A visit to Cancun doesn’t have to be expensive. If you know what to look for (you will after reading this article :D) and you don’t care about staying in an expensive all-inclusive resort, Cancun is actually quite a cheap place to visit in Mexico. Don’t believe us? Keep reading for tips on how to save money and reduce your spending while in Cancun.
Accommodation: Beach Resort or Backpacker Hostel?
From fancy beach resorts to backpacker hostels, Cancun has all kinds of accommodations. So depending on your travel style and budget, you can spend anywhere from $10 USD to $400+ USD per night. Check out Mezcal Hostel if you are backpacker, Bed and Breakfast Eclipse if you are budget traveler who rather stays in a hotel than a hostel, Emporio Hotel & Suites Cancun if you want to stay on the beach and don’t mind paying for it. For more hotel options in Cancun click here.
When we got to Mexico, we knew we were going to stay for a longer period of time and decided to rent an apartment instead of staying at a hotel. We paid about $300 USD for our month long stay there. It’s a little bit more than what the locals pay but that is to be expected especially if you are only staying for a short time.
There’s signs everywhere offering a place to stay or rent. Just remember to bargain as much as you can, especially during low season. If you don’t want to wait until you get to Cancun to find a place to stay I recommend you check out Airbnb. You can rent a room and sometimes even a whole apartment for cheaper than a hotel. If it’s your first time booking with Airbnb, click here to get $40 off your first stay.
If you are on a tight budget or just prefer to save your money and spend it elsewhere, couchsurf. It is the best way to go, as it is free and you get to stay with locals and learn the local way of life, language and culture. We couchsurfed for the first few days in Cancun and on our trips to Isla Mujeres, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. The people we met through Couchsurfing are amazing.
Food: Tacos, Tacos, Tacos… But Wait There’s More!
Food in Cancun is very cheap, and you can find cheap food in almost every corner, literally!
From tacos to full three course meals you will pay anywhere from 10 to 45 pesos (~$1-4 USD). That’s about the average cost of food in Cancun, at least at the cheap places. Can you imagine paying less than $3 USD for a meal that not only fills you up but also tastes good.
We spent most of our time eating delicious street food and almost never went to a restaurant, unless someone else was paying. Yup, we are frugal like that. But seriously, why would you go and eat at a fancy, i.e expensive, restaurant when you can get three tacos on the street for 25 pesos and be full.
You just wouldn’t.
Our favorite place to get our cheap fix was Parque Las Palapas in downtown, Cancun. Trust us, this is the spot! If you are in Cancun, you have to visit this park plaza at least once to experience a taste of the real Cancun and not that touristy shit, they call the hotel zone. Locals go to Parque Las Palapas at night to unwind and eat! Not only will you find food carts, and an outdoor food court but also souvenir shops, a play ground, and live entertainment!
Did you know, that half of a grilled chicken with frijoles (bean sauce), arroz (rice), salsa (sauce) and tortillas cost 48 pesos (~$4 USD) in downtown.
Overall, we would recommend skipping restaurants and going to street vendors for a cheap food fix. We are not just suggesting that you eat street food because it is cheap but also because it is good, you support locals and get to experience Cancun the local way.
Transportation: From Crazy Bus Drivers to Scamming Taxis
Transportation in Cancun is fairly good and cheap of course, just the way we like it. To get around, you have an array of options: Taxis, buses, colectivos (minivans) or plain out hitchhiking.
Taxis in downtown usually have a flat rate and don’t cost more than $3 USD, unless you’re going to a touristy area where they will obviously charge you more. Word of advise, always ask how much it will cost to get to your destination before hopping in, it will save you a lot of trouble later on.
A taxi from the airport to anywhere in Cancun costs around $40-50 USD.
If we had to suggest the best way to get around Cancun, we would have to say public buses. Though we are biased to using public transportation, it is still the cheapest and best way to see the city. Plus, you always know exactly what you are going to pay. The buses not going towards the hotel zone are 7.50 pesos (~$0.75 USD) per person and the buses going to the hotel zone cost 9.50 pesos (~$0.95 USD) per person.
The best thing about the buses is that most of them will pick you up from anywhere along the bus route. You don’t have to be at a designated bus stop, unless you are in the center of downtown where the buses are obligated to only stop at bus stops. The buses run frequently and are reliable. Most of the buses run until about 10-11pm and are marked with numbers and popular destinations on the front of the bus.
To get from Cancun to other places along the Yucatán Peninsula such as Playa del Carmen or Tulum, you can either take the bus or a colectivo. You can compare and book bus or minivan tickets on Bookaway.
Phone Services: Call Yo Mama
For our cellphone services, we went with the company called Telcel which seems to be very popular in Cancun. The sim card costs 150 pesos and came with 50 credits to use. The service provides text, calls (both local and international) and data. Using the internet however will deplete your credits a lot quicker than calling or texting.
Keep your data usage off to save credits. Just use free WiFi, which is not that hard to find.
You can always get free WiFi at McDonald’s or Starbucks. To add more credits to your phone, just go to any supermarket or gas station and give the cashier your Telcel number and the amount you would like to pay. Depending on the amount you added, the company will give you free credits. For example, when we added 100 credits (100 pesos), we got 20 extra credits. However, you can only retrieve these free credits if you register your phone.
Laundry: Wash Your Lucky Underwear
There is no do-it-yourself laundry. At a place marked Lavanderia, you can drop off your dirty laundry and pay based on the weight of your dirty clothes. Most places in Cancun charge between 10 – 12 pesos per kilo with a minimum of 3 kilos. Usually, you can pick up your laundry the day after.
Budget Summary: Show Me the Money
Below you will find the complete summary of the amount we spent in Cancun during our month long stay. Please keep in mind that this summary is for two people, which means if you are one person you can cut it in half!
- Food & Water: 4,981.88 pesos (~$369 USD)
- Accommodation: 3,000 pesos (~$232 USD)
- Billing (phone): 350 pesos (~$26 USD)
- Laundry: 229 pesos (~$17 USD)
- Activities: 618 pesos (~$46 USD)
- Miscellaneous: 673.94 pesos (~$50 USD)
- Mexico Exit Fee: 300 – 600 pesos per person (~$20 – 35 USD)
- Daily Average: 422 Pesos (~$35 USD)
- Total Spent: 12, 653.82 pesos (~$937.69 USD)
In our opinion, Cancun is cheap. Our budget was to spend no more than $1000 USD a month and $45 USD a day for the both of us. On that budget, we did three day trips from Cancun to surrounding areas, visited ruins and went to a cenote, and still had money to blow.