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. You can also book a private shuttle in advance at Cancun Airport Transportation.
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.
I’d like to know what restaurants you got the full course meals at for $3-$4. I’m in Cancun now, and enjoying it! But food in expensive so far
William Hensley says
While I saw many accurate things, some things could be represented better. Cancún is actually one of the more expensive places to live in Mexico. Generally speaking, you can get a cheap apartment between 1500-4000 pesos per month in Mexico. 6000 pesos would be a bit expensive, although I must confess, I’m not at all familiar with Cancún. Also, would you bargain in the US? I’m not saying there aren’t times that it could be appropriate, but be respectful. I’ve never bargained in the US. I don’t see any reason to bargain in Mexico. Also, if you are out of the hotel zone, food will cost much less. Even so, food seems more expensive in Cancun, not terrible though. For example, I spent around 40 pesos($2) for a nice hamburger but if you’re hungry, you’re going to have to spend more. A better range for a nice, big meal that is inexpensive would be $3-$7.
I lived in México with my Mexican girlfriend and her family for close to 2 years.
Soooooo useful! I can’t wait to get to Mexico and I’m so happy to see it’s not going to be anywhere near as expensive as I was expecting. Slow travel is always the way to go!
Vist to Cancun is very affordable. All my experiences during visit in Cancun was amazing. I have spent five days in Mexico. Most of the time I spend in Cancun and near by. There is easy to find the any transportation guide for moving one place to another place, Oscar Cancun Shuttle Service is one of them. It helped me more to from their end. With very cheap budget I have completed my tour.
You have just about sold me on a visit to to Cancun. I am corresponding with a very beautiful Mexican woman and deciding whether to meet her or not. I appreciate the info. It looks like a great deal for a penny pincher like myself, LOL.
Great breakdown, how did you find an apartment for $300!??
The street food looks fantastic! Did you guys run into any stomach ailments, though?
Hey Autumn, the food was delicious and stomach issues free!
Bianca @itsallbee says
Mexico is on my radar for next year. It looks absolutely stunning.
It is Bianca. It should be on everyone’s radar.
Conor from Bean Abroad Travel says
This is so useful, great work going to all that effort for the cost breakdown. I’ve got a couple of friends who are going out there this summer so will send them a link to this. Keep up the good work.
Thanks Conor. I am sure your friends will have a great time there.
Bruno B @ Geeky Explorer says
Had no idea Cancun could be this cheap! Is this anywhere near the touristy area?
Damn I really want to go to Mexico now!
You should go Bruno, it would make for such a good trip. The Hotel zone, which is the tourist area is probably 20 minutes from Downtown Cancun. So not that far.
Nic from Roaming Renegades says
We are always on the look out for cheap destinations which also offer up great experiences and culture. Mexico has always been somewhere we have known little about in terms of affordability and always expected it to be maybe cheaper than the US but not as cheap. The food looks amazing too!
If you go to Mexico you will be in for a hell of a treat Nic. It’s wayyyyyy cheaper then the US and have a lot of culture. You would love it!
Excellent post, I love it when people are honest and give the real prices etc. And I would much rather see a photo of more food than laundry any day! Great stuff!!
Thanks Laura! Food will always when over a picture of dirty laundry hehe
Cancun is less than cheap, actually. If you spend long enough there, and are lucky to know some locals who do not work in the tourism industry (so, not just hostel owners), you can find cheap decent places to eat for – yes – 45 pesos (like in Mexico City). Same for accommodation: in the longer term you can rent a flat and that ends up being cheaper than actually staying in a decent hostel which usually costs no less than 12 USD per night. All in all, however, I would not spend more than a day in Cancun. I really don’t like it there :(
Thanks for the extra advice Claudia. You’re not the first person to say you don’t like Cancun, can you share why ? We would love to know your take on it as Cancun has grown on us and now we love it.
Revati Victor says
Wow this looks very doable. And I don’t think you guys sacrificed anything to stick to the budget! The street food sounds like such a great idea!
It is definitely doable. We did everything we wanted to do in Cancun on that budget except stay longer The street food is almost always the best way to go. Eat like the locals!
[email protected] says
Great advice. We’re heading back to Mexico mid year and are determined to make it to the Yucatan this time. I’ve always been very skeptical about Cancun and have been tempted to skip it but I enjoyed reading your post. Food in Mexico is just amazing isn’t it? I miss the tacos…. ;)
Hi Radhika, The Yucatan is beautiful, you have to visit at least one cenote while there. You won’t regret it. Cancun being a spring break location has given it a bad rep (at least for the true travelers) but it is nice if you stay away from the hotel zones and go there during the low season.
Charles McCool says
Super cheap. Nice to see the breakdown of money spent over a month’s time.