One of the most common questions I get asked is how I can afford my lifestyle of travel around the world. First I need to explain that I am working while travelling, so it’s not like I’m living the life of leisure.
It’s been a while since I have lived somewhere for longer than a month (outside of Melbourne), so having spent a month in Playa del Carmen I have tallied up what the cost of living in Mexico is like.
[Playa del Carmen]
This is my expense breakdown for July 2011 in Playa del Carmen, converted into USD:
For $850 I have been living in comfort and eating like a king for way less than a grand a month. This is in US dollars as well – it sounds even better if I convert it into my home currency: $790 AUD.
This is the biggest variable by far in Playa del Carmen, and if you don’t know what you are doing you could end up paying Manhattan prices. If you turn up at a real estate agent or book through a holiday rental site they will try and charge you $100 a night for the type of place we stayed at.
I was fortuntate in that my house mate had boots on the ground before I got here and negotiated a sweet deal for our apartment. Our accommodation is a modern complex with swimming pool and came to a grand total of $290USD per month per person – less than $10 per day. (Gas and electricity is extra, inlcuded in the sundries items).
The apartment is spacious and comes with internet and a laundry room, so that is two other expenses taken care of. Oh yeah, did I tell you it comes with a swimming pool?
—- UPDATE —
I have been getting lots of requests about how to find an apartment in Playa del Carmen. My friend is no longer offering rental services. Here is another guide for renting expertvagabond.com/cheap-apartment-playa-del-carmen/.
[Swimming pool at the apartment]
Having an apartment meant that I could have breakfast everyday at home, and I would occasionally make my own lunch. Other than that I ate out every day for lunch and dinner. If I wanted to I’m sure I could have made this budget come down to $650 rather than $850, but why? I mean c’mon, I’m in Mexico. I’m not going to miss out on a chance to have Mexican food as often as I can while I am here.
[Tacos Al Pastor washed down with a Horchata]
The food here has been a surprise for me. I have always loved Mexican food, but there was a lingering concern that Mexican food made in America might have somehow have been better than Mexican food in Mexico. What was I thinking?! I’m happy to report that Mexican food in Mexico is better than I could have hoped for.
Of course it’s not Mexican food every night. There are plenty of other eating options around town if, for some reason, you tire of Mexican. For example we found a Sushi place that have a 2 for 1 deal on sushi rolls every Wednesday. The rolls are surprisingly good considering the lack of Japanese representation in the city.
Fruit juice is a big part of my diet as well, and in Mexico they serve it by the bucket. Well, the one litre styrofoam cup (yes, styrofoam is still used here). A 1L pine/orange juice, no sugar, goes for around $3.00.
[Juice prices in Pesos]
This is the tally from the supermarket across the road. This covered mostly breakfast and fruit, as well as household consumables. While that seems like a small amount for a month, have a look at the price of bananas.
Bananas for $9.90 MXN (0.84c USD) per Kilo. Sadly the bananas are not Tabasco flavoured, but from the state of Tabasco.
My Daily Vice – Coffee
Another personal variable here. My expenses are low as I don’t drink or smoke, so you will need to consider that in your own budget. Included in my budget is a two cup a day coffee habit. I can live with that. I started out making my own coffee at the apartment, but it’s just not the same as sitting in a cafe and doing my work there. Unfortunately there isn’t a great variety of cafes in Playa that are work friendly, but at least they know who I am by now.
Playa is a reasonably compact city so there is no need to get the bus or a taxi anywhere. Our apartment is walking distance from everything we need. A one minute walk to the supermarket, a ten minute walk to the beach and all the cafes and restaurants in between. We were lucky enough to have a car on loan to us, so that helped out with the road trips around the region, but even without a car the buses are reasonably priced.
Other Cost Considerations
Of course your mileage will vary according to accommodation selection and lifestyle choices. Where you eat is also an important factor. Almost all of my meals were at the local places in the back streets behind the main tourist street. They may not look as fancy as the tourist places, but you can be sure you are getting a better deal and authentic food. Same goes for the juice. While that juice sign isn’t visually appealling, you can see they are putting nothing but fruit into the juicer. Who cares what the shop looks like.
This list is also a cost of living budget, not a travel budget. If I was travelling around Mexico for a month this would be a different outcome with higher accommodation and transport expenses. Apart from a few road trips around the region, this stay in Playa was with the intention to get some work done, enjoy the beach, and eat as much Mexican food as possible. Mission accomplished.
Other Cost of Living Reports
The cost of living in Playa del Carmen from Simon and Erin at Never Ending Voyage.
For more more information on Playa check out the Playa del Carmen Travel Guide.