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The Best Guide for Exploring Tulum on a Budget!
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So, you want to explore Tulum on a budget? Tulum, Mexico is one of those cities that has been flooding everyone’s Instagram and Pinterest feeds this past year. When most people think of Tulum they envision beachfront private villas, sandy white beaches, and lavish restaurants. While it does have all of those things it also has hostels, public transportation, and 50 cent tacos!
When I booked a spontaneous solo trip down to Tulum a few weeks ago the main questions that I got were, “Isn’t Tulum expensive?,” “How much did you spend?,” or even the more upfront statement of, “You must have spent a shit ton of money!”. Well let me just say it now, my trip to Tulum was NOT expensive by the average vacation standard. Keep reading to find out how to explore Tulum on a budget!
GETTING TO TULUM
The great thing about Tulum is that it is not so expensive to get to! Doing a quick search I was able to find flights less than one month away from New York, Los Angeles, and Miami in the $200 range and flights from Washington D.C. and San Francisco in the $300 range. Please note that these flights are fly and return on weekdays, weekend flights will usually be more expensive due to a higher demand.
Once you arrive at Cancun International Airport you will need to make the journey to Tulum. As I was traveling solo I chose to travel by bus. A ticket to Tulum (with a quick connection in Playa del Carmen) costs just $10 and takes around 2 hours. A private van or taxi service will be more expensive, however perhaps more convenient for those traveling in a group.
Total Budget: $243 (flight and bus)
WHERE TO STAY ON A BUDGET
The first thing to understand about Tulum is that it is broken up into two main parts: Tulum Beach and Tulum City Center. Staying in Tulum Beach means staying in a beachfront property. While this is obviously the ideal, these properties will obviously be significantly more expensive. As a solo traveler traveling during high season, I decided to go to budget route of staying in Tulum City Center.
In Tulum Beach the hotels are $200+/night. That is not to say that you can’t find a good deal if you are booking during low-season.
While in Tulum I stayed at two different hostels: (1) Amorcito Corazon Hotel y Hostel and (2) Mama’s Home. I booked SUPER last minute during spring break week so a lot of places were sold out. For this reason, I spend 1 night in a dorm bed at Mama’s Home, 2 nights in a dorm bed at Amorcito, and 1 night in a private room in Amorcito.
I absolutely loved this hostel! The rooms were clean, the staff was super friendly, and the common areas were perfect. The property has both a downstairs common area and a rooftop with a small pool. While I did meet some awesome people while staying here, this is most definitely not a party hostel.
Dorm beds start at $16/night. There are private rooms available as well starting at $50/night. Breakfast is included in the price of the room or bed. Additionally, there are discount bikes for rent on the property.
Find out more about this hostel here!
Mama’s Home Hostel
Mama’s Home hostel is a great option if you’re traveling to Tulum on a budget and are looking for a more social atmosphere. The night that I stayed here I was welcome with an evening of free pina coladas! While this hostel is more social than Amorcito, it still enforces an 11pm quiet policy to ensure that those who need it can get a good night sleep!
Dorm beds start at $16/night and private rooms start around $65/night.
Total Budget: $98
GETTING AROUND TULUM ON A BUDGET
There are a few different options for getting around Tulum. These typically include biking, taking taxis, or riding on the local collectivo.
TULUM BY BIKE
Biking around Tulum was probably my favorite way to get around and a great option if you are visiting Tulum on a budget. Staying in the city center means biking 20-40 minutes to reach the beach resorts and restaurants. There is a bike path along the main road (109) which allowed me to feel relatively safe while getting around. Once you hit the beach road the traffic is much slower and more manageable.
If you are staying at Mama’s Home then you should get out Iguana Bike Shop. They offer comfortable bikes at a discount for Mama’s Home guests ($4 versus the regular $5)
Amorcito Hostel offers on-site bike rentals for $5/day. They also offer a discount for long-term rentals.
Total Budget: $14 for 3 days
TULUM BY TAXI
Fortunately taxis are also readily available if you aren’t looking to get a bit of extra cardio in! Taxis from the center to the beach road typically cost $5-8 depending on the exact destinations. If you are traveling in a couple or group then this may even be a cheaper option for your Tulum budget.
Total Budget: $6 for 2 shared taxis
TULUM BY COLLECTIVO
Admittedly I did not take any collectivos on this trip, however I experience them on my previous trip down to Mexico. These are the cheapest option for anyone traveling to Tulum on a budget. You can get from the city center to beach for as cheap at 50 cents! However, you will need to flag down a van on one of the designated routes. You can get more specific information at your accommodation. One thing to note is that if the van is full then you’ll have to wait until the next available, which could definitely add to your travel time!
ACTIVITIES IN TULUM ON A BUDGET
Since I only had a few days in Tulum, as was looking for maximum beach and eating time, I only went on a few excursions to the major spots.
I chose to visit Gran Cenote while in Tulum because it is the most famous of the cenotes in the area (aka the one that I was seeing all over Instagram). If I had more time I would have liked to spend some time exploring some of the other cenotes such as Dos Ojos and Carwash.
Cost of Entry Ticket: $10
So I am going to just go ahead and say it, I was not at all impressed by the ruins in Tulum! Perhaps if I had gone right when they opened I would have found the experience more enjoyable. However, after a hot bike ride over I was rewarded with what felt like a Disney World experience.. in a bad way. The ruins were filled with hundreds of tourists, especially families with young kids. Overall, I’m glad that I went but I don’t feel that it is a must-see while in town!
Cost of Entry Ticket: $2
While the yoga classes in Tulum aren’t the most budget friendly, my yoga class was definitely a highlight of my trip. Class prices typically start at $10, depending on the studio. I took an 8am morning group class at the Azulik Resort and loved it! The studio was by far one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever practiced in.
Cost of Class (Azulik Studio): $20
While in Tulum you have a few different beach options. There are both public and private beaches, however you’ll figure out quickly that the private beaches are better maintained.
If you are looking for a no-frills public beach then I recommend checking out the beach just to the right of Azulik. Here you’ll be able to lay out your towel and enjoy a beautiful sandy beach.
Another option is to enjoy one of the private beaches. Every hotel is going to be different. Some will allow you to use their facilities after making any sort of purchase (drink, meal, etc), while others have a minimum. For example, the facilities at Habitas are available to non-guests who spend a minimum of $50 each at the restaurant or bar. In this case the facilities include a beachfront pool, hammocks, and a gorgeous private beach.
I found the policies to differ a bit from day to day. For example one day we were allowed to spend the afternoon on the day beds after purchasing a meal at one restaurant, whereas the next day they claimed the beds to be for hotel guests only. Maybe you just need to look like you belong, haha!
Total Activities Budget: $32
EATING IN TULUM ON A BUDGET
The food in Tulum was an absolute highlight for me! I feel like the majority of my time (and money) was spent moving from one restaurant to the next! For the most part I found that the food in Tulum city center was budget friendly, whereas the food on Tulum Beach was moderately priced.
You can read my full list of Where to Eat in Tulum here!
For the sake of this post I will use the following rating system:
Antojitos la Chiapaneca
Looking for a no-frills taco spot? Antojitos la Chiapaneca is your spot! This restaurant offers a variety of tacos, tortas, quesadillas, and empanadas! The tacos are less than 50 cents a piece so it’s hard to run up too high of a tab here! Conveniently located just two blocks from Amorcito Hotel y Hostel, I ate at this spot three times during my short trip.
Located in Tulum city center, this restaurant is known for it’s excellent steaks! I, however, went to El Asadero for the tacos! This cozy restaurant had all the elements of an upscale eatery, without the high prices. With a selection of $1 tacos and $2 quesadillas I was very content! This is an excellent option for dining in Tulum on a budget!
Okay, so this restaurant isn’t exactly budget friendly but it was my absolute favorite! Dishes here are typically in the $10-15 range, so coming from New York you shouldn’t be too overwhelmed. The decor at Macondo, Nomade’s vegetarian restaurant, is just amazing! Not to mention, it is a great place to shoot some photos!
I ate and drank a LOT during my four days in Tulum! I dined at both fancy restaurants and no-frills, super basic spots! Eating an average of 3-4 meals out a day I only spent about $125 (my largest expense during my trip).
Total Food and Drinks (alcoholic and fresh juices) Budget: $125
TULUM ON A BUDGET: TOTAL COST $518
So if you are still following along then you’ve made it to the total budget. For my four day trip to Tulum I spent $518 for flights, accommodation, activities, and LOTS of food! While I was relatively thrifty during my trip, I was not nearly as budget friendly as I could have been! For example, by only staying in dorm rooms and not eating four meals a day with dessert and drinks (sorry not sorry) I easily could have shaved $100-150 off of my total trip cost.
Additionally, a large chunk of my budget was allotted to getting to and from Tulum. I easily could have spent a few more days in town for just $100 more!
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