How Much Does a Month in Mexico Cost?

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.

How Much Does a Month in Mexico Cost?

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.

Example Expenses

  • 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:

CategoryTrip TotalDaily
– Air Travel$484$17
– Public Transit, Uber, and Lyft (affiliates)$187$7
– Bike-share$8< $1
Food and Dining
– Restaurants$745$27
– Alcohol and Bars$126$4
– Groceries and Water$40$1
– Hotels$491$18
– Airbnb$245$9
Other Variable Expenses
– Attractions$43$2
– Sunscreen$17$1
– Miscellaneous$5< $1
Fixed Expenses
– Van Registration and Insurance$59$2
– Health Insurance, Phone, and HSA Fees$73$3
Non-Travel Expenses
– 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).

At the bus depot for our trip from PV to Mascota


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).

Which city was this again? Oh, right. We stayed just a few minutes’ walk from the center of town.

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.

Other Expenses

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!

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  1. You had me at street tacos and beer. Great post! I love the 1 second video clips. Look forward to hearing about the next adventure.

  2. TBH, I’m not sure this is a credible review given the lack of Senor Frogs stops. 😉 What an amazing recap, Matt. I enjoyed this almost as much as I enjoyed all the street taco photos. YUM!

    • Ha! Yes, unfortunately we cannot comment on the complete 8-hour cruise ship stop experience. But if you’re more in the mood to spend a month, we give the experience five stars!

  3. Well done! Someday we’ll make it down there with the kiddos. Your pictures are amazing! Too bad I speak no Spanish. 🙂

    • Thanks, Maggie! It’s such an easy trip — and minimal jet lag compared to heading overseas, too. You’d be fine without any Spanish, especially in the more well-trafficked places. Everyone’s eager to help. We’re not exactly fluent!

  4. Physician on FIRE

    March 29, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    “Señor Frog’s visits: 0”

    Yeah, but how many Carlos & Charlie’s?

    I’ve realized that as long as we minimize our stateside fixed costs, we can live most anywhere on a very safe withdrawal rate. In Mexico, we can live like kings and queens (no offense intended 😉 )!

    I remember when a US dollar bought 3 pesos. Yes, I’m old.


    • Haha! That’s very true, PoF. If you can make it on a SWR in the U.S., you can definitely make it 90% of other places in the world. And probably with a great lifestyle, as evidenced by our time in Mexico. Wow, that’s a wildly different exchange rate! Thankful to be traveling now 🙂

  5. Having thé USD as BASE currency is a blessing right now! Looks like you are maximising that.

    • It sure is. We’re probably saving 20-30% versus if we were traveling even just a couple years ago. Just plain luck, but we’ll take it!

  6. A couple of years ago, I did a solo backpacking trip to Australia. Since I was alone, the intention was that I would stay in hostels in rooms with other people. But, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that it is still pretty cheap to get private rooms, most with bathrooms. I’m glad to see you found that in Mexico also. I’ve been there many times, but always at a resort because I was traveling with other people and they would insist on it. Now, resorts bore me and your style of travel is the best. I haven’t been there in awhile. Too many places to see in the next year, but I’m hoping for a long term stay there in the future. 🙂

    • When we were out and about in Mazatlan and PV, we met a few people who were hanging with their friends at resorts but left for the day to see more of the towns. We totally relate. We still had a very relaxing time in those places, but we’re perfectly capable of finding our own beaches and bars 🙂 More fun that way!

  7. I bet those 153 disappointed beach vendors weren’t sad to see the back of you. $87/day. Oh boy. If only we could get our employers to agree to working remotely from Mexico. We could explore, stuff ourselves silly with tacos and still get to FI faster than where we live now.

    • No kidding. That barely even pays the rent at home, especially in your area. And that figure effectively includes 2 round-trip flights every month — so our daily figure would have been even lower if we stayed longer (or travel-hacked our flights). Mexico would be a great remote work spot because of the time zone overlap and short travel distance, too. If only!

  8. When are you headed to southeast asia? I’m thinking of spending a few months there visiting different surf spots. First stop – Bali!

    • We’re here until July! Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia are all on our list. Probably won’t make it to Bali this trip. Sounds fun, though!

      • I’m thinking of backpacking it around those countries (plus Taiwan). Backpacking seems to be the most authentic form of travelling. I hear that the surf in the Thailand is pretty good too.

        • You can probably get an authentic experience with many forms of transit. You can also easily get an inauthentic tourist experience of a place while sticking to the too-well trodden backpacker circuits! But backpacking is still our preferred mode of travel. We like getting to know a place on foot and traveling by land as much as possible (within reason; we’re not eager to take 18-hour overnight buses!) We’re not surfers, but it’s supposed to be good here! Thinking of taking scuba lessons later this month down on one of the islands.

  9. That video was awesome. Food + beaches = the perfect day. We spent almost $600 on food for our trip to Portland (just one week!). But the food was delicious.

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