The Cost of Living in Cancun, Mexico. Prepare to Be Surprised!

Cost of Living in Cancun Mexico
Cost of Living in Cancun Mexico

“You’re moving to Cancun? I give up, you’re definitely rich and hiding it for us” a friend of mine told me after I announced the news that I would be moving to Cancun to start new projects as well as to use it as my base of operations for traveling in Central America (in two weeks: Belize & Guatemala!).

How expensive is the cost of living in Cancun? Funny thing you ask because…

Trust me, you’ll be surprised to hear the real cost of living in Cancun. As of today, it has been two months ever since I moved to Cancun to start a new professional project. “You must be rich, Cancun is so expensive” my friends often told me.

But you know what? The cost of living in Cancun is definitely lower than the one is most cities of Mexico, specially big industrialized cities such as Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. You could even say that Cancun is one of the cheapest places to live in the world.

How expensive is Cancun?

Quick question? How much do you think a rent in a three-bedroom house costs in Cancun? 2000 USD? 1000 USD? 500 USD? 175 USD? If you guessed the latter, you’re totally right. I’m currently paying 175 USD per month for the privilege of living in a fairly big house located 40 minutes away from the Hotel Zone.

Sure, it’s not a high-end neighborhood and you know what? I totally love it that way since it has that small-town vibe that can be totally lost in other parts of Cancun. The best part? Outside of my house there are tons of street food stands where you can enjoy amazing tacos for less than 3 USD per order.

You can eat like a king with an average of 6 USD a day without having to cook (and if you DO cook, you’ll be saving even more)! The cost of living in Cancun is extremely low when it comes to eating out!

So how about transportation? Going to Playa del Carmen by shared van sets me back about 5 USD (add another 5 USD to reach Tulum), going to the Hotel Zone of Cancun? 0.75 USD by public bus. As long as you don’t take taxis (which, to be honest, are extremely cheap compared to other cities), you can keep your cost of living in Cancun down.

If you want to visit the world-famous Pyramid of Chichen-Itza, you can always skip the 80 USD tour and take a cheap 10 USD bus to Valladolid, after which you’ll take a shared van for 2 USD. Also, you can always hitchhike, it’s perfectly safe around here. Transportation is not expensive, commodity is.

Last but not least: Internet. If your work depends on it, Internet IS essential. Local companies require you to sign a 18-month contract so your best option is to either sub-lease the contract of the previous owner and hope to sub-lease it to the next one (average is 30 USD per month including some free phone calls) or to make a deal with a neighbor of yours in order for them to share their password with you.

The Average Cost of Living in Cancun

Here’s the breakdown of the average cost of living in Cancun:

Housing 175 USD

Internet 30 USD

Food 200 USD

Transportation 75 USD

Total 480 USD. Of course, you can always rent a smaller 1 bedroom house and forsake the internet but as I said, sometimes it’s good to think about commodity before prices. But not that often :)

Why is the cost of living in Cancun so low?

Development, mostly. Artificial Government-dictated development to be precise. Before the 70’s, Cancun didn’t exist as such, it was basically an empty wasteland. Then, suddenly, the Mexican Government decided to create an artificial tropical paradise in this piece of land and people suddenly started to arrive, both tourists and long-term visitors who saw Cancun as their new home. The cost of living in Cancun suddenly rose…but not that much for the locals.

Today, the growth continues, making Cancun one of the most visited tourist destinations of the entire world. There are always new jobs opportunities that require people from other parts of Mexico to move to Cancun and that’s why new houses are built every single day (the house I inhabit is barely 5 years old!).

To help the economy of the workers, the Mexican Government (through programs such as Infonavit) grants loans up to 30 years as an incentive for Mexicans to buy houses in Cancun. And you know what happened? A lot of Mexicans started to buy houses without moving to Cancun and are currently leasing them to others. Lucky me, right?

If you want to find an economic place to live in Cancun, your best option is to ask Mexicans that currently live in other cities, chances are that some of them own one or two houses in Cancun and are willing to rent it to foreigners and nationals for short-term leases. Amazing, uh? It sure helps to reduce the cost of living in Cancun.

Should you move to Cancun?

In a single sentence? Yes. Hell yes! Most digital nomads use South-East Asian countries as their base of operation because of the low-costs and trust me, I’m confident that Mexico is definitely cheaper than those destinations (and extremely cheap to reach from North America since there are always promotions for discounted flights).

Last but not least, don’t forget to use our Booking.com Affiliate Link of Wonders for making hotel reservations.

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

What are you waiting for? What do you think about the cost of living in Cancun? Would you like to visit? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!

Cost of Living in Cancun Mexico
Cost of Living in Cancun Mexico

UPDATE 2018: Due to the high number of comments and e-mails regarding moving to Cancun, I’ve started to offer paid consultancy services via Skype. If you’re interested, please feel free to contact me and we can schedule a time for an interview. The fee is 100 USD per hour. Thanks and safe travels!

53 Comments

  • I can appreciate that $175 for housing is inexpensive. I can also appreciate that $480 all up, per month, is a great deal. The kicker for me though is that we are talking about Cancun; not a place I would ever want to re-visit and certainly would never want to live. I did reside there once back in 1991 and have amazing memories. I returned again in 2012. To say it has changed or to say it has been developed is an epic understatement. The beach is gorgeous, the water is blue and warm; unfortunately we can’t live in the water. I do like your photo though…the one of the skeleton holding the margarita glass especially. Kind of sums it up for me. All the best, Tim

  • Having been to both Cancun & Playa recently I think you’ve left out one important factor – You’re from Mexico and you speak the language, people there aren’t trying to sell you everything at the foreigner price, and you’re able to negotiate well – something I couldn’t do most of the time because of the little Spanish I knew :)

    One of the important things for keeping costs down is doing like the locals not the tourists.. eat where they eat, etc..

    • That’s definitely true! Outside of the ADO bus station there are a lot of street stands without set prices. I would definitely not put my trust in sites that don’t advertise their prices in a clear manner!

      • hows it going im gonna go down there pretty soon maybe we can meet and if you can help me see the sites

  • Don’t listen to the haters — Cancun is hugely popular a a travel destination for a reason! And while the parrot-lover in my didn’t exactly appreciate the hint of eating scarlet macaws in your photo caption ;) I do appreciate your ways of making it affordable. Thanks!

  • Woah… apparently I need to work on my Spanish skills and move to Cancun! I’m pretty sure I spent $480 alone in food and gas for my car a month living in Maine. Let me know what your Belize and Guatemala plans are. I’d love to meet up at somepoint!

    • Indeed, the cost of living of some places is definitely high for both locals and foreigners alike!

      PS. I sent you an e-mail a few days ago through your contact form, you didn’t get it? :(

      • Looking to move from Australia to Belize or Mexico. Which would you pick for working and living?

  • Yes, it sounds very cheap. I’m curious how does it compare with the local salaries? Is it as affordable for those on an average income?

    • It is very affordable for those making an average wage (600 USD per month) but not for those who are making the minimum wage (150 USD per month). For freelancers like me it gets trickier because sometimes I can cover all of my monthly costs in a couple of days while there are times when it takes me one week or more to cover them all.

  • Rafa, you’re Mexican, im sure you’re not being ripped off, like most foreigners are. I think it might even go beyond the language thing, i speak perfect Spanish, im southern European, so i could totally blend in and look Mexican, but once they’d realize i not, i’d probably get charged tourist prices.

    Do you know foreigners paying so little for accommodation?

    • I know a couple of expats who pay about the same as I do.

      Here in Mexico, the key to getting extremely low prices for housing it’s not a matter of who you are or where you come from, it’s a matter of who you know and what you can do for them.

  • I’ve been traveling and living in Mexico for the past seven months with Playa Del Carmen being the most recent stint. I agree that costs can be pretty low in Mexico although ours were definitely not as low as yours. We paid $400. USD per month for a furnished studio apartment in downtown Playa just a 20 min walk from 5th Ave and the beach but I know we could have found cheaper if we’d gone out of downtown. However we did find that Puerto Vallarta was even cheaper for living.

    • That’s a very good prize for a furnished place located so close to the 5th avenue! I forgot to mention in the article that my house came without any furniture and I had to sleep in the cold floor the first night haha.

    • In terms of housing? It depends. Some people rent a house similar to mine for 500 USD while others rent it for 100 USD. You’ll never find the best deals online because sometimes (most of the times?) the people renting the cheap houses don’t report their extra income so they only rent it to people they know or through personal recommendations.

      If you’re looking for a place to rent on for short-leases, I can definitely help you.

      • Rafa, hello, can you help me to get a cheap flat close to playa del carmen, I would love to move there in about a month (i am a photographer).

        Regards
        Andres

      • Rafa! Estoy en el DF y me voy para Cancun el 21 de Junio. Me haces la para? I’m from Wisconsin (technically born in Cuernavaca but spent 23 of my 28 years in the states without ever visiting Mexico). I moved to el DF about 6 weeks ago and quickly realized that I need me some sand and some ocean. Would you be willing to help me with some basic tips/tricks for when I get there? I’m moving there with my American girlfriend! Any help you can give us would be most appreciated! Te invito unos tacos, si quieres!

      • Hi Guillermo, glad you reached out. I would definitely suggest renting an apartment as far as way from the Hotel Zone as possible in order to enjoy the local culture and the best prices. Spanish will definitely open new doors!

  • Great points; the Yucatan is a wonderful place. I’d add that booze and nightclubs aren’t really “living locally” anyway! I always prefer the slower pace away from the nightlife.

  • I would LOVE to live in Cancun – ok, maybe not in Cancun but in Yucatan area. Like Valladolid. Oh, I loved that city. Anyway, still I was surprised that housing can be that cheap over there. So much so that food bill is more. That’s so the opposite of where we live now (San Francisco)

  • I’ve never been to Cancun; I’ve actually not been to Mexico, although I’ll be correcting that next month with a visit to Puerto Vallarta. Those prices remind me of how we live a bit too extravagantly in the U.S.

  • Mexico is a fantastic country but I am not sure I could live in Cancun, maybe further out would be better. I know it may sound like something people have said a thousands times but if I am going to move to a different country I want to surround myself with locals and live their way of life and for me Cancun and my experience of that area is anything but local – areas further out towards Tulum I think would attract me more! :)

    • My wife and I live beachfront in Puerto Juarez – the north end of Cancun – 11th floor, 270 degree view from the top of the hotel zone to the north end of Isla Mujeres. $1,300/month, 2 bdrms, 2 baths, indoor parking, 100 meters from the Isla Mujeres ferry terminal. Killer. No tourists, mostly Mexicans who buy these as vacation homes which leaves us alone most of the year. All other living expenses = $1,000/month. Living large on Social Security…

      • Hello! So do you live right above the beach? Can you walk to dining and stores? How far are you from the airport? What about crime in the area? Sorry for ALL the questions and thank you

  • After 15 months of criss-crossing Mexico, my new book looks at Americans and Canadians who’ve chosen to avoid the big expat colonies in San Miguel de Allende and Lake Chapala. What they’ve found is both diverse and surprising. If you’re wondering what the expat experience is like, whether on the beach or in the colonial cities of the interior, you need to listen to this conversation. The book is called Into the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path, and there is no other book like it. There’s a sample on my website:
    http://www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com/intotheheartofmexico.html

  • i live in zihua mx looking for coast living i pay 300 usd month nice small place, looking for more relaxed
    yo te hablo

  • Wow, this has been incredibly useful. I’m heading down south this winter and have been thinking about setting up a base-of-operations there somewhere. This might be the ticket!

    • Hey dude, you should read my post above. I would highly recommend you think about going to Playa del Carmen of Tulum instead, much better places than Cancun, I’m actually hoping to move to Playa del Carmen next month.

      Cancun is great place just to go for a few days have fun and then leave, not so much for living, which is the way the city was design, unlike Playa del Carmen, is very calm and exciting and it has a very upbeat, chill cool vibe going on over there right now.

      I hope this helps as well.

  • Dude, I’ve been living in Cancun for the last 14 months. Yes, living in Cancun can be extremely cheap, but to be honest, the city is not pretty and not that safe as this guy mentioned it. Those $175USD homes are in neighborhoods that aren’t so pretty nor safe. I pay $300USD w/services for a studio apartment in the Hotel Zone, which is totally worth it because I’m close to work, practically 1 street across the beach and a pool in my building, much more expensive than living in in the city but still, way more affordable in comparison with the mayor cities in Mexico, and I rather pay more to be in a safe place than to be worrying of getting mugged, not to mention that to move around the city is not easy, the bus system is really complicated and the taxi service is cheap as long as you move inside the city, if you take a taxi to the hotel zone they’re going to charge you $10USD if you’re lucky, but usually is around $15USD. Food can be very cheap as long as you go eat where the locals eat, if you want to go to the nice areas of the city it can get expensive, not to mention that if you want to go out and have fun at the Party Center it can cost from $35USD to $85USD, besides, locals get different rates for a lot of things besides great discounts for tours, parks etc, and if you’re a foreigner, people are going to try to rip you off and are easy targets for extortion from the police, taxi drivers, salesmen, etc.

    Living in Cancun is very relaxed and, yes it can be very cheap, but I really wouldn’t recommend it, it’s very relative from the point of view of a national than from a foreigner, if you really want to enjoy living in Cancun, you better gather your friends and/or your partner because living here is not that easy and is a much better way to lower expenses.

  • Wow! this post is so old… that I might not even get a reply..but I am gonna try anyways.. Hi Rafa.. I a glad I read your blog… We certainly share a passion – (travelling) But I am going thru your Cancun post.. for a reason. I am an American of Hispanic Origins.. So. Yes.. Yo Hablo Español.. not a problem.. I am being offer a long term employment on the Cozumel-Riviera Maya area.. An I was wondering if USD 1,350.00 per month is a good paycheck there.. I have been to other places in Mexico, but not to Cancun.. not yet… Also if you happen to have any living recommendations… and would like to help.. I will appreciated.. Thanks for this post… Gracias! and please.. noooo, don’t use the Macaws.. they are beautiful creatures! All the best!

  • I’m going to move to Cancun soon, can some one inform me where I can find a furnished apartment cost monthly usd 200 close to the hotel zone and what the best way to go to the hotel zone area on daily basis with less cost

  • Hi: I have been reading your blogs. I work from my home here in Oregon, via internet. I am a graphic designer, and have clients all over th US. What I need to know is if I can continue that work from Cancun area. Will I have to pay Mexico taxes. Will I have to get a work visa? Clients pay me via PayPal, can I continue to do that, and also, can I keep my US bank checking? I am sure there are ATMs to withdraw money. I have never been out of the United States. My monthly income is a little over $2000 USD. is that enough to live including rent? Don’t need anything fancy, but won’t have a car, so would like ti be close to gorgeous water. Safety is important, not sure where to live, doesn’t even have to be Cancun. Can you provide some information?

    • hey Lori didyou move to Cancun! what the cost of living monthly in cancun! I’m planning to live in cancun or Playa del Carmen!
      thank you

  • Hi my boyfriend is getting deported from America he is from Honduras we were thinking about moving to Mexico so that it would be easier for us to be together. where is a safe and affordable place for us to meet up and live I have a one year old son so it definitely has to be safe and my boyfriend is very flunt in Spanish. I am desperately looking for answers please thank you

  • Rafa – How is the safety and also dealing with local police as I have heard so much about police, government corruptions and drug dealers as foreigners? Thanks.

  • Dear Raphael, I know this space is not really meant for comments like mine but please, where shall I look for accomodation like that? Im moving to Cancun at the end of September, my budget is limited and I have no idea where to begin… Please help! Thank you very much for any links, suggestions etc.

  • My husband and i are really talking about moving down to cancun or anther area we currently pay $2400 for rent 300 for tv,phone,internet 800 for food and 180 for energy and 120 for water. and not including all the school fees for our 2 kids. Living in alberta is really draining our bank accounts.

  • Hola!
    Great post!
    I am heading to Cancun next week from Costa Rica and would like to stay 1-3 months if I was able to find a small studio or 1 bedroom (maybe share an apartment) with good wifi.
    Any recommendations?
    Muchas gracias!

  • Actually ive lived in cancun for 3 yrs im 26 my friend just moved in a year ago, i lived anout 10 mins from hotel zone and paid 200usd for furnished apt, shared wifi with neighbor i am an american with mexican roots im white complexted with hazel eyes the trick for me was that i know spanish and actually lied that i was from reynosa lol so thats why i got a cheap place but now that my friend lives with me we moved to hotel zone we now pay 500usd for a condo wich is great!! Food is about 5usd a meal here i say we probably spend about 1000usd a month and have alot of fun, i actually found a job as a tourist guide!! I didnt need to file any type of paperwork lol and i get to drink at the job haha isnr that awesome? I get paid about 100usd a week plus tips, yup i know what ur thinking. How do i manage to pay for this lol i used to work in oil field and won a lawsuit haha thats another story. The point is life is wayy better here especially if ur single.

  • Can someone who lives in cancun or surrounding area, tell me are there jobs there for nurses whom don’t speak spanish?
    I’m a registered nurse and would LOVE to try something new… live outside my home town of Michigan. even for a short time, a year or two..
    hospitals? clinics? and what kind of pay is the norm for RN’s????

    thanks

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