Planning to travel to Tulum on a budget?
You’re in the right place because I used to live there, and can offer some (ex) local’s tips for how to visit Tulum Mexico and not break the bank! Truth be told, this is completely doable, no matter what your budget is.
🤔 Wondering, Is Tulum open for travel right now? It is — and the linked article will tell you everything you need to know about traveling to Mexico during Covid.
IS TULUM EXPENSIVE?
Even though it’s not known as one of Mexico’s most economical travel destinations, Tulum, located in the Yucatan Peninsula in Quintana Roo state, can certainly be an affordable trip. How? you might be wondering… Well there are 10 Tips and strategies in this article you can use.
Ready to find out what they are? Let’s get to it, but first, check out the formula below for how to plan out your realistic budget. As no two travel budgets are the same, the only way to make sure you’re staying within your budget, is to know exactly what your budget is.
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tulum on a budget
How to Determine Your Tulum Budget
Let’s get real: the bottom line for most travelers — is money. When you’re making a budget, the most important thing is to budget honestly and within your own personal means, and not anyone else’s.
When determining your budget, take up that position that your budget is the judge and jury. When your budget says no to something, take it as a no as in No further questions, Your Honor… and don’t let anyone or anything peer pressure you into changing it.
With this mindset, you’ll create an honest travel budget for yourself, because let’s face it, you can’t be on-budget or within-budget, if you don’t know what your real budget is. Once you’ve run the numbers, you can get creative with how to divide them up.
Your Tulum Must-Do’s
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to dividing up your travel budget; it will differ from person to person.
For some travelers, their top priority is a cushy place to stay, whereas some think of their accommodation as simply a place to sleep and shower; while other travelers place eating at all the top foodie spots and best restaurants in Tulum as more important than seeing the Mayan ruins.
Make a trip goal
First, know that whatever’s important to you is all that matters here! If your trip goal is rest, relaxation and beach time, that’s totally valid. Whatever your goal is, having a trip goal will make budgeting so much easier.
As an example, for those who do have a trip goal of rest, relaxation and beach time, budgeting is simple! For you, most of your money will mostly go towards a nice place on the beach, where you can walk from your room straight into the Caribbean Sea each morning.
Next, take a moment to determine your travel priorities from categories including accommodations, tours, food, shopping, and any others not listed that apply to you. While, yes, you want it all — do pinpoint what you want or need the most, as this is your #1 travel priority, followed by your #2 and #3.
Once you have an idea of where your priorities lie, use the guide below to insert your needs and wants accordingly.
TULUM ON A BUDGET
Use This Travel Budgeting Formula
After you’ve determined what your needs/wants/must-do’s are for this trip to Tulum, you’ll know how best how to allocate your budget amounts. This plug-and-play formula will help you see how to divvy up your budget, so you have enough to do everything you want to do on your Tulum vacation.
- 40% of your budget goes to whatever thing or category is most important to you (ie. accommodations, tours/sightseeing, food/shopping, etc.)
- 25% goes to your second most important thing or category
- 15% goes to your third most important thing or category
- 10% towards non-fun, but necessary, things (like transportation to/from the Cancun Airport, taxi rides in Tulum, etc.)
- 10% goes towards purchasing Travel Insurance, or a dedicated Emergency Fund
While no two budgets and no two travelers are alike — there is one thing that all travel has in common: Something will go wrong, and something else will not go as planned! This is part of the fun, adventure and excitement of traveling, btw; and not meant to scare you.
Now, if you budget for these “unplanned adventures” with a dedicated Emergency Fund or by purchasing Travel Insurance, these incidentals won’t ruin your Tulum vacation.
Curious about Mexico travel insurance? Get a FREE quote from World Nomads below; they are one of the biggest names in travel insurance, offering different plans for all kinds of travel styles and needs, at affordable rates.
10 Tips: Tulum On A Budget
1. Visit in the Shoulder Season
Tulum, and much of coastal Mexico is a big winter destination for those escaping the cold. In fact, December is the busiest month for tourism in Mexico, and also when you can expect the highest price tags. As its also popular with the Spring Break crowd, Tulum prices stay high through May.
So what’s the best time to visit Tulum? The shoulder season! The shoulder season — which runs from about May to October — refers to the months in between all the busy times, when you’ll snag all those amazing Tulum travel deals.
For those wanting to visit Tulum when it has the nicest weather and the best deals, January, February and November are great options. During these months, the weather is nice, there’s basically no humidity, the mosquitoes are at bay, the crowds are smaller, and prices are lower.
TULUM ON A BUDGET
2. Set a Fare Alert for Your Flight
Remember that part about knowing your travel budget?! Armed with that accurate number, you’ll know exactly how much you can spend on a flight without breaking the bank. Nowadays, sites like Google Flights and Kayak do the work for you with fare alerts.
The good news about Tulum is that you’ll fly into Cancun International Airport (code: CUN), which has regular, direct flights from most major cities in the U.S. If you’re able to travel during the shoulder season, and have access to a major airport, you’ll likely not spend more than $200USD on a flight to Tulum.
How do you set up a fare alert to find cheap Tulum flights?
This part is quite easy, with both Kayak’s fare alert service and Google Flights. Here’s a step by step of how to set it up in Google Flights. If you’d rather use Kayak, just sign in to your account, and follow these same steps.
How to Set a Fight Alert
Step #1: Open Skyscanner: Input the city you’re coming from, and put Cancun International Airport (code: CUN) in the “to” airport, then put in your travel dates, and finally, click Search Flights.
Step #2: When the results open, click 🔔 Get Price Alerts, create an account if you don’t have one already, and you’ll then receive emails or when prices go up or down.
When you’re comfortable with a price, then buy your Tulum plane ticket.
TULUM ON A BUDGET
3. Take the ADO Bus from Cancun to Tulum
The closest airport to Tulum is Cancun International Airport (code: CUN), located about 75 miles north of Tulum. This drive takes about 1.5-hours by car, and closer to two-hours by bus.
Mexico’s largest bus company, ADO, has luxury-class buses that depart right from Cancun Airport and drop you off in Tulum Town (AKA Downtown). Prices for this route vary, but figure no more than $300 pesos ($15USD) for a one-way ticket
Check the Cancun to Tulum ADO schedule for when you arrive to see if there’s a bus leaving at a time that works for you. You can bus your tickets online or at the airport. If not, you can always opt for a shared Cancun to Tulum airport shuttle.
🚌💨 A quick note on the ADO bus: While bus travel in the U.S. can be sketchy, in Mexico it’s safe, comfortable, efficient and inexpensive. The ADO luxury-class busses are large, with soft reclining seats, AC, a bathroom, and outlets for your gadgets; most even give out a beverage and snack.
Budget Car Rental in Tulum
While there are some Tulum rental car companies in town, you really save no money waiting till you get there to rent a car.
If you’re planning to get a car, rent one in the Cancun Airport and drive to Tulum, as it’s usually about the same price to rent in Tulum vs Cancun.
🚗💨 12 Useful Mexico Driving Tips
1. Rent with a reputable company! As they say, “you get what you pay for.” For a reliable Cancun car rental company, go with Discover Cars.
2. Avoid driving at night. When you live in Mexico long enough, you start to realize many people simply avoid driving at night, if they can. If you do drive at night, stick to only main roads and highways.
3. Always use the couta, or toll, roads. Yes, they cost money, but they are much better maintained and generally considered safer. Pro tip: Bring cash for the tolls.
4. Download an offline map. Your signal will go in and out as you travel through rural areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, so download an offline map from Google or Maps.Me. You’ll also want to download some podcasts and music while you’re getting that map.
5. Speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. You don’t have to worry about conversion math here; just make sure the speed limit sign number matches your speedometer number.
6. Do not use your cell phone while you’re driving. Not only is this unsafe, it is also illegal. In fact, even having your phone in your hand is a ticket-able offense, so try not to even hold your phone while driving.
7. The rumors are true about the cops expecting bribes. If the cops pull you over, and they only will if you give them a reason to, they will expect a cash “payment” in exchange for not ticketing you.
8. Mexican roads are notorious for their abundant amount of topes (speed bumps). Make sure you keep your eyes on the road, as topes don’t always have signs alerting you to them.
9. Mexico’s gas stations are not self-serve. When you stop for gas, an attendant will pump it for you and take your payment. These people don’t actually work for the gas station, and live off tips. When they finish, it’s customary to tip them at least $10-20 pesos ($0.50-$1).
10. Mexico’s traffic lights go from green to yellow, to flashing yellow for a few seconds, to finally, a red light.
11. Make sure you purchase Mexican car insurance. You are generally not covered in any way through your U.S. company when you drive in any other country.
12. Most travel insurance policies cover driving. In case you’re wondering Should I get travel insurance for Mexico?… The answer is hell yes! There’s a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important — maybe even more so when traveling during the pandemic.
As a general rule, driving anywhere in the Yucatan Peninsula is considered safe, including the drive from Cancun to Tulum. However, there’s the obvious caveat to that: You’ll be driving in another country.
This means you should take the time to familiarize yourself with Mexico driving laws, ask the agent at your car rental for advice, and check out the 12 Mexico Driving Tips above to help you with how to drive in Mexico.
TULUM ON A BUDGET
4. Stay in Tulum Town
You’ll lower your Tulum trip costs by doing everything from staying in Downtown Tulum (AKA Tulum Town or Tulum Pueblo), to eating, drinking and shopping in there, compared to those same things on Tulum Beach.
Tulum itself is a popular Mexico travel destination, but downtown is less touristy than the beach.
Now, those Instagram worthy Tulum photos you’ve seen on social media are all located on the beach.
However, not staying on the beach, doesn’t prevent you from heading to the beach and taking those enviable Tulum photos on your Mexico trip.
🌴🏠 Need suggestions on where to stay in Tulum? Head to these articles to discover best VRBOs and Airbnbs in Tulum at $99 and under, and the the best Tulum glamping stays!
TULUM ON A BUDGET
5. Rent A Bike
Tulum is a small town, at only about five-miles from one end to the other. However, it’s also usually 90°F during the day, so that means walking isn’t always an option. If you’re not renting a car, you’ll need another way to get around town.
For this, your options are to use taxis, or rent a bike or moped. Of those three, a Tulum bike rental is the most budget-friendly. Not only are bikes eco-friendly and allow you to sneak in some exercise, with a small town like Tulum, they work well.
There are Tulum Town bike rentals all along the main road in downtown, so locating them is simple. While prices vary a little, most bike rentals in Tulum cost just $200 pesos ($10USD) per day.
TULUM ON A BUDGET
6. Visit Cenotes Over Beach Clubs
Thanks to Instagram, Tulum is just as famous for its cenotes as for its white sand beaches. While they are both stunning, the cenotes cost quite a bit less to enjoy; as some beach clubs cost $1,000 pesos ($50USD) for a day pass, cenotes average just $50-200 pesos ($3-10USD) for admission.
For those who have taken the advice to stay in Tulum Town, there are several cenotes within 30 minutes by bike, and in fact, most of the best cenotes in Tulum are right near downtown. If you’re not renting a bike, you can take a taxi or drive your rental car to them, but don’t attempt to walk to these Tulum cenotes.
🧜♀️ Pro Tip: If this will be your first visit to a cenote, check out this Cenote FAQ to ensure you’re a responsible visitor who’s practicing sustainable travel in Mexico.
Best Cenotes in Tulum
- Gran Cenote: Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera are the two most instagrammable cenotes in Tulum. Gran Cenote, meaning “big cenote,” is a larger site with several cenotes, connected to one another by nice wooden walkways. Cost: $8
- Cenote Calavera: Cenote Calavera, pictured above, has three holes you can jump in to access the water below. Located basically in someone’s backyard, this smaller cenote gets crowded, so arrive early. Cost: $3
- Cenote Tankah/Cenote Car Wash: These two are right next to one another, and make a great combo trip. Cenote Tankah is well known as the only Tulum cenote that has a zipline! Cost: $6 Cenote Car Wash has a much more chill, lagoon vibe. Cost: $3
- Cenote Zacil-Ha: This open, swimming pool-style cenote has plenty of nice onsite amenities like covered/shaded areas, bathrooms and snacks for sale. Cost: $5
TULUM ON A BUDGET
7. Go to FREE Beach Clubs
While most Tulum beach clubs charge as much as $1,000 pesos ($50USD) to enter, that money is applied to your food/drink tab. This “minimum spend” essentially means you’re just pre-paying to eat and drink, while having access to luxury beach facilities, pools, beach beds, bathrooms, etc.
Now, for most Tulum budget travelers, $50 might be a whole day’s budget rather than a beach club entrance fee, but you still have options. Head to the beach clubs in Tulum that are just beach clubs, not resort beach clubs.
These places, Ziggy’s Beach Club, Revolución Pancho Villa, and Coco Tulum Beach Club, don’t have a minimum spend, and allow you to be there for as long as you’re ordering food and drinks. Head to budget-friendly Revolucion Pancho Villa, which offers 2-4-1 drinks all day long, but skip the food.
Now, if you’re slamming $15 piña coladas (yes, they often cost that much on Tulum Beach), that adds up quickly. However, if you’re ordering an agua fresca (fruit water) and ceviche for $15, you can realistically hang around for a few hours.
🏖 Pro Tip: The beaches in Mexico are public domain. This means you’re totally allowed to just head to the beach, lay your towel in the sand, and enjoy Tulum Beach and the beautiful Caribbean Sea for $0.
TULUM ON A BUDGET
8. Stick to the Tulum Ruins
The Yucatan Peninsula is amazing in so many ways, one of which is all the Mayan ruins and fascinating Mayan history associated with this part of Mexico. There are a few popular Mayan ruin sites in the Yucatan, including the Tulum Ruins on Tulum Beach.
The Tulum Ruins are only about a 15-minute bike ride from Tulum Town, and cost $75 pesos ($4USD) to enter. This is by far the most budget friendly way to see Mayan ruins in Tulum.
Right after seeing this admittedly smaller Mayan site, take the staircase down to the beach cove beneath. This is a popular place to go, but since we’re talking Tulum on a budget, you can head to the ruins for $4, then go lay on the beach and swim for $0, so this makes for an inexpensive day.
If you want to check out some other sites, opt for Coba and/or Ek-Balam over Chichen Itza. As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is the most popular, and most expensive, site to visit at $250 pesos ($13USD), and about $400 pesos ($20USD) for round trip bus tickets.
By contrast, visiting the Coba and Ek-Balam Mayan ruins near Tulum would be about half that total amount.
TULUM ON A BUDGET
9. Hit Up Tulum Happy Hours
Tulum has some pretty great Happy Hours, which tend to run from about 4pm-6pm. This is a short window, but you can pick one place to check out each day so you’ll be able to experience all the bars while sticking to your budget.
Here are some of the best Happy Hour Tulum bars:
- Coco Tulum: Head to this boho chic paradise, one of the most instagrammable places in Tulum, for 2-for-1 cocktails from 5pm-7pm.
- Mulberry Project Tulum: Located at the La Zebra Hotel, this upscale spot only offers Happy Hour on Tuesdays, from 5pm-7pm, so make sure to check it out if you’re in Tulum on a Tuesday.
- Ziggy’s Beach Club: Head to this popular Tulum Happy Hour bar, and lay in a hammock beachside while you sip delicious frozen daiquiris from 5pm-6pm.
- I Scream Bar: Located on the jungle side of Tulum Beach, enjoy 2-for-1 cocktails for only $100 pesos ($5) each day from 6pm-8pm.
- Mateo’s Mexican Grill: One of the best places to see the sunset in Tulum! Head directly up to the rooftop platform for Happy Hour sunset cocktails and live music from 6pm-8pm each night.
TULUM ON A BUDGET
10. Eat in Tulum Town
Besides booking your Airbnb in Downtown Tulum, and biking around instead of taking cabs, one of the last big ways to save money on your Tulum trip is to eat in Tulum Town. Truth be told, the food here is better and more authentic than on the beach anyway, and all the best street tacos are in Tulum Town.
As mentioned, Tulum Beach is where you’ll get the instagrammable Tulum photos, but Tulum Town is where the locals live and eat. While the places might not be as photogenic, the food is so much better and so much cheaper.
Cheap eats on Tulum Beach: There are cheap places to eat on Tulum Beach as well, including Matcha Mama, home to the I Love Tulum So Matcha sign and cheap acai and smoothie bowls, and I Scream Bar for tacos and vegan “nice cream.”
cheap eats in Downtown Tulum
- Taqueria Honorio: Where the locals go to eat the best tacos in Tulum. This is a no-frills restaurant, and it’s all about the food. Try the cochinita pibil and lechon, and wash it all down with an agua fresca (fruit water), just like the locals do. They close early, so head there for lunch.
- El Camelo Jr.: Known for their fresh seafood plates and ceviches, El Camelo Jr. is a Tulum institution.
- Antojitos La Chiapaneca: While not an authentic Yucatan food, Mexico and tacos al pastor are synonymous. Try this Mexican staple dish at La Chiapaneca, a late night favorite among locals and visitors.
- Burrito Amor: Head here for the best burritos in Tulum, with meat, seafood and vegan options available.
- Ki’Bok Tulum: An adorable coffee shop, and arguably best cafe in Tulum. Enjoy local Mexican coffees, traditional breakfast and brunch items, like chilaquiles and huevos rancheros, pastries and lighter plates.
Tulum Mexico Travel FAQ
What’s the best time to visit Tulum?
The best time of year to visit Tulum Mexico, weather-wise, is during the fall/winter months from October-March, when the weather’s cooler and not so humid. The busiest months for tourism are March-April with the spring break crowd, and December-January during the winter break/holidays.
Located in the tropics, it rains (even pours ☔️) pretty much daily during the peak of the Tulum rainy season, June-September. However, the rain storms tend to pass quick, so for those who don’t mind an afternoon shower, this is the best time for a Tulum on a budget trip.
For the best way to visit Tulum on a budget, head there during the shoulder season months of May-October.
Pro tip: Especially in the summer months, Tulum temperatures often feel 5-10°F higher because of humidity. 😥 Make sure to pack your reusable water bottle, and better yet, a LifeStraw water bottle, which will add an extra layer of Mexico water filtration… so you don’t get the dreaded Montezuma’s Revenge on your Tulum vacation!
What do I pack for Tulum?
Wondering what to wear in Tulum, what to put on your Tulum packing list, and more importantly what not to bring to Mexico? Head to this article, Packing List for Mexico: Outfit Ideas & FREE Printable Download, for everything you ned to know.
In short, Tulum Mexico, and the Yucatan Peninsula, have a tropical climate, and are hot (and humid 😥) for most of the year. As far as what clothes to include on your Tulum Mexico packing list, think flowy, tropical, breathable, cotton, and light-colored clothing; bonus points for anything that doesn’t show sweat!
Besides all your summer-wear, you may use a light cardigan at night, but Tulum is the place to break out your warm-weather wardrobe. You’ll of course want a few bathing suits, sundresses, sun hats, sunglasses, environmentally-friendly reef safe sunscreen and eco-friendly mosquito repellant.
FREE printable Mexico packing checklist
Download your Mexico packing checklist below, which covers everything from clothing and accessories, to toiletries and electronic gadgets. This 10-page checklist covers packing for both Mexico beaches, including Tulum, and cities in Mexico.
Do I need a visa to visit Mexico?
No, U.S passport holders don’t need a visa to travel to Mexico. This is just one of several the reasons why Mexico is one of the best travel destinations from the U.S.! Find out four more reason in the linked article.
When you arrive in Mexico and go through Immigration, you’ll receive a 180-day FMM tourist card. This is a small piece of paper you need to hold on to so you can give it back to Immigration at the airport when you leave the country.
There is no charge for the FMM, but if you lose yours, there’s a fine of about $600 pesos ($30USD). You will also you’ll need to arrive about an hour earlier than usual to fill out some paperwork at the airport.
Where is Tulum located?
Tulum is in Quintana Roo state, in the Yucatan Peninsula.
As you can see on the Tulum Mexico map, it is located on the eastern side of the Yucatan. This side of the country is known as the Mexican Caribbean because it’s right on the Caribbean Sea.
Besides its beautiful beaches, there’s so much within a few hours drive from Tulum in your rental car — including cenotes, pueblos magicos (Mexico’s historic “magic towns” like Valladolid) and Mayan ruins.
Is Tulum Safe?
This is the # 1 most asked question about visiting anywhere in the country — Is Mexico safe for travel?
Given the mainstream media’s demonization of the entire country, Mexico has a very bad wrap. However, this is a huge country, and yes, there are parts you should avoid… but chances are you weren’t planning to head to those parts anyway.
Tulum is not one of those parts!
In fact, the entire Yucatan Peninsula is considered quite safe, not just Tulum. For the most part, all places in Mexico that promote tourism are by-and-large, safe. As tourism is Mexico’s largest source of income, the federal and local governments of Mexico’s top travel destinations do their part to maintain safety.
⚠️ Pro Tip: Always remember that no place on Earth is 100% safe, but for peace of mind, purchase travel insurance.
Final Thoughts: Tulum On A Budget
is Tulum worth visiting?
Tulum is a fun place that everyone should check out at least once, if only to form your own opinion of it. The reality is, as it gets more famous and Instafamous, it starts to become less and less special because more and more people have already been there, done that.
If you’re looking for a place to relax, enjoy the scenery, lay on a beautiful Caribbean beach, take a lot of photos and swim in the cenotes, then Tulum is your place. Like all places on Earth, the key to enjoying Tulum is managing your expectations of it… Think Instagram vs. Reality!
Tulum is very pretty, but like most Instagram vs. Reality places, many build it up in their mind, only to be letdown.
If you understand what you’re signing up for — high prices tags by Mexico standards, rustic boho vibes, large numbers of other tourists — and you don’t mind those things, you’ll enjoy your Tulum trip. If you also follow (at least some of) the tips in this article, you’ll definitely also enjoy your Tulum trip on a budget.
Have any Tulum on a budget travel tips?
Please join the conversation in the comments down below and share your knowledge!
Enjoy these related blogs!
- 25 SAFEST Cities in Mexico to Visit: Best Beaches & Colonial Cities
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