White sand beaches. Crystal clear blue waters. Passionfruit margaritas and tacos. These are some of the things beautiful Mexico has to offer, but how is it possible to keep paradise affordable?
During spring break, I visited Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with my boyfriend, Mario, and we had an amazing experience. Many people have asked me how much we spent since it’s a common belief that any form of travel is expensive, but I can promise you that traveling is more affordable than you think. While it can get expensive to visit this area for vacation, it doesn’t have to be. You can choose the kind of lifestyle you want to live.
My main rule of advice for reducing costs while traveling here is to stay away from the fancy resorts and beachfront areas since those are usually the most expensive places to stay in this area.
Below, I break down the cost of every expense I had during my week in Mexico. I’m still learning how to keep better track of my finances while traveling so this budget breakdown is not completely precise, but you can get a general understanding of how much it costs to travel in Mexico on a tight budget.
Our Final Cost Breakdown
*All values are in USD ($) and for the exchange rate, I estimated it to be $20 MXN to $1 USD.
Transportation – $361
Transportation was definitely our greatest expense. Even without the airfare included, it was about the same cost as our housing. The best ways to minimize these expenses would be to take public transportation or rent bikes. It will definitely require more hard work (and physical exercise at times), but it’s worth it if you are trying to save a few dollars and don’t mind a little hustle.
Airfare – $281 each
Through Volaris – Chicago to Cancun: $148
Through Delta – Cancun to Chicago: $133*
I recommend using Google Flights, Skyscanner, or the app Hopper to help track flight prices. You can get notifications whenever flight prices change and get predictions on when is the best time to book your flight.
*We booked two one-way flights since it was the cheaper option at the time. This is not always the best way to save money, but it is an option you should look into.
Taxis – $39 each
Our most expensive taxi trip was from Valladolid to Chichen Itza. We paid our driver about $40 for a round trip drive and to wait outside for us while we were at Chichen Itza. However, the typical cost to travel around the city areas is approximately $12, so it’s not very expensive if you divide the costs with friends.
Buses – $26 each
This is the grand total for four coach bus rides. We took the ADO buses which have cushioned seats and are extremely comfortable. These buses took us from Cancún to Tulum to Valladolid. They’re the best buses in the area and I highly recommend them!
Bikes – $15 each
We were able to find a bike rental place in Tulum that offered rental prices of $5 each day, so for three days, our final cost per person was $15. We rented these bikes from Croco Bikes and were satisfied with our experience with them.
Housing – $149.32 (for two)
We stayed at Airbnb’s for our entire trip since that was the cheapest option we could find. Although the Airbnb’s weren’t glamorous, we weren’t looking for a stylish place to stay. We also figured that we were going to be spending most of our time out exploring than indoors, so we wanted to minimize unnecessary expenses by booking the cheapest places possible.
If you are interested in seeing the places we stayed at, I have linked them all in this paragraph. Our first Airbnb in Cancún cost $28.68 for one night for two people. This place actually had the highest cost per night out of all of our Airbnb’s and, in my opinion, had the worst value since it had an ant infestation. Our second Airbnb in Cancún cost $12.12 for a single night for two people. Our Airbnb in Tulum was supposed to cost $130.34 for four nights, but I saved $40 by using an invite link to make my account and left the cost at $90.34 for four nights for two people. Lastly, our Airbnb for Valladolid cost $18.08 for one night for two people. Overall, I had good experiences with all of my Airbnb’s.
If you are new to Airbnb and want to book through here, please use my invite link to create a new account. You will be rewarded up to $55 in Airbnb credit just for using my link to sign up. I will also be rewarded up to $30 in credit only after you complete your first stay with Airbnb.
Food – $100 each
The price here is a very rough estimate. I did not keep a good track of my receipts, so I tried to estimate about how much I spent on food. This includes my very cheap $3 taco meals and more expensive splurges (erm… $11 for an açai bowl), along with the cost of alcoholic drinks during meals. If you stick to a strict budget, you can expect to have an average meal cost of about $5 – if you know where to eat at.
You will easily save more money by eating at the local restaurants instead of the ritzy ones and it’s usually better-tasting food in the end! I was able to find 50-cent tacos fairly easily after leaving the touristy areas. If you’re in Tulum, I recommend going to Antojitos la Chiapaneca for the best food deals in Tulum.
Alcohol is one of those expenses that varies person by person. It’s definitely an unnecessary expense, so it’s usually best to cut it out completely. But I was on vacation and wanted a little flair, so we chose to buy a LOT of margaritas (cause who doesn’t like a good marg on the beach?). They’re usually more common to find in the touristy areas (where they’re obviously more expensive), so this is just one of those things that you have to decide when you get there.
Activities – $45.75 each
Usually, activities in this area are not super expensive, unless you’re paying for a tour guide or some extravagant event (then, I can’t help you there). We spent our time visiting cenotes (natural freshwater ponds) and architectural ruins. The costs to visit each place was typically under $10 each, but Chichen Itza was definitely the most expensive visit since it cost $24 to enter the ruins (plus the cost of the taxi). It’s definitely worth it though to get to witness one of the seven wonders of the world!
Tulum Architectural Ruins – $3.75 each
Chichen Itza – $24 each
Gran Cenote – $10 each
Cenote Calavera – $8 each
Miscellaneous – $32
Let’s be real. You’re going to want that cheesy T-shirt that says “Cancun” on it, so go ahead and buy it for the memories. Souvenirs are an expense that can be avoided, but I don’t think should be since it’s nice to bring back a piece of your travels with you.
Souvenirs: $32 ($30 for a T-shirt and $2 for a magnet)
As you can see from the amount we spent in a week, the costs for our vacation were greatly minimized with better planning and cutting down on unnecessary expenses. And I still believe that there are ways to cut the costs even more, but I didn’t want to restrict myself too much since, in the end, we were there to enjoy ourselves.
I hope this blog post helped break the stereotype that you need to spend thousands of dollars to go on a nice trip. If you choose your location correctly and plan out according to your budget, travel can be more accessible than you might think.
Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in reading more about my trip to Mexico and seeing my one-week itinerary, click here.