We have all heard the horror stories about tourists being stopped by police and bandits. Being shaken down for money and so on. I’m sure incidents like this happen just like there are speed traps in the south that drop the speed limit from 50 to 15 and then haul you into court to pay an exorbitant fine. I however have never experienced this. So chill out.
Another common thing in Mexico is speed bumps. These are not your run of the mill US speed bumps! Go over one of these at more than a couple miles per hour and it can rip the bottom out of your car. You literally need to roll over them no faster than if you were walking. In certain areas they are pedestrian cross walks, but they are also on major roads / highways into and out of towns. Be on the look out for these things. They are bad!
You will notice that people don’t observe the speed limits. As a tourist, I recommend you do, or at least don’t go more than 10 kilometers per hour over the speed limit. We have a friend who drives like a maniac (40-50 kph over the limit). He brags that he has never received a ticket (he did roll a car though). However, he speaks Spanish and when he has been stopped he just gives the officer some pesos. This brings up an interesting point, keep a 200 or 500 peso note (~$10-$25) in your pocket. If you do run into trouble, our friend assures us that that will clear it up. It’s important to have it separated so they don’t see a wad of 500 peso notes because then they will want more. We have never experienced this so take it for what it’s worth.
Finding your way in best left to Google. Get Google Maps on your phone, and download maps for Puerto Vallarta and vicinity before you leave home. This way you can use google maps on your phone without incurring any data charges. When you are in Mexico, just let Google Maps direct you where you want to go. I also recommend a car charger for your phone, and a phone car mount (suction or vent attached). Then just blindly follow Google. It might make strange turns but it will get you where you need to go without a problem. Since the maps are stored on your phone, it will work regardless of cellphone coverage.
Puerto Vallarta has a counter intuitive concept for making a left turn. The main roads have an inner and outer roadway. To make a left turn you need to be in the outer roadway and then in the left lane. There will be a left turn arrow on the traffic light telling you when you can go. If the street does not have an outer roadway, you make a left as normal. Of course every rule is meant to be broken and driving rules in PV are not different. There are SOME intersections where you make the left turn from the INNER roadway! Unfortunately you only know which is which by experience. Hence the advice to let Google be your guide.
In closing, just remember those damn speed bumps. They are killers! Other than that relax and enjoy. The signs are in Spanish but use international symbols so you can figure out what they are saying.