Tips for Traveling in San Pancho, Mexico

After compiling numerous questions from guests planning their vacation here along with spending time in San Pancho, I have put together some good information and tips for travelling to and around San Pancho. 
Please note that the official name of this pueblo is San Francisco, if you are looking on maps or road signs this will be the name used. The town is known to locals as San Pancho, as “Pancho” is the nickname for “Francisco.”
All foreign citizens including American, Canadian and newborn infants, must have a valid passport to enter Mexico (driving or flying), there are no exceptions. 
Many restaurants and stores in San Pancho do not accept credit cards. We advise that you bring cash or use your ATM card to obtain cash. MXN (Mexican Pesos) are preferred, however, U.S. Dollars may be accepted, the exchange will not be as good as your bank or money exchange places. 
There are ATM’s in San Pancho, all dispense Mexican Pesos. Here are some locations in San Pancho:
• Banorte ATM, in front of the San Pancho Hospital on Calle Africa
• Mary’s Mini Super (Mini Market), on Ave. Tercer Mundo 
• El Indio Mini Super, located on Calle America Latina
There are also ATM’s in the town of Sayulita, just an 8 minute drive south of San Pancho and at the banks in Bucerias, mentioned below. Please note that the local San Pancho ATM’s have been known to: 
1. Run out of money (especially around holidays)
2. Have limits of how much cash you can pull out per day and 
3. The ATM cash dispensed will be in MXN (Mexican Pesos)
There are no money exchange facilities (Cajas de Cambios) in San Pancho. Below are our suggestions (in order) for exchanging cash for Mexican Pesos:
1. Contact your bank in your home country to arrange for currency exchange in MXN.
2. Exchange cash at the airport before getting your bags.
3. Stop at banks along the way to San Pancho, specifically next door to WalMart in Mezcales (approx. 20 minute drive north of the Puerto Vallarta airport) and next door to Mega (Super Market) in Bucerias (approx. 25 minute drive north of the airport), both right off the highway on the right hand side when headed north to San Pancho from the Puerto Vallarta airport. Please note: Banks close between 4-6pm weekdays. The banks also may have cash exchange minimums between $300 to $500 USD per day. You are required to have a Passport and they may also want a copy of your passport that you will need to provide. 
ATM card skimming has been happening all over the world, incidents have been prevalent in San Pancho and the surrounding areas. While it may not be easy to detect, becoming aware and knowledgeable of ATM card skimming is a good first step to avoiding becoming a victim. In attempt to avoid any hassles, use these tricks to avoid getting caught in a skimming scam: 
• Before slipping your card into the slot, look at the machine. Is there a protrusion or other strange device connected to the machine? Are there strange wires located in the vicinity of the ATM?
• Use secure ATM machines – under video surveillance or inside of a bank lobby. They’re less likely to be tampered with. Thieves have to take more risk installing skimmers where there are security cameras. 
• Cover the ATM keypad as you’re entering your PIN — just in case there’s a hidden camera around. 
• Skimming devices will stick out a few extra inches from an ATM. If something looks suspicious, find another ATM. 
• If a machine keeps your card, call the bank immediately and report it. 
• Don’t accept “help” from anybody hanging around the ATM machine. They may say they were having trouble also and you just need to enter your PIN again. 
• Keep your eyes on your card if you have any doubts. Don’t let a merchant walk off with your card — even for a few seconds. 
• Before and after you make your transaction, insert another card with a magnetic strip like a COSTCO membership card or old room key. We were told that if a machine has a skimmer, this may intercept your ATM card information.
We recommend advising the fraud department at your bank and/or credit card company that you will be vacationing in Mexico before you leave your country of origin.  If you do not do this, some banks and credit card companies put a freeze on cards after they are first used here in Mexico and travelers’ have been unable to use them, therefore they had no way of acquiring cash. Travelers’ have also experienced that their ATM and/or credit cards did not work at all in Mexico because they had not made prior arrangements with their bank and/or credit card companies.
When you are ready to depart, you should leave San Pancho 3 hours earlier than your scheduled flight to leave time for a minimum one hour drive (maybe more when factoring in traffic) and 2 hours to be ready for your flight. 
San Pancho is on the same time zone as Puerto Vallarta. San Pancho is actually in a different state, Nayarit, than Puerto Vallarta, which is in Jalisco. These two states are on different time zones and we (being San Pancho, Bucerias, Sayulita & Punta de Mita) all use to be on different time zones. Because these areas have had increased tourist attractions and the Puerto Vallarta airport services these surrounding areas, the time zone difference became a huge inconvenience for travelers. The time zone was changed many years back and these areas mentioned above, which include San Pancho, are the same as Puerto Vallarta. To really confuse you, your cell phones clocks stray you wrong when you are down here if they are set to automatic or satellite time, because they are picking up the state of Nayarit time. We suggest you keep your watch and/or cell phones manually set on or Puerto Vallarta time and all will be good! Please also note, that Daylight Savings does not take place in Mexico.
It is customary and greatly appreciated to tip in Mexico, especially the restaurant servers and housekeepers. The pay scale in Mexico is quite low and the local families rely on tips for income. A suggested minimum gratuity at a restaurant or in-house dining is 15%. A suggested gratuity for housekeeping “per couple/bedroom” is approximately $5 USD per day the housekeeper cleaned. As for tipping the House Administrator and gardener, this really depends on your experience and what you feel comfortable with. 
San Pancho does have cell phone reception in certain areas, specifically the town center. Both AT&T, Verizon & T Mobil do work in certain areas of San Pancho. Please check with your phone carrier as they are now offering very affordable international data, unlimited calls and texts plans so you can stay in touch with wireless internet/data packages. 
To make a local call when dialing from a foreign cell phone, it is important to use the “+” sign and the country code. A lot of times this can be done by holding down the “0” button until it turns to a “+” sign. When calling a Mexican landline or cell phone from your foreign cell phone you would dial +52 and the 10 digit phone number. An example would be calling our office, you would dial +52 311 258 4066. If you are trying to call the U.S. or Canada from your foreign cell phone, dial “+1″ and the 10 digit phone number.
We suggest you take the time to download WhatsApp on your smart phone or tablet before arriving. This is a communication application that everyone uses, including house administrators and any other local business owners. To find out more about the app and for downloading go to: Note: It is very important to enter country codes when dialing within the app. For example, here in Mexico would be +52 1 and the 10 digit cell phone number.
We highly recommend not bringing expensive items and jewelry that you may not need. Please keep the house locked when you leave and keep your important documents, cash and jewelry with you at all times. Theft has occurred from time to time at some of the vacation houses. 
Please remember you are in the tropics. Please put all fruits, vegetables, cereals, cookies, chips etc. away in your fridge or cabinet at night and dispose of garbage securely. Some animals to note may be:
• Tejones (badgers) – which are- nocturnal raccoon-like animals, and/or other little animals or insects that will eat anything left out and will open doors or tear screens to get in. 
• Geckos – that run around all over the walls and ceilings. Geckos are unique among lizards in their vocalizations, making chirping sounds in social interactions with other geckos. They do make droppings that look like mice or rat droppings. Geckos are very important to the environment; they eat their fair share of bugs every night, which reduces the mosquito and bug populations. 
• Scorpians/Insects – To avoid getting stung by less friendly insects (maybe scorpions), it’s a good idea to do the following: shake out your towels and shoes before using them, check your sheets before getting into bed, don’t go barefoot and check the shower floor before stepping in. 
• Crabs – During the summer months, you may be accompanied by crabs making their way down from the mountains to the beaches. Do not be alarmed and do your best to keep the doors closed so they don’t get in. The housekeepers and pool cleaners will dispose of them.
• Ants & Cockroaches – Also, unfortunately, very common in the area. 
We recommend that you wash all of your fruits and vegetables, specifically the types that cannot be peeled, with an iodine solution. If you do not see a little bottle of Microdyne (brand name for iodine solution) or similar disinfectant by the sink, you can purchase it at the local store and use it to soak fresh fruits and vegetables.  Follow the directions on bottle, usually 8 – 10 drops per liter of water, and soak for 10 – 20 minutes.  You can soak your fruits & vegetables in tap water as long as you are using the disinfectant drops.  
We advise that you not drink or brush your teeth with water from the tap. If your vacation home has a whole house water purification system, the water is safe to drink and/or brush your teeth.
There is a shortage of water in San Pancho, please conserve. 
Although it may not be comfortable, please adhere to the local custom of throwing all used toilet paper and personal hygiene products in the wastebasket.  The sewer line can easily become backed up and could cause a bigger problem than the wastebasket filling up.
Electrical blackouts and brownouts along with Internet and Cellular outages do occur from time to time in all of San Pancho. 
If you plan on doing even a small amount of driving, you should be aware of how the driving conditions are and how the road conditions in Mexico can vary from street to street. The roads in Mexico are far different from the roads in other countries because they aren’t government protected in many ways. For example, in the United States public roads and Interstates have to fit a certain criteria and they must reach specific standards; while in Mexico the road you are driving on may not have been updated in several years. Driving in Mexico isn’t as dangerous, as many people would tell you, but it also isn’t the safest place to drive either- it’s just more challenging. Another thing that new drivers should be aware of is the livestock factor. Livestock isn’t fenced-in nearly as much as it is in the other countries. In fact, most farmers just neglect to put fencing of any sort around the fields, even the highways, literally Free Range! Without fencing, the livestock is free to move about the roadways and because of this, nearly 40% of all car accidents in Mexico, include livestock in some way (according to Lonely Planet – Mexico). We advise that you do not drive at night since unlit vehicles, rocks, pedestrians and animals on the roads are common; as well as hijacks/robberies, which although unlikely, could also occur. 
Remember that along the highway in this area of Mexico, it is customary that when you make a left turn you PULL OVER TO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE HIGHWAY. Please wait and make sure there is no traffic in either direction then continue and make your left turn.  PLEASE NOTE: In this area when you put your left turning indicator on, this could mean that you are saying, or the driver in front of you is saying, that it is “safe to pass,” not that you are turning left! Please make sure that it is safe before you pass! Do not trust indication signals! 
Please drive with caution relax and take your time, you are in Mexico!  
Your car may be towed and or license plate removed without notice if you park in yellow-curbed zones, specifically in Sayulita. The result is a very long day in Mezcales and/or a $300 USD fine. If this does happen, you may want to notify your rental car company first before anything else. 
There are a handful mini grocery stores, vegetable stands and tortillarillas located in San Pancho, as well as a butcher and a fish market. El Indio Mini Super & Mini Super El Morro are the most well stocked in San Pancho and is located on Calle America Latina near the corner of Ave. Tercer Mundo (the main street corner in San Pancho, you can’t miss it). 
For major super markets with a larger variety of groceries there is a Mega and La Comer (Super Markets) in Bucerias (approx. 25 minute drive north of the airport or south of San Pancho), both right off the highway on the right hand side when headed north to San Pancho from the Puerto Vallarta airport. Mega is open until 12pm, however, hours of operation are subject to change during specific time of the year and over holidays, so do check their websites. 
Also, now available is a pre-order of groceries at La Comer, use this link here to make your order and pick it up at La Comer in Bucerias on your way to San Pancho if headed from that direction.
Flashlight (now-a-days this is an app on your smart phone), comfortable walking shoes and long light clothing (such as long sleeve shirt and light pants) for cool winter evenings and bugs. 
All of the vacation rental homes and hotels have three prong outlets (same as in the U.S.). If they do not, an adapter is supplied.
EMERGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION: Dialing from a Foreign Phone 
HOSPITAL – SAN PANCHO +52 311 258 4077
CMQ HOSPITAL (BUCERIAS) +52 329 298 0717
PUNTA DE MITA HOSPITAL +52 329 688 0059
There is only one ambulance in San Pancho between Compestela to La Cruz de Huanacastle. Therefore, if you or someone you know is in need of urgent care and can be moved, they should be taken immediately to the closest private hospitals, which is CMQ in Bucerias and/or Punta de Mita Hospital. 
I hope you enjoyed my information. If you’d like to share your comments or let us know what more we can add or update, please feel free!
Allison Rodriguez
Vacation Rental & Sales Agent
San Pancho Rentals & Real Estate


  • Julia
    January 27, 2024 at 1:47 pm

    This is the most informative post I’ve read yet about San Pancho.
    Would you happen to know if there are any public swings in San Pancho? We have a child with autism that loves to swing. If so, please let me know where. We will be there 2/12/2024.
    Thank you.

  • Cindy Klaver
    February 26, 2024 at 8:36 am

    Hello! Thank you for all the information. We have travelled to Mexico many times and have stayed in Nuevo Vallarta, PV, Cabo, Isla Mujeres, and Playa del Carmen several times. We have visited San Pancho for the day but have never stayed there for an extended time period, like we are going to do next week . We are excited. I am concerned about the news I hear coming from Sayulita with all the sickness going on there. I am assuming that is a Sayulita sanitation issue. Anyhow, we plan to head out to eat a few times while in San Pancho. Do you have any restaurant recommendation where you are fairly certain that they adhere to good preparation of their fruits and veggies? Or, should we stay away from eating ingredients like that? I honestly feel a little silly sending this because we have gone to Mexico so many times and have eaten at so many restaurants. I guess I haven’t taken my family for an extended stay off the beaten path as much and the Sayulita banter is getting me all paranoid that the health concerns are not just a Sayulita thing but more of a regional thing for places like San Pancho as well.

  • Allison
    February 26, 2024 at 11:50 am

    Hi Cindy,
    Yes, the restaurants on San Pancho Life have all been vetted and I personally go to them often. I would highly recommend them, along with some others in town too. It is unfortunate to hear about Sayulita, San Pancho has not been experiencing these issues. I am sure all will be great for you and your visit!

    Thanks for reaching out!

  • Cindy Klaver
    February 26, 2024 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you! We have been to the cervercia and it is fabulous! We are pumped to go. I will stop my worrying. What good is that going to do!?? Thanks again. 🙂

  • alay4d
    May 12, 2024 at 10:36 pm

    Wow Thanks for this post i find it hard to stumble on good quality resources out there when it comes to this material appreciate for the blog post site

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