Cost of Living in Cancun, Mexico

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

While it’s covered in greater detail within our Cancun travel guide, it’s a question that comes up on a regular basis at our social media outlets as well as in emails. How much does it cost to live in Cancun?

The answer always surprises people, because many of them just don’t realize how cheap you can get by when living in Mexico, much less have access to the exact same amenities and creature comforts  you have while living in a so-called “developed” country where the costs are four and five times or beyond.

But don’t take my word for it. Read on to find out just exactly how cheap it is to live in Cancun, and how Cris and I manage to keep ourselves living the good life without spending out of our noses. All costs are as of 2016.

Cost to Rent in Cancun

It all starts with our rental rates.

Note that I am talking about fully furnished accommodations in this particular post. Anything that you rent without furniture will be significantly less. But for those of us on the nomad circuit, we don’t want unfurnished; we need something that is fully kitted out and ready for us to show up with our laptops and our clothing.

As a general rule, you can rent a studio apartment for between $500 and $600 USD per month. It depends on the dollar to peso value and the time of the year. Two bedroom places range in the $600 to $800 per month range, while anything three to four bedrooms will run you between $800 and $1000 per month. These costs include your utilities as well as your creature comforts, such as air conditioning, cable television and high-speed Internet.

The current place we are renting (as of this writing), costs us around  $650 per month depending on the exchange rate. It’s a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Centro,  fully furnished. We pay another 150 a month for cable, gas, water, and electric.

If you want to live in the Hotel Zone with access to the beach, expect to spend $2,000 a month or more for anything over two bedrooms. Studios up to the two bedroom option will cost you between $1,000 and $2,000 per month. Not worth it when you can live in Centro and be at the beach in a mere 20 minutes via bus and save yourself thousands of dollars per month, in our opinion.

If you want to rent unfurnished places you can knock between 30 to 50 percent off the listed prices here. Don’t forget, if you need help finding accommodations in The Riviera Maya, Cristina runs Cancun Apartment Rentals where she uses her native language skills and boots-on-the-ground local knowledge to get you the best rates for your stay.

We also have two rooms available for rent in Cancun via our Airbnb for those of you in the market for something quick and easy.

  1. View Room One Here

  2. View Room Two Here

As far as property costs go for purchasing homes in Cancun, you can read this newsletter for more behind-the-scenes information. Don’t forget to sign up in the upper left if you enjoy what you see! We put out that type of information several times per week for subscribers, and it’s absolutely free.

Or, f you want to go it on your own and you are pretty confidant of your Spanish skills, check out our “live like a local” guidebook for living in Cancun, which has been our best-selling guidebook since 2011, and has updated information relevant for as of 2016.

cancun travel guide

Cost of Groceries in Cancun

This is another area where you can save thousands of dollars compared to the United States. I covered this in a post a few years back titled How to Save More Than $5,000 A Year On Groceries Living Abroad. The same rules apply even in 2016.

While the average grocery bill per U.S. American is $6,500 per year (according to the Department of Labor as reported by TLC ), in Mexico you can eat like a king on mere $1,000 per year, per person in comparison. That’s $5,500 savings per year, and yet we are eating the exact same foods that the average person in the U.S. is eating and has access to…it’s just that we are purchasing things in a country where we aren’t charged an arm and a leg for food.

Just check out the following video where I show the tickets for my grocery bill on tomatoes, mangos, papayas and onions…when you utilize local prices and market days you can get all of your produce for pennies. One kilo of tomatoes for around 25 cents USD. A kilo of onions for 30 cents. A kilo of potatoes for 30 cents. You can go to the local market and pick up fresh fish direct from the ocean for pennies per kilo. I picked up four pounds of chicken hearts and livers at Market 23, fresh from the kills that very morning, for a mere five dollars. 

On average, we spend about $125 per month for the two of us to eat. Whole foods and healthy living, my friends. We don’t eat out very often, so we save thousands on our grocery bill per year.

Note: groceries are cheapest on discount days, discussed in greater detail in the Live Like a Local guide.

Healthcare in Mexico

If you are a resident, like myself, you have access to the universal system for between $300 and $600 per year through the  Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, or IMSS for short. Those minimal costs give you access to free hospital care, free dentistry, free surgeries, free unlimited prescription medication and beyond. It’s their universal healthcare policy. Note that “free” doesn’t necessarily mean free; you do have to pay an annual fee (the equivalent of what locals pay in taxes), but it’s pennies and for most people can be considered small enough to be negligible.

But let’s assume that you are a nomad and you don’t have residency but instead are here on a tourist visa. Even then, the costs are ridiculously cheap. To visit a clinician, such as a private doctor that would cost you $80 to $100 in the U.S. to visit without health insurance (back in the days before Obamacare; no idea what costs are now in terms of taxes), you can walk into any doctor’s office (such as those associated with Farmacia Similares) and pay a mere 45 pesos to have a doctor take care of you. That’s about three USD as of 2016. Three dollars to see a doctor.

Beyond that, the average costs are 70 to 80 percent lower than what they are in the United States if you are paying out of pocket on everything. And the standards are considered just as high (if not higher!) as in the U.S. I’ve personally been into Hospital Galenia here in Cancun and it was like walking into a palace. Spotlessly clean, incredibly efficient, and none of the run-arounds you get back in the States.

When Dave from Nomadic Retiree was here as part of our Spring Destination Freedom retreat in 2013, he was in the dentist every week for several weeks getting root canals and other work done. He wrote about the experience in a blog post at his site, but the basic gist is that he only paid $1,500 out of pocket what would have cost him between $6,500 and $8,000 on the low end in the United States.

The Bottom Line

As a single individual, before Cristina started living with me, my total cost of living in Cancun was about $600 to $650 per month. That’s food, rent, transportation, entertainment, and the occasional meal out. As of this writing it is myself, Cristina and Devlin living in the same house and I’m covering the costs for all three of us. Even so, we are usually in the $800 to $850 per month range with food and rent/utilities factored in, and if we are going out and doing a lot of beach activities or taking tours/renting a car/etc. to explore the Riviera Maya outside of Cancun we might hit $1,000 per month in costs.

There’s also a million other ways that you can save as well. For example, all of the movie theaters offer a 2 x 1 day, and tickets are already cheap; the VIP cinema (leather recliners, beer, food, menu, waiters) costs around 8 dollars, while the normal theater costs between 3 and 4 dollars depending on which cinema you visit. Almost every restaurant has a 2 x 1 night, or a discount night where prices are 30 to 50 percent off. It’s just the Mexican way; they live for discounts, and are an extremely frugal people.

At the end of the day, Cancun is an affordable place you can choose to set up shop as a digital nomad. It’s not the most affordable in Mexico, but there are a lot of bonuses to living here, such as access to an international airport and some of the most developed sections of the country. On top of that, it’s also a fairly English-friendly place to be for those of you who don’t speak Spanish; it’s so lax, in fact, that all of the officials working at immigration also speak English and I’ve seen more than one person taking care of their visa paperwork without speaking a word of Spanish.

All in all, there’s a lot of reasons why it’s a great place and really none that I can think of as to why you wouldn’t want to be here. Mainland Cancun is a quiet, tranquil paradise, completely bohemian with low costs and access to all the modern creature comforts you need to run an online business. Really no downsides as far as I’m concerned.


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For more Mexico-specific posts, don’t forget to check out our video page for the city, along with:
Cancun, Mexico – Beyond The Hotel Zone
Living Off The Grid in Cancun, Mexico
Finding an Apartment in Cancun
Parque Las Palapas in Cancun
Gourmet Italian in Cancun – Assaggiare
Tacos in Cancun – Tacos Rigo
Tacos in Cancun – Los Aguachiles
Beaches in Cancun – Playa Tortuga
Beaches in Cancun – Puerto Morelos
Pasearte in Cancun
If you are looking for more information on Cancun or Mexico in general, you can pick up our Live Like a Local Cancun guide, packed with other restaurant recommendations, apartment and condo referrals, tips on navigating the public transportation system, local negotiation tips and strategies, market and discount day overviews and more!

cancun travel guide

Get Your Copy Today!

 

About T.W. Anderson

T.W. Anderson is the founder of the Marginal Boundaries brand. He is the writer, editor, videographer, photographer, and social media guru alongside Cristina Barrios, the other half of the brand. In his spare time, he is the creative director of the Saga of Lucimia, a forthcoming MMORPG from Stormhaven Studios, LLC.

22 Comments

  • Laya says:

    Any idea of a reliable job listing website in Cancun?

  • Shoot us an email, Joseph

  • Joseph Brown says:

    Do we have to get citizenship in Mexico to live there?

  • Alex Quintanilla says:

    We are looking at moving to Cancun in the near future and from the details it sounds like we can do it. Can you send info to my email about it.

  • Yes, and yes; later this year at the end of the year we’ll do an update. We still run Cancun Apartment Rentals, but we are not in Cancun presently and are on “vacation” from that business until we get back in mid-2015.

  • Laurie V says:

    I love your blog and read everyone of your posts. I am wondering if you will be doing a 2015 update of the cost of living in Cancun? Also is Cristina still running the Cancun Apartment Rentals for the Riviera Maya area? Thanks

  • Cheers, Robert. Look her up if you need :)

  • Robert says:

    Hey! Great website! This info is as good and real as it gets. Have been reading trough almost all of your posts and subscribed to your newsletter. That really made me even more exited about moving! Me and my friend are planning to move from norway down to Cancun in desember this year, cant wait! :)
    The opertunity to use Chris’s website to help us find an appartment it great! You’ll be hearing form us around desember!
    And thanks for the info man! Really made me make up my mind about moving :) Sorry for bad english btw. Im norwegian.

  • heheheh Fil, indeed, no snow is a HUGE bonus for me also :)

  • Fil says:

    Thanks for the great post! I have been thinking about moving to Cancun for a while now, but I was curious about the cost of living. I’m glad to see that the prices are better there compared to in Canada, plus NO SNOW – which is a bonus.

    Thanks for all the info!

  • Cheers, Sylvester. Glad you enjoy it, and look us up when you get here :)

  • Hi!

    great site lovin it! I just started making money with my apps for the sole purpose of moving to Cancun. ANd now that its getting close I’m getting overrr excited and looking for info! Thats how I foudn your site. SO thx for the great info. Definately reinforced my decision.

    Best regards,

    Sylvester

  • Yeah, yet another reason I love it down here, Manuel :)

    Will get back to you on Playa.

  • Manuel says:

    when I was there last winter, I bought 5 boxes of Metformina for my wife because it was so freakin’ cheap in Cancun! I don’t quite remember the name of the drugstore but to buy Metformine, you don’t need a prescription! Dave of Los Caracoles B&B helped me get those medicines. I’m going back to Cancun this coming winter again and hope to catch up with you and Cristina again, eh? Which leads me to a question – do you know of a cheap bed rooms around Playa del Carmen? I’m planning to stay at Playa this time around. Thanks, buddy.

  • Hell yes, Jennifer :)

    I’ve found that costs around the world are always 4-5 times cheaper or more than what they are in the U.S. Hence, why I’m not living there nor have any desire to return =P

  • Jennifer says:

    Excellent breakdown on the costs. We’re always researching where we might want to base ourselves in a few years.

    In regards to the groceries, Italy is SO much cheaper than the US too! I just went to the butcher shop and got a week’s worth of meat for our dinners for €16. Plus, it’s all local and fresh. Then I went to market for local produce from the farmers. Doesn’t get any fresher than that! I spent less than €40 today for a week’s worth of meals and some other essentials.

  • Mary: There’s quite a few nomads here in Cancun, and more down in Playa del Carmen.

    I’m aware of a few, yes; we certainly do our share as well.

  • It’s wonderful to read that Cancun is so affordable! Is there a community of digital nomads living in Cancun or elsewhere in Mexico? I read your comments on organic food above and was wondering if you are aware of sustainable travel initiatives? Thank you!

  • So far, so good, Laura :) I initially only came here to stay for three months…ended up sticking around, learning Spanish, finding Cristina, growing the business, and now here we are! Pretty magical place :)

  • Wow! A lot of info! I think you are doing fine in Mexico. Nice place to enjoy life.

  • Organic food down here in Mexico is, for the most part, by the very nature of the fact that the local farmers here aren’t tied into the FDA and the lies of the U.S. federal government, organic.

    There is also a massive anti-Monsanto movement here, Laila.

    If you buy from the supermarkets you’ll be buying bullshit “organic”; that is, food which is labeled organic when in reality it’s just marked up, just like in the U.S. (most people don’t realize the many different levels of “organic” food and the fact that nearly 100% of what is marketed as organic in the U.S. in fact still contains chemicals and additives that are merely “approved”)

    But if you shop at the local markets, like we do for many of our groceries, you are getting produce directly from the locals…and they aren’t modifying anything…and are generally too poor to afford the chemicals that the “big farms” are using to produce food. Just pure, homegrown, Mother Nature doing her job.

    We have zero issues eating organically. But no, there isn’t an organization down here that I know of, nor does there need to be one…because it’s all a farce anyway. If you want home-grown food, go to the source….bypass all that BS government regulation/lies.

    Also read up on our Whole Foods and Healthy Living Abroad post. http://www.marginalboundaries.com/2013/05/whole-foods-and-healthy-living-abroad/

  • Love all these details! I had no idea how affordable it could be. I’m particularly amazed at how little your expenses went up when you added Cristina & Devlin into the mix. And, I best it’s even more fun now, too. I’m curious if you know about organic food in Mexico and if there’s a trustworthy certifying organization, or if eating organic is pretty impossible to pursue at this point?

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