The Cost of Living in Playa del Carmen

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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
Total Monthly Expenses$1286 (£863) for 2 people

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


Our apartment Playa del Carmen

We 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.


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.


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.


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).


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.

You can also read our cost of living posts for other destinations in Mexico including San Pancho, Puerto Escondido, and Oaxaca.

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How much does it cost to live in Playa del Carmen, Mexico? Here's a budget breakdown of our living expenses.


  1. My wife and I toured around Ecuador’s northern coast, from Salinas to the north and found it very inexpensive but lacking good healthcare options.

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  2. We own property in both Playa Del Carmen and southern Costa Rica. Playa del Carmen is less expensive than Costa Rica but Costa Rica has more to do in terms of eco tourism and other entertaining activities. One nice thing about living in Costa Rica is that you are very close to both Panama and Nicaragua. Nicaragua has some political issues at the moment but normally not so much. One nice thing about living in Playa del Carmen is that the nearest airport, Cancun, has direct flights to about 80 different countries. The Mexican Peso has lost value against the dollar this year, making living on dollars even cheaper. Good rentals are available in Mexico for short money if you are willing to lower your standards from what you might be used to in the US. Tourist activities in both Mexico and Costa Rica tend to be expensive (snorkel trips, zip lining, white water rafting, fishing, etc) but if you are willing to live like a local, eat local sourced foods and cook at home, retirement is easy on $1000 to $1500 per month. Cars and gasoline are expensive in Costa Rica but public transportation is cheap and extensive. We bought property in Playa del Carmen, a one bedroom condo in the center of downtown and less than one block from the beach, rooftop pool, for $165k. We bought a big lot in Costa Rica’s southern Pacific region in a gated development for $55k and now plan to spend about $130k building a small home on it.

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  4. We are coming to Playa del Carmen in January for 6 months would like help if possible to rent a apartment. We have a home in Brazil. We need to be in Playa del Carmen for 6 month a year. I am a US citizen and my finance is Brazilian. I been there before looking forward to showing my finance a great way to live. Thanks Gary

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  5. Erin , my family and I are considering moving to Costa Rica or Playa del Carmen part or full time . We have two small children ages 5 & 3 which would need to be in private school . Can you give me some pros and cons Costa Rica vs Playa del Carmen ?

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    • I’m afraid we only visited Costa Rica on a short trip so we can’t really compare what it’s like to live there with Playa. Hopefully someone else can answer your questions.

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  6. Im thanking of retiring in July and moving my wife died a year. And a half ago i will have about 2,500 to3,000 to live on

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  7. Thanks for all the great info..been in Rosarito Baja for 4 yrs. Moving to Playa Del Carmen in 2016 maybe April. Any fb pages or web site with info on the area would be appreciated. Single 68 good health.

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    • TOM,

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  8. Haga el favor cuanto cuesta un apartamento con una habitcion, bano y cocineta por un mes desde el primera semana en enero hasta ultima semana de junio mas cerca de playa en 2015.

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  9. My mom and I are looking to move somewhere. I have already checked out Puerto Galera Philippines and Pattaya Thailand. Now I’m looking in Mexico and Ecuador.. Do you know anything about Sayulita Mexico or any of the coastal towns in Ecuador? Also how often do you have to leave Mexico and do you only have to be out of the country for 24 hours before re entry or do you have to be out a few days or weeks? I really enjoyed the information that you had in your blog. It was very informative. Thanks

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  10. How safe are these places to travel, even at night falls. Never having been here with wife, I really don’t want to make the local or national papers, so In all honesty how safe IsIt to venture off on your own If your not joe pesi Robert denero stallon Or Ill b back, or with the cia?

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    • We felt very safe in Playa del Carmen and had no problems. Of course, as in any city it’s a good idea to take a taxi home if you’re out very late rather than wandering through quiet streets. They are cheap and easily available though.

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  11. Last April/May we took a family trip to PlayaCar and we had the best time. Our parents decided to buy a penthouse for family trips and we are heading back during the cold months to hang out for 12 days. I am 45 years of age and can retired at 51…. My wife is Mexican and we just love Playa del Carmen. We really love the people, food and the beaches are amazing. We will certainly keep a house in the US side for us to live there 1/2 the year and come back and forth when needed.

    I strongly suggest for anyone to go to facebook and begin to query “playa del Carmen”, “pescaderia” (fishmarkets) and request access to those facebook accounts. I believe connecting with the local folks is the way to go. Look at the pictures with their families during their leisure time and see how much they really love their city. Lots of $$$ being poored out into building infrastructure and politicians that actually care for their city. These folks are really into the ecology and protecting the natural resources….. You will pick up the language real quickly. Good place to spend most of you retirement days….

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  12. 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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    • Hello Katherine – I am planning to travel in December to Playa del Carmen. My parents just purschased flat out a penthouse at El Cielo Residencial. Its a private community at about a mile away from the beach. One of my plans is to ensure availability of medical threatment for my parents so when they get there they know who to call and where to receive check ups, etc… when they get there. They are planning to live there for a few months of the year but having all those resources available is a must.

      During our last travel back in May, we spent 7 days at an all inclusive hotel. However, we rented a car and drove around everywhere to all of the hot spots for snorkling, best fish taco places, carne asada and beach areas. Honestly, I am ready to get out of here and move down there. I will be however getting engaged with local folks in order for me to learn the lay of the land…. There’s a lot of folks moving and travelling to this area. Its just beautifulll

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  13. 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.

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    • Akumal is an amazing place to go snorkelling with turtles just off the beach. Get there early on a weekday and the lovely beach should be fairly quiet.


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    • We were there in winter (November-January) so we didn’t need A/C that much and made a conscious effort not to use it too often.

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  14. 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!

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    • 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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  15. 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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  16. 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?

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    • 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.

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    • Hi – I was told that if the dollar sign has 2 lines in it, the price is in US dollars, but if it has only line ‘$’, it is in Pesos.
      Hope that helps…when you see ‘$140’ steak dinner – it is Pesos, same with the Mojitos 3 for $100.

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  17. I never thought that living in Playa del Carmen need not to cost too much. Thanks for sharing how you did well on budgeted apartment with great facilities.

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  18. 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.


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  19. 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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    • Thanks guys and glad you found it helpful. SE Asia is such a wonderful part of the world -maybe we’ll see you there next winter!

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

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    • 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.

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  21. 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.

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    • I’m so glad to hear you went to Chiang Mai and look forward to seeing your expense report. Playa is more expensive in many ways but if you avoid the tourist restaurants on 5th avenue and are savvy when finding an apartment (don’t book online, either walk the streets or get help from a local like Elizabeth) then it can be really affordable. Shame we couldn’t afford a pool though :)

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  22. 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.

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    • 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.

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        • This guy is helping my friends they are buying a new place he helped with everything name is livid Ezra from Canada he help pick out tile and also showed them around I will be traveling there July 6th to look and I am going to use him… let me know if you make contact and if he was help full

    • In the summer 2014 I paid 2 times 3,000 pesos (it was like $230USD) for electricity bill. I rented simple studio:)

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