hilly. The fact that your condo has multiple flights of stairs is not always obvious when looking at a map, so you may want to do some research into that if climbing stairs is a concern.
  • I always indicate 2 adult guests when making reservations even if I am traveling solo, so that the hotel doesn’t have any reason to complain if I bring a guest.
  • If you have a good experience at a private condo and you have a way to contact the owner, you may negotiate a better rate (and save both you and the owner some money) by contacting them directly rather than through the booking agency for a future stay. Of course, booking outside the formal system may make it harder to claim a loss on vacation insurance if you are forced to cancel a trip.
  • Always make sure your choice of habitation has all the things you consider essential: air conditioning, WiFi, etc. I accidentally booked a room without air conditioning once, and I had to pay more to move to a better room after spending a sleepless and sweaty first night.

If you have any of your own recommendations, or places to avoid, please feel free to comment below. I always appreciate hearing of options I haven’t tried before!