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We’d originally planned to spend longer in Puerto Escondido on the Oaxacan coast, but as accommodation was more expensive than expected we moved on to Oaxaca City, the capital of the state.
The colonial city is located at 1550 metres in the foothills of the Sierra Madre and is known for its beautiful architecture, local cuisine, indigenous culture, and vibrant arts scene.
Oaxaca is so well loved and I’d looked forward to visiting for so long that initially we were disappointed. We had the same problem as we did in Puerto Escondido—comparing it to other places in Mexico.
We had fallen for the colonial cities of Guanajuato and San Cristobal de las Casas, and found Oaxaca more hectic and less attractive.
In time though the city grew on us and we came to appreciate the colourful buildings, street art, and elegant churches. We loved strolling down the Alcalá, a pedestrian street with a lively atmosphere, getting lost in the markets, and weekly trips to the cinema.
The cost of living in Oaxaca is very inexpensive—accommodation especially was far cheaper than on the coast. We rented a house for 38 days in March-April 2015. As our other cost of living posts share our monthly expenses, I’ve calculated those by multiplying our average daily costs by 30.
These were our monthly expenses in USD for two people:
|Monthly Expenses in Oaxaca|
|Total Monthly Expenses||$1041 (£706) for 2 people|
Here are the total costs for 38 days in the three currencies we used: British pounds, US dollars, and Mexican pesos.
We budgeted £25 ($37) a day and amazingly (this never happens) we were under budget. For the daily average of each category see the screenshots below.
Here’s what $520 (£353) per person a month got us in Oaxaca:
Accommodation in Oaxaca is so much cheaper than in Puerto Escondido, and in March is was easier to find. Three days before we arrived I responded to lots of ads on websites I’d found by googling apartments in Oaxaca including Airbnb, Oaxaca Times, and Craigslist.
I made appointments to view four places in our first few days. Everything we saw was between $280-500 a month and we had a few decent options to choose from. We spent three nights in a hotel before we moved into our new place.
Surprisingly for us, we ended up choosing the cheapest option—a one bedroom bungalow is a quiet courtyard only five blocks from the Zocalo. It was much more basic than we usually like with sparse furnishings, harsh fluorescent lights, threadbare mattress, and dribbly shower.
It was spacious and quiet though, and the WiFi was much better than in Puerto Escondido (2-3 mbps download speeds). It was fine for a month but ultimately we decided that although we could rent cheap places like this if we needed to, we prefer somewhere more comfortable and pleasant as we spend most of our day at home working.
Our rent was 4300 pesos ($280) a month including utilities, although we paid 100 pesos ($6) for an extra gas canister and 300 pesos ($19) for the final cleaning and laundry (we had the option to do this ourselves).
Our biggest shock in Oaxaca was that we didn’t like the food. I know—it’s the culinary capital of Mexico and everyone raves about the food here. But unfortunately it’s not very vegetarian friendly. The famous mole sauce is usually made with chicken stock and served over meat, and the vegetarian street food options are very heavy on the cheese. The few vegetarian friendly restaurants serve international rather than Mexican food. After trying various things we didn’t enjoy we ended up cooking most of the time and eating out once a week—usually Italian as it had the best options for us. We also often bought breakfast pastries from the excellent Boulenc bakery.
Meals ranged from 10 pesos ($0.65) for a memela on the street to 300 pesos ($19) per person for a fancy Italian meal with wine (our favourite was Epicuro Cafe Bistrot) or upscale Oaxaca food at La Biznaga (which has a few meat-free options).
We did most of our food shopping at the Benito Juarez market. It’s a maze and quite touristy but we usually found everything we needed—fruit, vegetables, beans, spices, nuts, seeds, oats, and even brown rice.
We bought a few things from the Soriana supermarket and bread from Boulenc. There are a number of chocolate shops on Calle Mina where you can buy excellent drinking chocolate and freshly ground cacao.
We didn’t have a coffee maker in our house so Simon bought coffee one or two times a day. A cappuccino cost about 35 pesos ($2.25) and his usual stop was Cafe Brujula which has two branches on the Alcalá. We also worked in cafes more than usual as our house was a bit gloomy. Two of our favourites (also on the Alcalá) were Cofetarika which does Aeropress coffee and Voces de Copal located inside an art gallery that has comfy seats and pretty good food.
We bought reusable 20 litre garrafones from the shop next door for 15 pesos ($1).
Most of the time we walked everywhere in Oaxaca. We took a taxi to the cinema a few times (50 pesos/ $3) and the bus to Monte Alban was 50 pesos ($3) each return (from the hotel at Mina #518). The biggest expense in this category is our onward bus tickets to Mexico City which were 452 pesos ($30) each with ADO.
Most of our time was spent working or wandering the city. Here are a few activities we did:
- I went to Blanca’s Vinyasa Hatha yoga class once or twice a week at Prana Yoga (sadly now closed). A four class pass usually costs 300 pesos but was discounted to 270 pesos ($17).
- We went to the Cinepolis cinema every Wednesday which is cheap day so tickets were only 31 pesos ($2). It’s a nice cinema, never very busy, and a 35 minute walk or short taxi ride from the centre. (Note: this website might not work in countries that aren’t Mexico.)
- Entrance to Monte Alban, a Zapotec archeological site just outside the city, was 64 pesos ($4) each. We aren’t usually into ruins but it’s well worth a visit as it’s inexpensive, uncrowded, and a peaceful escape from the city.
- Entrance to MACO, the Oaxacan Museum of Contemporary Art was only 10 pesos ($0.65) but I think it’s usually double that when all the exhibitions are open.
This includes a hair cut (90 pesos/ $5.80), toiletries, medications, printing, art supplies, and presents. Laundry usually cost 77 pesos ($5) once a week including our clothes, towels, and bedding. A Telcel mobile data plan cost 299 pesos ($19) for 1 GB valid for 30 days (Update October 2019: better plans are now available, including 3GB for 30 days at 200 pesos).
Simon also has a category for apps and games that he buys online. He spent $22 on these and I added them to the Miscellaneous total.
Oaxaca makes a good digital nomad base—it’s very affordable, easy to find rentals, the WiFi is decent, and there are plenty of cafes to work in. It’s definitely cheaper and the weather is cooler than on the coast and there’s lots going on. You could even keep costs lower than we did by sticking to street food and avoiding too many cafe and bakery visits.
For other cost of living breakdowns for Mexico and Guatemala see our posts on Puerto Escondido, Playa del Carmen, San Pancho, and Lake Atitlan.
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How do you find the housing you rent on your Mexico travels? AirBnB seems very expensive. Do you have your own contacts?
We usually book once we’re there for longer stays and go through agents or look for local ads. In this case I think we found an ad on Oaxaca Times.
I’m looking for a studio or something like that for a one person working nomad.
I want a clean and open lighted place. preferably month to month beginning in May, although ultimately longer. If anyone can help I appreciate it. Great Wifi, quiet with no pets.
i would like to to that but i am looking for work on the computer but is hard to find
A lot of good info about living in Oaxaca,but I do have 3 questions,first how are the beaches and are the apartments affordable near the beach,can I survive not speaking Spanish.
There aren’t any beaches in the city of Oaxaca. The nearest ones are at least six hours away. You could probably survive without Spanish but it would help to learn the basics.
Really helpful post! I’ve been in Xalapa for 7 weeks and am heading to Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido next.
Were you happy with your hair cut experience in Oaxaca? How did you go about choosing where to go?
It was Simon who got a haircut and he just chose somewhere random near our house. It was fine, I think. We don’t remember much about it.
G. Nasium is the home still for sale looking to move to oaxaca..
Which did you like better? GTO or Oaxaca?
Definitely Guanajuato, although we only spent two weeks there, as opposed to six in Oaxaca.
Good Day, My name is Gordon. I am looking to sell two properties in Oaxaca. One land property is in Oaxaca City, and one home in Juchitan, Oaxaca. The Oaxaca City lot is located in a closed gated community 20 minutes outside of Oaxaca City settled in the hills called Lomas de Sierra Juarez First Stage. It sits on-top a hill and has a water tower for the community, not a separate water tank as the lower lying homes do. The gated-community is populated already, and there are only a few lots that do not have a home built including ours. The other home is in Fraccionamiento “La Reforma” next to La Riviera in Juchitan, Oaxaca. It is a two bedroom, two bathroom house with a kitchen and dining room 160 square meters. It has a car port on the side-enclosed with a two-door/gated enclosure. It has an “A” frame roof and surrounded by a two-foot high wall with iron fencing embedded in the cement wall, totaling six-foot high. It has a yard that wraps around the home and into the carport area. It has baby banana trees that produce constantly. It is 25 minutes walking from downtown. Thank you!
This is really useful information.
I’m actually in Oaxaca as we speak, and I’m having a tough time finding somewhere to stay.
Would you be able to share where you actually found your place? Or even better, do you have any useful contact details?
Our place was listed in the Oaxaca Times and it’s still on there. Just email or call all the ads that sound suitable and you should get some options.
how do you work legally when you travel?
We work online and our business is registered in the UK where we pay taxes. We enter countries on tourist visas.
Great post Erin! Heads off, you guys have mentioned really great breakdown of expenses. Good one.
Hi! We’re in Valladolid now and heading towards Oaxaca City next week (with a stop in Palenque). I had originally wanted to spend more time there but we are now down to 1.5 months before we must drive back to Canada :-(
Any recommendations for stays of a week long?
Really enjoying your site and your updates!
A week is a good amount of time to explore the city. Follow the walking tour we described in the Trover post I linked to, visit the markets, Monte Alban half day trip, and maybe do a cooking course. Our friends recommended this one: http://tillthemoneyrunsout.com/el-sabor-zapoteco-traditional-oaxaca-cooking-classes/ Enjoy!
Thanks for the link to my post, guys! I am a weeee bit sad that you didn’t totally fall head over heels for Oaxaca since it is my favourite place in the world – but I wont hold it against you :p
I know, we were surprised we didn’t love it too. I am pretty fussy when it comes to cities though as I generally prefer quieter places.
It’s definitely an affordable place, but it’s too bad there weren’t many veggie friendly foods that were authentic to the region. As a meat lover, I adore the enchiladas with negra mole sauce! :)
Yeah, I cannot believe we never ate mole!
Ah! If only you had written this post a few weeks ago! We’re actually heading to Oaxaca the day after tomorrow and are planning to spend a month there. We wound up renting a place through AirBnB, because we have been having such a hard time finding pet-friendly housing here in Mexico (definitely a downside to traveling with 2 dogs!)… even though I know AirBnB & Craigslist are likely to be more expensive than other options, we know that because they cater to tourists they are also more likely to allow pets too. Still, I wish that I had known about the other two sites you mentioned as I definitely would have checked them out!
Sorry to hear Oaxaca wasn’t entirely your jam. I definitely understand how that goes, though the nice thing about spending a month in a place is that even if it doesn’t initially appeal, I’ve found that with time, I definitely tend to come to appreciate things about it that I probably wouldn’t have noticed/discovered early on during our stay. I’m surprised to hear that you found Oaxaca so vegetarian-unfriendly, but then again, I would say that pretty much everywhere we have been (other than the really touristy places in Mexico) doesn’t do much to cater to vegetarians.
Ah, bad timing! Sometimes Airbnb can just be so much easier and it’s nice to have somewhere sorted for when you arrive.
Totally agreed. I traveled for a year using AirBnB and the only time it was any easier was when I was literally dropped off in front of a guesthouse. Still, AirBnB was almost always cheaper, but I was staying for longer periods of time…
Hi Steph, his are you managing to cope with two dogs? My wife and I are planning to travel Mexico with our dog and we’re not sure whether to fly, bus, hire or purchase a car.
We too use Airbnb do to their pet friendly apartments.
Hi Michael! Well, we’ve been in Mexico for about four months now with the dogs and survived, so it’s definitely doable. We have hit upon a schedule of spending about a month in each place we visit, in part because that seems to work best for the dogs, and also because you get much better AirBnB rates if you stay for a month. We’ve generally let wherever we can find pet-friendly accommodation be our guide of where to go and spend our time, but even still, there haven’t really been that many places we’ve had to rule out because we couldn’t find anything pet-friendly in advance. I’m sure if we booked somewhere for a shorter period and then searched for a place while on the ground as Erin & Simon did, we’d have even more options, but for convenience we’ve chosen to book ahead.
The great thing about traveling with dogs in Mexico is that vets here are very affordable. We’ve visited two different vets since arriving to get tick & flea preventatives as well as having our dogs checked for various issues and it’s been so much cheaper than back in the U.S. or Canada. Always stressful to visit the vet, but at least we don’t have to worry about the financial side of things here.
The one thing I would say is that I have no idea how we would be doing this trip if we didn’t have our own car. We drove our vehicle from the U.S. down, and yeah… I wouldn’t even try to do this trip by bus (I guess plane could be ok if you were only going to stay in one place, but I wouldn’t want to be flying somewhere new every month, never mind putting my dogs through that). Dogs are not really treated the same way in Mexico as they are back home (only a small fraction of people really seem to view them as pets, and family members at that!), so there aren’t as many allowances/affordances for people traveling with pets. We had heard horror stories from people who traveled Mexico by bus with their dogs, but then again, I can’t imagine that would be pleasant in any country!
Anyway, as I said, traveling with our dogs here in Mexico has been limiting at times and we definitely pay more for accommodation than we likely would without them, but it is definitely possible. I’ve written a bit more about this over on our own site and will continue to do so if you’d like more details.