The Cost of Living in Playa del Carmen

We’re not the best people at sticking to a budget—after years of saving for travel and then three years on the road it’s rather tedious to watch every penny. One of the advantages of slow travel though is that when we stay somewhere for a month or more we spend less than when we are moving around without even trying. Monthly apartment rentals are far cheaper than hotels, we spend less on transport, and we can cook for ourselves.

Playa del Carmen is a tourist town that receives a lot of vacationers from the US and Europe so is more expensive than other parts of Mexico. We lived there for three months and discovered that while living expenses like groceries, transport and even cinemas are affordable, any time you do anything touristy it costs much more.

These were our monthly expenses in Playa del Carmen in USD for two people.

Monthly Expenses in Playa del Carmen
Apartment rent $520
Electricity bill $14
Food $545
Transport $96
Entertainment $59
Miscellaneous $52
Total Monthly Expenses $1286 (£863) for 2 people

So what did $643 (£432) a month per person get us in Playa del Carmen?

Apartment

Our apartment Playa del CarmenWe rented a one bedroom apartment in the Colosio neighbourhood which is about a 20-30 minute walk from the centre. We really liked the area because it isn’t touristy and the beach is much quieter at this end of town. The apartment was simple but modern with very fast internet, a good kitchen with huge oven, and it was only a two minute walk from the beach. Read more about our apartment and neighbourhood.

The apartment cost 6500 pesos a month ($520) and electricity was extra. You can find cheaper places (Expert Vagabond rented a studio for $300 a month) but you’ll pay more to be closer to town (Sarah Somewhere’s studio in the centre is $600 a month). Prices can go crazy high in Playa and to get a pool costs maybe $1500 a month.

Food

Chalupitas at La Cueva del Chango

Chalupitas at La Cueva del Chango

We cooked at home most of the time but ate out a couple of times a week plus the occasional cafe visit. As we cooked Mexican at home when we ate out we tended to eat at more expensive international places for some variety. Costs in Playa vary widely from a few dollars for Mexican food in simple restaurants along 30th Avenue to $15 for an Italian restaurant meal. We’ve written about our favourite restaurants in Playa del Carmen.

Water is also included in this cost. We bought a 20 litre bottle of water for 26 pesos ($2) every 2-3 days (we drink a lot of water)—exchanging the empty for a new one at the local shop.

Transport

Playa is very walkable and that’s what we did most of the time. As we were quite far out of town if we were feeling lazy a colectivo shared van (or in some cases bus) only cost 5 pesos ($0.40). We took a taxi for about 30 pesos ($2.40) a couple of times a week to bring groceries home and to go to the cinema on the outskirts of town in Plaza Las Americas.

We also took a longer distance colectivo to Akumal a couple of times and a nice ADO bus to Valladolid and the airport at the end of our stay.

This includes the cost of a one day car hire that was $47.70 including all insurance which we used for a day trip to Tulum and Coba. You could get the bus but we wanted the flexibility.

Entertainment

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

We only went out to bars a few times as we prefer eating out to drinking. We went to the cinema about once a week, usually on Wednesdays when it’s half price—a bargain 26 pesos ($2) a ticket.

Other costs here are for tourist activities which we found quite expensive. Hiring snorkelling gear in Akumal was $7 a day per person; entrance to the cenote Chaak Tun was nearly $20; and the Mayan ruins cost from $4.50 (Tulum and Coba) to nearly $15 (Chichen Itza).

Miscellaneous

This includes laundry which cost around $3 a load, tips to the guys who packed our bags at the supermarket, and haircuts which cost 40 pesos ($3.20) for Simon at a local place and 420 pesos ($34) for me at a fancier place run by a Canadian.

Other Expenses Not Included Above

There are a few one off expenses that won’t apply to most people so we didn’t include them above.

  • We paid $75 to Elizabeth from Renting Playa del Carmen to help find us the apartment and negotiate the price. As we were there in peak season over Christmas we never would have found somewhere affordable without her and we highly recommend using her services if you are looking for an apartment.
  • We spent about $185 on buying stuff for the apartment to make it more homely including more comfortable chairs and extra kitchen equipment (the basics were supplied). None of this was essential though.
  • We had a trip away to Valladolid where we spent $42 a night on a hotel.
  • Exit tax to leave Mexico at Cancun airport cost 295 pesos ($24) each.

It is interesting to see that we actually spent slightly less living in Playa del Carmen than we did in Chiang Mai, Thailand which we found a much cheaper destination overall. We did have a much nicer apartment with swimming pool and also rented a scooter, so I’d still say Chiang Mai is better value for money.

We were surprised how affordable it was to live in such a popular tourist town with an apartment only two minutes walk from the Caribbean Sea. It was definitely far less than we would have spent if we had stayed in hotels and just confirms our love for renting apartments and travelling slowly.

For a solo traveller’s perspective see James at Nomadic Note’s Playa budget where he spent $850 a month.

We keep track of our travel expenses using our Trail Wallet iPhone app. It has made the process much easier as we can set a daily budget, choose the categories we want to track, and easily add new amounts while we are out and about. If you need some help staying on budget then Trail Wallet is available in the App store for just $1.99.

Trail Wallet

Trail Wallet

35 thoughts on The Cost of Living in Playa del Carmen

  1. Hey guys, great write up, I think our budget is pretty similar, thanks for sharing yours. You did well to get a place with an OVEN, and also to find something so cheap in high season.I guess it’s worth mentioning that in the summer months electricity can be anywhere from $40-$60 if you use A/C.

    • I know – we never have an oven! We baked far too many cookies though :) Without Elizabeth we would never have found the apartment and it was a bit of a last minute respite as she thought we’d have no chance finding somewhere remotely affordable as things get crazy over Christmas.

      Good point about the electricity! We didn’t use it often -maybe an hour or so now and again so it wasn’t too bad.

  2. That’s a great write up, thanks for sharing. Your cost of living report about Chiang Mai ended up being one of the main motivators for our moving here.

    Our stay in Chiang Mai will actually end in a few days, and I am also preparing a similar report for others who might be thinking of coming out here.

    We are already dreaming of our next destination, and it’s good to see that Playa is also affordable (had read some articles saying that it’s been getting much more expensive). Who knows, maybe we will also get the chance to spend some time there before it really becomes too busy.

  3. Good stuff! We’re definitely looking forward to getting further north in Latin America and hearing the sigh of relief from our bank accounts!

    • Well you don’t need to go too far -Bolivia was the cheapest place we visited in Latin America. Mexico would have actually been a lot more expensive if we had travelled around but renting a place is so much cheaper.

  4. Hi guys,
    Once again a very helpful post. We think we are pretty similar in our expectations and budget so we are finding your advice extremely useful. Currently researching Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. We are headed to Melbourne in November and then hope to spend several months in SE Asia. A new destination for us but it would be fair to say that your blog posts have spurred us on! Thanks and keep up the good work!!

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  7. Hey, great post and great apartment!

    Don’t suppose you noticed how much 3 bedroom places go for? We’re with children so have to go for something bigger. Just trying to decide where to go next.

    Thanks!

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  11. Hey guys, I’m going to stay in the Occidental Xcaret hotel near Playa Del Carmen next week, planning to spend at least a day in Playa.
    We’re confused about prices, especially for food and drink. Some websites say you can get a beer for US$1, but on Google Maps I have seen signs saying “3 Mojitos for $100″ and seen menus that want $140 for a steak.
    Do they use the $ sign for pesos too? We were lead to believe almost everything was in US$.
    I’m confused and slightly worried we’ve bought the wrong currency, should we have a little of both? Can you shed any light on this please?

    • They use the dollar sign for pesos. In touristy restaurants you can pay in dollars but in more local restaurants you’ll need pesos which you can withdraw from ATMs.

  12. It can be a bit tricky since both pesos and dollars use the $ sign. So you may need to ask on occasion. If the price is suspiciously low, suspect that the price is $US ! So beer on 5th is often $20 (pesos) but of course can go MUCH higher depending on the establishment.

    If you buy in stores of course, it is much, cheaper. The City Club (pretty much like a Costco) sells 24s of Corona light for $120 (pesos) as I recall. Hard to beat that price.

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  15. Great article, but I have to say that your $14 a month for electricity can be a bit deceiving for those that don’t actually live in Playa (which I do, btw). CFE charges bi-monthly, and so I can with confidence that your bill does not include A/C usage. The summer months of Playa, May-September, can be extremely hot if you are used to what I call “American A/C” usage. It’s also worth mentioning that if you use too much electricity during a billing cycle, you can be pushed up into higher rates that become more and more expensive as your usage increases. That said, you sound like you are enjoying paradise and I applaud you for your choice of habitation – saludos!

    • It did include A/C usage but as we were there November to February we only used it for an hour or so a day as we had been warned that prices rise steeply the more electricity you use. It would definitely be more expensive in the summer months.

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  17. Great write up, thanks. We`’re coming to the end of our 7 month trip to Central America & arrived in PDC today. Think we may have a short term apartment lined up. Any suggestions on best places to visit nearby? We’ve already stayed in Valladolid & Tulum now looking for some quiet beaches & snorkelling.
    Dawn colinanddawnmostexcellentadventure.wordpress.com

  18. I am somewhat disabled,with a tricky back (3 surgeries) plus arthritis & my daughter has a low IQ. Between the 2 of us, we have SSD of about $2300 a month. The area you live in sounds nice, but I would like to have somewhat of an upgrade as far as an apt. or sm house.

    I am 59 & need adventure in my life, before I get any older, My big question to you is how much do I need to save up to drive down from NE??? I know we will have to go back to the US every 6 months & from what you are saying, we would probably want to set a budget of about $1500 a month. That would leave us with about $800 extra a month. Also, health care. Any idea what insurance cost. Do they require you pay more than one month rent at a time & what about deposits. What about furniture…if you can’t stomach what they have in the apt. Are they very open to let you paint the rooms if you rent…w/permission? That area really looks beautiful…wonderful blog. Very inviting! Thanks!

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