First Taste of Low Budget Living
To be fair, we have been experienced at low budget living for most of Seth’s life. So technically this isn’t a new thing. However, this is our first time living somewhere that we’re not struggling to get bills paid, since the average cost of living is a fraction of what we were used to in our old life. But… I digress.
At any rate, in early 2016, Seth and I boarded a plane to Mexico. We had no plan, and no accommodations booked beyond our first 3 nights. We were set to spend an indefinite amount of time in Playa del Carmen area with a budget of around $1000cad, and were determined to make this last for 2 months, until we were to fly to Orlando for a yearly family vacation (This budget included the cost of flights from Cancun to Orlando, too!). We succeeded, but just barely!
This experiment in low budget living showed us that we needed to do it again, only this time we had to keep track of our budget to be able to share with you how we live for so little, and I had to loosen the reins a little bit. I love being ‘cheap’ (and am honestly good at it- ask anyone that knows me!), but we realized we missed out on a number of things, like great food and fun activities.
Our Return to Playa del Carmen
So 6 months later, in October 2016, we boarded another plane destined for Mexico. We loved Playa del Carmen so much that we needed to explore it more. And this time we had a larger budget, so could afford many of the excursions and activities we bypassed the first time.
This time we were there for 6 weeks: The last week of September, all of October, and the first week of November. For simplicity’s sake, I will include only the month of October in this low budget living account. This is when we did most of our activities and excursions, so will give the most complete view of what it costs to live in Playa del Carmen.
What our month included:
- During the month of October did 2 organized day tours… One to Coba ruins (which included a jungle tour of 8 different cenotes, 2 of which we swam in) and one to Chichen Itza (including swimming at cenote Ik’kil). We used this discount card to cut that cost down
- We visited Akumal beach to swim with the turtles, and Puerto Morelos beach to snorkel the reef.
- We went to Cozumel to snorkel the reef and participate in a turtle rescue project.
- We visited 3 cenotes (Azul, Cristalino and Jardin del Eden).
- We ate out every day, sometimes twice per day.
Cost of Living- One Month in Playa del Carmen
Rent: $5200mx OR $371CAD OR $274USD
Groceries: $1562mx OR $112CAD OR $82USD
Dining Out: $3421mx OR $244CAD OR $180USD
Transportation: $1200mx OR $86CAD OR $63USD
Excursions: $4030mx OR $288CAD OR $212USD
TOTAL: $15,413mx OR $1101CAD OR $811USD***
Things to keep in mind:
- Our rental was a studio apartment in the Ejido neighbourhood (see the photo below), a 20 minute walk to the beach.
- We ate out DAILY. So we could have cut the dining out expense down a bit had we not eaten out so much. But as a budding food blogger, I was committed to trying as many places as I could ;). In my defense, we rarely spent more then $2-3 on a meal, and often ate at $1 street carts.
- Our month was also quite heavy in excursions. This time around we’re not doing nearly as many, so that number would also be quite a bit lower. That month we had decided to do as much as we could, to experience as much of the area as possible and create a more ‘high end’ budget so there would be no surprises.
- We walk most places. The transportation cost comes almost entirely from colectivos (public buses) between towns and activities. For example, the colectivo from Playa to each cenote is $35mx each, each way. So that can add up quickly. A taxi in Playa is around $40mx almost anywhere in town, but we prefer to take the $6mx colectivo, or walk.
- We visited Playa del Carmen at the tail end of low season. If you visit between November and April, you may find rental rates to be higher, and
- Many airbnb owners give a discount for those booking 28 days or more. So even if you only need 24 days, search for 28 and compare the price.
- If you’re staying for longer than a month or 2, rent a place on airbnb for a week or 2, then look around once you are here. There are several ‘Rentas En Playa’ facebook groups, and the website Vivanuncios can be helpful. Also, walk around the communities you’d like to rent in and look for ‘Renta’ signs.
- Staying in Centro will up your required budget
- Playacar is generally more expensive than the rest of Playa del Carmen, and will increase your transportation costs.
- Ejido is a good neighbourhood. Aim for closer to the highway to be 15- 20 minutes from the beach. Public transit is easily accessed from anywhere in this neighbourhood.
Hopefully this post gives you a general idea on how you can create a low budget living situation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Of course, this budget is just a general idea of what living here might cost. Your experiences may differ based on time of year, standard of living, and number of people.
***Currency conversions are provided to give a general idea of the cost of living in your possible currency. Rates are an estimate, and have been rounded. They considered roughly accurate as of March 2017, as the exchange rate is similar now (March) as it was in October. Peso:CAD = 1:14, Peso:USD= 1:19