Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why pesos don't grow on trees: tips for traveling on a budget in Mexico

Bear with me for a minute as I return to my trip to Mexico City again. (Hey, it's the first real trip I've taken in over three years! You'd better believe I'm going to milk it for all it's worth.) I was scanning my bank account online the other day and decided to add up all the ATM withdrawals I made while in Mexico. I paid in cash for everything once I was there, and I knew it was going to be a relatively cheap trip, but paying in pesos, I had no real concept of exactly how much I had spent. And so, armed with my bank statement written in real American dollars, I added it up. And Internet, even I, perpetual money-worrier and penny-pincher extraordinaire, was pleasantly surprised by the results. For a five-day, four-night trip to Mexico City, the sum total cost of everything, and I mean everything (except for airfare) came to: $342.72. Yup, that's right. $342.72. This includes lodging, meals, regular ice cream snacks, and umpteen bottles of water. It includes taxis to and from the airport, metro and bus fare, and a full-day excursion to the pyramids. It includes museum entrance fees, souvenirs, and ATM fees. Everything. If you, like me, are wondering how this is even possible, let me break it down a bit for you below.

I mentioned that Molly and I had decided to save money on our accommodations by staying in a hostel. (One with private rooms and bathrooms, because while we are still young and adventurous, we are no longer the level of young and adventurous that sleeping in dorms and sharing bathrooms requires.) The cost of one of these rooms, including breakfast, came out to approximately $15 per person per night. Not bad! Of course, there are tradeoffs when choosing a hostel over a hotel room, namely, daily struggles over water pressure and temperature (or any water at all, as, instead of simply turning cold, when the hot water ran out it would simply...stop, usually mere seconds after I had achieved a full and satisfying lather, of course), and a bit of a spartan decor. And by spartan I mean, well...

This picture makes me laugh, looking, as it does, like I am either in prison or slowly expiring in a convalescent home somewhere. But actually, we felt like we had lucked out. We ended up in a room with three beds, the third in a loft space from which Molly was able to take this picture. Here is another view of it from a picture on the hostel's website:

So, we each had a bed to sleep in, plus an extra bed we could use solely for lounging and storage, and on which we spread jackets, sunglasses, guidebooks, and other assorted paraphernalia, seeing as how there was not a single, blessed bit of other furniture on which to set anything. I found myself wishing at various points for a table, just a little bedside table to hold my nighttime bottle of water and my phone (which I used to check my e-mail), but alas, I merely scattered my possessions on the floor in a ring around my bed like talismans, or some kind of primitive burglar alarm.

All the white and beige and lack of flat surfaces aside, it was quite clean, and they even came in and made the beds and cleaned the bathroom every day. And though the rooms were plain, the common areas were actually quite attractive and inviting. (Photos from the hostel website, except for the last one.)

Plus, no megaphones! And thank goodness, because if there's anything I won't stand for while on vacation, it's people shouting into megaphones.

Overall, shower issues aside, we had a fairly pleasant experience at the hostel, and we were quite happy to sacrifice a little in exchange for the money we saved, which meant that we could splurge a bit on other things, like...  

Except, this post is already running longer than I had thought, and once I talk about what we ate I think I will have exceeded the attention span of even my most avid readers (y'all are avid, right? Right???), so I think I will cut it off here and pick up again tomorrow (or...after tomorrow, who am I kidding).

Tune in here for more tips for traveling in Mexico on a budget, the food edition!


  1. You had me at "food." See? I stayed until the very end. AVID! :)

  2. Your description of the hostel made me laugh. Love your writing.

  3. I also was intrigued by food, what a cliffhanger!

    I've only stayed in a hostel once, maybe I could deal with private room, but I think I'm a snobby traveler.

  4. That is pretty impressive; especially when I mentally translate the figure into Euros.
    Avid, and looking forward to the food edition.