Tulum on a Budget: Mexico For a Fraction of the Price

By Anna

When you hear about people holidaying in Mexico, you may think of the more expensive places to visit such as Cancun and Los Cabos which may be a little off-putting and out of your price range, leading you to book somewhere that fits your budget better. But there’s no need to hold off! We’ve found the perfect little town for you to visit and it’s called Tulum and even better, we’re going to tell you everything you can do in Tulum on a budget so you don’t have to panic about spending your hard earned Mexican Pesos or USD’s all at once.

We’ll be telling you about the best beaches and towns to visit, how much money you’ll need each day and the best time to visit Tulum, plus much more!

But, before we get into telling you more about how you can visit Tulum on a budget, let’s find out a bit more about where Tulum actually is.

Where Is Tulum Situated?

Tulum is a town situated east in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo which is on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula. Tulum is well known for its archaeological history with the Mayan ruins (we’ll get into more detail on this later on).

So, now you know where Tulum is situated to in Mexico, let’s have a look at what you can do when you’re there.

Caribbean Sea Mexico
Photo credit: Fernando Jorge via Unsplash

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Places to Visit in Tulum:

With a town that has so much going on, we’re telling you what you can do in Tulum on a budget. Tulum sure can offer you a great amount, even when you’re scraping for pennies or in this case, Pesos. As Tulum is a town, there’s good transport links at cheap prices which is even more perfect for a town that is already close to other attractions. Let’s take a look at what you could be getting up to in Tulum:

Tulum Beach:

To us, nothing sounds more perfect than to be on a white sandy beach, inhaling the scent of coconut sun cream, sipping piña coladas and dipping our feet in the crystal blue waters that is the Caribbean Sea, and with Tulum beach, that’s exactly what you could be doing! Mexico have some of the most stunning beaches in the world and Tulum definitely won’t disappoint you.

tulum beach
Image by Walkerssk from Pixabay

This beach is just a four-minute drive or cycle ride from the Mayan ruins, or if you’re not too sweaty from the soaring heat, you can even walk there which is 15 minutes away. If you don’t have car hire for your holiday, then taxis are always a good option. A taxi ride from the Mayan ruins to Tulum beach will cost you around 150 Pesos each way which is equivalent to £5 or $7, not bad hey!

Whether you want to be topping up that summer tan whilst reading your favourite book, led on a lilo going over calm waves in the sea or trying to find the cast from Finding Nemo whilst you’re snorkelling, you’ll be sure to keep yourself occupied all day.

Snorkelling on Tulum Beach

This beach is great for snorkelling, so we recommend that you bring a snorkelling kit with you so that you save money when you’re in Mexico. You’ll be surrounded by tropical fish and if you’re really lucky, you might even get to see turtles, star fish and sting rays! Just remember not to get too close to any of the aquatic animals and never swim out to sea too far as the currents can be strong and unpredictable.

If you provide your own picnic lunch with drinks, then this trip is a free day out for you and your family if you’ve not payed taxi fare. If your budget can stretch, then the hotels that are along this strip of the beach have a range of beach bars and restaurants that offer a variety of traditional and international food.

Tulum on a budget - Tulum beach
Photo credit: Tanja Cotoaga via Unsplash

Chichén Itzá:

If you like ancient history, then Chichén Itzá is the place you need to visit! Chichén Itzá is a complex of Mayan ruins on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Chichén Itzá which means ‘at the mouth of the well of Itza’ is the second most popular archaeological site visited in Mexico after the Tulum ruins. You might also be interested to know that it’s also one of the seven wonders of the world!

The most famous ruins you’ll be able to see are a huge step pyramid which is known as El Castillo or Temple of Kukulcan, The Great Ball Court and Temple of Warriors. The Pyramid is approximately 98 feet high and has nine square terraces. The Great Ball Court was used for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame (a sport with ritual associations, a bit like racquetball.) The Temple of Warriors is another large stepped pyramid with rows of carved columns – made to look like warriors standing in front guarding it.

How Much Will it Cost?

But enough about the history, you can learn much more about it if you go to visit! If you do think that Chichén Itzá is a place you want to put on your visiting list, make sure you wake up early and make the most of your time there it’s around a 2 hour drive from Tulum, which will cost you around 600 pesos or £21 each way. You can also catch an ado bus which is around 2 hours 30 minutes away from Tulum, but the good news is that theres air conditioning and costs around £7 for a bus ticket.

The entrance fee for Chichén Itzá is £38 per person and that’s not with a tour guide either, so we suggest that you read up on your Mayan history knowledge beforehand and bring a book with you so you can understand more about the ruins. We would also suggest bringing your own food and plenty of water as it gets extremely hot during the afternoon.

We know this article is meant to be Tulum on a budget, so if you’re sat there thinking that £38 plus travel expenses is too much but you really want to see some ruins, then our next attraction might just be for you!

Chichen Itza - Tulum on a budget
Photo credit: Mary Watson via Unsplash

Tulum Mayan Ruins:

The Tulum Mayan ruins also known as the Archeological Zone of Tulum are situated in the east of Quintana Roo and also faces the breathtaking Caribbean Sea, so with this trip, you’re able to explore the ruins and then cool off in the crystal-clear sea – yes please!

The ruins are thought to have been found as early as 564 A.D and Tulum served as a major trading post for both neighbouring city-states such as Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and Coba. In the 13th century, Tulum was one of the most powerful city -states due to its location.

If you like action/adventure films then you’ll love this fun fact about the Mayan ruins! Apocalypto, which was co-written, produced and directed by Mel Gibson was filmed at the ruins! The film is based on true facts about the Mayans, so if you fancy a glimpse of the Mayan ruins and understanding some more about the history before heading here, we suggest giving this film a go.

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Once you’ve finished exploring the ruins and taken a dip in the sea, there are also a variety of small traditional shops and cafes you can visit. The stores offer everything you need from gifts, medicine, food and most importantly, tequila.

How Much Will it Cost?

The entrance fee for the ruins are 80 Pesos per person, £2.85 or $3.60 without a tour guide. If you wish to have a tour guide then this will cost around 600 Pesos per person, £21 or $27 – that’s what we call Tulum on a budget.

Already staying in Tulum? then that’s great, you won’t have to pay much for a taxi! If you’re travelling from further afield in perhaps Cancun, then a taxi ride will be just over an hour and cost you around 1700 Pesos, £62 or $77 each way, of course feel free to put your haggling skills to good use.

You can also catch an ado bus which takes just over 2 hours costing 120 Pesos, £4.25 or $5.45 each way – buses may seem like a long and annoying thing to catch, but you’ll be getting to see more of Mexico than you would if you were in a taxi and it will save you a lot too!

Tulum Mayan Ruins
Photo credit:
Marvin Castelino via Unsplash

Dos Ojos:

Dos Ojos is a cenote (a natural pit or sinkhole which has resulted from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes water underneath) which is located in northern Tulum in Quintana Roo.

It simply means ‘two eyes’ because of the two neighbouring cenotes that look like eyes appearing in the underground is the deepest known underwater cave passage at almost 390 feet deep! – Although, we should say that the deepest area you’ll be swimming in will be around 33 feet deep.

In this cave you get to experience the beautiful natural light that makes the cave look like it’s been lit up, crystal clear water – or perhaps even clearer and have a look and see what’s lying beneath the water. When you visit the cenote, you’ll have an instructor with you the entire time to make sure that your equipment is on properly and guide you through the cenote to make sure you see the best things when you’re underneath the water.

The water temperature reaches 25 degrees throughout the year (you’ll warm up when you start exploring) and more than likely you’ll get to see an array of fish swimming underneath you with your snorkelling gear on and also large rocks. There will also be a photographer there so you can take home photographs at the end for a small fee and get to look back on the memory.

We will say that if you don’t like deep cold water or have claustrophobia then this trip won’t be for you. As we previously said, this cenote is one of the deepest in the world and your tour guide will take you under the water and through small enclosed spaces so that you can experience different areas of the cenote.

Dos Ojos
Photo credit: Earth via Unsplash

What Are the Costs?

If you’re travelling from nearby Playa Del Carmen then a taxi ride will cost you around 600 Pesos, £20 or $27. From Tulum town to Dos Ojos it will only cost you 200 Pesos, £7 or $9 each way – pretty good for a great day out!

Entrance fees to Dos Ojos are also 200 Pesos, £7 or $9 per person. You can also hire the snorkelling equipment which will cost an additional 100 Pesos, £3.50 or $4.50 but if you want to save some money then you’re welcome to bring your own equipment with you.

There’s also a restaurant here but you’re able to bring your own food and drink with you. We advise brining a large bottle of water, so you don’t get dehydrated after you come out of the cenote.

As this cenote is well known in Mexico, it does get crowded quite easily, so we would recommend that you get there as early as possible, that way you’ll be finishing your snorkelling session as the crowds are coming in. If waking up early isn’t your thing, a quieter alternative to this is the Gran cenote which is around a 20-minute drive from Dos Ojos.

Shopping in Playa Del Carmen:

If you like shopping, then the Paseo Del Carmen shopping mall in Playa Del Carmen is somewhere that you’ll definitely want to visit! This shopping centre has a mix of traditional Mexican shops, high-street stores and even designer shops, so remember don’t forget to bring your wallet!

In the traditional Mexican store you’ll be able to find amigos selling holiday souvenirs such as key rings, magnets, tequila, sombreros and much more for an affordable price, starting from just 28 Pesos, £1 or $1 there’s sure to be something in there you’ll find for loved ones back home.

If you fancy more of a treat for yourself then there’s a range of well-known shops you’re able to spend your money in, such as Bershka, Zara, Pandora, Tommy Hilfiger, Guess plus many more! There’s also a range of different cafes and restaurants you’re able to feast in – if you’re a bit strapped for cash, tell a worker in the restaurant before you order your food and they might even be able to give you a special discount!

As well as all of these shops, there’s also a beach situated near the shopping centre so you can shop till you drop and sunbathe and catch those rays. This beach does get crowded from locals so if you have spent a lot of money in the shops, remember to keep your bags close to you at all times.

How Much Money Will I Need?

Luckily, Playa Del Carmen is only a 25-minute journey from Tulum but for a taxi ride there and back, you’re looking at about £30. This might seem a bit on the expensive side but you’ll get two trips in one with visiting the shopping centre and having a look round the traditional Mexican shops which offer extremely affordable souvenirs and you’ll also get to go and visit another beach which won’t cost you a single penny.

How Do You Budget in Tulum?

Let’s face it, budgeting can be hard in everyday life so when you’re on holiday, you’ll want to let that slip a bit. Sure you can treat yourself more but it’s always good to have a budget in place so that you don’t go crazy all at once and miss out on something that you really want to do. Having said that, if you follow the three tips below, then you’ll be able to visit Tulum on a budget.

But How Do You Budget in Tulum?

  • Firstly, we advise that you do a Google search on what you really want to do in Tulum or the surrounding areas like Riviera Maya. Work out roughly how much it’s going to cost you and see if you can afford it. We recommend not pre-buying tickets online (unless it’s a very popular activity) as you can usually haggle and take a few pounds off – every little helps, right?
  • Secondly, with so many things to do in Tulum you might forget that you also need to put some money back for food and drink! As Tulum is a smaller town, you’ll be able to try traditional Mexican cuisine for when you want to eat out, at a reasonable price. We would recommend buying your lunch from a shop, whether that’s a sandwich or some crisps and going out for dinner in a restaurant to make sure you’ve got a full belly.
  • Thirdly, don’t forget that to get to all of your trips you’ll either need access to a hire car which you can prepay for before you arrive, or you’ll be having to spend to money on taxis or buses. The taxis and buses are a reasonable amount to pay compared to some other locations. We recommend going to places that are within a 30-minute drive of Tulum if you don’t have a hire car as this will help to keep transport fares down.
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Photo credit: Viacheslav Bublyk via Unsplash

How Much Money Do I Need Per Day in Tulum?

Depending on what activities you choose to do you’ll need around about £35-40 per person per day. This might sound a little pricey to some, but if there’s two of you, you’re able to split the cost on everything so you may even end up not paying as much as that.

The currency in Mexico is the Peso, however they will also accept USD. USD will make your money further rather than paying for everything in Pesos.

When is The Cheapest Time to Visit Tulum Mexico?

Probably one of the most important questions we’re about to answer for you, so listen up to make the most out of visiting Tulum on a budget. The cheapest time to visit Tulum is in the months of October – February. This is because these months are less hot than others, meaning it could put off other travellers. Although these months aren’t the hottest, you can still enjoy an average temperature of 25 degrees. Sometimes you might get caught in a rainstorm but there’s nothing to worry about, it will usually rain for around an hour a day and then the beautiful sunshine will come out to greet you. The wettest month is October with 73 mm of rain over 5 days.

Hotels are generally cheaper in the wetter months so make sure you find yourself a good deal! It goes without saying that you should book your hotel before you jet off so that you know you’ve got a place to sleep for your trip. Because you’re trying to do activity’s in Tulum on a budget then you don’t have to feel so bad about spending a little bit extra on a boutique hotel. These hotels start from only £44 per night and can go up to £320 per night.

If you decide you want to jet off in October then the price of a return flight is £455 (per person), returning within 7 days. Most UK airports fly to Cancun International airport but remember to search around to see what deals different airlines have at different locations, as that could also save you a lot.

Photo credit: chuttersnap via Unsplash

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How Many Days Do You Need in Tulum?

Typically, we say that you’ll be able to get everything done in Tulum in five days. The flight time from the UK to Cancun airport takes on average nine and a half hours, so if you book your return flights for 7 days in Tulum, you can rule two days of exploring out as you’ll spend a day travelling. If you decide to get a taxi from the airport to Tulum, this will take around 1 hour and 40 minutes and costs 1700 Pesos, £60 or $76 – hopefully you’ll get chatting to someone on the plane going to the same area so you can split the cost.

Five days should give you chance to cram everything in that you want to do and not blow the budget at the same time. For some activities like the cenotes and Tulum Mayan ruins, you’ll be able to do both on the same day as they’re not far from each other and they only take a couple of hours each to do.

Is Tulum, Mexico Expensive?

We’ve told you how you can visit Tulum on a budget by telling you some of the best places to explore. But without a budget in mind, is Tulum expensive? Well the answer to this question is that it is on the more expensive side, so you need to be sensible about sticking to your daily budget.

Tulum is close to wide range of different activities which all range from different prices. We’ve told you in this article the most affordable places to visit in Tulum on a budget, but other activities can include swimming with dolphins, sea lions and manatees at the Dolphin Discovery Centre in Riviera Maya, these prices start from £80 per person depending on what package you choose.

Just a ten-minute drive from Tulum is water theme park Xel-Há. You’re able to snorkel, go down waterslides, go through a lazy river and even ride free bikes from one end of the park to the other. The price of Xel-Há per person is £80 which includes free food and drink all day.

Is Tulum, Mexico Safe 2022?

It’s a matter of fact that when we watch TV programmes like Breaking Bad and Narcos that have scenes filmed in Mexico, we might be quick to jump to conclusions about what Mexico is really like. Of course, there are areas of Mexico that have a high crime and drug-related violence rate, but we can assure you that Tulum is a safe area that’s filled with tourists and locals.

It goes without saying that in any foreign country you visit, you must remember to stay safe. You should never walk alone at night, don’t carry too much money with you, lock your hotel rooms, never leave valuables on display and never accepted a lift from anyone you don’t know.

We should also tell you not the drink tap water and always stick to bottled, this includes swilling your mouth round after you’ve brushed your teeth. You should also avoid ice! This is because there’s a chance of the water being contaminated, if you drink the contaminated water then this can make you very unwell meaning one or two days in bed and time lost out exploring.

Photo credit: Filip Gielda via Unsplash

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and you’ve got a better understanding about the things you can do in Tulum on budget. If you’ve got the holiday bug and are looking for other destinations to book when Covid-19 clears, then how about tropical Hawaii?

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James Ardimento has spent the last 12 years journeying around the globe ! With its precious experiences and tips he gained around Asia, South America, Europe and the US he is a precious asset for this blog and for its readers