How to travel Mexico on a budget?
Make your travel dreams come true
Coming up with a proper budget can be tricky, especially when you’re not too familiar with the destination or aiming to visit many places in one go. Imagine the trips you always dreamed of, not accomplished only because the process of budgeting seems overly complicated! We wouldn’t want that to happen, especially if you’re dreaming of México. 😉
Then, what should you know to budget for traveling to México? There’s no definitive list, but here are our best ideas on what not to miss!
Start saving money right away. It’s never nice, and not very good for personal finances, to just take a big munch at your main savings account, as most of the time it takes away from the general feeling of control over the budget, thus leaving us a bit unprotected from emotional-impulsive decisions and quick purchases.
In our experience, it almost never ends up well for the savings.
Opening up a special savings account only for traveling will help you keep your expenses neat and meet your budget expectations.
Mexico is a big, diverse country!
There’s plenty you should know before traveling and some previous research on the general regions will come very handy here, as trying to visit Las Barrancas del Cobre and Chichén Itzá in a bus-trip on the same week is most definitely an exhaustingly bad idea.
Not that visiting both is a terrible idea, but a catching a flight is way better. So with this under the bus, one of the most important departments of your budget is transportation.
We suggest you have your own in-country transportation budget apart from the international tickets, and since domestic flights are bit expensive in México, we recommend you check your routes and find out if there’s any bus you can take.
There are several first class buses throughout the country (such as ADO in the southeast and Estrella Roja in central México) which in an expensive average is around $450 MXN for a 4-6 hours trip. You can check the actual prices online once you decide which places to visit!
Let’s talk about lodging
There’s a pretty wide range of options. Ask yourself how much is it worth to spend in a bed? Just as you can find $150 MXN beds in hostels or an affordable $900 MXN per double room in a small hotel, you will find the higher $3,500 MXN for a private villa or hacienda stay.
The point of choosing is to consider how much time will you actually spend there? In our experience, all travelers need is a confortable bed since it’s very easy to tour around for the whole day.
You gotta eat right?
Your main budget will be complete once you know your reference prices for meals and beverages in the destination. Consider if your hotel/hostel has complimentary breakfast, as this can help for you to get that kick you need to walk around and find a good place to eat.
Avoid for as much as you can, going to very touristy restaurants with English-translated menus and USD accepted signs; not that these are bad, but you will get a more typical meal for less at a local’s place. Cocinas Económicas or Fondas (small take-out or sitting restaurants with pre fix menu of homelike typical dishes) are a great choice for an authentic experience, although no English will be spoken at most of them!
Check out this video by TrueMexico of a visit to a local eatery in Mexico City for a deeper insight on Cocinas Económicas. Also taking a Street Food Tour might be a good idea, you can find really delicious food on markets or try great seafood on a “marisquería”.
In our last blog entry, we listed some vegetarian dishes for our veggie friends traveling to Yucatán! Don’t miss it!
Now that your core budget is complete, save some money apart for the activities you want to do on-site. A great exercise is to picture yourself in the moment of the trip to calculate on your incidental expenses, such as sunblock for the beach, soap and shampoo at hostels, etc.
This will be great for not losing money on small, easy purchases you can avoid when planning, remember it’s all about the little details.
Everything looks good now! But before you settle for good and just lay back and look forward to the trip, you should check out our top tips to cut expenses and make the most out of your money!
Consider traveling in low season and off peak hours, some plane flights or bus rides may be a little cheaper when they travel overnight and significantly more expensive on weekends and convenient hours.
Don’t gift from your main budget! If you’re planning on bringing souvenirs home from a trip, set a specific budget for the presents, as a lot of times these little expenses add up to r i d i c u l o u s amounts of cash.
Know the exchange rate for the country you’re visiting, and also check out a few price references in order to avoid spending extra money on unnecessary ways, or being tricked by a cab driver or street vendor. Don’t get here with a blank on your mind!
Consider flying in and out from different cities, in order to avoid an expensive travel only to pick up a plane that might not be much more expensive departing from one city or other.
For a safe aim, get your Mexican pesos straight out from an ATM as they have overall the best exchange rates available; consider checking online for the most convenient bank at the moment!
Avoid expensive restaurant meals as much as you can by cooking at hostels and picnicking at local parks, and bring (or buy) snacks to eat on the go in order to reduce your restaurant meals to one a day. O maybe take a Cooking Class?
Be charming and adapt to local custom! Mexican hospitality is among the greatest in the world, so take advantage of it and experience it truly! Work on your Spanish and visit family run places, speak to people, bring local gifts or pictures; a small discount is the least you would probably get
Look online for free shows or tours at your destinations and save on tickets! It’s very common for local governments to run cultural shows at a lot of cities’ downtown.
Be on the lookout for walking tour options which are cheaper or even free sometimes, and a lot of them have a unique local taste.
Keep some cash for expenses which could be cheaper at small family-run businesses, flea markets and the sort.
Don’t miss the chance to read Rick Steves’s recommendations on Thrifty 50 Travel Tips
We could list many more general recommendations for keeping the budget tight, but as much as we encourage having a properly planned budget, we endorse you not to get obsessed with it, because as Manouk from Bunch of Backpackers says you are in these places for a good time not a long time.
If you have any questions or would like to know more tips about to travel Mexico on a budget, feel free to ask, we’ll be glad to help you.