Throughout all my Yucatan travel blogs I have constantly been preaching that traveling the Yucatan Peninsula does not have to be expensive. It just comes down to how much budget you have! Prices in Yucatan and traveling around the peninsula are probably only a fraction of what things cost in your hometown, but please refrain yourself from saying the Yucatan is cheap. The more you explain the locals how cheap it is to travel to Yucatan Peninsula the more expensive it becomes. Keep in mind that for locals the tourist prices in the Yucatan are expensive!
On top of all my Yucatan backpacking tips I will also show you how much it cost to travel to Yucatan Peninsula on a budget of around $50 per day. In total I traveled around Yucatan Peninsula for more than 2 months and saw all the amazing places to visit in Yucatan. Some are more expensive than others, but the more local you go, the cheaper it gets of course. The most expensive places in the Yucatan are of course Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, the further away you get from these places, the cheaper it gets. Some exceptions are the island of Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres were prices are a little higher than on the main land. Yet backpacking or traveling on a budget to these places is still very much possible.
Watching the marvellous sunsets in Isla Holbox are free, a beer cost around $2, the experience will be with you forever!
1. My costs traveling the Yucatan Peninsula
In total I traveled around the Yucatan for 9 weeks and wrote more than 25 Yucatan travel blogs. In my Isla Holbox travel guide I already explained in detail how much I spent visiting Isla Holbox. But I have more for you in this Yucatan travel blog as the first couple weeks of my trip I kept track of all my expenses. In the following picture you can see an overview of all my costs traveling to Yucatan on a budget ($50 per day). The expenses are categorized in: transportation, accommodation, food & drinks, tours and extras.
The costs above are the result of a Yucatan Peninsula road trip of 19 days, including a visit to Cozumel. I did all of this with a friend of mine so all the costs for accommodation, food & drinks and the extras are mostly for 2 persons. We rented a car and drove around for almost 2 weeks and also spent some time in Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.
You could do this trip by yourself and therefore I decided to show the costs for solo travelers as well as if you would travel with two people. Bus tickets, boat tickets, tours and sim cards are the only costs that are per person.
How much does it cost to travel to Yucatan Peninsula?
The total costs for traveling the Yucatan Peninsula for 20 days with 2 persons is $1,650 USD. That comes down to $41,25 per person per day! Included in this calculation are food, accommodation, extras, car rental, other transportation, tours, extras and even drinks!
This is where most of the money goes to. On my trip to Yucatan Peninsula I mostly used Airbnb and some small boutique hotels. I did not stay in any luxury hotels. I spent 12.000 Pesos in 19 days, that is an average of 630 Pesos ($33) per night. This is of course for two persons!
Food & drinks
Looking at my expenses for food you can see that they are very little. We always ate in local restaurants and even prepared some food ourselves sometimes. The grocery shopping list always contained the same products: milk, muesli, yoghurt, fresh fruits, bread and veggies. This may seem pretty boring, but pretty damn healthy! This to balance the unhealthy local Mexican food: tacos, quesadillas, nachos, sopes, chilaquilles, etc.
Alcohol in Yucatan Peninsula can be super affordable. You can go out to a club and pay $4 for a Corona, but you can also find places where they are just $1. All our drinking money went towards Coronas or Dos XX Lager beers in case there was no Corona. If you drink cocktails expect to pay at least like $3 per cocktail in the cheapest place up to easily $10 in expensive places.
The question which places to see in Yucatan is hard to answer as there are many cool things to do in Yucatan Peninsula. Creating an itinerary for Yucatan depends on how much time you have and what your travel priorities are. At least I can help you with the ultimate itinerary. Click on the link above to see my ideal route of traveling to Yucatan. I simply connected all the tourist destinations in Yucatan with each other. In that big Yucatan travel blog I also give tips about road trips, how long to stay where, what to do and more.
3. Is it safe to visit Yucatan
This is a really easy to answer question for me. YES it is completely safe! Regardless what the media tells you, if you are a well behaved responsible tourist the chance of running into trouble is negligible. Yes Im a fit and tall European which definitely helps, but I have spoken to female solo travelers and they had not felt unsafe or anything like that at all while backpacking Yucatan Peninsula. If you come here just to admire the most amazing places to see in the Yucatan Peninsula then nothing will happen. Are you here to party hard and do things you are not allowed to do at home either than there is always that chance you run into trouble.
Getting lost in cities is the best way to explore. Finding murals is one of the great free things to do in Yucatan. This amazing mural I found in Xcalachen in Merida Mexico.
4. Best time to go backpacking Yucatan
May be the Yucatan Hurricane Season from August till October scares you? Let me tell you more hurricanes hit the US mainland then they hit Yucatan Peninsula. Another reason to travel to Yucatan. The rainy season is definitely a time of the year you want to avoid as rain can be severe. The rainy season is from May till September and it also is a busy period and a very hot and humid time of the year. As December till February is high season the best time for backpacking Yucatan Peninsula are the months November, March and April. Mind you that April can already get damn hot. I traveled the Yucatan between mid February and end of April 2019 and all my Yucatan travel blogs are based on my trips in that period.
On top of the ruins in Uxmal and as you can see there was hardly any other tourists. April in Merida Mexico was hot, but it had its advantages!
5. Tours Yucatan Peninsula
One of the best value tours in Yucatan Peninsula is in Rio Lagartos. Read all my Rio Lagartos tipsin the link including the Pink Lake Las Coloradas. The tour was only $17. Another great Yucatan travel tip are to visit the cenotes around Valladolid by yourself. Entrance fee is on average $4 per cenote. Click on the link to see which cenotes are the best and how to get there. A snorkeling trip in Cozumel is rather expensive, but Cozumel is an expensive island in general. So if you are backpacking Yucatan Peninsula on an even tighter budget than $50 per day you might want to skip Cozumel. Renting a scooter in Cozumel was a great thing to do though, so was my Tulum and Coba tour.
6. Where to go backpacking in Yucatan
There are a couple places you might want to avoid when traveling to Yucatan on a budget. The super touristy places are of course also the most expensive. The Cancun Hotel Zone is by far a place in Yucatan that is not made for backpackers, although even there is a hostel. Isla Mujeres is quite expensive and so is Tulum nowadays. The best places to visit in Yucatan Peninsula for backpackers are: Merida Mexico, Valladolid, Bacalar, Isla Holbox, Rio Lagartos and El Cuyo. Apart from El Cuyo I have been everywhere myself and you can find plenty budget friendly local restaurants as well as hostels and other budget accommodation.
7. Which Maya ruins to visit when traveling Yucatan on a budget
This is a really easy one to answer! As of February 2019 the prices for Maya ruins in Yucatan State have been doubled. That means the entrance fee for Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Ek Balam are now all around $25. When you are backpacking Yucatan stick to the Maya ruins in Quintana Roo State as here the entrance price for Tulum Ruins, Coba Ruins, Chacchoben Ruins, Kohunlich Ruins, Dzibanche and the Kinichna Ruins are all just 75 Pesos ($4). Easy choice right?
Read my blog comparing Coba or Tulum ruins to give you an idea of which Maya ruins I prefer over the other.
8. Mexico sim card
Buying a Mexico sim card is the best way to safe money on roaming costs and the first thing you should do when backpacking Yucatan. Make sure your phone is unlocked and hop into any of the Telcel shops to buy a Mexico sim card. They have the best coverage. First check my blog about the best Mexico sim card before you buy one and know the prices. For a couple dollars you will be connected to the internet which can save you a lot of time and money. It also makes a Yucatan road trip so much more convenient, while you can arrange things on the go.
9. Transportation in Yucatan Peninsula
Backpacking in Yucatan Peninsula is super easy as the transportation system is amazing. There are several bus companies, but the best one is by far ADO. They have tourist class busses and even some business class busses (these are double the price of course). It is possible to purchase your bus tickets for ADO busses online through their website and you can even choose your seat. There are also Oriente and Mayab busses, they are less frequent and as far as I know you can’t buy tickets online.
Fair enough traveling in Yucatan is best be done with ADO anyway and there are busses in any direction throughout whole of Mexico. Prices for ADO busses are around $4 per hour on average. So if you are traveling from Cancun to Merida it is a 4 hour trip and expect to pay around 300 Pesos ($15). On this stretch there are like 50 busses every 24 hour in one direction and prices vary, so for the best deals you gotta look on their website. Sometimes you find amazing discounts!
Bus from Cancun to Chiquila
To visit Isla Holbox you will need to take a bus to Chiquila. As I didnt expect the busses to be full I just rocked up at the Cancun bus station and ended up taking an Oriente bus. The bus was overbooked and one guy had to sit in the isle. Also did the Oriente bus make loads of stops picking up locals. To make sure, always book up front through the ADO website, you can pay by credit card or PayPal.
An amazing holiday doesn't have to be expensive! These hammocks are free to use and a beer in a nearby supermarket cost less than $1 for 0.5L! Find this place in my Costa Maya Mahahual travel guide.
10. Taxis in Yucatan Peninsula
There is nothing more annoying than a taxi driver that tries to screw you over after a long flight or bus. Therefore I want you to know what the normal taxi fares are around the Yucatan Peninsula. Anywhere in Cancun downtown should never be more than 40 Pesos. In Playa del Carmen you should never pay more than 35 Pesos. Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are a little trickier as these are islands, but paying more than 50 Pesos is too much. One of the best Merida Mexico tips is that there is Uber, so convenient! Valladolid Mexico has a set fare of 35 Pesos as well. From the Cancun ADO bus station to the Isla Mujeres ferry Terminal is a set fare of 40 Pesos.
11. Renting a car in Yucatan Peninsula
This is may be not the first thing that comes up in your mind when you think about backpacking in Yucatan, but hold on. Normally Im not a big fan of calling things cheap, but damn renting a car in Yucatan can be really cheap! It kind of depends where though as prices vary a lot, but search online and you will find great deals. Online you can sometimes find deals for less than $10 a day, no joke! But…
When renting a car in Yucatan Peninsula make sure the 3th party liability insurance is included otherwise you end up paying like $25 per day extra for this compulsory insurance. I rented a car in Cancun, Merida and Playa del Carmen.
Renting a car in Playa del Carmen
For my big Yucatan road trip I rented a car for almost two weeks in Playa del Carmen and paid $22 per day, including full coverage and I left a deposit of $1,500. In Playa del Carmen I used Carfelx. Drop off was super easy, the guys checked the car quickly and were super friendly.
Renting a car in Cancun
In Cancun I rented a car for 2 days to explore some of the Valladolid cenotes, like Suytun, Xcachen, Ik Kil, etc. Again I paid $20 per day including full coverage, but only left a deposit of $100 this time. In Cancun I used Mexrent and they were super nice and the deposit was way less than Carflex in Playa del Carmen. Therefore if you are thinking about renting a car in Yucatan Peninsula on your backpacking trip this is a great company to go to.
Renting a car in Merida
In Merida Mexico is where I found out about the 3th party liability insurance. When I came to pick up the car they made me pay this $25 per day insurance extra. Well where I thought I rented a car for $4 per day online this was a damn unpleasant surprise when I arrived at Budget cars. Instead of renting a car in Merida Mexico for a week I decided to only rent it for 1 day! There are many Merida Mexico day trips around the city and for most of them you will need a car, check them out in the link.
I can totally recommend you to do a Yucatan road trip, as it was of the highlights of my trip and yes it is totally safe. Click on the link to read more about it. Car rentals in Yucatan are only available in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Chetumal and Merida. Places like Bacalar, Valladolid, etc don’t have car rental companies.
Side note: of course I always rented the cheapest car available!
Be aware of scams when you rent a car in Yucatan Peninsula! A common scam happens at gas stations and I kind of got trapped. I noticed straight away so I got away with paying less, but still I feel like I got scammed. Always tell them the amount of Pesos you want to put in your, never say fill it up! When you do they will just tell you a crazy number to pay. They asked me for 700 Pesos for half a tank. Super stupid, cause a full tank was only 600 Pesos. Gasoline costs the same everywhere around Yucatan Peninsula: mas o menos 20 Pesos ($1)
There are more known scams in the Yucatan and most of them involve corrupt police men. I must say though that all the police men that I crossed paths with were super friendly. None of them ever asked a question and all I got were friendly smiles.
13. Renting scooter and bikes in Yucatan
There are other ways to get around apart from renting a car. It is not as common as in Asia, but you can rent a scooter to travel around Yucatan. One of my best adventures in Yucatan was renting a scooter in Cozumel. Daily rates for scooters are higher than for cars and expect to pay $25 for the day or $5 per hour. Bicycles mostly cost between $5 and $10 per day. Isla Holbox, Tulum, Puerto Morelos and Valladolid are popular places to rent a bicycle.
14. Street food
One of my favorite things about being a world traveler is that I get to taste local food wherever I go. There is no need to explain you that tacos, quesadillas, etc can be everywhere on your Yucatan Peninsula trip. But how much does street food cost in the Yucatan? The easiest benchmark are the tacos and I had many of them. When you travel to Merida Mexico you will find them for as less as 8 Pesos ($0.40), around Valladolid, Cancun, Playa del Carmen they go around for about 15 Pesos a piece and in Isla Mujeres they were the most expensive and I paid 25 Pesos for one taco.
15. Local restaurants
Mostly I tried to eat in local restaurants where you can order anything local from soups to enchiladas. Honestly said I am not the biggest fan of Mexican food as it is pretty damn unhealthy, but when backpacking Yucatan Peninsula you want cheap food. It is pretty hard to find healthy cheap food to be honest and I mostly ended up in Cuban restaurant where I could find a piece of meat, rice and salad for about 60-80 Pesos ($3-4). In Costa Maya Mahahual though I found the best local restaurant on my Yucatan Peninsula trip and went there 3 days in a row to eat the delicious fajitas for only 60 Pesos ($3).
16. Tipping in Yucatan Peninsula
Keeping in mind that most locals don’t make more than $250 per hour tipping is very much appreciated and also expected. The tipping culture in Yucatan is like in the USA:10% is standard, 15-20% if service was excellent. Im European and honestly I hate the tipping culture so I choose to tip those who I think really deserves it. I always ate in local places anyway and more than happy to tip 20% for someone who makes me 4 tacos for 50 Pesos. I only did very few tours, but I for example tipped my private Tulum and Coba tour guide 200 Pesos ($10).
17. Local bars
When looking to go out on your Yucatan trip and don’t want to break the bank then search for local bars in the area. One of my best Merida Mexico travel tips are some no name bars in the historical center. When you walk in there will be about 50 men in the age of 40-60 staring at you, but no worries just out of curiosity. No need to worry about anything, these bars are the most amazing places to learn about the culture as talking to (drunk) locals is gonna be a lot of fun. A bottle of 1L Corona will cost around 50 Pesos ($2,5), a single Corona is just $1.
18. Chapultepec - best bar for backpackers
Don’t worry you don’t need to go super local bars only to find cheap drinks. Open Google Maps and type in: Chapultepec. Im pretty sure this is going to be one of the best backpacking tips for Yucatan you will find in all Yucatan travel guides. At Chapultepec everything costs 21 Pesos ($1,10)! It doesn’t matter what you order: mojitos, beers, burgers, nachos everything is CHEAP! Did I say that? Chapultepec is known for this concept and you will find many locals as well as travelers here. Chapultepec are mostly actually really nice bars as well. One of my favorite places to go out on my Yucatan Peninsula trip. Also great to take a Tinder date and you don’t want to hurt your wallet.
19. Supermarket prices
If you have read more of my Yucatan travel blogs you know that I stayed around for more than 2 months. On average I went out eating about 2 times a day, but I also tried to go to supermarkets to grab some healthy food. After more than 7 years on the road I found many ways to eat cheap but also healthy at the same time. So I mostly can get by with buying ready to eat products like: tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, yoghurt, fresh fruits, avocados, tuna cans, milk, muesli, etc.
When you travel to Yucatan on a budget you will be happy to know that you can easily do grocery shopping for breakfast, lunch and dinner for under $5. Fresh, fruits, bread and vegetables are super affordable! Two avocados or 5 tomatoes are $0,50 only. A bunch of bananas and bread will cost you less than $1 and so on. All ingredients for a pasta for 2 persons for two days is less than $5 for sure. When you have the chance to prepare your own meals while backpacking Yucatan you will save money. If you are traveling to Yucatan on a budget try to book Yucatan hostels or Airbnbs with kitchen so you can cook for yourself.
20. Fancy restaurants
If you feel like splurging or need to go on a fancy Tinder date then there is always a place where you can go bonanza with your money. Every tourist destination in Yucatan Peninsula has this one restaurant where prices are sky rocketed. Some people simply love spending money. Me too actually, but I don’t have that much! LOL
In Cancun, Tulum, Merida and Playa del Carmen you are spoiled for choice, in places like Valladolid, Bacalar or Costa Maya Mahahual a fancy restaurant will be a little harder to find. In the Cancun hotel zone I was invited for dinner at a fancy place and the bill with three people was 5,000 Pesos, more than $250! Amen.
21. Where to stay in Yucatan Peninsula on a budget
Everywhere you go you can find expensive hotels as well as super cheap hostels. So if you don’t want to spend more than $10 per night on accommodation you can. Backpacking Yucatan Peninsula is not really challenging as travel arrangements are pretty well organized and hostels offer a wide range of services: bike rental, tours, local guides and travel tips.
Some recommended hostels in Yucatan Peninsula are:
- Isla Mujeres:
- Playa del Carmen:
- Cancun hotel zone:
- Isla Holbox:
- Mahahual Costa Maya:
Luxury hotels in Yucatan Peninsula are countless although most of them are all inclusive and probably not what you are looking for. A great alternative if you are traveling Yucatan on a bigger budget are boutique hotels. These ones are recommended:
- Isla Mujeres:
- Valladolid: Coqui Coqui
- Merida: Kuka y Naranjo
- Playa del Carmen:
- Cancun hotel zone:
- Isla Holbox:
- Mahahual Costa Maya:
22. Use Airbnb to travel the Yucatan Peninsula
Although you are probably more familiar with booking through major hotel booking websites I also want to encourage you to have a look on Airbnb. What about I give you $30 free travel credit on Airbnb? All you have to do is to sign up for a new account through this link! On my Yucatan Peninsula trip I mostly used Airbnb and found some great apartments for under $30 per night. Check it out yourself in the link above. Even if you already have an account you can simply sign up with a new email address and get the $30 Airbnb credit.
Watching the sunrise is free one of the amazing free things to do in Yucatan. It sounds simple, but when did you get up the last time to watch a sunrise?
Yucatan travel blog
After spending so much time traveling in Yucatan Peninsula I wrote more than 100,000 words full of tips to make the most of your trip. Check my almost 30 Yucatan travel blogs in this link.
If you have any questions about traveling or backpacking Yucatan Peninsula please leave me a comment with your question. Im happy to help a fellow traveler out!
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