Soon after we embarked on our yearlong honeymoon, we started getting questions from our friends, relatives and even some strangers (ok, my mom’s coworkers who were pushed to read this blog, but anyway).
Do you think they wanted to know how we were doing, how we felt about Latin America or what our favourite things were?
They were all interested in one thing only.
Whether it was engaging with our Instagram stories, commenting on Facebook posts or just sending random messages, it was all the same thing:
“Is Latin America expensive?”
“How much does it cost?” or
“Are you within your Mexico travel budget?” (spoiler alert: of course NOT)
Wait, people aren’t interested in what we are doing but in how much money we spend (sobs resentfully)??
“Oh, just quit with that self-centered sass, honey”, Bojan one day commented. “Of course they wanna know about money – they’d like to plan their own vacation and would find it helpful, yes?”
OH. (light bulb turns on)
Since we were already tracking our daily expenses, which is something you have to do on a year-long trip if you don’t want to return home-er – 6 months earlier, we could at least put it all in an article that might help somebody else plan their trip. You know, so they won’t think the budget for Southeast Asia will suffice for Latin America, as some people mistakenly did (ahem, let’s pretend that’s not us)?
HOW DO WE TRACK OUR TRAVEL EXPENSES?
There are a large number of applications that can be downloaded and we tried a bunch of them only to realize that either a) you have to pay to get full access (but we are trying to save money, man!) or b) they just seemed too damn complicated.
At this point, I can totally relate to all the grandpas that are offered a brand new smartphone instead of a good old corded phone.
Now, we don’t use paper and pencil (though it did cross my mind to do just that) but we stick with yet another “good old option” – an Excel spreadsheet (Who else here is a fan of spreadsheets, hands up?! Love ya guys!)
So, here it is, our Mexico travel budget breakdown for 44 days in Mexico. This travel budget won’t suffice for a luxury retreat in Tulum, tossing down waay too expensive cocktails and on the other hand, we didn’t sleep in hostel dormitories either (A honeymoon, remember?).
We still like to consider ourselves as budget travelers… except when it comes to adventure and booze. 😁
OUR MEXICO TRAVEL BUDGET BREAKDOWN
Travel time: 44 days
Total cost: $3537 + $809 for a scuba diving course for both of us and underwater equipment for our GoPro (we did not count the latter in our average daily budget since it is a one-time thing)
The average cost per day: $78.50 or $39.25 / person
(All prices are in USD)
ACCOMMODATION: $1238 (approx. 35%)
So, on average we spent $28 per day for accommodation which is clearly not that bad (even though we aimed for accommodation to be 30% of the total cost), considering we always had our own room but a couple of times with a shared bathroom).
However, the prices of accommodations in Yucatan differ from ones in the rest of Mexico.
For example, we paid for a simple double room with private bathroom from $12 (San Cristobal) to $28 (in Bonobo Surf House and Hotel Mala Vecindad). Accommodations sometimes included breakfast while in others a common kitchen was available.
In Yucatan, however, the prices started at around $28/night (ouch). The priciest accommodation we were in was a boutique hotel in Tulum for $67 / night (and this was a discounted price, the regular price is much higher!🤐). Not a backpacker’s budget, right? Yeah, but we just HAD to splurge, it was my birthday. This was obviously one of the nicest places we have stayed in on our yearlong honeymoon!
Some places that we really liked in Mexico:
Hotel Mala Vecindad: A beer-themed hotel in Mexico City close to “centro historico” and next to a subway station, which makes transportation around Mexico City super easy. Since this hotel is in the center of the city, the area is lively and authentic, but keep in mind not to walk around alone with your flashy new camera late at night. 😉
Andaina Youth Hostel: An enormous three-floor hostel in Oaxaca close to the city center with spacious rooms, shared bathrooms and kitchen area. Bonus: rooftop terrace with a view all around the city.
Bonobo Surf House: This is our favourite hostel EVER. Like, EVER EVER. It is located in Puerto Escondido and owned by a German girl (and 2 fluffy dogs) this hostel is professionally managed but has a real tropical vibe. In a matter of minutes, you will feel like home with one big family around you. Healthy breakfasts, tons of fun activities every day and an always smiling staff will make you wanna stay here forever.
Hotel Doralba Inn Big hotel in Merida with spacious rooms near the town center. It features an inner terrace where it is pleasant to chill out and a big swimming pool – a real treat since the climate can be quite humid here!
We always book accommodations through Booking, Airbnb or Hostelworld (and if the accommodation has a puppy, we are sold souls).
While planning your Mexico travel budget, we’d recommend you anticipate somewhere between $25-30 /room for a budget accommodation and between $50-70/room for a midrange accommodation.
TRANSPORTATION: $1070 (approx. 30%)
We travelled around Mexico by using buses, minibuses (“taxi collectivos”) and a rental car (6 days). In Mexico City, we also used the subway which is really cheap (approx. 30 cents/ride)
… WITH A BUS
ADO is the main bus operator in Mexico with offices all around the country, and you can also see prices, hours of departures and (approximate) occupancy on their website in advance. The buses are super comfortable with a lot of space, so even a 13-hour night ride from Puerto Escondido to San Cristóbal wasn’t unbearable (the distance is not so long, but the roads are bad).
Buses are also a very affordable option (the 13-hour bus was around $40 and a 6-hour bus around $25).
… WITH A TAXI COLLECTIVO
Taxi collectivos (vans) are, er – a backpackers choice, usually. So you know what to expect 😉 They do leave on time, but you will be cramped with no space for legs and it’s possible an oblivious chicken or two will be sharing the ride with you. It’s still all fun and all that… as long as you aren’t on an extremely curvy road from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido, with the average speed high above the limit. 😀 But hey, that’s a price for paying $12 for a 9-hour ride. 😀
… WITH A CAR
The last option hit our Mexico travel budget quite a bit. Instead of the anticipated $189 we had to pay $333 in the end.
Wanna hear why? (It’s half a-shame-we-don’t-know-how-to-count story and half we-got-scammed-again story)
Ok, so here’s how the story goes…
We had booked our rental car through an Economy Car Rentals website and Bojan read the fine print at least ten times (cuz I was bugging him to do so, obviously). We had paid $67 in advance and the rest ($122) we were supposed to pay directly at the company (Hertz).
When we came to the company we were told that we had only basic insurance and we would have to pay extra for an upgrade. Sure, what else were we expecting. Less than $200 for a week-long rental was apparently just too good to be true.
That was the first shock.
She said: That will be $333, please.
What, what are you talking about?! You mean, in addition to that $67 we have already paid?!
Turns out, she didn’t know anything about that $67 that we had already paid, and to be frank, she didn’t care either.
After some arguing (while people in a line behind us were getting impatient since they all wanted to start their vacation ASAP) I said that I wouldn’t pay unless she explained all the details to me.
She threw herself into a super-rapid explanation that $122 is for the rental fee and basic insurance and then an additional $22 per day for full insurance. However, at the same time, she immediately offered an extra discount and a price of $17 /day and explained that in this case, the total price would be $266.
Confused and angry, we just signed the papers, paid the $266 (on top of that $67) and drove away.
After a few minutes of silence and contemplation that we just lost almost $150 unexpectedly, a bulb turned on in my head:
“Bojan… She said $122 for the rental fee, right? And another $17 per day, RIGHT? Well, this is $100 for a full 6 days. Which sums up to F***ING $222 and not $266, AM I RIGHT?!?”
And that’s how we got screwed over when renting a car in Mexico.
FOOD AND DRINKS: $783 (approx. 22%)
ADDITIONAL BEER/COFFEE: $166
In fact, we spent less money on food and drinks than we thought we would 😊 Food in stores is cheap (imported brands are slightly more expensive) and supermarkets are well equipped. Street food is good and even cheaper (but not as cheap as Asian, I can’t forgive them this 😛 ) but you can not eat fried tacos all the time. Can you?
Prices in restaurants are also affordable; the price of a small beer (Mexican Sol or XX) is somewhere between $1-2 (except for Yucatan where it can also be $3 ).
The price of coffee is around $2, so we went to Starbucks quite often since the price of a coffee there was comparable to prices in other coffee shops (yep, sorry, gotta admit, I’m a sucker for Starbucks). And of course, because you can sit there with your laptop for the whole afternoon. 🙂 #pretendingtoblog
TOURS AND ENTRANCE FEES: $363 (approx. 10%)
Wow, so many things to do in Mexico and surprisingly they are also affordable! We only spent 10% of our Mexico travel budget for activities!
The entrance fees for the museums and for most of the ruins are quite low (on average $2-3.5); we paid a little more to visit the cenotes in Yucatan ($7-8) and Chitzen Itza ruins -$12.
In Oaxaca and San Cristobal, we went on a day trip (both extremely cheap – around $15 per person) and in Puerto Escondido, we went to see the phenomenon of bioluminescence – for just over $11 you swim in the ocean surrounded by a plankton and “shine bright like a diamond” (in Rihanna’s voice, obviously) – how cool is that?! We also took a surfing lesson there ($28 per person).
The priciest thing was a one-day mountain biking tour that Bojan went on in Oaxaca (around $110).
As I mentioned above, we didn’t count our diving course (PADI Open Water certification) in these expenses. We had decided to do a diving course somewhere during our trip (and then ended up doing it in Cozumel), so we had an “extra special budget” for it.
MISCELLANEOUS: $79 (approx. 2%)
In Mexico, we did not spend too much money on “other costs”, considering we were there for 6 weeks. They were random expenses such as tips, bathrooms fees, laundry, SIM card and mobile data.
More notably, we had to pay an (illegally imposed?) exit fee for Mexico which cost us around $60!
A FEW EXTRA TIPS
The Mexican currency is a Mexican peso and the ratio is: US $1 = approx. 18,7 M$ (January 2020)
It is possible to find an ATM practically anywhere in the country (and they accept Maestro, MasterCard, Visa, …) so there is no fear of ending up without cash. Take into consideration banks will charge you a commission of $3-4 per withdrawal, so it is better to withdraw the maximum possible amount.
Additionally, you can pay with US dollars in many places. But (!) – pay attention especially in Yucatan where prices in dollars can be up to 15% higher in comparison to prices in Mexican pesos.
When planning your (backpacking) Mexico travel budget we’d suggest you take your planned daily budget and just multiply it by the number of days you are planning to stay there.
$30 per day will be enough if you are travelling on a shoestring and you don’t mind sleeping in dormitories, $40 is a comfortable backpacker’s travel budget for Mexico and $50 per day will put you in more a “flashpacker” shoes. 🙂
Of course, don’t forget to add costs for the plane ticket, travel insurance and any other special activities (like a diving course for example).
SO… DID WE STICK TO OUR MEXICO TRAVEL BUDGET?
We would have if….
….we weren’t the ones assuming a Southeast Asia budget would suffice for Latin America,and thus planning to spend max $70 per day (for both of us). Oops. 😁
We also feel that in Asia you get better value for your money on things like accommodation and food, but hey – that’s Asia. 😀 Looking back, we are quite happy with how much we spent in Mexico and are definitely going back to explore the northern part of the country one day!
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Planning a trip to Mexico in the future? Save this for later!
Wow, that sounds like an awesome trip! Just curious…How is your level of Spanish? Was it tough to navigate Mexico with the language barrier?
Well, honestly, I speak Spanish – not fluently, but enough to have a simple conversation with locals, which was really beneficial. However, in all bigger tourist areas there will be some English spoken (restaurants, hostels, etc), so I think you can get by without Spanish as well.
Thanks for sharing. It’s good to have an idea of the costs of a trip to Mexico. Any tips on community-based tourism?
You’re welcome 🙂 Unfortunately we didn’t have any experience with community-based tourism in Mexico, so I wouldn’t be the right person to give you tips on that. But if you are interested in it, we would suggest you to try to find some options outside Yucatan as Mexico is more authentic in other areas, or at least we felt so. 🙂 Happy travels!
Love these helpful tips. I havent been to Mexico and ages and would love to make a return trip to the Yucatan soon!
Yup, Yucatan is indeed lovely for a vacation 🙂 And there’s always one more cenote to jump in 😉
This post was so helpful! I love being able to visually see a breakdown of what it really costs to travel and am planning a trip to Mexico soon so this was perfect!
Yep, this way is easier to plan! We always search for budget breakdowns before going to a certain country, so that we aren’t surprised later 🙂
That really sucks about the rental car. But at least you didn’t let it ruin your whole holiday
No, we didn’t let it ruin it! 🙂