Is it Safe to Drive From Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta?

If you want to visit both Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta during your trip to Mexico, renting a car is one of the most convenient ways to explore both cities at your own pace. But if you’ve never driven in Mexico before, it’s only natural to have some concerns regarding road safety. Most Americans have heard horror stories of kidnappings, gang activity, and violent crimes, but is that so for these popular tourist destinations in Mexico?

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Visiting Puerto Vallarta? Well, let me tell you, you are in for a treat! Whether you’re looking for some of Puerto Vallarta’s best golf courses or you’re looking to unwind at n all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta, our guides can help take the stress out of planning your next vacation.

Is it Safe to Drive from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta?

Although driving in Mexico may sound intimidating, it’s actually quite safe, especially if you’re going to Puerto Vallarta from Guadalajara. The highway that connects both cities is a well-traveled and well-maintained road. However, you are in a different country, which means there are a few things to consider before embarking on your road trip.

In this article, I’ll cover some of the safety issues you might encounter on your road trip. I’ll also share a few other ways you can travel without renting a car, so you can decide which method of transportation you prefer.

Getting From Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta

Guadalajara is located approximately 204 miles east of Puerto Vallarta. If you have a few extra days on your Mexico itinerary, visiting both cities is a great way to see the country and immerse yourself in the culture. 

There are essentially three different ways to get between both destinations – by car, bus, private transfer, or airplane. I’ll cover the pros and cons of each so you can have a better idea of which method of transportation to choose.

Traveling by Car

Renting a car and taking a short road trip is one of the more enjoyable ways to explore Mexico. It can also be cheap and, as I mentioned earlier, a relatively safe way to enjoy Mexico

There are two main roads to get to Puerto Vallarta from Guadalajara. The easiest (and quickest) option is to take the highway. It’s a toll road, but definitely worth the few extra pesos for the smoother roads and safer driving conditions. 

The entire journey should take 4.5 hours, although give yourself more time if you’re planning to make stops or sightsee along the way.

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If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can drive through the towns and villages of Jalisco. Doing so will add an extra hour to your journey (5.5 hours instead of 4.5), but it’s a doable option if you want to see more of the area. However, the roads traverse the mountains and aren’t as well maintained, so only take this route if you feel comfortable driving in Mexico.

Traveling by Plane

Flying is the quickest way to get to Puerto Vallarta. Viva Aerobus, Aeromar, and TAR Aerolineas all operate non-stop flights between the two cities, which means your flight time will only be around 50 minutes. However, you still need to account for travel to and from the airport (as well as arriving early). But even with this in mind, traveling by plane is still the fastest method of transportation.

Ticket prices fluctuate depending on the time of year and demand. If you book early enough, you might be able to score seats for around $40 to $50 USD each way.

Traveling by Bus

If budget is a concern, then you also have the option to take the bus to Puerto Vallarta.

Buses leave almost every hour and don’t need to be booked in advance, making this a flexible option for travelers without a set plan. There are several different operators (Future, Vallarta Plus, Primera, Pacifico) to choose from, and most come with AC, bathrooms, and large comfy seats. 

The trip should take around 5.5 hours (from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara or vice versa), although it may be longer if you’re on a bus that makes more frequent stops. 

Traveling by Private Transfer

As one of the more luxurious methods of transportation, booking a private transfer is available for those who want to travel in style. However, you’ll pay a pretty penny to have a private driver. While prices vary depending on the company, you can expect to pay around $200 to $300 USD for the one-way trip. 

Similar to renting a car, the journey will take 4.5 hours, assuming the driver takes the main highway.

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The New Toll Road

In 2011, a new highway connecting Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta was approved by the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. Once completed, it will allow drivers to travel between the two cities in just 2.5 hours. And while construction is still underway, new sections are opening every year.

Because many sections of the toll highway are brand new, they are clean, smooth, and in excellent condition. You won’t have to worry about potholes or unpaved paths. For this reason, I highly recommend that tourists stick to the toll road they’re planning to drive a rental car during the trip. It’s the safest and easy route if you want to drive to Puerto Vallarta!

Safety Issues While Driving

If you take the toll road, it’s very unlikely you’ll encounter any major problems during the trip. Sure – there are speeders and aggressive drivers, but they exist everywhere in the world! But if you choose to skip the toll road for the scenic route, you may find that there are some dangers that may pop up on the road.

One of the biggest concerns with taking non-toll roads is the condition of the road itself. Not only are they windy and narrow, but they’re often filled with potholes and speed bumps. And in some cases, the roads may be completely unpaved. You have to pay attention and drive slowly. 

Many travelers would also suggest only driving the scenic route during the day. Because the roads go through more rural parts of the country, crime can be an issue. If you have to drive at night, keep your windows and doors locked and do not stop for anyone unless they are a marked police car.

There are also fewer street lamps, which means you might not see other cars or even livestock on the road. While this has never been a problem for me personally, I would also agree that driving at night should be avoided if possible. 

In summary, the drive between Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara is relatively safe, with the majority of travelers encountering no issues whatsoever along the way.

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If safety is your top concern, stick to the highway. But if you feel up for the adventure, taking the scenic backroads can also be an exciting journey, as long as you take extra precautions. And most importantly – enjoy the trip! A road trip through Mexico is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience no matter which route you pick.