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- Can get a massive 60-70% discount off of their Rack Rate; and
- Are happy to be stuck in the middle of nowhere
Manila was my last stop in The Philippines and, indeed, South East Asia.
It was time to start the 2nd phase of My Plan and head for Mexico.
MY FLIGHT PLAN:
I had booked and paid for my flight several weeks before.
Once again I found CheapFlights.com had the best price and a flight schedule with reasonably short ‘in transit’ stops:
- A 10:20pm 14 hour flight from Manila to San Francisco (on Philippines Airlines)
- A 4 hours stop over in San Francisco
- A 3 hour flight from San Francisco to Dallas (on American Airlines)
- A 3 hours stop over in Dallas
- A 3 hour flight from Dallas to Puerto Vallarta (on American Airlines)
- Arriving in Puerto Vallarta at 11:30am
At 4:00pm on the day before my departure, I got a call from Philippines Airlines … my Tuesday night flight to San Fran was cancelled.
They offered me an alternative flight at 10:20pm on Wednesday night but the connecting flights were full and I would have a 14 hour stop over in San Fran before catching a flight to Dallas … this would land me in Puerto Vallarta at midnight on the following day. I declined and asked for something more reasonable. Besides, I didn’t want to have to extend my stay at the Leesons for 1 more night!
The lady on the Philippines Airline end was very helpful. The delay wasn’t her fault … I didn’t give her a hard time.
By 5:00pm, they had got back to me and offered the same schedule if I left tonight (Monday night). I agreed.
I was packed and out of Leesons and at the airport by 6:30pm (even though it was rush hour).
MANILA TO SAN FRANCISCO:
Philippines Airlines had set up a special Check In desk to handle people rescheduled from Tuesday. A sign on the counter was offering anyone who volunteered to give up their Monday night seat a free Return Ticket to San Fran! Alas, I couldn’t benefit from such an offer.
Anyway, they checked me in to discover that I needed a USA ‘In Transit Visa’ because of the San Fran to Dallas Domestic ‘leg’ of the trip. I didn’t have one.
No problem, the man at Check In took me down to the Philippines Airlines office, sat me in front of a computer, and I filled in the application online. I paid on Credit Card and acceptance was immediate.
The Check In man, who had been waiting for me, walked me back to Check In and printed off my Boarding Cards. He gave me a window seat (my preference) on all 3 flights. My suitcase was tagged all the way through to Puerto Vallarta and off it went down the conveyor belt.
I was impressed by the service and thanked him.
By now it was 7:30pm and the flight was scheduled to leave at 10:00pm. I walked straight into Departures. I found my departure gate (Gate 2) and sat down.
Just before we started to board the plane, my name was called over the intercom asking me to go to Gate 1. I arrived to find my Check In man there … he had upgraded me to Business Class.
The 14 hours to San Fran were very comfortable. Thanks to Philippines Airlines!
SAN FRANCISCO TO DALLAS TO PUERTO VALLARTA:
I walked through the Baggage Collection straight to Immigration.
A kindly Security Guard asked me ‘do you have all of your luggage?’. I said ‘no’ my suitcase was checked through to Puerto Vallarta …
He said ‘unless you want to lose your luggage, I suggest that you check the arriving luggage on the conveyor belt’. I did. There was my suitcase!
I made my way through Immigration and checked my suitcase in at the Transit Desk. They confirmed that THIS TIME it WOULD go all of the way to Puerto Vallarta and not to worry about it in Dallas.
Well, the 1:00am American Airlines flight to Dallas couldn’t have been more different … I had a very excited 6 year old girl sitting next to me who was on her first ever flight. Fidget! My God! I spent the next 4 hours being elbowed, kicked, and ‘Teddy Beared’. I got no sleep.
The 3 hour stop over in Dallas went quickly and I was on my final flight to Puerto Vallarta.
My seat was broken and it didn’t stay up in the take off position.
The man behind me was the biggest man on the plane. Not the best person to put behind a broken seat.
Even though he knew that my seat was broken and that I could do nothing about it, he proceeded to punch and knee the back of my seat for the next 3 hours. I got no sleep.
PUERTO VALLARTA AIRPORT:
I collected my suitcase and cleared customs.
When you enter the final Baggage Check you are stopped and asked to declare. Once that is done, you hit a button. It is purely ‘random’, if you get a Green Light you walk straight out. If you get a Red Light, you go to a table and open your bags. I got a Green.
Immediately as you walk out, there are people in uniforms pretending to be ‘officials’ of some sort. They are not. They will try and stop you as you walk past. Ignore them. I don’t know what their ‘angle’ is … but it will be some sort of ‘scam’.
Then, you need to ‘run the Gauntlet’ of taxi touts. Ignore them to.
Just before the main Entry / Exit doors to the terminal, you will find some ATMs. I took out some MX Pesos.
Next to the ATMs are the ‘official’ taxi ticket counters. The fares into town are ‘regulated’ so that you cannot be over-charged. There are different standard fares depending on which ‘hotel zone’ you are going to.
It is worth doing your research in advance and to know where your hotel is, it’s name, its address, and which ‘zone’ it is in. Mine was in Zone 1. The standard fare was MXP226.
MY 1ST HOTEL – THE HOTEL & SUITES CORAL:
I was arriving in Puerto Vallarta 1 day earlier than planned, so I needed somewhere for my 1st night. I wanted somewhere close to the hotel that I already had booked (see, below).
I was early. It was 1:00pm and check in wasn’t until 2:00pm.
No problem … they checked me in immediately.
I am expecting prices for rooms to be higher in Mexico than what I have become used to in S.E.Asia over the past 18 months. This was my first experience of what to expect.
It was 7:00am before I could get back to sleep again.
I was awoken with banging on my door at 1:15pm. It was the cleaner.
MY 2ND HOTEL – PLAZA SANTA MARIA:
I had pre-booked this hotel several weeks before whilst I was still in The Philippines.
I had gone ‘up market’ on this one and wanted somewhere nice for my first few days in Mexico.
I was expecting some Jet Lag … and I’m not as young and as robust as I used to be. 🙂
The room was big and comfortable.
It had a kitchenette with sink, coffee maker, toaster, microwave, cutlery, plates, glasses, and fridge / freezer.
It had a separate dining area with a dining table and chairs.
And, it had a nice balcony over-looking the Swimming Pool.
I am unimpressed with Puerto Vallarta (PV).
On the beach side (south of the airport) you have a several km long strip of hotels on a very average beach. On the inland side you have a few blocks of cobbled streets.
The town is tidy and clean – a very pleasant change from the majority of the towns in S.E.Asia.
On the inland side, you can find food carts on the streets selling Tacos and other such Mexican ‘snacks’ for as little as MXP12. You can, also, find the odd little cafe where you can get a ‘local’ meal for MXP50-70 or MXP130 in something a bit nicer. You can find the odd little local bar too. On this side of the main drag, you can get a bottle of Corona beer for MXP20.
On and around the main road you find plenty of Oxxo convenience stores (the Mexican equivalent of a 11/7), banks, and more ‘western’ restaurants at higher prices. There are, also, several smaller and cheaper hotels to be found with room rates advertised at MXP500-700 / night.
Alas, that is it. Otherwise there is nothing to see and not much to visit. I took an 8km round trip walk north from my hotel towards the airport … it was just all road and what I describe, above. I took a similar walk south and found the same.
PV is just a Holiday Resort town. In my experience, there are much better places to go.
There are enough people around who speak some English for you to survive if you don’t know any Spanish.
It was a long journey from Manila to PV.
But, it was made a lot more pleasant thanks to my Business Class upgrade on the longest part of the journey.
I won’t be extending my stay in PV. From here I will be heading to Guadalajara … I have booked myself in to a 2 week Spanish Immersion course there … it is time for me to learn some Spanish.
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