This is the fourth installment in our series in which we share our cost of living as we experiment with different FIRE adventures and travel to destinations around the world. Previously, we’ve shared our experiences with #vanlife (parts one and two) and backpacking in Eastern Europe.
We had a blast traveling Mexico for practically the entire month of February, visiting Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, and Mazatlán before our brief return to the dreary Pacific Northwest winter. Here’s the financial breakdown of our trip.
By the Numbers
- Trip length: 28 nights
- Hotels/hostels: 18 nights
- Airbnb: 10 nights
- Points used: 0
- Total distance walked: 280 km (174 mi)
- Daily distance walked: 10 km (6.2 mi)
- Mexican states visited: 3
- Picturesque sunsets watched: 28
- Street tacos eaten: Hundreds
- Coronas and Pacificos imbibed: Cubetas
- Señor Frog’s visits: 0
- Beach vendors politely declined: 153
- Times I spoke Spanish but couldn’t understand what was said back to me: Lots
- Minutes at home before I wished I were back in Mexico: 20
Seriously, can we go back to Mexico yet? Between the friendly people, relaxed pace, low cost of living, and absolutely perfect weather, I’d be inclined to consider it as my part-time home.
I’m trying something new beginning with this trip: capturing a one-second video each day. Here’s the whirlwind view of our month in Mexico in 30 seconds.
How much did it all cost?
We were able to fit a luxurious month into our budget of $100/day very easily, even with higher-than-expected flight costs and dining out for every meal. Here’s the breakdown of our daily expenses:
In spite of the low cost, not once did I feel like we were partaking in “budget travel.” We didn’t pick the most extravagant accommodations, but we still enjoyed nice digs just a few blocks from the beach in Puerto Vallarta and steps away from the historic center of Guadalajara. We ate and drank like royalty, cooking only one of our own meals all month and enjoying more beers than we probably should have. Yet even with this life of excess, our expenses were a full 30% lower than during our summer in Eastern Europe.
We benefited from a very strong exchange rate, averaging around 20 pesos per U.S. dollar (compared to a 12:1 rate as recently as 2013). It’s a great time to take your money south of the border.
- Modest hotel with good reviews in central location: 525 pesos ($28 US)
- Taco, street vendor: 12-15 pesos ($0.70 US)
- Sandwich, street vendor: 40 pesos ($2 US)
- Entree, casual sit-down restaurant: 80-140 pesos ($4-7 US)
- 12 oz. beer, national brand lager: 20 pesos ($1 US)
- 30-minute Uber ride: 65 pesos ($3.50 US)
- Public bus fare: 7 pesos ($0.40 US)
Here’s our detailed breakdown of expenses for the trip:
|– Air Travel||$484||$17|
|– Public Transit, Uber, and Lyft (affiliates)||$187||$7|
|– Bike-share||$8||< $1|
|Food and Dining|
|– Alcohol and Bars||$126||$4|
|– Groceries and Water||$40||$1|
|Other Variable Expenses|
|– Miscellaneous||$5||< $1|
|– Van Registration and Insurance||$59||$2|
|– Health Insurance, Phone, and HSA Fees||$73||$3|
|– Donations and Gifts||$92||$3|
|Total, Variable Travel Expenses||$2,431||$87|
|Total, All Expenses||$2,615||$93|
Remember how we decided to go to Mexico in the first place because we got those “free” flight passes as a gift? Yeah, about that… We ended up paying a lot more than we expected in taxes and fees. Considering that I’ve seen round-trips from Seattle to Puerto Vallarta as low as $300 per person, we didn’t end up getting such a fantastic deal on our flights, though I’m still very happy we went.
Seeing the daily impact of less than $500 of flights is a great reminder of the cost-saving benefits of longer trips. Our flights to and from SE Asia, for example, should average out to less than half this amount on a per-day basis.
We took air-conditioned buses between cities in Mexico, and they were some of the nicest buses I’ve ever ridden – and very affordable. A one-way ticket for the 8-hour journey from Guadalajara to Mazatlán, for example, was around 500 pesos ($25 US).
We used a mix of hotels, private rooms in hostels (with private bathrooms, so effectively equivalent to a hotel room), and Airbnb. I was thrilled that our average nightly rate came out so low, considering the great locations in which we stayed. If you haven’t tried it yet, Airbnb offers a nice discount off your first stay (and we’ll get twenty bucks off, too).
Food and Dining
We were *so* guilty of lifestyle inflation on this trip when it came to food. When delicious tacos are less than a dollar each, it’s hard to want to cook. We also took full advantage of Puerto Vallarta’s beach bars, ordering buckets of six Coronas or Pacificos for 100 pesos ($5 US). Regrets? None.
We had very few other expenses. We visited a few museums and cultural sites, but otherwise mostly entertained ourselves with exploring and eating. With natural beauty like this, do you really need to go shopping?
Mexico, you were lovely. We’ll see you later this year. Next up, Southeast Asia!