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
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.

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

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 you can try Trail Wallet for free in the App store—download it here

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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.

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49 Comments (11 pingbacks)

  1. 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.

    Reply

  2. MY HUSBAND AND I ARE WANTING TO RETIRE TO MEXICO OR COSTA RICA. WE ARE TRYING TO FIND INFORMATION OR WHERE TO RENT A HOME OR CONDO WHERE WE CAN BRING OUR 2 DOGS. WE NEED TO KNOW IF ITS SAFE, CLOSE TO GROCERY STORES, ETC. ANY HELP WOULD BE APPREICATED.

    Reply

  3. 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

    Reply

  4. 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 ?

    Reply

    • 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.

      Reply

  5. 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.

    Reply

    • TOM,
      MY HUSBAND AND I ARE PLANNING ON MOVING OVERSEAS. WE COULD REALLY USE SOME HELP AS TO THE BEST PLACES TO LIVE ON OUR SOCIAL SECURITY ABOUT $1700.00 PER MONTH. HOW HAVE YOU FOUND IT LIVING THERE?

      Reply

  6. 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.

    Reply

  7. 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

    Reply

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