Tulum has become a wildly popular destination. While more visitors flock to its beaches each year, the town and landscape remain serene and authentic, instead of built up or commercial. Although you won’t find any mega resorts here, don’t be surprised by the prices. Certain hotels and restaurants will cost as much, if not more, than a visit to, say, New York. They do have a variety of options for every budget though.
During our week in Mexico, we tried to keep things budget-friendly with the occasional splurge for luxury (and convenience, once or twice). Oh, and there was definitely a shopping spree in there.
The Local Currency
Mexico uses the Peso (MXN) and the $ symbol to notate prices, so don’t be surprised if you see a bus ticket costing upwards of $100 on a website. It’s likely in Pesos. The Peso recently hit it’s lowest value ever against the US dollar, with one Peso worth about $0.05. This has made Mexico an especially affordable travel option for Americans.
The exchange rate as of May 24, 2016 is…
18.49 Pesos = $1
1 Peso = $0.05
But on average, I got 17.43 Pesos to the dollar from ATMs.
Gimme Some Cash
When I arrived in Cancun, I found two ATMs just outside of the baggage claim. I pulled on the face of each (looking like a skeptical tourist) to determine which one seemed more legitimate. I withdrew 1500 Pesos (a withdrawal of roughly $84 USD hit my bank statement) and this got me through my first three days in Tulum. The best exchange rate I got, 17.8 Pesos to the dollar, came from the Bancomer ATM in the San Francisco supermarket shopping center at the corner of Coba Road-109 and Cancun-Chetumal-307. The worst rate I got, 16 Pesos to the dollar, came from a desperate cash exchange I made near the Coba Ruins. Bottom line: ATMs will give you a better rate than any cash exchange.
I always bring two Capital One debit cards, and try to use the one that is linked to my secondary account. I would only use the debit card linked to my primary account if the first was lost or stolen. Since the ATMs in Tulum seemed semi-sketchy I changed my PIN numbers after returning home. In total I got 7,600 Pesos during my week (roughly $462). I put the hotels on my credit card, Summer put the rental car on her credit card and then we settled the difference after the trip.
Here’s What I Spent
I knew I had to book a trip to Tulum when I saw the flights. Just over $300 roundtrip for direct flights. And the flights were relatively short (~3 hours) from DC. I had planned to save more money on meals by eating at local spots in town but in the end the convenience of the beach front restaurants won out.
One week in Mexico cost:
Daily Allowance (~$52/day): $395.67
Total without flight: $888.54
Total with flight: $1,202.54
Tulum can get pretty pricey if you stay around the main strip of the beach. Meal prices are comparable to what you pay in some big American cities and hotels can be expensive. The easiest way to cut back this budget would be to stay in budget accommodation. Alternatively you could save some money by skipping the rental car, but then you wouldn’t be able to explore as easily and taxis can add up fast. You could also cut back on the budget by skipping the shopping, which accounts for a sizable portion of my daily allowance.
Getting to Tulum was pretty easy. The original plan was to rent a car as soon as we arrived on Saturday, so we could spend the week exploring Tulum, Coba and Valladolid. Summer got sick though, and couldn’t make her flight. And there was no way I was going to rent a car and try to navigate myself to Tulum alone.
Instead, I took the bus which is a really cheap option for getting to Tulum, but will leave you strapped to take taxis (which can add up fast) after you’ve arrived. Fortunately Summer was able to change her flight and came in on Monday with my brother. They picked up a rental car and we had it for the rest of the week.
It’s easy to spend a lot on hotels in Tulum. There are some gorgeous options, and if it’s in your budget you can stay on a prime beachfront property. But there are also options for every other budget. We settled on Yoga Shala (jungle side, across from Ahau Tulum) and MangleX (jungle side near the Sian Kaan reserve) because they were friendly on our budget. Both were great options for us. Meson del Marques is one of the best hotels in Valladolid and still very affordable, but the restaurant and bar there will set you back.
Instead of guided tours and packages, we used our rental car to explore the Yucatan peninsula on our own. We visited two cenotes near Tulum, the Tulum ruins and the Coba ruins. The entrance fees were reasonable and visiting these sites on our own saved us a lot of money and time.
In total, I withdrew 7,600 Pesos ($436) during my week in Mexico. I spent 628 Pesos on transportation and 535 Pesos on excursions. After subtracting those 1,163 Pesos out of my cash, that leaves 6,437 Pesos, or $395.67 for my daily allowance (money spent on food and shopping).
I took that “leftover” cash and divided it by 7.5 to come up with my daily allowance. On average I spent, $52.76 a day on food and shopping.
About half of that daily allowance covered food. My most expensive meal, dinner and drinks at Mateo’s, was around 350 Pesos ($20.08) and my cheapest meal, tacos at Taqueria la Eufemia, cost 100 Pesos ($5.74). On average though, my meals cost 154 Pesos ($8.84).
The other half covered my shopping. I went a little overboard in this area, buying a hammock, three blankets, two dreamcatchers and a slew of other little objects. The hammock cost 600 Pesos and the blankets and dreamcatchers I bought, depending on size, cost between 175 and 300 Pesos. I was able to negotiate the prices because I bought most of the items from the same vendor, and he gave me a discount for making multiple purchases.
So How Should You Budget Your Trip?
To budget for your own trip to Tulum, add up the daily cost ($52/day – adjusted to fit your travel style), the cost of the flight, the average cost per night for lodging and any transportation or excursion costs you anticipate. I would recommend booking lodging in advance because Tulum is a popular destination and many rooms were booked up when we checked two weeks in advance. And an advantage to doing this is it will give you a clear picture of your expenses.
It’s always better to save a little extra for unexpected expenses. Need some help budgeting your trip? Check out my budgeting worksheet here.
I would love to help you plan for your next trip! Shoot me an email or let me know if you have any questions/suggestions regarding budgeting for Mexico in the comments below.
If you are looking for a packing guide, read this post.
And you can even take a look at my suggested itinerary.
Need help planning your own trip? Follow these 5 easy steps for building a travel itinerary.