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Rent First! 11 Reasons Why.

rental, house, home, pool, golf, gated, Puerto Vallarta

This article is based on my knowledge of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, after living here for eight years.  However, you could use these reasons just about anywhere in the world when considering relocation.  One of the most frequent questions folks ask me is, “Should I rent before I buy?”   My answer is always YES…and here’s why:

  1. Will you like living here?   If you have not lived in a new place, especially overseas, for at least six months, how will you know if you want to go through the huge process of moving and living there?  Rent first….it’s much easier.
  2. Where do you want to live?  In Vallarta, you have many choices, but if you don’t know the different areas of Banderas Bay, how can you make this decision?  Do you want to live near the beach?  In the center of town?  Up where you have a view?  Out in a more rural location?  By renting in several of these areas over the course of a couple years (or a couple visits), you can get a very good idea where you eventually want to settle down and where you don’t.
  3. What part of Banderas Bay?  North, South, East or West?  Each has their own unique character, rentals, prices, environment, and of course neighbors. And the added challenge of transportation…by city bus, taxi, or car…depending on how far out you live.  I know some folks who rented in a smaller town 45 minutes from Vallarta because it was cheaper and they almost never got to town. Is that what you want?
  4. What type of neighborhood are you looking for?  Do you want to be immersed in a local Mexican neighborhood where markets, fresh produce, pharmacies, and taco stands are just a five minute walk away?  Here you will meet entire families who have lived in the same building for generations, get invited to their street parties, listen to their music, sometimes all night long, and know they are there for you if you ever need help. You may also meet other expats here looking for the same experiences you are.  Or would you prefer something like what you left back home….a condo in a building with many people (mainly other gringos) but where you might have a security guard, a pool, and of course higher utility and usage fees.  Or maybe a single family home in a gated community north of town?  With grass even?  And well-manicured green spaces?  Or perhaps a smaller town 30-45 minutes by car or bus to downtown centers?
  5. Bring your own car?  It is a long drive from the US or Canada.  You will need a special permit, obtained when you cross the border.  You will need Mexican auto insurance.  And you can only stay six months under your tourist visa so you will have to drive back home before then.  I don’t recommend a car until you are sure you are going to move here.  The public transportation systems are good and frequent and cheap.  And walking gives you a much better idea of your neighborhood and surrounding attractions.  When I first moved here, I would take any bus to the end of the line, then hop on the return bus….best way to get your bearings.
  6. Most rentals are furnished.  Now this is a great advantage and one I did not expect until I moved here.  No worries about bringing or buying anything except your personal belongings.  I came with two suitcases.  All I needed…anything else I might have forgotten, I could usually buy.
  7. How to find a rental?  Once you decide on the area you want to rent in, there are several options to finding the place you think you want.  There are several good rental agencies in town.  Some specialize in specific housing types such as villas or condos or apartments.  You can also walk some neighborhoods and look for “Se Rente” signs in windows.  If you speak some Spanish, you can also ask around those neighborhoods.  If your budget dictates an economy rental, these can be found in the weekly Spanish news “Mano a Mano” available in most Oxxo stores.  Be sure to ask if they are furnished before going to look.  A bit more difficult option is to ask friends you may already have here or to check out coffee shops where bulletin boards may advertise rentals.
  8. What do rentals cost/month?  You will find prices ranging from $150/month for a basic studio in a local neighborhood, little furniture, and probably no utilities paid…to $4,000/month for a three bedroom luxury condo on the beach, furnished, utilities included.  In high season (November-April), prices are higher/month and if you opt for a longer term contract, prices will drop depending on how many months you rent for.
  9. Do you have to sign a lease or contract?  Many will require you to, especially if you want four months or more.  Some will also require first and last and maybe a deposit.  Others won’t require anything but the first month up front.  All depend on the owner.  Can they evict you before the contract is up…no.  The law here favors the renter.  Can you leave before your contract is up…yes, but don’t expect your deposits back.  This actually works in your favor if you decide you don’t like the neighborhood, you can just up and move whenever.  I have never known a landlord who came after a renter for breaking their contract…too much trouble.
  10. What about utilities?  Most rentals include water. The kind that comes out of a faucet.  Drinking water in 20 liter bottles you can either buy at the local grocery store (tienda) or have delivered from trucks that drive through the neighborhoods.  Once they know you, they will stop all the time to check if you need water.  They will even bring it up to your place which is a great service, especially if you live on the third floor like I do.  I tip them if they will also open the heavy bottle and tip it over into my water dispenser.  Some rentals may also include gas (propane), internet, and on some newer buildings, solar hot water.  Renters are responsible for setting up and paying the electric (CFE) bill which comes every two months.  If you are to buy the gas, the same goes as for the water trucks….the gas trucks travel the streets.  You just have to catch them.  They will bring the full tank to your place, hook it up, and take the empty with them.  You pay the driver.
  11. What about pets?  This is becoming a popular request.  If you are coming for several months, you of course want to bring your beloved dog or cat with you.  The trouble is, there are still very few rentals here that allow pets.  There are many pet owners in Vallarta, and it is not a problem if you are the owner of the building or apartment.  But many owners do not want stranger’s pets damaging their property. The concept of a pet deposit is also not common.  I suggest you leave your pet with friends back home for your first exploratory visit to Vallarta.  While here, you can research the possibilities of bringing your pet while you are researching your locations.  Hopefully, rental inventory that allow pets will become more popular in the near future as this request becomes more common.

rental, house, home, condo, apartment, pool, Puerto Vallarta

A note about immigration:  you can stay in Mexico for 6 months on your tourist visa which you get on the airplane or at the border.  If you are considering becoming a resident, you need to know about the new regulations, the most important point being you must now apply at the Mexican Consulate near your current home in your current country.  As a new applicant, you can no longer apply in Mexico.

If this doesn’t answer all your questions about RENT or BUY, please Contact me.

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Car Talk

So what’s it like driving a car here you ask? The streets are narrow and cobblestones offer opportunities for some of the largest potholes in the world. Then there are those crazy “laterals” where you have to decide if you are turning left from the left lane or from the right lane of the lateral which means you have to know this before you get there! And what about the buses and taxis who drive as if they own the road? And there is barely such a thing as a yellow light…green slides into red in seconds so you best stop on the green or find yourself facing oncoming cross traffic while still in the cross lane. The traffic cops love to catch those who do this…a ticket for sure!


And then there is the question of a mechanic. I bought a very old 1995 Geo Tracker with a good engine partly because it sits high enough to drive the streets of rushing water during the summer rains and the top comes off for breezy driving and better views…and to help dry out the inside from the summer leaks! I know it’s time to do this when the grass starts growing on my floor mats! I can also carry stuff like beach chairs, umbrellas, coolers, groceries, and the occasional piece of furniture. Works for me.

So about the mechanic…I have tried many on the advice of both Mexican and American friends…results vary depending on what type of work you want done. For straightening my tailpipe that was loudly knocking against the frame, I used the guy across the street who stuck an iron rod into it and just bent it until it wasn’t touching anymore! Cost…50 pesos for his time. On the other hand, for brakes I went to a brake specialist with good results. Tires? Many choices from average to expensive. You can get a deal at Costco if you have all four replaced at once but I only needed two so again to the local tire man. All these guys have become good contacts and are very friendly for the most part. Helps to speak some Spanish or take a friend with you. I like the fact that, being a woman who doesn’t know too much about cars, I can still get it done and learn something while going through the experience. After all, it’s part of the adventure of living here.

Buy a car here with Mexican plates or bring yours from home? That’s a whole other discussion for another time as the opinions continue to vary. I decided to buy mine here, from a Mexican, with Mexican plates just to avoid the hassle. And I also waited three years before I did so, choosing to walk and take the buses until I knew my way around so well that driving and knowing the road signs was easy.

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Local Woman Shares 60 Years of Vallarta History

Strolling around today as I often do, I happened into a small, non-descript shop, a “Mexican Artifacts” sign hanging over the door.  The grey-haired woman who greeted me acted skeptical, perhaps wondering what a gringa could possibly know about the eclectic collection I faced.  I was respectful and open, curious as to what this place was all about.  Well, what an amazing hour I spent with her, after she warmed to me, listening to her stories of old Vallarta and the people she knew that made this town through their pride and hard work.  She told me that because of several dedicated historians and journal keepers, much of the history of Vallarta and its many characters are written, some in private notebooks and some published in Spanish with one by Carlos Munguia Fregoso, also in English.

Puerto Vallarta Malecon 1960's.

Estela is her name and this gallery is in the first floor of her home that she has been living in since she was born some sixty plus years ago!  She remembers such people like Agustin Flores Contreras who, through his construction company, built and paid for the first schools, including the school on Matamoros named after him, and the oldest elementary school, 20 November, on Juarez built in 1928.  He believed so in the importance of education that even Greek and Latin were taught as part of the regular studies!  Both these schools are still in use today.

Then there was Patrice, originally from California, dress-maker to the Hollywood stars while they were in Vallarta like Elizabeth Taylor and who made Estela’s own wedding dress; the crazy tourist who showed up every winter dressed like a Christmas tree who would stand outside some of the hotels or walk the beach, arms like tree boughs spread towards the heavens; and another rich visitor who was known for spending his family’s inheritance constructing and tearing down buildings during his stays.

There are many more stories to be told and I hope to visit Estela again soon.

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Do You Have a Sweet Tooth?

Is sugar really that bad for us?  Despite the warnings of dentists and doctors, sweets of all kinds are available to you in Vallarta.  Every child seems to be sucking on some questionable sugary thing of bright color and doubtful nourishment.  Local family-owned Azteca candy and nut shops as well as “pastelerias” offer more variety than you will have seen for some time.  One of my favorites is the “coco con leche” rolls made with sweet coconut and milk.  Or try the hot nuts cooked with cane sugar until they are caramelized in a coating of delight. My friend Jesus, who calls himself “Willie Wonka,” runs the candy shop (dulceria) where we stop to browse on my El Centro Walking Tour, with free samples all around!

Mexican candy, Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours!

If you want to feel less guilty, Xocodiva Chocolates in Southside offer some sugar-free gourmet dark chocolates to die for.  And Pie in the Sky has decadent cakes and goodies for all occasions. Several coffee shops and cafes also carry sweet delights to accompany your local Mexican coffee. Come take a guided walking tour with us and we will show you where to satisfy your sweet tooth.

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Liberating your Life

As we age, our life’s experiences help us to know what is important to us and what is not.  Once you decide that you definitely are committed to changing your life then the challenges of just how to do this can consume us to frustration.  We can become paralyzed into no action.

For me, simplifying my life to comfortable essentials was a life style I wanted, especially after owning 5 homes and all the stuff moved, sorted, boxed, unboxed….accumulations of years of family life I no longer wanted to drag around with me.  Besides, I had lived simply before my marriages and knew how freeing it was to not be possessed by my possessions…..there are infinite advantages to this one finds like knowing what we can live without…finding what we are looking for because there is no clutter….5 minutes to pick up ones space instead of 3 hours….being a household of one or two again does lend itself to a simple life with few belongings.

Having traveled many times in Mexico, I realized the Mexican people often live this way either through poverty or necessity when housed in cramped quarters.  I also experienced the delightful connections that come so clearly and strongly when only the essentials give us the freedom to focus on each other and not on our possessions.  The Mexican people are very friendly, kind, and happy.  They are accustomed to speaking with each other and therefore with me on a very personal level….their eyes like deep chocolate pools see me for me so that our conversations are warm and heart-felt.  I have often remembered the difficulties I have had when in cold climates trying to get close to a person for a connected conversation when we are all bundled up…insulated from each other.  In the warm climate of Vallarta, where one wears few clothes, it is easy to have a close and lovely conversation.  This appealed to me tremendously while on my travels and was a major factor in my decision to move here.

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“Puerto Vallarta – Tropical Paradise”


Warm and dry during the winter and humid in the summer, Puerto Vallarta has the perfect location as it is the same latitude as Hawaii. Puerto Vallarta combines the lushness of the jungle with the beauty of the Sierra Madre Mountains and the wonder of the Pacific Ocean. The ocean breeze and the fresh mountain air combine with unrivaled sunny days to create some of the best weather in the world.  Vallarta boasts three hundred sunny days a year.  November to June is the dry season.  June to October is the rainy season with fantastic thunder and lightning storms that bring daily refreshing relief from the humidity.  This is when the jungle is at its best.

Tropical paradise, deserted beach, quiet, sandy, Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours!

Great value for your money

While it is commonly known that the peso is worth less than the dollar, be it US or Canadian, you never truly appreciate it quite as much as when you see that your hard-earned money can buy you so much more than it can back home.  If you are living here, you know the dollar allows you a life equal to or better than what you had back home.  Getting more for less is good in anyone’s book, especially when it comes to looking for a home or rental.  A beautiful home here can be found for the price of a studio in New York City. Puerto Vallarta has a large array of both first class real estate developments and economical apartments for purchase or rent.

Stunning beaches

Here are a plethora of enchanting beaches that offer something for everyone. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking to do some kite surfing or simply someone that likes to lay by the water being tended to, Puerto Vallarta has the right beach for you. Many of these beaches have been certified by the Mexican Government for their cleanliness and beauty. At the north end of the Bay you can find fine sand beaches that extend for kilometers. On the south end you find tranquill inland coves accessible only by water taxi.

Amazing mountains

This is what puts Puerto Vallarta in a completely different league from other vacation destinations.  The Sierra Madre Mountains and their tropical forests with lush jungle vegetation, give Vallarta a completely different atmosphere.  Here is one of the few places on earth where the mountains come down to completely touch the sea. There is nothing that compares to watching the sun rise in the mountains every day and set in the Pacific Ocean. During the summer season the rains make the surrounding mountains glow an emerald green of a hundred shades that is difficult to explain with mere words. A hike up the mountain trails will take you to a time long before when mankind was one with nature.  You will feel its beckoning. The vegetation and beautiful flowers along with the many bird calls combine to give you the mystical feeling only a tropical paradise can give you.

Mexican Culture

The mixture of indigenous traditions with Spaniard customs has produced an amazingly rich culture, an explosion of color, spirituality, flavors, images and sounds that will never stop impressing you. Slowly discovering little idiosyncrasies of this beautiful culture is one of the best rewards for visiting and living here.  There are colorful celebrations and festivals every month of the year.  A photographer’s paradise.

The people

You have to travel a lot in order to be qualified to compare people and cultures. Well, I have done it, and I can tell you that, there are no warmer people in the world.  Mexicans always smile, they always say “please” and “thank you”, they will kiss and hug you, so be prepared; they will touch you all the time; they are a happy people and they like to show it. Family and friends are most important. You will have a lot of fun around them; they will make you feel at home.  You just have to let go and learn from their laid-back and unpretentious attitude towards life. This way of approaching life, where people work to live and not live to work, might be arguable, but for a place like Puerto Vallarta, where people  come to forget for a while about the problems of daily life, it’s just perfect.

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