Mexico, the Southern neighbor of the US, is an amazing place to explore. It has everything from breathtaking mountains and canyons to roaring rivers and pristine, white-sand beaches. However, traveling to Mexico can quickly get expensive, especially if you want to explore it correctly.
Many who save money to travel are on a limited budget and must reduce expenses wherever possible to make the most of their trip to this exotic North American destination.
If you are a budget traveler planning to visit Mexico, here are some money-saving tips to help you make the most of your funds.
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Top Travel Tips for Mexico Budget Vacations
Travel Slowly and Select a Region
Slow Travel means spending long periods in a single place rather than trying to fill in your Mexico itinerary with more and more places on your trip for shorter visits.
The more places you try to explore, the more expensive the trip will get. In addition to that, rushing from one place to another does not let you fully appreciate any place on your list!
When you plan a trip to Mexico on a budget, use the following strategy; Go to one spot, explore it inside out, and get to know it best before moving to the next destination. For example, you can visit Barranca del Cobre in one day, but if you want to enjoy it, spare a couple of days and nights.
Learn the sights, sounds, and smells of the place. Visit a couple of new attractions each day, sample all the different street food to enjoy, or take a breath and take in your surroundings while sunbathing.
Another thing that can save you a lot of money while exploring Mexico is realizing that this is a huge country spanning over 1.9 million km². Trying to explore all of it in one go will be expensive, particularly if you rush!
Decide on a particular spot in Mexico and focus your exploration around it. From the Baja desert to the Copper Canyon and the Canoes of Tulum to Riviera Maya, there are countless things that you can enjoy in Mexico, but if budget is a constraint, plan on narrowing down the target area.
As Mexico has a low per capita income, many cheap modes of transportation are available for any budget traveler, particularly public transportation. These include:
- Buses, including air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned ones. These will not only be extremely economical but will also let you see a lot of the country. A one-way ticket from Cancun to Tulum on the Ado Bus is one of the safest ways to travel in Mexico and costs just 260 Mexican pesos (around $13.70).
- Colectivos are minivans that serve the routes that are not busy enough for larger buses and have costs identical to buses. You can ask your hotel about this fast mode of transportation.
- Subways are the cheapest way to get around larger cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara.
- Taxi and Rideshare Services are also not as expensive as in the US, and if nothing else serves the route you want to travel, they can always be a good option.
- Car rental companies are a great option for independent travelers, and some car rental companies will charge as low as $5 a day for an economy rental car.
See Related: Tulum vs Cancun: Which is Better to Visit?
Food and Drink Budget
Many travelers do not realize how much they spend on food and drinks when traveling, and these expenses can quickly pile up – mainly because Mexican food is yummy as all heck. The best thing to do to avoid burning through your travel budget on food and drinks is to fix a budget for this beforehand.
If you have access to a kitchen while couch surfing across the country, you can cook your own food and save some of the costs. The traditional Mexican breakfast, huevos a la Mexicana, costs around 100 pesos in the restaurant, but you can prepare it for under 20 pesos alone.
If cooking is not a realistic option, arguably the best food you can find is the typically delicious street food Mexico is famous for. It ain’t just best for your budget. It’s also a top choice for the most authentic Mexican cuisine.
If you want to enjoy a Tequila and a Cerveza after a day of backpacking, that’s completely up to you (and recommended). Still, these are some areas where you can potentially cut back on your expenses.
That said, the focus should be on enjoying the trip more than saving money! Find the perfect balance of saving and spending that works for you, and stick to it.
Get Travel Insurance
When visiting Mexico on a budget, the last thing you want is to spend a fortune at the hospital if you fall ill. The best way to avoid such a situation is by getting travel insurance.
Extra spending will cover anything from trip cancellation or delays due to sickness, injuries, or death in the family to other potential financial risks like rental car insurance and medical expenses if you fall sick while traveling.
Travel insurance typically costs 4% to 6% of your trip budget, so that is not a big expenditure. It’s not a significant expenditure when you consider a rolled ankle or a case of food poisoning in the worst-case scenario that could bankrupt you. We recommend TravelInsurance.com, InsureMyTrip, or AIG Travel Guard as all solid choices.
Avoid Going With Tours
Going with organized tours is not the best option when traveling on a tight budget. As we discussed above, your first preference should be to use the extremely cheap Mexican public transport wherever possible; however, some toured areas are not accessible via public transport, and that’s where you need to get a bit creative.
For example, Huasteca Potosina has some of the best sights in all of Mexico but is not accessible by any public transport. A guided tour will cost you more than $100, and you will also have to follow their timetable. That ain’t traveling slow, amigo.
If you are up for it, hitchhiking can be a great way to save a lot of money on such trips. This will also allow you to get to know the local people better, which is always a part of exploring any country.
Be warned that hitchhiking comes with risks in any country, and can potentially be a real hazard in the less-touristy parts of Mexico.
See Related: Best Archaeological Sites in Mexico
Save Money on Currency Exchange
One of the best budget travel tips for Mexico (or any international trip) to save hard-earned cash is exchanging money the right way. If everyone uses their credit and debit cards willy-nilly, those foreign transaction fees will rack up quickly!
The most economically advantageous way is by bringing the pesos in cash. However, bringing all the money you’ll need for the trip in cash is not safe. The best way is to bring around 200 pesos per head in cash and use an international or Mexican prepaid card for the remaining expenses.
These cards are convenient and offer far better exchange rates than credit cards. It is also possible to track your expenses using their online application.
It’s always best to bring at least one or two credit and debit cards with your party for emergencies. Keep them safe and use them only if all else fails. Just make sure you activate the card for international use in case you need it for an emergency!
See Related: Best Restaurants in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Buy Tour Tickets in Advance
No tour to Mexico can be complete without visiting the famous attractions around the country, which are often accessible through paid tours and trips. Here you can learn more about Mexican culture and history. These include various trips such as a trip to Isla Mujeres, Xel-Há, Xcaret, and the trip to the ancient Mayan ruins at Chicrehén Itzá.
If you buy tickets to these on the spot, you’ll end up waiting in lines for a long time and have to pay a lot more. There are many websites for tour tickets in Mexico that you can use to reserve the tickets in advance at better prices and skip the lines. We are huge fans of GetYourGuide and Viator and use them regularly.
Save Money on Air Tickets
One of the largest traveling expenses of any trip is the air ticket to get to the place. Depending on how you buy the ticket, you can save much money on this front.
The great news is there are TONS of ways to help you save money on flights (we make plenty of use of these tools and methods). The first tip for saving money on air tickets is to book them in advance.
The earlier you book your ticket, the cheaper it will be. Then there is the difference between the pricing of different airlines. You can use an online air ticket comparison website to see which airline can offer you the cheapest tickets.
We are huge advocates of companies like Skyscanner, Going, and Kayak for finding cheap flights throughout Latin America. In addition, you can save money on tickets by flying to a smaller airport via budget airlines.
See Related: Best Websites for Cheap Flights and Hotels
Rent a Car
Renting a car in Mexico can save you money in many ways. The amount you’ll spend on getting a taxi from the airport to the hotel and back is usually enough to rent a car for five days.
Having a car of your own can also make getting around much cheaper, so the first thing you should do when landing in Mexico is rent a car right from the airport. Check prices on rental cars with Kayak to ensure you get the best price possible.
See Related: Best 10 Dollar a Day Rental Car
Stay Connected for Cheap
Using international roaming services can be one of the major expenses of any trip. You have two alternatives, either use the hotel’s Wi-Fi, which might cost a significant amount daily and works only inside the hotel, or you can buy a Mexican SIM card for your phone.
Data packages are much cheaper in Mexico than in the US, and reception is generally good. A mobile data connection also comes in handy with using Google Maps, and you will not have to buy or rent a GPS to find your way around the country.
The money you save on the GPS alone will cover the cost of the SIM card several times over. You can find an international mobile phone SIM card or Mexican SIM card for pennies on Amazon.
It is not difficult to achieve if you are short on money and planning on traveling around Mexico. You can enjoy this beautiful country on a tight budget by following these simple travel tips for visiting Mexico.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.