Mexico has a reputation of a being a cheap country for traveling. However, this is a huge country and, as in most places on Earth, you can find a wide range of prices.
Budget travelers can expect to survive on $30 – $40 USD per day, staying at shared rooms in hostels. Mid-range travelers, who will look to stay at decent hotels should budget around $70 a day, on average. And luxury travelers… well, there is no limit here! But expect at least $100 per day if you plan on splurging on your Mexican trip.
In almost every trip, the main costs go towards accommodation, food and transportation. Let’s look at each of these categories!
The first important thing to know to save money while traveling in Mexico is that the local currency is the Mexican Peso. Its sign is the same as the USD Dollar, but the value is very different. Make sure to check the official exchange rate before you exchange any money to avoid losing money on the transaction.
Mexico is a country where most payments are made in cash, so keep this in mind while preparing your trip.
Usually, accommodation is the higher cost in your travel expenses. You can cut down on it if you are willing to stay at shared rooms at hostels. If you are not sure whether this is for you, you can read more about it on our “Hotel, Hostel, AirBnB: Which One Is Right For You?” guide.
After you’ve figured out which type of accommodation suits you better, there are other aspects to take into consideration, like location. Naturally, the more central you want to be, the higher the prices are. Consider staying a bit outside the city center, especially if you rented a car.
If you travel in the high season, try to book your accommodation in advance, as this will get you the best value for money.
Food is usually the cost eating up the second biggest portion of your budget. You can keep this low by eating mostly local food, which is quite cheap – and delicious!
Street food in Mexico is abundant and comes in many forms. You can find the Mexican dishes you normally find everywhere in the world, like tacos and quesadillas. But you will also have a wide offer of other local delicacies, like tamales, tortas or tostadas.
Mexicans usually have their main meal of the day around 2pm. If go out on the street at this time and let your nose guide you, you will end up in one of the many places that serve “comida corrida” – a set lunch composed of three or four courses, homemade and delicious!
Be aware that tap water is not potable in Mexico. If your accommodation provides you with a daily bottle of water, great! If not, don’t buy it there, as it will probably be overpriced. Instead, go to the supermarket, where you will also find cheap snacks to take with you and beat the hunger throughout the day.
While a few years ago Mexico was famous for being a cheap place to drink, this is not the case anymore. If you are in touristic areas, you will pay almost the same as in the US. However, if you hang out where the locals do, you will still find some good deals, with local beer at around $1 and tequila drinks for not much more.
Transportation in Mexico is cheap and easy. Bus fares within the city are very cheap and even a taxi ride in the city shouldn’t set you back more than $2. Just make sure to ask the fare before you get in to avoid touristic scams.
Long distance buses are also economical but, considering the size of the country, sometimes it is worth it to jump on a plane. Mexico has some good quality budget airlines with prices able to compete with bus fares.
“Colectivo” is another way to get around in Mexico. It can be a car, van or pick-up truck that will collect passengers and drop them off wherever they want. Just be aware that the driver will try to squeeze in as many passengers as possible, which can make for an uncomfortable ride.
Other Factors That Influence The Prices
When people think of visiting Mexico, most of them will think of the coastal areas and the famous Yucatán Peninsula. However, Mexico is so big – 14th biggest country in the world – that you have a lot more to explore. And you can get yourself a much cheaper vacation if you go inland and avoid the most touristic areas. Amongst the most budget friendly destinations in Mexico are the cities of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca City, Cholula or Guanajuato.
Another factor that will strongly impact the overall cost of your trip is the time of the year. Mexico’s high season for tourism runs from December through Easter. But if you go to the coastal areas between the months of July and November, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars.
While you are in Mexico, make sure not to miss out on the cenotes, abundant in the Yucatán Peninsula. These are surface connections to subterranean water bodies and are absolutely beautiful. You can check a list the unmissable ones on our 10 Breathtaking Mexican Cenotes guide.