TC Vallarta Properties
Travel tips & things to do
So it’s your first time abroad, you’ve got your passport and that burning excitement fueling your heart. You board your plane in the U.S. and you have no idea what it’s going to be like once you land in Puerto Vallarta. Maybe you’re like me and you’re a planner and want to know of every detail so that you can plan ahead for timing or transportation purposes, if this is you—keep reading. If you’re an easy going, can handle whatever life throws at you, then this post might be irrelevant. Today I will discuss how processing works when entering a foreign country, specifically Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
When you board your flight in the U.S. the airport suggests arriving 3 hours prior to your departure time because you are traveling internationally. My first suggestion is to throw this right out. Yes, you are traveling internationally but you will not be going through any different procedures than you would for a domestic flight, so the typical 2 hours will suffice.
Next, upon boarding in the U.S. most airlines want to see that you have your passport in your possession, so keep it readily available. They won’t need to check any information on it, just that you have it.
You’ll board your flight and settle in for the next few hours as you make your way to Mexico. Typically about 60-90 minutes before your arrival the flight attendants will pass out an immigration form that you will want to fill out in either blue or black ink. It will ask you questions about the duration of your stay, what port are you arriving in (this will be your arrival airport PVR), flight number, etc. Please make note that they want your birth date listed as DD/MM/YYYY. Ensure that you are truthful on this form because customs and/or immigration can question you upon arrival. Similarly to the U.S., you are at the discretion of your customs agent upon entry.
I suggest using the bathroom on the plane prior to arriving in Puerto Vallarta. This is to assist with potential long wait times in the customs & immigration line. If you are traveling with a group, there are bathrooms in the waiting area and you are able to remove yourself from the line and then jump back in with your group but that’s a quick way to get dirty looks & annoy other travelers who have been waiting as well.
As your plane arrives at the gate, you will want to have your completed immigration form & passport in hand. You will then take a ramp down to the main terminal where you will begin waiting in the immigration area. It’s a well air-conditioned space that I have seen take 10 minutes up to an hour or more. Once you are directed to step up to the immigration agent counter, please hand your passport and immigration form to the agent. In addition, remove any hats, sunglasses and put away your phone. They may ask you a few questions about your stay, or they may review your documents and stamp both your form and passport and have you move along. A small section of your immigration form will be removed on a perforated edge and handed back to you. DO NOT LOSE THIS. You will need this to board your flight back to the U.S. I suggest keeping it with your passport in a safe and secure place. If you happen to lose this on your trip, arrive to the airport 3 hours early from your departure and be prepared to pay a hefty replacement fee.
Once through the immigration checkpoint you will proceed to baggage claim. It is a little chaotic at this point as there are multiple carousels moving lots of luggage at one time. It’s customary in Puerto Vallarta for your luggage to be removed from the carousel by an airport staff member and grouped into similar size pieces standing up near that corresponding carousel. Sort through the pieces, pick up yours and then proceed to the customs line.
Here you will wait with your luggage until you are directed to the customs agent. Similarly to immigration, the agent may ask a few questions about your stay as well as ask you if you have anything to declare. Items that are not permitted into the country are seeds, nuts, plants, food/drink, weapons, etc. If you do have these items, notify they agent immediately. If not, you get to press a small red button that will determine if you are randomly selected for a bag search. Its button roulette! If you get a green light you may proceed, if you get a red light you will be directed to a TSA scanner to insert all of your luggage and personal belongings into the scanner to be inspected.
After you are through this checkpoint you will want to make your way outside to meet your mode of transportation. There is going to be roughly 100 feet of very pushy salesman trying to sell you something or give you a “free” margarita. These salespeople are trained to compliment you or make it seem that they’ve been “waiting for you”. Do not stop, keep on going until you are outside the terminal and connect with whomever is picking you up.
Try not to get overwhelmed with this process as this post is very thorough to set your expectations but the whole process is relatively easy! Enjoy your trip & be sure to not lose that perforated sheet!
Hi everyone! My name is Heidi & I am the Property Manager & Events Coordinator for TC Vallarta Properties. An original Pacific Northwest gal turned Rocky Mountain dweller who is lucky enough to spend several weeks out of the year in my favorite place, Puerto Vallarta!! I am here to provide you with travel tips, things to do on your vacation & destination wedding or elopement advice.