Cost of Living in Playa Del Carmen

…the big question is: how much?…

Some buddies were ripping me apart the other day.

They were like “Rufus…how can you afford to always be so drunk?”

Well…I don’t have a mortgage or children here.

Or a wife with expensive shopping habits.

They think that it’s really expensive to live in Playa Del Carmen.

They think I’ve got some kind of secret trust fund that’s keeping me going.

Which is nonsense.

If you’re smart, then you can live in Playa Del Carmen for less than $700 a month.

That’s about the same amount of money it costs to take a family to Disneyland for a day or spend 17 minutes in a Las Vegas casino (that was a painful experience…).

There are thousands of variables when it comes to the cost of living in Playa Del Carmen.

But this article will give you some guidelines to how much it’s going to cost you.

You can also download my Simple Cost of Living Calculator and use it while you’re planning your move here. It’s very simple, but you can always add to it (MS Excel format).

About The Cost Of Living In Playa Del Carmen

Don’t think this is some hard and fast guide to exactly how much money you will need to live in Playa Del Carmen.

Everyone has a different opinion of what is reasonable.

Some think reasonable includes an apartment balcony overlooking the ocean.

Others think it means sharing a bed with anyone who has a wallet full of money.

I’m going to present three different scenarios.

  1. The Cheapskate – This is even a little better than most of the local service workers live (although Mexicans like to sleep six people in a one-bedroom apartment). The cost is only ~$700 USD per month.
  2. The Average Person – This level represents a comfortable life here. Although you will still have to keep an eye on your budget, you will never be walking around with an empty stomach. You can live like this for ~$1300 USD per month.
  3. The High Roller – If you have a business/job that allows you to work remotely and make good money, you could easily be a high roller here. Living the high rolling lifestyle in this city would cost you only ~$3000 USD per month.

You’re likely going to fit somewhere within these groups.

Where depends on how much you drink, smoke, and generally believe is reasonable.

For example, I know some people who only drink tequila when it comes in $50 bottles.

I only drink it when it comes in $5 bottles.

My point? Use these numbers as a guideline.

I’m not claiming that they are definitive or that I know everything, but I hope these give you an idea of the cost of living in Playa Del Carmen.

Inherent Variables and Fluctuating Trends

Any reasonable person can tell you (and any intelligent person might have guessed by now) that there are a number of variables to take into consideration when trying to estimate cost of living in a popular vacation destination.

The most important variables are the following:

  • Roommate(s) – Obviously your costs are going to be less if you share expenses with someone else. If it’s a significant other, sharing the same room can make a big difference in cost per person. The rates below are assuming you live alone or with a roommate you are not romantically involved with. Take this into consideration while planning.
  • USD/MXN Exchange rate – The USD has done extremely well over the last 12 months (2015/2016). Consequently, it is very cheap for Americans to live here (relatively speaking). Nonetheless, this may change. If you are being paid in US dollars or another foreign currency, make sure that you look at the exchange rate and take that into consideration when calculating your cost of living. Also, be realistic enough to know that it is completely out of your control and may change dramatically in a relatively short period of time. Around 80% of my visitors are American, so I try to write for them, but for all practical purposes this could be any foreign currency.
  • Season – If you have read all the pages on this website, you realize that there are multiple seasons AND that prices are affected by these seasons. If you come during December, January, or February, it is high season, and you should expect to pay a premium for that. The inverse is true for low season.
  • Length of stayAlthough the length of your stay may not affect the price of your rent, you will usually get a better deal the longer you commit to keeping the apartment or house. Of course, as with any law in Mexico, contracts are very difficult to enforce. Thus, you will likely pay a hefty deposit (one month’s rent is normal) when you sign the contract. You will lose it if you leave early.
  • Playa Del Carmen’s growth – Some cities grow at a steady pace. This city is different; it’s exploding! Don’t expect these prices to be valid for five years from now. They will likely go up!

In any case, the numbers below are good estimates from what I have seen here in the early part of 2016.

Cost Of Living In Playa Del Carmen Scenario One – The Cheapskate Budget Person






This is the very cheapest a single individual can manage in Playa Del Carmen if you come from a decent country.

It comes to less than $650/month (which is more than most locals live on), but it isn’t going to be for everyone.

It assumes that you are neither a  raving alcoholic, nor that you drink or smoke.

Cutting these costs out in Playa Del Carmen can save you a lot of money!

The main cost when living in Playa Del Carmen is rent.

In this scenario, you’re happy with a simple studio apartment or your willing to share with a few roommates.

As a savvy resident, you own a bike.

So you don’t mind living 15 minutes from 5th Avenue and away from the beach as you’ve got peddle power to get you around.

Furthermore, the heat doesn’t bother you, and you’re not running up any exuberant air conditioning costs.

This scenario may not be the High Roller budget, but you still get to live in paradise for less than $700 USD a month.

Perhaps you’ve got a little online business that’s just making a bit of money.

Quit the job and you can come live in Playa Del Carmen for a very modest salary!

There isn’t much $$$ in the budget for entertainment and enjoying the nightlife of Playa Del Carmen.

But some people are happy with nothing more than enjoying the tranquility and atmosphere of Playa Del Carmen.

Cost Of Living In Playa Del Carmen Scenario Two – The Average Joe / Jane






If I’m going to write something as bland as the “average person budget,” then I’m going to have to do some clarification.

Average in the States might mean working 50 hours a week, spending $100 on fast food drive-thrus, and running up an obscene cable bill from all those pay per view extras they show.

The cost of living in Playa Del Carmen for an average person can be around $1300 USD.

But that doesn’t include any McDonalds or Burger Kings.

However, it includes pretty much everything else you would need to live here.

That means you like to drink and go out partying three nights a week.

And you nail a pack of cigarettes a day while you’re at it.

The apartment you rent is more than double the cheapskate-budget guy.

But that’s because you’ve got a two bedroom place and use one of the rooms as your home office.

You live in a good neighborhood that’s less than ten minute cycle to the beach or 5th Ave.

Plus you’re happy with a regular blast or air-con to cool you down.

I think the majority of people will fall in and around this category.

Some will blow more on entertainment and drinking.

Others will save on a slightly smaller or cheaper apartment.

Either way, can you imagine living a good life in the States for less than $1300 a month?

$1300 USD usually only covers rent, bills, and a few cans of tinned food in most US cities.

This cost-of-living scenario can easily cover most people and makes Playa Del Carmen one of the most affordable places for living in paradise.

Cost Of Living In Playa Del Carmen Scenario Three – The High Roller






The great thing about Playa Del Carmen is the amount of cash you need to be a high roller.

Go to New York, LA, London, Paris, etc, and you need to be a millionaire to join the high rollers club.

The cost of living in Playa Del Carmen is such good value that $3500 USD a month sees you join the top 1% of earners in Playa Del Carmen.

However, you’re not an idiot.

Anyone flaunting obscene amounts of cash around Mexico isn’t the smartest.

The high rollers live well and entertain equally well.

But this isn’t Hollywood where it’s important to shove the GDP of Colombia up your nose every weekend.

If you’re a high roller, you need a pimping pad.

And much of this budget is going on a two-bedroom plus apartment that’s dead smack on 5th Ave.

You’re staying cool.

Which means the air conditioner is on almost constantly.

You’re out partying almost every night, cavorting between different bars, clubs, and restaurants, and happily paying for a cute female that you meet.

Perhaps you go through 10 packs of cigarettes a week, and you’ve got a pretty neat liquor collection that’s the envy of most expats.

You can’t cook or you don’t want to cook. Either way you eat out twice a day. More than that and you will get fat.

And there is plenty of money in the budget to make sure you can participate in several activities a week.

Money isn’t a huge issue for the high roller.

And that’s a very nice and comforting feeling to have in life.

Imagine if it could be achieved with an income of only $3000 USD a month.

The Cost Of Living In Playa Del Carmen – Putting Money Aside For Emergencies

It’s always good to have some cash set aside for emergencies.

Unless you have good insurance, you’re going to need to pay in cash for most emergency situations.

And you don’t want to mess around with international money transfers when your leg is hanging off.

Other than that, you’re ready to go.

  1. Download my Simple Cost of Living Calculator and play around with it while you’re looking for an apartment. It is in Microsoft Excel format.
  2. Then run a cost of living comparison between Playa Del Carmen and where you live now.

Then you’ll see how I can afford to be drunk all the time!

See you at the bar!

Lots of love,


Rufus signature

It’s your turn. Do you have any more information about the cost of living here? Please leave it in the comments section below!

8 comments on “Cost Of Living In Playa Del Carmen

  1. Rufus , Is it legal or even average practice for expats to use ATV’s or golf carts to get around Playa del Carmen ?

    • Mad Matt,

      Good question. Honestly, I’m not sure about the legality of riding around town on a golf cart or ATV. However, I know it happens quite frequently. In fact, they even rent tiny GO-KARTS here that are far less safe than a golf cart! Really, you’d be a pancake if you were ever hit by a car while riding in them. Nonetheless, many ATVs, go-karts, golf carts, etc… still have license plates on them, and people rent them and ride around hassle-free.

      The bottom line in Mexico is this: money talks. Of course you still have to play by the rules, but the police assume you’re a tourist (probably a “rich” tourist staying at one of the golf resorts) if you’re riding around in a golf cart. Because they understand that tourism is why they have a job, they usually leave tourists alone. Moreover, the vehicles are registered and all applicable tax has been paid on them. Consequently, they are “street legal.” And because the state of Quintana Roo (where Playa Del Carmen is located) got its money, that’s all that really matters (from the government’s perspective)!

      Hope this helps, Matt! Also, if you see any other crazy vehicles around town, please snap a picture so that I can post it here!!!

      Take care,


  2. Hey Rufus are you still out there ?? The comment I saw was from last year so not sure but I will go ahead and ask you a few questions. I and a friend of mine are trying to figure out where in Mexico to move to. Right now it’s between Playa del Carmen& Mazatlan. Have you been to Mazatlan& if you have can you give me your opinion on or which would be better for two 60 year old women ?! Now we are not your average 60 yr old women you should know. We both lived in HI for many years but came back to mainland b/c it’s just too expensive to live there. We both love the beach and looking for shells and beach glass. Are there many kine shells there ? My friend makes jewelry with them so has to be shells wherever we move to. I love to dance& we are moderate drinkers,but we both love a great party and socializing. So is there a place for the older crowd to go dancing ? And how much is a pack of cigarettes there ? And do they sell any of the electronic kind ?? I am pretty sure we can afford either place as we will rent a place together and split most of the monthly bills.
    Aloha & Mahalo for your time

    • Cindi,

      I am still here. Thanks for the comment.

      I have never been to Mazatlan but I know there is a big difference between the water color and sand color between the two locations. Mazatlan is generally considered a place for Spring Break. I have not heard of it being popular for retirement. Moreover, I’m not sure there is much of an expat community in Mazatlan. There is quite a community here. There are NOT many shells here. And I’ve never seen beach glass. This could be because of the beaches being busy or because it is not common here. Honestly, I’m not sure.

      However, there are a lot of OTHER beaches around. For example, Cozumel is right across the bay. There are many “virgin” beaches around with very little visitors. Also, there is Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Contoy, etc. in the area. So, it is likely that you can find what you’re looking for nearby. But I would investigate with a shell expert.

      There is lots of dancing here. Not a problem with that. Same with drinking and being social. In regard to 50-60 year-old adults dancing, I have not seen it here.

      Cigarettes (Marlboro, Camel, etc.) are about $3.00 USD/pack. But smoking is bad for you!!! Bring the e-cigs/vaping equipment from the US; it’s usually easier because it’s not very popular among locals.

      There are plenty of electronics here. There are two Walmarts in town. An Office Depot, OfficeMax, and a Home Depot as well. However, electronics are around 150% of the cost of what they are in the US. But everything else is still so affordable that it’s usually not a big deal.

      I hope this helps!

      Lots of love,


  3. Hello Rufus, Its January of 2018 and am wondering if ur still around.. I am planning to move to Playa in October of 2018 with my wife and four year old son. I have several questions about areas to live and schools to place my son into. Ive been looking at rentals in Playacar and Playa Magna, don’t know what you would recommend, and also buying a car, should I wait til I get there or buy it here and have it shipped. Pls contact me via email… thank you.

    • Julio,

      I’m still here – and will likely be so for a while still.

      In regard to your questions, I am going to try and answer them, but my knowledge is fairly limited for several of the questions.

      I don’t have any children here, so I have never looked into schools here. Thus, I don’t know much about the particular school that would work for your son. The education (especially the public education system) is not very good here. I would not entrust the school system here with my relatives. However, I know there are a lot of expats here, so I’m sure they are sending their children to reasonable schools. I believe there is a Montessori somewhere in town. That might be your best option. I don’t have more information about schools, unfortunately.

      In regard to your car, I have never encountered that either. Nonetheless, I am guessing that it would likely be much more affordable to buy one here than have your car shipped all the way here. Unless you have some sort of affinity to it. You can check prices for shipping, but don’t forget to check with customs/an import specialist to find out the TOTAL costs–not just shipping. I’ve never experienced this situation, and in the several years I’ve lived here, I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this either. If you need a good vehicle, contact me when you arrive. I know a very honest man who buys and sells cars here.

      In regard to rental location, I am familiar with location of both places you are considering. Despite that, I have never been in Playa Magna. It’s farther from downtown than I would want to live, but that’s just me.

      Playacar is very nice, reasonably close to downtown, and there are a lot of expats/vacationers in the area. I would choose Playacar over Playa Magna any day–based on proximity alone. Again, that’s just me.

      That’s all I can tell you. Hope it helps….


    • We just moved here from the US with our 6 and 7 year old kids which we enrolled in a international school. Several schools are available average price is $5000 usd per year. As for bringing a car No ! It can only be in country for 6 months. We are living in Playacar and it’s the place to be with small kids. Hope this helps a bit!

      • Matt,

        Thank you for the information. I don’t have children here so it helps to hear about things from that perspective. Thank you for providing the education costs, too. Very helpful to many readers I’m sure.

        Interesting info about the car. I wonder why the strange rules?

        Thanks again for the comment, and I’m sure we’ll cross paths again in the future!

        Take care,


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