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In preparing to overland anywhere or spend any extended amount of time in a place, one of the first things you consider is how much it will cost you. Prices vary by where you visit and what you plan on doing, but general guidelines are always helpful in preparation. Let’s go over the general cost of travel in Mexico.
We spent the better part of five months traveling throughout Mexico and have meticulously kept details of every penny spent. I am an accountant, so I monitor every penny (trust me). Although your spending habits will impact the cost of travel in Mexico, we hope to give you some general guidelines. Hopefully, our account of what we spent and how much things cost will help you prepare for your adventure.
If you are in Mexico, you are going to be eating out a lot. It is hard to resist the ladies on the streets making fresh tortillas or the smell of carnitas wafting from the local restaurant. Eating out outside of the touristy areas such as Mexico City, Oaxaca, Sayulita and the like is cheap. I mean really cheap. Eating out street tacos or in local mom-and-pop restaurants only costs between $50 – $100 pesos for two. Once you are in the touristy areas, however, it is hard to find anything to eat under $100 pesos for two. Still, it’s inexpensive compared to the US, Europe or Australia.
At mid-range restaurants, look to spend between $150 – $300 pesos for two excluding alcohol (or maybe one beer if you’re lucky). If you are drinking, budget approximately $25 – $35 pesos per local beer (cerveza) or $75-$90 pesos for craft beer. Cocktails range from $70 – $140 pesos depending on the cocktail and location.
Looking to experience some fine dining in Mexico? The options are limited outside of known food destinations such as Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, and Oaxaca. But even in those cities, a fancy meal won’t break the bank. On average, we spent between $1,500 – 2,000 pesos for two plus an additional $550 – 1,000 pesos on a bottle of wine.
Cooking for yourself is a great way to save money especially in tourist destinations. Groceries are as cheap as chips and you can grab all the groceries you need for a meal or two for under 100 pesos. The freshest produce is usually in the local markets, but if you do not speak Spanish you most likely will pay a little extra for it. Large supermarkets like Walmart are available which will stock everything you would want given the close proximity to the US. Here is a break down of the basics and how much to expect to pay.
- Tortillas (store bought) = $12 pesos for ten
- Tortillas (fresh) = $10 pesos for a kilogram
- Eggs = $25 pesos for a dozen ($35 for 18)
- Milk = $20 pesos
- Kilo of Tomatoes = $15 pesos
- Kilo of Bananas = $20 pesos
- Can of Black Beans = $11 pesos
Mexico is home to tequila, mezcal, and, in our opinion, some pretty amazing beers. My guess is that while you are here, you are going to be doing some drinking. The best bang for your buck if you are a beer drinker is the 1.2-liter beer (cerveza) sold in tiendas across the country. Most places advertise deals where you can buy two beers for a price anywhere between $58 – $68 pesos which as of December 2019 is less than $4 USD for almost 2.5 liters of beer. In some places in the US, you can’t even buy a Bud Light for that amount.
Spirits range from $130 pesos to $1,500 pesos depending on the spirit and the quality. We found tequila to be cheaper than mezcal in most instances as it is more widely produced. Take advantage of the cheap spirit offerings because it does not get cheaper than Mexico. In Tequila (the town in Jalisco), we purchased three liters of tequila for $180 pesos or less than $10 USD. Jump on the bandwagon and do as the locals do!
For us, living in a van means we do not stay at hotels or Airbnbs too often. Nor do we camp at overlanding hubs or campgrounds regularly. Accomodation can be one of the major costs of travel in Mexico, so anything you can do to reduce this cost will help your bottom line.
Camping in Mexico
The times we have camped in our van somewhere or when we look at them in the places we visit, the cost usually ran between $100 – $150 pesos per person. These places are great if you do not have your own shower and are especially beneficial in cities where street camping is not ideal.
When we need a bed to rest our head when the car is in the shop or we positively need a shower we generally look for the chepaest option. Budget accommodation fluctuates from region to region but normally you can find a private room in a hostel, cheap hotel or Airbnb starting around 300 pesos. Dorm beds can be as cheap as 100 pesos.
If we have a lot of work, or are staying with friends we might check into a mid-range hotel for a couple of days here and there. In these instances, we have been able to find comfortable mid-range hotels for between 500 – 1000 pesos per night.
Special occasions mean we might get a nice hotel room once in a blue moon. Of course like anywhere else it is possible to spend as much as you want on accommodation. However we have great value luxury hotel stays in charming bed and breakfasts, five-star resorts and boutique hotels for less than 2000 pesos per night.
Check out prices of the widest range of hotels, hostels below…
Gas consumes most of our budget each week. Ideally, we would have purchased a much more fuel-efficient van, but the budget would not allow for it. We average around 1400 pesos each week on gas alone. Gas costs between 19 – 22 pesos (as of December 2019) per liter. Depending on how far you plan to travel each week will determine your weekly spend.
Another expense that can quickly add up are tolls. Toll roads (cuota) are prevalent in Mexico and cost you a pretty penny. On the 462 kilometer drive from Mexico City to Oaxaca City, you can expect to spend 684 pesos on tolls ($36 USD as of November 2019). There are options to take non-toll roads, but the wear and tear on your van might not be worth it.
Cell Phone Plans
The cell phone network most popular throughout Mexico is Telcel. This network provides the most 4G coverage in most states. The network has plans ranging from 20 pesos for unlimited calls and texts and 100 MB of data to 500 pesos for unlimited calls and texts and 12 GB of data. Depending on the plan certain social media apps are also unlimited such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and more. Telcel also has a packet for 15 pesos which allows you unlimited usage of internet for two hours. It is perfect for video conferencing, watching Netflix or anything that will draw a lot of data for a short period of time.
Hopefully, you find this information useful in planning your next vanlife adventure! Let us know if you have more questions on the cost of travel in Mexico!
For more tips on budgeting for overlanding or for travel, in general, check out our article, How to Create a Travel Budget.
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