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.
In this post I’ll detail exactly what I spent during my trip to Tulum and give some recommendations for budgeting your own trip. If you want tips for things to do, places to stay, etc. you should check out my Tulum travel guide (there’s even a free printable version available!).
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 Tulum 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.
I’m heading to Tulum this weekend. The flights and hotel are already covered so I need some suggestions as far as food and shopping. Was your $52 modest? We are big drinkers and the only shopping I really need to do is get some fabric to bring back for a project.
I think $52 was a bit on the modest side. Especially if you are going to order a lot of drinks. But let me know what you think. How did your trip go? Tulum is wonderful!
Did you manage to figure out how much you spent in Tulum? We are leaving next week (for 5 days) and are big drinkers and eaters… staying in the beach hotel zone (hotel paid already)
Hi!! Thank you for all the great advice!
I have a couple of questions about getting from Cancun to Tulum. I’m going with a group of 4 girls and wanted to know if you would suggest getting a rental car in Cancun, and driving to the coast ourselves, or doing the bus option and getting a car once were in Tulum?
Also, how easy or difficult is the bus situation? I’ve heard Should I brush up on my spanish, its minimal.
Thanks in advance!!
I would get the car in Cancun and drive down to Tulum. When we looked at the cost of the bus plus the rental in Tulum, we felt we wouldn’t be getting our money’s worth doing just the car rental from Tulum. I did end up having to take the bus option myself (my friends flew down later and got the car and drove from Cancun to Tulum), and the bus situation was very easy despite the fact that I don’t really know Spanish. But if things had gone as planned, I would have skipped the bus and drove in the rental with my friends. It’s an easy straight shot from Cancun to Tulum. Just make sure to follow the speed limit signs.
Hey nice page I’m from Panama City I was searching in Pinterest everything about Tulum I want to travel for my vacations dates 20 of May I want to spend a week, I want to know if you can help me please To plan this trip.
Hey! Tulum is amazing, you will love it. What sort of plans are you looking to make? Have you booked anything yet?
Hello! Could you tell me what rental car company you used? I’ve read some stories of there being hidden fees and large credit card deposits. Love this site -Thanks in advance!
Carlos Bach says
Thank you for sharing this great information. I have visited once in Mexico through the help of Oscar Cancun Shuttle Service. It was the amazing journey for me. I wish to visit again with my family.
My fiance and I are going to Tulum in a little over a month for our honeymoon. We are fortunate enough to have family helping out with our trip, so we are able to stay at the Dreams resort. But do you have any recommendations for venturing off the resort? We are going to visit Chichen Itza and the cenotes over a couple of different days. But other than that and relaxing at the resort, we don’t have much planned. Are there good markets close by to shop in for souvenirs?
My favorite souvenirs were from the roadside shops on the road to Coba. The further we got from tourist centers, the better the prices.
How did you reserve your bus tickets from ADO
I actually bought them directly from the counter before boarding since my plans changed.
I just wanted to say thank you for that great article, it’s really helpful!