7 tips to save money while traveling throught Mexico

After almost 1.5 months spent in Mexico we came to the conclusion that although it is not an expensive country to visit (depending of course of your travel style), there are some ways to make your stay even cheaper. We compiled below some tips for saving while traveling throughout Mexico that hopefully will be helpful to any traveler, regardless of the itinerary or time spent in Mexico.

How to save money when using public transportation in Mexico

First of all, our strong suggestion is not to rent a car here. Why?

– although before the trip we thought that maybe it would be safer to rent a car instead using the public means of transport, Mexico showed us it is exactly the other way around;

– using the public transportation (and UBER) is so cheap and easy that it makes no sense to worry about your rental car throughout the vacation. Below you can see some tips for saving money in this respect.

1. ADO bus and buying tickets in advance: or probably the best deal we did since we are here. We used ADO for the trips between cities and could definitely recommend you to try their services. The busses are big, have AC, TV, like new and very clean. This is the most comfortable and at the same time convenient money-wise.

Download their mobile App (for IOS or  for Android) and try to buy the tickets online in advance in order to get 50% (or almost) discount on the price. Here is what we saved during our trip in Mexico by doing this:

Route Price in MXN per 2 personsPrice in EUR per 2 personsMXN saved with ADO, buying in advance
ADO Cancun-Chiquila 59625 
ADO Chiquila-Cancun 59625 
ADO Cancun-Playa del Carmen 1767,5 
ADO Playa del Carmen-Tulum 1546,542
ADO Tulum-Valladolid 1928,2132
ADO Valladolid-Merida 33214,1192
ADO Merida-Campeche 34414,6236
ADO Campeche-Palenque 62226,5462
ADO Palenque-Villahermosa 2209,4 
ADO Villahermosa-Puebla 123852,21102
ADO Puebla-CDMX 36315,444
ADO CDMX-Tapachula 1532651068
Total 6365269,43278

For the routes with no savings it means we bought the ticket from the bus station counter. In total we saved 3278 MXN, meaning 139 EUR during 1 month and 1 week of travel. I would say a very good deal!

Be aware that both the App and the website have some technical problems from time to time, so in case it happens just try again in the next day. When buying from the website you also have the option to pay the ticket in cash at some stores among which Farmacias Ahorro, which can be found almost everywhere, for a 9 MXN/ticket fee paid to the farmacy. This could be an option if paying by card online does not work (happened to us once).

Extra tip: if you want to further save on accommodation while on the move, try to book for overnight busses in case of long trips. This will cut you the accommodation costs for the night of trip that you will already pay for the bus.

2. Taxis: for a correct price never take a taxi from a taxi stop. Generally those are more expensive (even 3 times over the cost for the locals) and a better alternative is to stop a taxi on the street (these have lower fares and you will see that they look different to the ones in the taxi stop). Also, do not hesitate to try and negotiate the cost of the trip, most drivers are open to it.

3. Colectivos: for traveling short distances these small busses (and in some cases even small trucks) used by locals are the best option. You can just wave to the driver and will stop and take you, and as well he can leave you anywhere on the route. As for the prices, this depends on the state, city, route: we paid from 8 MXN/person for a 30 minutes drive from Puebla to Cholula, to 40 MXN/person for the one from Valladolid to Chichen Itza.

Do not expect luxury, the busses are quite old, not in a very good condition and sometimes filled with people, but they do their job very well. We met also people using these for long distance trips, but we do not recommend you to chose them in this case (it will be very uncomfortable), if you travel with a lot of luggage (there is no space for storage, sometimes you can find one but ON the bus) or with a lot of valuable items.

4. Traveling to nearby countries: if you have some more time and are eager to visit nearby countries just try TicaBus (site here). Cheap and convenient, they have comfortable busses and are very reliable.

We initially bought bus tickets to Guatemala with TicaBus (25 USD/person) because you need to show an exit ticket when entering Mexico. Since we overstayed the departure date from the ticket, they were nice enough to let us choose another date, free of charge.

Uber Pass

I don’t know about other parts of the world, but in Mexico there is Uber Pass that you can activate from your App and gives you the following benefits:

– 1st month for free;

– 10% discount in 60 trips/month;

– no delivery fees for 25 orders higher than 159 MXN in Uber Eats + other discounts in Uber Eats (e.g. we got 120 MXN off for the first 2 orders higher than 159 MXN)

Money withdrawal taxes

If you have a Revolut card it will make handling currencies so much easier than having just a normal debit card.

Unfortunately the Mexican ATMs require a certain charge when withdrawing money, so you will have some extra costs here. We tried to use only Santander and Citibanamex as these have the lowest taxes. However, please see below a summary of what we found until now (taxes are per withdrawal, regardless of the amount):

Santander34 MXN
Citibanamex30 MXN
BBVA174 MXN
Cibanco50 MXN
Banorte43 MXN

Eat where the locals eat

The local reality sometimes makes cooking at home more expensive than eating out on the streets, where the locals eat. You will find quite cheap traditional food, from tacos, quesadillas, tamales, burritos, soups, etc for very good prices:

  • tacos: from 15-20 MXN/piece in Cancun to 10 MXN/piece in Palenque and Mexico City;
  • empanadas: 18-20 MXN/piece;
  • quesadillas: 15-18 MXN/piece;

Just make sure not to search for touristy restaurants and be ready to accept the local reality in terms of street food. While the cooking itself might not seem that clean all the time, the experience and taste of the food will make it worth.

What about the laundry?

This one is for longer stays, that requires doing laundry.

Firstly, be aware that you will not easily find washing machines in AirBnb’s here (still no idea why). However, there is a convenient alternative to this: the many laundries (some very rustic looking) available everywhere on the streets. The price ranges from 15-17 MXN/kg throughout the country to 30 MXN/kg in Mexico City.

Although the laundry service may seem cheap at the first sight, think about washing 4 kg per week for a long period of time. If you have the time and space, try hand washing, or better try finding Airbnb’s with washing machine (but this is harder than you may think).

Saving money while shopping for groceries in Mexico

There are lots of supermarket options here, but if you are trying to save some money choose the bigger ones for better prices: Walmart, Chedraui, Soriana, Bodega Aurrera. These sell inside almost everything you could search for, from cooked food and pastry (very tasty and good prices) to clothes and electronics.

There are some other smaller supermarkets that have higher prices (not untouchable though), such as Oxxo, GoMart and 7Eleven. While you can avoid the last 2, for sure you will not be able to avoid Oxxo, since it is everywhere.

Make friends, it’s cheaper

Leaving the joke aside, there are many solo travelers very eager to find travel buddies in order to split costs of transportation, rentals or tours. Just search beforehand the Facebook groups dedicated to backpacking & digital nomad life and join them, there are quite a few for Mexico.

Do not be afraid to meet people and make friends, this is probably the best part of a journey abroad J

Hope these tips will help you achieve your travel budget goal!

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