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If you want to travel to Cancun on a budget, these travel tips will help you get the best deals, so you can enjoy your trip to the max!
When planning a trip to Cancun, you’ll probably find lots of information about where to stay, the perfect itinerary, and the best attractions that you should not miss. And you will also quickly realize that Cancun is more expensive than the rest of Mexico. But do not fret, there are still a few things you can do to travel to Cancun on a budget.
If you want to save some money during your trip, these travel tips will help you get the best deals. That way, you’ll be able to splurge on other unique experiences in Cancun and enjoy your trip to the max!
Cancun on a Budget – How to Save Some Cash
1. Know When to Go
If you want to find the best travel deals and still enjoy some good weather, the best time to visit Cancun is from April to June. During this period, there are fewer visitors so you can find some great deals for flights and hotels.
From September to November you can also find lower prices, but traveling to Cancun during this time can be riskier. You see, it is the rainy season, and that could mean a hurricane or two. But, whatever you do, avoid traveling to Cancun during spring break if you really want to save money. Also, Christmas and Easter are high-season in Cancun as well, so prices tend to be much higher then.
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2. Save on Airport Transfers
One of the cheapest ways to get from the airport to Cancun and vice versa is to take the ADO bus. They depart from outside the terminals and run from 8:20 am to 12:30 am. The ride takes about 30 – 45 minutes, it costs less than $5 USD each way, and buses leave/arrive to the bus terminal in downtown Cancun.
3. Choose a Budget-Friendly Hotel
The cheapest hotels in Cancun are located close to the bus terminal in downtown Cancun. Around Parque Las Palapas you can find some affordable accommodation as well. In general, Ciudad Cancun is much cheaper than the Hotel Zone. The down side is that you won’t be close to the beach; but, on the other hand, getting there is easy and cheap.
Also, as mentioned above, most hotels offer discounts during low season (April – June, and September – November). And if you are staying for a few nights, it’s always worth to ask for a better rate. Finally, sometimes you can find some great value options if you book a flight & hotel package.
Some of the best-rated budget accommodation in Cancun include Mezcal Hostel, with its numerous activities and excursions and Nader Hotel & Suites, which is great for families. However, if you prefer to stay in the Hotel Zone, the recently renovated Selina Cancun Laguna is one of the best budget options you’ll find.
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4. Take the Bus
To travel from Ciudad Cancun to the Hotel Zone, buses are by far the cheapest way to get around. You just need to take any bus with a ‘Hoteles’ or ‘Zona Hotelera’ sign on its windshield. Fares can be as low as $1 USD, and most drivers are friendly and helpful with travelers.
Also, if you have to take a taxi, keep in mind that taxis in Cancun don’t have meters. So it is important to agree on a price with your driver before getting in the taxi. Otherwise, you might end up paying more because of a misunderstanding.
5. Eat Where the Locals Do
Restaurants that target foreign tourists tend to be more expensive, that’s a fact. And, just as it happens with accommodation, eating in the Zona Hotelera will cost you more than having a bite in Ciudad Cancun.
So, in general, the best way to save on food in Cancun is to eat at the smaller, more authentic places that cater to locals, not tourists. For example, Rooster Cafe is a trendy coffee shop that is great to start your day and has several locations; while at Taqueria Coapeñitos you’ll be able to taste a nice variety of tacos, yum!
Now, if you are around the southern end of the Zona Hotelera and you’d like to have some tasty (and cheap!) tacos, head to El Galeón del Caribe Las Pescadillas. This small no-frills eatery is not easy to find amongst all the white-washed resorts, but it is well worth the effort to enjoy an authentic experience.
6. Shop Like a Local
If you need to buy food to cook at your hostel and snacks, it is best to shop at the local markets and small convenience stores. Both the Mercado 28 and Mercado 23 are popular with locals, and the later is less frequented by tourists. And even if you don’t need to buy groceries, the local markets are still a great place to explore and get a glimpse of daily life in Cancun.
And, one more thing, if you want to save money, definitely avoid buying anything in the Zona Hotelera, where everything is just more expensive.
7. Don’t be Afraid to Negotiate
If you are booking a tour, buying souvenirs in the local market, or hiring a taxi, it never hurts to try to negotiate the price. In fact, it is almost expected, so don’t be shy to, at least, ask! You may be surprised by what you get.
The only thing to keep in mind is to be respectful and try to strike a win-win situation. So keep it fun!
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8. Pay in Pesos
Always carry some Mexican pesos with you and avoid at all cost paying in dollars, because you most likely won’t get a decent exchange rate. You’ll find plenty of ATMs in Cancun to withdraw pesos from and these usually give a better exchange rate than casas de cambio (currency exchange offices).
9. Bring Toilettries From Home
Things like sunscreen, cosmetics and mosquito repellent are usually more expensive in Cancun than what you’d normally pay back home. So it is always wise to bring your own from home and avoid unnecessary expenses.
10. Speak Spanish
Or at least try, it can go a long way. People love it when foreigners make an effort to speak their language and understand their culture. In return, they are more likely to be friendly, help you find your way around, and share with you their best insider tips.
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11. Visit the Ancient Sites on Your Own
If you want to venture outside Cancun and explore the Riviera Maya without spending too much, it is best to do it on your own instead of booking a tour. Besides being cheaper, you will also have the freedom to travel at your own pace.
From Cancun, you can easily get buses to Chichén Itzá, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Valladolid; just to name a few destinations.
12. Be Flexible
Finally, keep your eyes open for the best travel deals. If your dates and plans are flexible you will be able to take advantage of the best offers that come up!
More Mexico Travel Tips
If you are planning your trip to Mexico, make sure to check out these other posts:
Cancun on a Budget – Map of Good Places to Know
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Have you been to Cancun? Are there any other ways to save money while traveling in Cancun that you would like to recommend? Leave a comment and let us know!
Bianca is a world citizen who spent almost four years traveling around South America and Europe. Her passions include photography, street art, outdoor sports, and cooking exotic dishes. She’s now based in the Netherlands where she lives with her partner and young daughter. She still enjoys traveling, on her own or with her family, and is always looking for an opportunity to see new places.
I have heard Cancun is truly very beautiful place, I intend to visit in November with my girlfriends, I am gonna try the above mentioned tips while traveling
Thanks for sharing these tips! I’ll travel to Cancun in about 6 months! My first time on the American continent, I’m very excited!
I’m really happy you found these tips useful, Eloise! I’ sure you’ll love visiting Cancun :) Enjoy your trip!
How do you recommend getting to architectural sites, like Chichen Itza, on your own from Playa del Carmen?
I think it would help to do a range of price comparisons (i.e. all-inclusive rates versus separate booking). This blogging bit is too general. I understand that fares vary between country to country, but that research would knock this article out of the park! And even recommending more specifics – like touristic areas or even a couple restaurants that you tries your lovely tostadas from. Any traveler knows that “Moctezuma’s Revenge” is often the reason travelers avoid street food.
Having said that, from my perspective, it would definitely help weighing whether the separate flight/hotel/transportation booking rates are far less than an all-inclusive package.
Thanks for your input, Anna. You make some valid points and I agree with you that a comparison between all-inclusive packages and separate bookings would be very useful for travellers. Perhaps I will address that in a future post. Thanks for your comment! Happy travels :)
I definitely want to visit! And I agree – eat and shop like a local. It makes it more fun and more authentic.
I visited Cancun in June this year for the first time and would highly recommend it! We stayed all inclusive in the hotel zone It was amazing although the humidity in June is pretty intense and it was rainy season although we didnt have much rain for the 2 weeks we stayed
Definitly visit Chichen Itza and Tulum I was blown away by the history and culture of these Mayan ruins!
Be careful of the flea market you do get hounded preventing you from looking properly at things, we found the local.supermarket had everything you could imagine and was much cheaper than the shops near our hotel
Dry helpful post. Sometimes patience when looking for flights and hotels is the key.
I definitely agree, Christobel. When looking for flights and accommodation doing some good research often pays up :) Thanks for stopping by!