Mexico City on a Budget

Mexico City on a Budget (How to Eat, Stay, & Do It Cheaply)

Many people worry that traveling will destroy their wallets, but it’s totally possible to do Mexico City on a budget. Even though it’s a large metropolitan city, Mexico City is actually very affordable. With a little planning and a few important money-saving tips I’ll share in this post, you can easily visit Mexico City without draining your savings account. 

I’ve managed to live and budget in Mexico City for seven months and, in that time, I’ve saved a lot of money.

Now, I want to share a comprehensive Mexico City budget breakdown with you, including some of the most useful tips, affordable activities, and cheap eats for when you’re visiting Mexico City. And while you’re here, bookmark my guide to where to stay in Mexico City – it’ll help you budget as well!

Let’s jump right into the Mexico City budget breakdown. 

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9 Tips to Do Mexico City on a Budget

Take Advantage of Free Activities 

View of the Soumaya Museum from afar in Mexico City
The Soumaya Museum has Free Admission for All (photo: Luxbox / Shutterstock)

One of the best ways to save money on a trip to Mexico City is by taking advantage of all the free activities in Mexico City that are available. There’s no better way to stick to your Mexico City budget than by doing lots of free stuff. 

For example, the Soumaya Museum, the National Palace, and Bosque de Chapultepec Park are all free to visit every day. Also, many other places offer free admission on certain days of the week. Palacio de Bella Artes is free on Sundays for instance. 

Indulge in the Local Delicious Food

People buying from a local food stand in Mexico City
(photo: Bruno_Doinel / Shutterstock)

One of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to stay within your Mexico City budget is by sticking to the local Mexican cuisine. In Mexico City, the cheapest food by far is Mexican dishes. 

The first time I visited Mexico City, I was amazed by how much top-notch food you can find for cheap. You’ll have so many choices that it’s hard to get bored with them.

Check out my post on the best food in Mexico City for a checklist of what to try.

Set Your Budget Before You Leave

You can’t really stick to your Mexico City budget if you never take the time to actually create it. If you aren’t defining your budget for food or entertainment, you’ll likely end up spending more than you would’ve liked. Before your trip to Mexico, be sure to define a realistic Mexico City budget.

Get the Best Deals During the Shoulder Season

View of cars and people on a street in Mexico City during a rainy day
(photo: illpaxphotomatic / Shutterstock)

Is your main goal to save money on your trip to Mexico City? Then consider visiting during the shoulder season. It happens right before and after the rainy season. 

April, May, mid-October, and early November are the best time to visit Mexico City for cheap prices and good deals. 

Take the Public Transportation

View of a red bus travelling on the street of Mexico City
(photo: Octavio Hoyos / Shutterstock)

Many people plan to rent a car or rely on rideshare services during their trip. However, the cheapest way to get around Mexico City is by taking advantage of public transportation. The Mexico City metro, buses, and trains are all super affordable and easy to use. 

The Mexico City metro can get you to any neighborhood within CDMX. If you’re planning on going beyond the limits of the city, you can get anywhere in the entire country on long-distance buses. 

🚌Planning a Day Trip? The local buses around Mexico are super affordable, so it’s really easy to pack up and embark on a quick day trip without breaking the bank. To learn more, check out my guide to the 19 best day trips from Mexico City

Book a Private Room Instead of an Entire Apartment

One of the most expensive parts of planning a trip to Mexico City is booking accommodations. So, to bring down the cost of your accommodation budget, I’d recommend checking out the available private rooms instead of just entire apartments or hotel rooms. The rooms are similar to having a private hotel room in Mexico City, but they’re way cheaper. 

For solo travelers and those backpacking Mexico City, you can lower your budget even more by staying at a hostel. They’re extremely cheap and give you the chance to meet people. If you check out Hostelworld’s list of top CDMX hostels, you’ll find highly rated options for as little as $10 per night.

Get a Local Sim Card

Another expensive piece of building out a travel budget is figuring out what to do about your phone. Many phone providers charge a big fee for using your phone abroad, so if you’re on a tight budget, then consider buying a local sim card. 

An AT&T prepaid sim card from the airport costs around 200 MXN (9 USD) for 3 GB of data with unlimited social media, text, and talk for 30 days.

Buy Insurance

While it might sound counterintuitive, buying insurance for your trip to Mexico City can actually save you a lot of money. If you get hurt abroad or miss a flight, it could cost way more than your vacation. 

Anything can happen and you want a reliable travel insurance provider to have your back just in case. My go-to travel insurance is World Nomads because they provide comprehensive coverage for a realistic price.  

👉Pro Tip: Doing your research on the best travel insurance for your situation is crucial. To gain more insight into the topic, check out Nate’s guide to travel insurance in Mexico

Shop at the Produce Markets for Groceries

A store in Mercado Juarez during afternoon

There are plenty of big grocery stores to buy ingredients if you feel like making your own food on your upcoming trip to Mexico City. However, I’d recommend checking out some of the local produce markets to find the best deals on local ingredients. San Juan Market and the Central Supply are good places to start. 

9 Cheap & Free Things to Do in Mexico City

Shop at Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela

View of colorful items from an outdoor stall in Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela
An outdoor stall at an Artisanal Market in Zona Rosa

📍Google Maps | Phone: (55) 5510-1828 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 7 pm Mon-Sat, 10 am – 6 pm Sun | Entrance: Free

When you visit Mexico City, you’ll probably want to take a few souvenirs home to commemorate your trip. The best place to get affordable authentic gifts and art is the local markets. For souvenirs, I’d recommend shopping at Mercado de Artesanias la Ciudadela. 

🛒Going on a Shopping Spree? Read my list of the 11 best markets in Mexico City.

Visit the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral 

Aerial view of Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral in Zocalo
A Sunny Day at the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral in the Zocalo

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (55) 4165-4052 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 8 pm daily | Entrance: Free

There are many churches and cathedrals in Mexico City with stunning architectural designs. Most of them are also free, so wandering the churches is a great activity for budget travelers. The Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral in the city center is one of the most popular ones to explore. 

Dive into the Incredible Street Food Scene

People buying from a Taqueria Miranda food stand in Mexico City
Taqueria Miranda, One of My Favorite Street Food Stands in CDMX

One of the best things to do in Mexico City is to get familiar with the local street food scene. You can explore in a few hours or over the course of an entire day. 

There are so many different local specialties to try that you’re really missing out if you don’t take the time to discover them. Plus, it’s the most affordable food in the entire city. 

Get Lost in Parque Mexico or Chapultepec Park

View from the Parque Mexico in the afternoon
Walking Around Parque Mexico on the Weekend

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24/7 | Entrance: Free

There are a bunch of massive parks and green spaces throughout Mexico City, and one of my favorite parks to spend a Saturday afternoon in is Parque Mexico. It’s not the biggest park in Mexico City, but it’s quiet and has plenty of spots to relax. Chapultepec Park is also a great option and is a lot bigger. 

Walk Around the Interesting Neighborhoods

View of skateboarders at the Clocktower in Zona Rosa
Skateboarders at the Clocktower in Zona Rosa

Is it cliche to say that my favorite travel activity is simply wandering around a city’s streets to get a feel for the local life? You may roll your eyes at this recommendation, but I swear it’s true. Mexico City happens to be an amazing place for just walking around. There are many unique neighborhoods to explore from the Historic Center to Coyoacan. 

It’s the best way to find the city’s awesome street art and local happenings. 

🌇 Curious About CDMX Neighborhoods? Give my list of the 11 best Mexico City neighborhoods a read.  

Learn at the Museum of Anthropology

Mayan Temple from the outside in the Museum of Anthropology
A Mayan Temple at the Museum of Anthropology

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (55) 5553-6266 | Website  | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Tues-Sat, Closed Sundays and Mondays | Entrance: $75 MXN (4 USD) adults

Museums are a staple activity of most people’s travels. Luckily for you, the museums in Mexico City are cheap or free to visit! 

Most expensive museums in Mexico City are less than 40 MXN (2USD) for an all-inclusive visit. If you’re really strapped for cash, then Palacio de Bella is free on Sundays. Additionally, you can see the international and Mexican art at the Soumaya Museum for free every single day. 

🎨 Planning Some Museum Visits? Be sure to read my guide to the 13 best museums in Mexico City

Rent a Bike and Hit the Town

Rental bicycles parked in Mexico City
Some of Mexico City’s Plentiful Rental Bicycles 

📞 Phone: (55) 5005-2424 (Customer Service) | Website 

Another great way to explore Mexico City’s neighborhoods is by renting a bike. Bike rentals are all over the city through ECOBICI. Plus, it’s super affordable. You can get a temporary seven-day bike pass for 391MXN (20USD), or a single-day pass for 118 MXN (6USD).

Take a Free Walking Tour 

People gathered in the outdoor clothing weekend market in Mexico City
A Random Outdoor Clothing Weekend Market Near Roma

🚶 Free Walking Tour Website

Many travelers on a budget steer clear of tours, but many of them are affordable or even free. There are more free walking tours in Mexico City than you might think. These tours provide a 2 to 3-hour exploration of Mexico City with an insightful city guide, which is a step up from just wandering around on your own and taking in all the sites. 

If it’s your first time visiting Mexico City, I’d recommend checking out this free walking tour around the Historic Centre to get a feel for the area. 

👉 Looking for More Things to Do? Make sure you check out Nate’s list of 33 fun things to do in Mexico City.  

Lounge at a Local Cafe Like Farmacia International 

View from the inside of Farmacia International Cafe
The Adorable Farmacia International Cafe That’s Located in Juarez

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (55) 3668-9381 | Website | Hours: 8:30 am – 8 pm Mon-Fri, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sat-Sun 

Mexico City is filled to the brim with hip and cute cafes that serve great caffeinated beverages and snacks. While there are some fancier cafes around Mexico City, most of them are pretty inexpensive. My top recommendation would be Farmacia International in Juarez. Be sure to try their delicious homemade pop-tarts for 45 MXN (2 USD). 

Thirsty for a Cup of Joe? Check out our guide to the best cafes and coffee shops in Mexico City.

Where to Stay in Mexico City on a Budget

There are a wide variety of neighborhoods throughout Mexico City and many of them are super affordable. Some places have cheap accommodations and others have very affordable food. It’s all a matter of doing your research and finding the area that best suits your needs. 

Centro Historico 

Overlooking view of Centro Historico from a rooftop cafe
Views from a Rooftop Cafe in the Popular Neighborhood of Centro Historico

👉 Best Area For First Time Visitors | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Hotel Roble 

The Historic Centre, or Centro Historico, is the ideal neighborhood for first-time visitors on a budget. It’s within walking distance of a lot of the big affordable attractions and the Zocalo. Plus, there’s an abundance of great accommodations in this area available for a fair price. 

The downside of this area is that it’s extremely busy all the time. On the weekends, you should expect to find your way through a sea of people. You should also be mindful of your belongings when walking the streets of the Historic Center – the chaos attracts a lot of pickpockets.  

🏘️ Want to Find Your Perfect Neighborhood? Check out my full guide to where to stay in Mexico City.  

Coyoacan 

People outside the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City
The Blue House, or Frida Kahlo Museum, in Coyoaca (photo: Jose de Jesus Churion Del / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Families and Couples | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: La Casita de Coyoacan 

If you’re staying in Mexico City with your family or partner, then you’ll probably like the neighborhood of Coyoacan the most. Coyoacan has a bunch of interesting museums and art galleries that have cool exhibits and programs for children. There’s also a really big market in the district called Coyoacan Market where you can find all of your trinkets and knick-knacks. 

Coyoaocan has a multitude of romantic restaurants and places to grab a few drinks. So, it’s great for couples on a trip to Mexico City by themselves. The hotels in Coyoacan also tend to be more cost-effective than in other neighborhoods in Mexico City. 

The main drawback of Coyoacan is that it’s about 30-40 minutes outside the city center. If you plan on spending a lot of time in central neighborhoods, you’ll probably have to get familiar with the local transportation or take some Ubers. 

Escandon

Overlooking view of Downtown Mexico City
Views of Downtown Mexico City

👉 Best Area For Laidback Budget Travelers | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Hotel Bonn 

Escandon is one of the cheapest and quietest neighborhoods in Mexico City. It has a very authentic and calm vibe to it, which makes it a great spot for laidback travelers. There’s a bunch of reasonably-priced restaurants and street food around Escandon. The accommodations are also very budget-friendly. 

I really loved staying in Escandon because of how relaxed the area was. But, it’s not the right area for travelers seeking a party. There are some bars in the area, but they’re few and far between compared to other neighborhoods. 

It’s important to note that Escandon isn’t close to any major attractions in Mexico City, so you’ll have to travel to these places if you plan on visiting them. 

🛏️ Need a Hotel? Head over to our list of the 13 best hotels in Mexico City

Cheap Eats in Mexico City

The best way to eat for cheap in Mexico City is by sticking to the local cuisine. If you’re a fan of Mexican food, then you’ve found your Mecca. There are also quite a few affordable restaurant options for international food. 

La Esquina del Chilaquil

Mexican Food

Torta de Chilaquil on a plate
The Famous Torta de Chilaquil

📍 Google Maps | Website | Price Range: ($)

Chilaquiles are a key local dish in Mexico City. The only thing that could make it better is slapping them on a torta, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at La Esquina del Chilaquil – home to the original torta de chilaquil. Not only is this Mexico City specialty super tasty, but it’s also really cheap. It’s a win-win. 

Churreria El Moro

Desserts

Different stores open in Mexico City

📍 Google Maps | Website | Price Range: ($$)

For budget travelers with a sweet tooth, I’d recommend El Moro Churreria. Churros are a key food item that you have to get in Mexico City. 

El Moro pumps out hundreds of churros and variations of hot chocolate into the late hours of the night. There are a bunch of different locations around Mexico City, so you’re always close by to these amazing churros. Plus, they’re cost-effective. You can get an order of 4 churros for 36 MXN (1.80USD).

Taqueira Miranda 

Mexican Street Food

View of people buying tacos in Taqueria Miranda
The Tacos Miranda Stand in Zona Rosa

📍 Google Maps | Price Range: ($)

If you’re on the hunt for the best and most affordable street stand for food in Mexico City, then look no further than Tacos Miranda. Tacos Miranda has some of the best tacos in Mexico City. They have fresh tortillas, a variety of different meat fillings, and an extensive toppings bar. 

🌮 Getting Hungry? Check out my guide to the best restaurants in Mexico City for more info on where to eat. 

Los Especiales

Tacos

A plate of Mexican tacos in Los Especiales

📍 Google Maps | Website | Price Range: ($)

When you’re spending time in Mexico City, I’m betting that you plan on eating quite a few tacos. Another great spot to get tacos in Mexico City is Los Especiales. There are several kinds of tacos at Los Especiales, like green mole and specially seasoned potato. Best of all, each taco is only 9MXN (00.45USD). 

The Backyard

American

A plate of pancakes with strawberries on it

📍 Google Maps | Price Range: ($$)

If you’re getting a little sick of eating Mexican food every night, then schedule a trip to The Backyard. The Backyard offers American dishes from breakfast to lunch at reasonable prices. It’s a great place for brunch in Mexico City. I’d recommend stopping in for brunch to grab a mimosa and a big stack of fluffy pancakes for 240 MXN (12 USD). 

FAQs About Mexico City on a Budget

Is Mexico City inexpensive?

Mexico City can be an extremely inexpensive place if you stick to the city’s affordable options. Mexico City has hundreds of cost-effective neighborhoods, activities, and restaurants. All it takes is a little bit of research and planning before your visit to find them. 

What is there to do in Mexico City on a budget?

Some of the best things to do in Mexico City on a budget are visiting the many museums, exploring the street food scene, taking a free walking tour, and shopping at the local markets. All of these activities are affordable, which makes them perfect for travelers on a strict budget. 

How much money do you need in Mexico City?

You need a budget of about $100 a day for a vacation in Mexico City, although it’s absolutely possible to explore Mexico City for way cheaper than this amount. Some people get by on less than $30 a day. But, I think a hundred per day is a fair budget for people who still want to have some fun on their vacation. 

Additionally, you can easily spend way more than a hundred a day in Mexico City if it’s within your means. There are lots of expensive high-end restaurants and luxury hotels in CDMX if you’re looking to indulge in the finer things. 

Why is Mexico City so cheap?

The biggest reason that Mexico City is so cheap is that wages and labor costs are extremely low. 

Since Americans, Canadians, and people from other parts of the world are used to receiving higher wages, it feels like the cost of goods in Mexico City is abnormally cheap. However, the locals don’t have the same luxury and definitely don’t view Mexico City as cheap in the same way tourists do. So, remember to tip the local standard amount of 10 to 15% (or more)!

***

There are so many exciting things to do in Mexico City that are low-cost, and I hope that you’ve found this guide to budgeting in Mexico City helpful for planning your next trip. 

If you’ve never been to Mexico before, then be sure to check out these 23 Mexico travel tips that you should know before you get on the plane. 

Thanks for reading and have fun in Mexico City!

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