Tulum & Playa del Carmen Guide and Budget Breakdown

by Sojourner
3 comments

Mexico. A country with so much to offer, yet the media will try to dissuade you at every turn. Yet, I can attest that it’s better to experience places yourself than always follow what the media tells you. If you’re contemplating a trip to Mexico, visiting Tulum and Playa del Carmen are two good places to start. I kept track of every expense just for you to help plan it all (and travel on a budget). My 8-day total budget, including flights and housing, was about $600. This guide can help you budget to fully enjoy Tulum and Playa del Carmen.


Author’s Note:

For the sake of this guide, all money noted is in USD and rounded up based on current currency exchange between USD and pesos. However, the majority of it I paid in pesos upon arrival. Read further for information on currency exchanges. These are also costs per traveler.


Streets of Tulum, Mexico

Which airport to use in Mexico

Cancun’s International Airport is the best, and probably the cheapest, option for an adventure to Tulum and Playa del Carmen. It’s convenient and well-connected to transport you to other destinations in the area. Though you don’t have to make Cancun your hub for the entire trip, you can easily catch a bus from the airport to downtown Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, etc. All you have to do is walk straight outside, past currency exchange, and turn the right once you leave the airport. You’ll be on your way to a beach in no-time.

FLIGHT COSTS:

Roundtrip Chicago to Cancun = $185 USD


La Negrita Hostel in Tulum, Mexico

Housing and accommodations in Tulum and Playa del Carmen

From resorts, to hotels, to Airbnbs, and finally hostels, there are a variety of options to choose from for housing in Mexico. For budget travel, my choice is always a hostel. All of the ones I’ve stayed in included breakfast, and using Hostelworld you can check out reviews and more preferences (such as location, amenities, etc.) to make your decision. Though some are more elaborate than others, you can’t beat the price. Choose the option that fits your needs and is within your budget.


ACCOMMODATION COSTS:

Mama’s Home Hostel in Tulum (1 night) = $23 USD

La Negrita Hostel in Tulum (3 nights) = $67 USD

Urban Beach Hostel in Playa del Carmen (3 nights) = $53 USD

Mezcal Hostel in Cancun (1 night) = $22 USD

All hostel deposits and flexible booking fees = $30 USD

Note: Prices will vary based on what time of year you’re visiting. For example: my hostel prices were cheaper in May (about $7 to $10) than January since I visited around New Year’s.


Post-biking in Tulum, Mexico

Things to do in Tulum

Tulum and Playa del Carmen are relatively close, yet have completely different vibes. Tulum is divided between Tulum Pueblo (away from the beach area) and Tulum Beach (where all the eco-resorts reside). Both times I’ve visited Tulum I stayed in Tulum Pueblo and caught a taxi, colectivo or rented a bike to get to Tulum Beach. I prefer it!

Due to the eco-resorts, Tulum has a more bohemian feel to its tourist appeal. They are built right on the beach. Therefore, to access the non-public beach, you have to eat lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants. You also can visit ruins, dip in the cenotes, rent bikes, and eat your way through both the town and beach area. Tulum is an amazing relaxation spot.


Foliage on Tres Galeones in Tuulm

Itinerary and budget breakdown in Tulum

Where are my foodies? Eating my way through a city is one of the best things to do while traveling. Tulum has no shortage of places to try in Tulum Pueblo or Tulum Beach. There’s a mix of higher end options and budget friendly eats for you to enjoy all around! In my opinion, the food in Tulum Pueblo is better. Nevertheless, Tulum Beach has some delicious and more vegan options as well. My favorite places from the trip are Antojitos la Chiapaneca, Tacos Kukulkan, and Tres Galeones. You can find an entire itinerary and budget below. And always remember to tip!


Tulum Beach day

TULUM DAY 1:

Taxi to Tulum Beach = $13.15 USD (250 pesos)

Water bottle from Oxxo = $0.68 to $1 USD (13 to 19 pesos depending on the size)

Ice cream at I Scream Bar = $3 USD (50 pesos)

4 tacos (mix of fish and shrimp) at La Eufemia = $6 USD (110 pesos)

Spicy ceviche special (split with my friend) at Coco Tulum = $10 USD (190 pesos)


TULUM DAY 2:

Cenote Escondido & Cristal (both included in the price) = $6.50 USD (120 pesos)

2 tacos (shrimp and spicy tuna) at Los Aguachiles = $5 USD (90 pesos)

Go to public beach = FREE

3 fish tacos al pastor at Tres Galeones = $6 USD (110 pesos)

2 mezcal margaritas at Tres Galeones = $6 USD (110 pesos)

1 scoop of ice cream at Panna e Cioccolato = $2.10 USD (40 pesos)

Chips from Oxxo = $1.30 to $1.75 USD per bag (24 to 32 pesos depending on the brand)


TULUM DAY 3:

Shop around Tulum Pueblo

Smoothie at Matcha Mama (in Tulum Pueblo)= $4 USD (70 pesos)

4 vegetarian tacos without cheese at Antojitos la Chiapeneca = $2.10 USD (40 pesos)

2 vegetarian tacos with cheese at Tacos Kukulkan = $2.65 USD (50 pesos)


Coconuts and Matcha Mama Tulum

OTHER TULUM EXTRAS:

(I did not do on this trip, but you might on yours!)

Tulum Ruins = $3.50 USD (65 pesos)

Coba Ruins = $3 USD (55 pesos)

Gran Cenote = $8 USD (100 pesos)

Dos Ojos = $16 USD (300 pesos)

Note: Going snorkeling or diving in any cenote will cost extra $$$


Street art and paletas in Playa

Things to do in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is cheaper than Tulum, yet offers some similar things to do in the area including seeing cenotes. You can also catch a ferry to Cozumel for more adventure. However, by this time of my trip I just wanted to relax all day on the beach and eat! Along the touristy center, there is also some street art for you to see.

Be sure to go a few streets back (towards the Wal-Mart) for street food and local life. I stumbled upon a Oaxacan food market and later ate at a must-visit restaurant in Playa: El Fogón. I also went to the Frida Kahlo Museum located right off 5th Avenue. It’s super cute and colorful, and includes a ton of history about her life and legacy.


El Fogon in Playa del Carmen

Itinerary and budget breakdown in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a true beach town, so you must take advantage of it! Playa is also quite budget-friendly. After breakfast, head to the beach with your towel, swimsuit, sunglasses, and snacks to lay out all day. Mamitas Playa is the beach you’re headed towards, though the whole strip has more than enough room. Bring a book or journal if you want too! To see more beach towns, Cozumel is an option to bathe on yet another beautiful beach. I opted out, but it is available via a short ferry ride.


Beach day necessities + snacks

PLAYA DAY 1:

Go to the beach = FREE

Beach towel = $11 USD

1 fish taco and 1 shrimp taco with a Coca-Cola = $3.05 USD (58 pesos)

Quesadilla with mushrooms & onions from Oaxacan market = $3.15 USD (60 pesos)

Water bottle = $0.68 to $1 USD (13 to 19 pesos depending on the size)


PLAYA DAY 2:

Chocolate muffin from Marley Coffee = $2.40 USD (45 pesos)

Go to the beach = FREE

Churros on the beach = $2.65 USD (50 pesos for 5)

Chips from Oxxo on the beach = $1.75 USD (32 pesos)

Coca Cola from Oxxo = $1.50 USD (25 pesos)

Pepino pica (cucumber with hot sauce and spice) on the beach = $2.65 USD (50 pesos)

Chilapachole de jaiba (crab soup) at La Perla Pixan = $6 USD (110 pesos)

Water bottle = $0.68 to $1 USD (13 to 19 pesos depending on the size)

Ice cream sandwich from Oxxo = $1.15 USD (22 pesos)


PLAYA DAY 3:

Mediterranean omelette for breakfast at Bio Organicos = $5.75 USD (109 pesos)

Green smoothie at Bio Organicos = $3.65 USD (69 pesos)

Frida Kahlo Museum = $9 USD for students (168 pesos), $12.65 USD for public (240 pesos)

Mango paleta (popsicle) = $ 0.80 USD (15 pesos)

Go to the beach = FREE

Quesadilla with mushrooms & onions, chips & guacamole, and a Coke =  $8 USD (152 pesos)

1 margarita = $6 USD (110 pesos)


Tacos from El Rancherito in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

OTHER PLAYA EXTRAS:

(I did not do on this trip, but you might on yours!)

Roundtrip ferry to Cozumel = $21 USD (400 pesos)

Cenote Azul = $5.30 USD (100 pesos)

Cenote Jardin del Eden = $5.30 USD (100 pesos)

Cenote Cristalino = $5.30 USD (100 pesos)


Frida in the Frida Kahlo Art Museum gift shop

Currency exchange and money tips

I highly recommend taking out money before you go to avoid any extra bank and/or ATM fees. Then upon your arrival in Cancun, exchange your currency into pesos at the Cancun Airport. While I normally wouldn’t recommend this method, Cancun’s exchange rate was better than Chicago’s. Bringing your currency, without exchanging, will likely involve you getting scammed later.

If nothing else, exchange however much you’ll need for the bus to Downtown Cancun, Tulum, or Playa (wherever you’re going first). Then exchange the rest at a currency exchange building later, in-city. Once you get to your final destination, the currency exchange desks are normally cheaper than the Cancun Airport.


Beachin’ in Playa del Carmen

Safety in Mexico

Tulum and Playa are big tourist markets and no one wants to disrupt that wave. Based on both of my trips, I’ve never felt unsafe in Mexico. Though this time I was with a friend, I also had no issues the first time I was solo. While I did notice there was more of a police presence in Playa than Tulum, I wouldn’t let that discourage you! As with any destination, just stay alert, be mindful of your belongings, and keep your eyes open.


Language differences and barriers

Speaking of language, there can be a few language barriers if you don’t speak Spanish. Staying in the touristy areas of Tulum and Playa may be best because you can navigate with English. However, this may not always be the case. Consider using the app Duolingo or Google Translate to learn a few Spanish phrases to get by, such as asking for the bathroom or how much something costs. You don’t need to be fluent, but having knowing something is always helpful.


Colectivo in Tulum

On-the-ground transportation

Mexico has a very efficient transportation system to get from town to town. The most popular option is the ADO bus, which provides air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, and comfortable seats for your journey. Do be warned that they book up fast going between Tulum and Playa, so consider booking them in-advance. However, there are always colectivos for you to use as well! These are vans that tourists and locals use to navigate the area. I’ve used both the ADO and colectivos and I love them. Colectivos are the cheapest, but the ADO is also budget friendly.

For a more personal experience, you can hire private cars to transport you to your next destination. This will also be the most expensive option. Taxis are also an efficient and a way to get move around while in a town, though catching one from Tulum to Playa would be similar to hiring a private car.


Not an actual car….but worth the photo-op in Tulum

TRANSPORTATION COSTS:

1-Day Bike Rental = $5 to $7 USD per day (100 to 130 pesos)

Colectivo from Tulum to Playa del Carmen = $2.40 USD (45 pesos)

Colectivo from Playa del Carmen to Cancun = $2.40 USD (45 pesos)

ADO Bus from Downtown Cancun to Cancun Airport = $4.50 USD (86 pesos)


Hammocks in Mexico are a way of life

Final budget and travel hacks

In total, I spent roughly $600 for my entire trip to Mexico for 8 days. Not too shabby! Now if you do more like go to Cozumel, more cenotes, etc. your trip will cost more. Overall, no more than another $100 which is still an excellent deal. Booking early can help you catch those flight deals and find cool hostels. Utilize those weekends, PTO, school breaks, or whatever you need to make a trip possible!


Thanks for reading! SHARE and PIN for more budget and itinerary guides to get you traveling more often!

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3 comments

Sabatini January 18, 2019 - 11:42 am

I’m so happy you wrote this up! It’s perfect and thorough. I especially like the breakdown which is especially thoughtful of you to do! I can’t wait to take on tulum solo in a few weeks 🙌🏾 Great job’!

Reply
Sojourner January 18, 2019 - 3:23 pm

Thank you! I’m glad it was helpful. I wanted to include as much as possible. I hope you have an amazing time on your trip!

Reply
JAMILET April 30, 2019 - 1:52 am

ITS GREAT THIS INFORMATION, THANK YOU !

Reply

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