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Playa del Carmen on a budget: How to save money in Mexico

Playa del Carmen on a budget: How to save money in Mexico
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Planning to visit Playa del Carmen on a budget? Look no further! In this post, I will share with you some of the best tips on how to save money in Mexican Riviera Maya!

If you’re new to this blog, hi! We are Liza and Jose, a millennial couple based in London, UK. Jose (long for Pepe) was born and raised in Mexico, hence, as you can imagine, we travel to Mexico quite often. This year was our third time visiting Cancun & Riviera Maya, and this time, we also managed to stay in Playa del Carmen for longer. Interested in our other posts about Mexico? You can find all of them HERE.

Here’s what you can expect to find in this post:

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Where to stay in Playa del Carmen on a budget?

If you’re wondering, where to stay in Playa del Carmen on a budget, there are plenty of options. The cheapest way would be staying at a hostel like Wabi Hostel, however, there are also decent budget-friendly hotels, where you can rent a private room. Some of the best affordable hotels in Playa del Carmen are:

Playa Nah

Hotelito del Mar

Capital O

(all of them are cheaper than $40 per night – please note that during the Christmas period the prices might be much higher).

The ultimate cheapest way to stay in Playa del Carmen for longer (e.g. longer than 1 week) would be renting an apartment. These apartments are a great option, and they won’t break your bank (you would pay less than $200 for a week there).

Suite Patricia

Casa Mar

Las Mariposas

Tips on how to save money in Playa del Carmen, Mexico: Playa del Carmen on a budget

Rent an apartment and cook yourself instead of eating out

Our number one advice for saving money in Playa del Carmen is to stay at an apartment and cook your meals yourself. Even though meals in Playa aren’t very expensive (unless you dine at Sonora Prime or Harry’s Steakhouse every day), everything adds up quickly, and you can end up spending a lot even in Mexico.

Actually, as we mentioned before, the cheapest way to stay in Playa del Carmen is by renting an apartment (you can spend as little as $200 for one week and you can share with someone, e.g. your partner or friend, so that’s only $100 per person per week).

Most likely, an apartment will have a kitchen or a kitchenette, so you can prepare some quick meals yourself. There are plenty of large supermarkets in Playa, from Chedraui to Soreana, and groceries aren’t too expensive either!

Skip beach clubs, bring your own inflatable beach lounger

Beach clubs can be expensive! You can expect to pay anything from 200 MXN ($10) to $1000 MXN ($50) for a sunbed, and it doesn’t even always include credit for food at the beach club.

Luckily, all the beaches are free in Mexico, so you can just visit the beaches wherever you want. You can even sit on a nice clean beach in front of a posh hotel like Hilton or Grand Hyatt as most of the locals do.

Make sure to bring a beach towel, an umbrella and an inflatable beach bed with you, so you are comfortable.

Eat comida corrida lunch deals

Another thing you can do to save money in Playa del Carmen is to eat Comida corrida for lunch. In case you’re out for a day and want to eat somewhere for cheap, try restaurants that offer “Comida corrida” deals. Essentially, Comida corrida is a meal that consists of 2-4 courses and can cost between 50 and 150 MXN. The courses usually include a soup, a main (e.g. chicken & rice), a drink and a dessert. Obviously, comida corrida food is very simple, but it’s often delicious, and you will definitely get full!

Some of the restaurants offering Comida corrida in Playa del Carmen include El Sangha-Rato, Bio-Organicos, Las Cacerolas Comida Caserta, however, it’s the easiest just to ask the waiter if they have comida corrida.

Visit restaurants, where locals eat

Another (very obvious) tip is to eat where the locals eat, and that is usually away from Playa del Carmen’s 5th avenue. You can find a lot of affordable restaurants on 30 Avenida Norte and 20 Avenida Sur.

However, some affordable places are located right in the heart of Playa del Carmen, e.g. seafood restaurant El Pirata, where you can eat good fish without breaking your budget.

How to save money in Playa del Carmen

Use a collectivo

In case you want to travel to a cenote, you can use a collectivo instead of a taxi or a bus. A collectivo is a minibus that locals use, but you can use it too. You can just walk to the highway (50 Avenida Sur – Carretera Cancun – Tulum) and stop one with your hand at the bus stop. The collectivos go as far as Tulum, so that’s how you can visit Tulum without breaking a budget (or any cenote).

Always bargain with the sellers

Another tip on how to save money in Mexico and visit Playa del Carmen on a budget is to always bargain with the sellers. Sometimes even if the prices are fixed and written down (unless it’s Oxxo or a large supermarket), you can still bargain for a lower price.

Some of the best things you can do in Playa del Carmen on a budget:

Alright, let’s talk about some of the best things you can do in Playa Del Carmen on a budget!

Walk the beautiful sandy beach all the way to Playacar and Palmaia Resort

Walking on the beach doesn’t cost a penny! However, it can be very enjoyable. You can walk the entire Playa del Carmen and Playacar beach all the way to Palmaia Resort (and even Xcaret hotel, however, I’m not sure if you can actually get to Xcaret hotel, as we only walked as far as Palmaia, that was a long walk).

The beach in Playacar is progressively better than in Playa del Carmen, and it gets even better the further you go. That stretch next to Palmaia was absolutely stunning – it was perfectly clean (no seaweed), had soft white sand, and absolutely no one on the beach! There were also a lot of pelicans hunting for their late lunch.

Best things to do in Playa del Carmen on a budget

Take a collective to a cenote

There are some amazing cenotes very close to Playa del Carmen, where you can get using a collectivo – a small minibus that locals use to get around Riviera Maya. One of my absolute favourite cenotes in Riviera Maya is Cenote Azul. Just look how stunning it is!

The entrance to the cenotes is not free and usually costs between 50-200 MXN, however, it’s totally worth it.

You can also visit other cenotes like Dos Ojos, however, if you want to visit many cenotes, it’s just easier to hire a car.

Hire a car and drive to Chichen Itza

If you want to visit a lot of cenotes and would like to visit Chichen Itza as well, it’s much easier to hire a car. I recommend hiring a car online BEFORE coming to Mexico and only from a respected provider like Avis or Sixt. A lot of car companies in Mexico are known for scamming tourists, and despite the fact that Jose is local, we were also pretty much scammed in Cancun! When we booked a car through Nacional, they didn’t let us hire the car without paying twice the booking amount because their price didn’t include extra insurance that is mandatory in Mexico. We already had full insurance from our Mexican credit card; however, they didn’t accept it. Other companies include that type in insurance in their car rental base rate, however, National didn’t.

As a consequence, we were left without a car during a busy period and were stranded at the airport at night. We had to pay for a taxi (that get 2x more expensive once you exit the airport) and because of taxi mafia, there is no Uber or Cabify in Cancun and Riviera Maya.

I would recommend booking Sixt through Expedia or or Avis directly through their website!

Driving to Chichen Itza isn’t very cheap because of toll roads (that are very expensive, nearly $50 return), however, if you combine visiting Chichen Itza with visiting Tulum, you can use the free road that goes to Chichen Itza from Tulum.

You can read my post about driving to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen here.

Try the best street food in Playa del Carmen

Finally, another one of the best cheap things you can do in Playa del Carmen is trying Mexican street food! From marquesitas to tamales, there are plenty of food stalls and trucks all around Playa del Carmen, so you can try everything (if you have a strong stomach, of course)!

Summary of visiting Playa del Carmen on a budget: cheap things to do in Playa del Carmen!

Alright, these was the summary of visiting Playa del Carmen on a budget. We established that the cheapest way to stay in Playa del Carmen would be hiring an apartment (especially if you’re staying there for longer)! You can also cook at the apartment and eat out in places, where locals eat to save money.

There are actually quite a few cheap things you can do in Playa del Carmen, from walking all the way to Playacar and fancy resorts at the edge of it to hopping on a collectivo (minibus) and heading to explore the best cenotes in Riviera Maya!

Liked this post? Here are some other posts you might find useful:

Cancun vs Riviera Maya: what are the differences

Driving to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen, Cancun or Tulum

Is Mexico City dangerous? How to be safe in the capital

The guide to different areas to stay in Tulum

Most Instagrammable hotels in Tulum

The guide to the best beach clubs in Playa del Carmen

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Stuart Forster

Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

i'd love to travel to Mexico. This is a fab overview of how to travel to Playa del Carmen and save money. Fingers crosses international travel is again a possibility soon.

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