Playa del Carmen on a Backpacking Budget

Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Playa Del Carmen – Mexico-4” by Christopher William Adach is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In many ways Playa Del Carmen Mexico is like Cancun’s little European step-sister.

Playa del Carmen receives a lot of tourists, a great deal of them from Europe, and it has a very evolved party scene, just like Cancun. It is very touristic along the main strip, known as 5th Avenue, and seemingly gets busier with each passing year. However the town has a far more laid back vibe to it than Cancun, and boasts easy access to a fine stretch of beach.

Playa del Carmen is the launching point for water taxis to Cozumel, if you aren’t heading to the island by plane. It’s also a bit pricier than the island of Cozumel, but still offers many budget options for travelers looking to keep costs down.

Playa del Carmen Sunset
Playa del Carmen sunset catamaran” by mon shot is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We spent a total of fourteen days in Playa del Carmen, mostly relaxing on the beach during the day and going out at night. Below is a breakdown of what we bought and how much it cost us in Mexican Pesos and American Dollars. Our budgeting goal was $40 USD per day per person and by limiting the amount of food we ate out, cooking our own meals, eating fruit and bread for lunch, and staying in a hostel dorm our minimum daily cost was 275 Pesos or about $22 dollars USD per day.  This left us with about $126 dollars each for the week to spend on fun activities and, of course, beer! Here is a break down of prices we encountered.

Is Travel Insurance Necessary

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best hostels in Playa del Carmen Mexico
We had a blast at the Quinta Playa Hostel in Playa del Carmen. Made life long friends too!

The cheapest way to spend your time in Playa del Carmen would be to couchsurf, of course. There are a limited amount of hosts, however, and for stays longer than a few days couchsurfing becomes impractical. Time to find a hostel! Luckily, there are numerous hostels in Playa del Carmen that accommodate backpackers and budget travelers. During our two weeks in Playa we stayed in a few of them, and visited a few others. The properties listed below are among the best hostels in Playa del Carmen. You can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $21 a night for a dorm bed in a hostel in Playa during high season.

Click here to read our article on The Best Hostels in Playa del Carmen.

Find Great Rates on Hotels in Playa del Carmen on Booking.com!



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  • Local “Street” Food – 30 Pesos/$2.50 USD for 3 tacos
  • Quarter Roast Chicken with Rice, Tortilla, Roast Potatoes, and a Soda at a local joint – 49 Pesos/$3.90 USD
  • Dinner and a beer at a “Nice” Restaurant – 120 Pesos/$9.60 and up per person.

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  • Beer at a Supermarket or Oxxo – 14 Pesos/$1.12 USD per local beer.
  • Beer in a Bar – Starting at 25 Pesos/$2 USD for local beer.
  • Cup of Coffee at local convenience store – 16.5 Pesos/$1.32 USD per cup.
  • Liter of water in convenience store – 14 Pesos/$1.10 USD.
  • 5 Liters of bottled water in super market – 26 Pesos/$2.08 USD.

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  • Groceries for Breakfast – 15 Pesos/$1.25 per person per day.
  • Groceries for Dinner – 30 Pesos/$2.50 per person per day.

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  • Night club entry – These range from nothing to about $10 USD. I recommend never paying an entrance fee. Tell the guy at the door you will buy at least a drink or two and they should just let you in.
  • Snorkeling in a Cenote – 200 Pesos/$16.00 USD per person for entrance with snorkel and mask

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  • Ferry from Playa Del Carmen to Cozumel – 162 Pesos/$13.00 USD per person.
  • Collectivo to Tulum Beach – 40 Pesos/$3.20 USD per person.

  • Pack of (20) Marlboro Cigarettes – 48 Pesos/$3.80 USD.
  • Snorkle and Mask purchase at Wal-Mart – 380 Pesos/$30.50 USD.
  • Tampons – 25 Pesos/$2.10 USD.
  • Laundry – 14 Pesos a kilo/$1.12 USD.
  • Beach towels – 110 Pesos/$8.80 USD.

Playa del Carmen Mexico

Expenses for diving, snorkeling jet ski rental, or any other activity you might want to partake in should not be factored into your daily budget. This becomes overly complicated. An easier way of going about things is to calculate your minimum daily cost and then set aside all left over daily funds into a “activities” pool. Thus on a day when we visited Tulum or snorkeled in a Cenote and had a few extra beers with dinner we did not consider ourselves over budget even though we spent more than $40, we just subtracted it out of the pool.

You need to remember to set aside some money for things like bus or ferry tickets if you plan on being on the move often. That aside the above formula should be a great place to start when budgeting the trip of your dreams.

Also, be sure to check out our Top Ten list for Playa del Carmen!


 

Disclaimer – We have included a few handy little affiliate links in case any of our readers want to book accommodations. We receive a small commission for any sales made, without any additional cost to you, our dear reader.


5 thoughts on “Playa del Carmen on a Backpacking Budget

  1. Hi Randi and Michael. Thanks for breaking down the costs for Playa. It is 12/2015 and we are staying for awhile, so we found a 2 bedroom apartment on AirBnB for $600/mo which is just $20/day and we have A/C and a full kitchen. We are finding groceries for at least half of US prices (Avocados for USD 12 cents, A bottle of tequila in the Chedraui grocery store is only USD$8.00!) Loving the lifestyle here, except for the commercialism of Quinta Ave.

    1. Neil, very happy you are enjoying living in Playa. We loved our time there, and didn’t even mind Quinta so much, however i’m sure it would get very old, very fast. Why did you guys chose to live in Playa vs Tulum?

      1. Playa vs Tulum – good question. From our research it seems that Tulum is a more touristy, pricier option. Am I wrong about that? It’s not too late to move.
        One of our main reasons for coming to Mexico, besides avoiding the winter, is to do some snorkeling. We have traveled to snorkel to Costa Rica earlier in the year and to Koh Lanta Thailand last year and the only way to find good snorkeling was by booking a tour on a boat with a guide. In Hawaii (where we snorkeled in Kauai, Oahu, and Hawaii) you can just walk off the beach and you can be on a reef with abundant marine life. There don’t seem to be too many affordable places where you can do that. We also want to check out some cenotes of course.

    1. Hi Asmir, glad you found the article helpful! If you are renting for a week i think AirBnB is your best option. It’s hard to find properly priced rentals for such a short amount of time =(

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