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How to Explore Mexico on a Budget

Discover the magic of Mexico without breaking the bank!

Our comprehensive guide offers tips on affordable travel, budget-friendly accommodations, and cheap eats, ensuring you experience the best of Mexico while keeping costs low.

Get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

Planning Your Trip

Research and Preparation

Planning ahead is crucial for any budget traveler. Here are some key steps to ensure you make the most of your trip without overspending:

  • Setting a Realistic Budget:
    • Determine your overall budget, including flights, accommodations, food, transportation, and activities.
    • Allocate funds for each category and stick to it.
  • Choosing the Best Time to Visit:
    • Off-Peak Seasons: Travel during shoulder seasons (April-May and September-November) to avoid crowds and get better deals.
    • Local Holidays and Festivals: Be aware of local holidays, as prices may increase.
  • Key Research Tools and Resources:
    • Use travel websites like Skyscanner, Kayak, and Google Flights for finding flight deals.
    • Check accommodation options on, Hostelworld, and Airbnb.
    • Explore travel blogs and forums for insider tips and recommendations.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is essential, even for budget travelers. It protects you from unexpected expenses such as medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost belongings.

  • Importance of Travel Insurance:
    • Provides peace of mind and financial protection.
    • Covers medical expenses in case of illness or injury.
  • Affordable Travel Insurance Options:
    • World Nomads: Offers comprehensive coverage and flexible plans.
    • SafetyWing: Affordable plans tailored for long-term travelers and digital nomads.
    • Allianz: Various plans that cater to different travel needs and budgets.

By preparing thoroughly and considering these factors, you’ll set a strong foundation for a memorable and budget-friendly trip to Mexico.

budget Mexico travel

Getting There

Finding Cheap Flights

Finding affordable flights to Mexico is one of the most significant ways to save money on your trip. Here are some tips to help you find the best deals:

  • Tips for Finding the Best Flight Deals:
    • Flexibility with Dates: Use fare comparison tools to see if flying a day earlier or later can save you money.
    • Set Price Alerts: Sign up for price alerts on websites like Skyscanner and Google Flights to get notifications when fares drop.
    • Fly Midweek: Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often the cheapest days to fly.
    • Consider Nearby Airports: Sometimes flying into a nearby airport and taking a bus or shuttle to your final destination can be cheaper.
  • Recommended Budget Airlines:
    • Volaris: A popular low-cost airline with many routes throughout Mexico.
    • Interjet: Offers affordable fares and decent service.
    • Viva Aerobus: Another budget-friendly option with extensive domestic and international routes.

Alternative Transportation

If you’re already in a neighboring country, consider these alternatives to flying:

  • Bus Travel from Neighboring Countries:
    • Luxury Buses: Companies like ADO and ETN offer comfortable long-distance buses with amenities like Wi-Fi, reclining seats, and snacks.
    • Local Buses: Cheaper, though less comfortable, and ideal for short distances.
  • Carpooling and Ridesharing Options:
    • BlaBlaCar: A reliable carpooling service where you can share rides with locals traveling in the same direction.
    • Rideshare Apps: Uber and other local ridesharing services can be affordable, especially for short distances.

By exploring different transportation options and utilizing these tips, you can save significantly on getting to Mexico, allowing you to allocate more of your budget to experiencing the country.


Budget-Friendly Accommodation Options

Finding affordable places to stay is key to traveling on a budget. Mexico offers a range of accommodation options to fit every budget.

  • Hostels and Guesthouses:
    • Hostels: Great for meeting fellow travelers and saving money. Look for hostels with kitchens to save on food costs.
    • Guesthouses: Often family-run, providing a more local experience at a lower cost than hotels.
  • Airbnb and Vacation Rentals:
    • Airbnb: Offers a variety of options, from private rooms to entire homes. Use filters to find budget-friendly listings.
    • Vacation Rentals: Websites like Vrbo also offer affordable rental options.
  • Budget Hotels:
    • Local Budget Hotels: Often cheaper than international chains. Look for deals on and Agoda.
    • Hotel Chains: Brands like Ibis and City Express offer affordable and comfortable stays.

Staying with Locals

Staying with locals can be a rewarding and budget-friendly way to experience Mexico.

  • Couchsurfing:
    • Couchsurfing: A platform where locals offer free accommodation to travelers. It’s a great way to meet new people and learn about local culture.
  • Homestays:
    • Homestay Websites: Platforms like connect travelers with local hosts who offer affordable stays and cultural experiences.
    • Language Exchange Programs: Some programs offer free accommodation in exchange for language practice or help with household tasks.

By considering these budget-friendly accommodation options, you can save money while enjoying unique and enriching experiences during your stay in Mexico.

budget Mexico travel

Getting Around

Public Transportation

Mexico has an extensive and affordable public transportation system that makes it easy to travel around the country without spending a fortune.

  • Navigating Mexico’s Bus System:
    • Long-Distance Buses: Companies like ADO, Primera Plus, and ETN offer comfortable and reliable services between major cities. Look for deals and discounts online.
    • Local Buses: Ideal for shorter distances and exploring cities. Fares are usually very cheap, and they operate frequently.
  • Using Colectivos and Combis:
    • Colectivos: Shared vans that operate on set routes, often faster and slightly more expensive than buses. They’re common in cities and tourist areas.
    • Combis: Similar to colectivos but usually smaller. They are a popular way to travel short distances within cities and towns.
  • Metro Systems in Major Cities:
    • Mexico City Metro: One of the largest and cheapest metro systems in the world. A single ride costs just a few pesos.
    • Guadalajara and Monterrey Metros: Also affordable and efficient ways to get around these major cities.

Car Rentals and Ridesharing

For more flexibility, consider renting a car or using ridesharing services.

  • Affordable Car Rental Options:
    • Local and International Companies: Companies like Hertz, Avis, and local rental services offer competitive rates. Book in advance for the best deals.
    • Tips for Saving Money: Rent smaller cars, avoid renting at the airport, and use comparison websites like to find the best rates.
  • Using Ridesharing Apps:
    • Uber: Available in many Mexican cities and often cheaper than traditional taxis. It’s also a safer option for tourists.
    • Didi and Cabify: Other popular ridesharing apps that offer affordable rates and frequent promotions.

Biking and Walking

Exploring cities on foot or by bike can be an enjoyable and cost-effective way to see the sights.

  • Exploring Cities on Foot:
    • Walking Tours: Many cities offer free walking tours where you can explore neighborhoods and learn about the local history and culture. Just remember to tip your guide.
    • Self-Guided Tours: Create your own walking tour using travel guides and apps.
  • Biking:
    • Bike Rentals: Available in most tourist areas and cities. Services like Ecobici in Mexico City offer affordable rental options.
    • Bike Tours: Guided bike tours can be a fun way to see more of the city while getting some exercise.

By utilizing these various transportation options, you can easily and affordably navigate Mexico, ensuring you make the most of your budget while experiencing the country’s diverse landscapes and vibrant cities.

Eating on a Budget

Street Food and Local Markets

One of the best ways to save money and experience authentic Mexican cuisine is by eating street food and shopping at local markets.

  • Must-Try Street Foods:
    • Tacos: Affordable and delicious, with a variety of fillings like al pastor, carne asada, and barbacoa.
    • Elote: Grilled corn on the cob, usually topped with mayonnaise, cheese, chili powder, and lime.
    • Quesadillas: Freshly made tortillas filled with cheese and other ingredients like mushrooms, squash blossoms, or huitlacoche.
    • Tlayudas: Large, crispy tortillas topped with beans, cheese, meat, and vegetables, popular in Oaxaca.
  • Navigating Local Markets for Fresh, Cheap Meals:
    • Mercado de San Juan (Mexico City): Known for exotic foods and gourmet ingredients.
    • Mercado 20 de Noviembre (Oaxaca): Famous for its food stalls and traditional Oaxacan dishes.
    • Mercado Medellín (Mexico City): Offers a wide variety of affordable meals and fresh produce.

Budget-Friendly Restaurants

Dining out doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s how to find affordable yet delicious dining options:

  • Tips for Finding Affordable Dining Options:
    • Look for Menu del Día: Many restaurants offer a set menu of the day, which includes a starter, main course, and drink for a fixed price.
    • Avoid Tourist Traps: Restaurants in tourist areas tend to be more expensive. Walk a few blocks away to find more affordable options frequented by locals.
    • Use Food Apps: Apps like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and local recommendations can help you find budget-friendly restaurants.
  • Restaurant Recommendations by City:
    • Mexico City:
      • El Huequito: Famous for its tacos al pastor.
      • La Casa de Toño: Known for its pozole and other traditional dishes at reasonable prices.
    • Oaxaca:
      • La Biznaga: Offers creative Oaxacan dishes at affordable prices.
      • Tacos Roy: Popular spot for inexpensive and tasty tacos.
    • Guadalajara:
      • Tortas Toño: Renowned for its affordable and delicious tortas ahogadas.
      • Birrieria Las 9 Esquinas: Great place for birria, a traditional Jalisco dish.

Cooking Your Own Meals

If you have access to a kitchen, cooking your own meals can significantly cut down on food costs.

  • Staying in Places with Kitchen Access:
    • Hostels and Airbnb: Many hostels and Airbnb rentals offer kitchen facilities. Look for these options when booking your stay.
    • Grocery Stores and Markets: Buy fresh, local ingredients from grocery stores and markets to prepare your own meals.
  • Shopping for Groceries in Mexico:
    • Local Markets: Best for fresh produce, meats, and spices.
    • Supermarkets: Stores like Soriana, Chedraui, and Walmart offer a wide range of products at reasonable prices.
    • Convenience Stores: OXXO and 7-Eleven are convenient for quick snacks and essentials but can be more expensive for groceries.

By taking advantage of street food, local markets, budget-friendly restaurants, and cooking your own meals, you can enjoy Mexico’s rich culinary traditions without overspending.

budget Mexico travel

Affordable Activities and Attractions

Free and Low-Cost Attractions

Mexico is rich in culture, history, and natural beauty, offering plenty of activities and attractions that won’t break the bank.

  • Exploring Beaches, Parks, and Natural Reserves:
    • Beaches: Mexico boasts beautiful beaches that are free to access. Popular options include Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Puerto Vallarta.
    • National Parks and Reserves: Visit places like Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, Sumidero Canyon in Chiapas, and Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca for a minimal entrance fee.
    • Public Parks: Enjoy local parks such as Parque Mexico and Parque España in Mexico City, perfect for a leisurely stroll or picnic.
  • Visiting Museums and Historical Sites:
    • Free Museum Days: Many museums offer free admission on certain days. For example, the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City is free on Sundays for Mexican residents and residents.
    • Historical Sites: Explore historical sites like the Zócalo in Mexico City, the ruins of Tulum, and the ancient city of Teotihuacan. Entrance fees are usually reasonable.

Cultural Experiences

Immerse yourself in Mexico’s vibrant culture with these affordable experiences:

  • Attending Local Festivals and Events:
    • Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead): Celebrated across the country with parades, altars, and festivities, particularly vibrant in Oaxaca and Mexico City.
    • Guelaguetza Festival: Held in Oaxaca, this festival showcases traditional dance, music, and costumes.
    • Carnival: Experience the lively celebrations in cities like Mazatlán and Veracruz.
  • Free Walking Tours:
    • Mexico City: Several companies offer free walking tours of different neighborhoods, including the historic center and trendy areas like Roma and Condesa.
    • Guadalajara: Discover the city’s colonial architecture and rich history with free guided tours.
    • San Cristobal de las Casas: Learn about the local culture and history through free walking tours available in the town.

Outdoor Adventures

Mexico’s diverse landscapes offer numerous opportunities for budget-friendly outdoor activities:

  • Hiking and Nature Trails:
    • Copper Canyon: Explore one of the world’s largest canyon systems with numerous hiking trails and breathtaking views.
    • Pico de Orizaba: For the adventurous, hike the highest peak in Mexico.
    • Grutas de Tolantongo: Hike through stunning caves and enjoy natural hot springs in Hidalgo.
  • Budget-Friendly Water Activities:
    • Snorkeling: Explore the underwater world at affordable spots like Akumal, known for its sea turtles, or the coral reefs of Cozumel.
    • Swimming in Cenotes: Yucatán Peninsula is famous for its cenotes (natural sinkholes) where you can swim and snorkel, often for a small entrance fee.
    • Kayaking and Paddleboarding: Rent equipment at a low cost at popular beaches and lagoons such as Bacalar Lagoon, known as the Lake of Seven Colors.

By taking advantage of these affordable activities and attractions, you can experience the rich culture, history, and natural beauty of Mexico without spending a lot of money.

Money-Saving Tips

Currency Exchange and Banking

Managing your money wisely is crucial for budget travel. Here are some tips to help you get the best value for your money while in Mexico:

  • Best Practices for Exchanging Money:
    • Avoid Airport Exchanges: Exchange rates at airports are usually less favorable. Instead, exchange money at banks or reputable exchange houses (casas de cambio) in the city.
    • Use ATMs: Withdrawing money from ATMs often provides better exchange rates. Stick to ATMs attached to banks for safety and better rates.
    • Keep Small Bills and Coins: Many small vendors and taxis may not have change for large bills.
  • Avoiding ATM Fees:
    • Use Bank ATMs: Choose ATMs from major banks like Bancomer, Banamex, or Santander to minimize fees.
    • Check with Your Bank: Some banks have partnerships with Mexican banks, allowing you to withdraw money without extra fees. For example, Bank of America has a partnership with Santander.
    • Withdraw Larger Amounts: To reduce the number of transactions and thus fees, withdraw larger amounts of cash at once. Just be sure to store it safely.

Travel Hacks

Smart travel hacks can help you stretch your budget further:

  • Using Discount Cards and Passes:
    • Turibus and City Passes: These can save you money on transportation and entry to multiple attractions in cities like Mexico City.
    • Student and Teacher Discounts: If you have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) or International Teacher Identity Card (ITIC), you can get discounts on transportation, museums, and other attractions.
  • Negotiating Prices and Haggling:
    • Markets and Street Vendors: It’s common and expected to haggle at markets. Start by offering about 50-60% of the asking price and negotiate from there.
    • Guided Tours and Activities: Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, especially if you’re booking multiple tours or traveling in a group.

Safety Tips

Traveling safely ensures your trip is enjoyable and worry-free:

  • Staying Safe While Saving Money:
    • Use Trusted Transportation: Stick to reputable bus companies and ridesharing apps like Uber or Didi, which are safer than hailing random taxis.
    • Avoid Walking Alone at Night: Especially in unfamiliar areas. Use public transportation or ridesharing services instead.
    • Keep Valuables Secure: Use money belts or hidden pouches to keep your cash and important documents safe.
  • Tips for Solo Travelers:
    • Stay in Well-Reviewed Accommodations: Read reviews on platforms like, Hostelworld, and Airbnb to ensure safety.
    • Join Group Tours: Not only does this provide companionship, but it’s also safer to explore with others.
    • Stay Connected: Keep your phone charged and have a local SIM card or an international plan to stay in touch with friends and family.

By following these money-saving tips and staying vigilant, you can make the most of your budget while enjoying a safe and memorable trip to Mexico.

budget Mexico travel

Sample Itineraries

One-Week Budget Itinerary

This one-week itinerary covers some of the best budget-friendly highlights in Mexico, balancing cultural experiences, natural beauty, and delicious food.

Day 1: Mexico City

  • Morning:
    • Explore the historic center (Zócalo, Metropolitan Cathedral, and Templo Mayor). Entrance to the cathedral is free.
  • Afternoon:
    • Visit the Museo Nacional de Antropología (free on Sundays for residents). For non-residents, the entrance fee is minimal.
  • Evening:
    • Enjoy dinner at a local taquería. Try El Huequito for affordable tacos al pastor.

Day 2: Mexico City

  • Morning:
    • Stroll through Chapultepec Park and visit Chapultepec Castle (free on Sundays for residents).
  • Afternoon:
    • Walk around the trendy neighborhoods of Roma and Condesa, enjoying the parks, street art, and cafes.
  • Evening:
    • Sample street food at Mercado Roma or local food markets.

Day 3: Puebla

  • Morning:
    • Take a bus to Puebla (2-hour journey, affordable ticket prices).
  • Afternoon:
    • Explore Puebla’s historic center and visit the Rosary Chapel (free entry).
  • Evening:
    • Try mole poblano at a local restaurant for an authentic and affordable meal.

Day 4: Oaxaca

  • Morning:
    • Take a bus to Oaxaca (approximately 6-hour journey, budget-friendly tickets).
  • Afternoon:
    • Visit the colorful Mercado Benito Juárez for a local lunch and to shop for crafts.
  • Evening:
    • Explore the Zócalo and enjoy street performances and local snacks.

Day 5: Oaxaca

  • Morning:
    • Visit the ancient Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán (affordable entrance fee).
  • Afternoon:
    • Discover the city’s vibrant art scene by visiting galleries and museums, many of which have free entry.
  • Evening:
    • Enjoy a tlayuda (large, crispy tortilla topped with various ingredients) at a local eatery.

Day 6: Puerto Escondido

  • Morning:
    • Take a bus to Puerto Escondido (approximately 10-hour journey, overnight buses are cost-effective).
  • Afternoon:
    • Relax on the beautiful beaches of Playa Zicatela or Playa Carrizalillo.
  • Evening:
    • Enjoy fresh seafood at one of the beachside restaurants.

Day 7: Puerto Escondido

  • Morning:
    • Go snorkeling or take a boat tour to see dolphins and turtles (affordable group tours available).
  • Afternoon:
    • Visit the local market for a cheap and delicious lunch.
  • Evening:
    • Watch the sunset on the beach and savor the relaxed atmosphere.

Two-Week Budget Itinerary

For a more extended exploration, this two-week itinerary covers diverse regions and experiences in Mexico.

Days 1-3: Mexico City

  • Follow the same itinerary as the one-week plan for the first three days.

Days 4-5: Puebla and Oaxaca

  • Continue with days 3-5 from the one-week itinerary.

Days 6-7: Puerto Escondido

  • Follow days 6-7 from the one-week itinerary.

Day 8: San Cristóbal de las Casas

  • Morning:
    • Take an overnight bus to San Cristóbal de las Casas (affordable and time-saving).
  • Afternoon:
    • Explore the charming streets and visit local markets.
  • Evening:
    • Enjoy traditional Chiapas cuisine at an affordable restaurant.

Day 9: San Cristóbal de las Casas

  • Morning:
    • Visit the nearby indigenous villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán (guided tours are inexpensive).
  • Afternoon:
    • Learn about local crafts and traditions at the Museum of Traditional Textiles (minimal entrance fee).
  • Evening:
    • Relax in a local café and try some Chiapas coffee.

Days 10-11: Palenque

  • Morning:
    • Take a bus to Palenque (approximately 9-hour journey, budget-friendly tickets).
  • Afternoon:
    • Visit the impressive Palenque ruins (affordable entrance fee).
  • Evening:
    • Stay in a budget-friendly eco-lodge near the ruins.

Day 12: Campeche

  • Morning:
    • Take a bus to Campeche (approximately 5-hour journey, affordable tickets).
  • Afternoon:
    • Explore the colonial architecture and vibrant streets of Campeche’s historic center.
  • Evening:
    • Enjoy local seafood at a budget-friendly restaurant.

Days 13-14: Mérida

  • Morning:
    • Take a bus to Mérida (approximately 2-hour journey, budget-friendly tickets).
  • Afternoon:
    • Stroll around the Plaza Grande and visit the Museo Casa Montejo (free entry).
  • Evening:
    • Enjoy the local Yucatecan cuisine at an affordable eatery.
  • Morning:
    • Day trip to the Mayan ruins of Uxmal (affordable entrance fee).
  • Afternoon:
    • Visit a nearby cenote for a refreshing swim (minimal entrance fee).
  • Evening:
    • Return to Mérida and enjoy a final meal in the city’s bustling food scene.

By following these sample itineraries, you can experience the diverse and rich culture of Mexico while staying within your budget.

Mexico on a budget pin
Mexico on a budget pin