How to visit Mexico City on a budget

How to visit Mexico City on a budget

Mexico City, the vibrant and bustling capital of Mexico, offers a rich tapestry of culture, history, and culinary delights that beckon travelers from all corners of the globe. While it may be known for its grandeur and opulence, Mexico City can also be a budget-friendly destination for savvy travelers who are willing to explore its treasures without breaking the bank. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll show you how to make the most of your visit to Mexico City on a budget.

Plan Your Trip During the Off-Season

One of the first steps to saving money while visiting Mexico City is to plan your trip during the off-season. Peak tourist seasons typically occur during the holidays and spring break, which can drive up accommodation prices and crowd popular attractions. Opt for visiting during the shoulder seasons (late spring and early fall) when the weather is still pleasant, and prices are more budget-friendly.

Affordable Accommodation Options

Mexico City offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget. While luxurious hotels are available, there are plenty of affordable alternatives, including hostels, guesthouses, and budget hotels. Consider staying in neighborhoods like Condesa or Roma, which offer a mix of charm and affordability. Airbnb is also a great option for finding budget-friendly accommodation, especially if you’re traveling with a group and can split the costs.

Public Transportation

Navigating Mexico City’s sprawling landscape can be an adventure in itself. Luckily, the city has an extensive and affordable public transportation system. The Metro is not only efficient but also incredibly cheap, with fares costing a fraction of what you’d pay in many other cities. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the city’s affordable buses and the EcoBici bike-sharing program for a unique way to explore the city.

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Free and Low-Cost Attractions

Mexico City is replete with free and low-cost attractions that allow you to immerse yourself in its culture without depleting your wallet. Some must-visit places include:

Chapultepec Park

Chapultepec Park, one of the largest city parks in the world, offers a serene escape from the urban hustle and bustle. Stroll through the lush gardens, visit the Chapultepec Castle (free on Sundays), or simply relax by the lakeside.


The historic heart of Mexico City, Zocalo, is home to the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace. While you can pay to enter these landmarks, simply wandering around the square, people-watching, and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere is entirely free.

Street Markets

Exploring Mexico City’s street markets is a feast for the senses. Mercado de la Merced, Mercado de Jamaica, and Mercado Coyoacán are great places to savor the local flavors, buy souvenirs, and soak up the city’s culture—all on a budget.


Many museums in Mexico City offer free admission on specific days or during certain hours. For example, the National Museum of Anthropology is free on Sundays. Plan your museum visits accordingly to take advantage of these opportunities.

Eat Like a Local

Sampling Mexico City’s world-renowned cuisine is a must, but dining in high-end restaurants can quickly drain your budget. To enjoy delicious Mexican food without overspending, consider these tips:

Street Food

Mexico City’s street food scene is legendary. Tacos, quesadillas, tamales, and more can be found at affordable prices from street vendors. Be sure to try street food classics like tacos al pastor and elote (grilled corn).

Local Markets

Head to local markets like Mercado de la Merced and Mercado Coyoacán for authentic, budget-friendly meals. You’ll find a variety of dishes prepared by local vendors, from ceviche to mole.

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Comida Corrida

Comida corrida, or “menu of the day,” is a budget-friendly dining option. Many small eateries offer a fixed-price menu that includes a soup, main course, and dessert for a reasonable price.

Bring Your Own Water Bottle

Tap water in Mexico City is not potable, so you’ll need to buy bottled water. However, purchasing water at convenience stores can add up. To save money and reduce plastic waste, bring a reusable water bottle and refill it with purified water from water purification stations found throughout the city.

Explore Street Art and Architecture

Mexico City is a canvas of street art and architectural wonders waiting to be explored. Take a walking tour of neighborhoods like Roma and Condesa to admire colorful street murals and stunning architecture. You can find free guided tours or explore these neighborhoods on your own, capturing the vibrant essence of the city without spending a dime.

Day Trips and Nearby Attractions

While Mexico City offers countless attractions, don’t forget to explore the nearby areas, which can be both culturally enriching and budget-friendly. Consider day trips to destinations like Teotihuacan, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its ancient pyramids, or Xochimilco, where you can take a colorful trajinera boat ride through the canals.

Bargain and Haggle

In Mexico City, bargaining is a common practice, especially in markets and smaller shops. Don’t be afraid to negotiate prices when shopping for souvenirs, clothing, or crafts. Politeness and a friendly attitude can go a long way in getting a better deal.

Budget-Friendly Language Apps

Learning a few basic phrases in Spanish can enhance your experience and help you navigate the city more easily. Download language apps like Duolingo or Memrise to pick up essential Spanish phrases before your trip. Locals appreciate the effort, and it can make interactions more enjoyable.

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Money-Saving Transportation Tips

Aside from using public transportation, here are some additional transportation tips to save money while exploring Mexico City:

Avoid Taxis at Airports

Taxis at the airport tend to be more expensive than those you can hail on the street. Consider using rideshare apps or public transportation to get to your accommodation from the airport.

Use Rideshare Apps

Rideshare services like Uber and DiDi are widely available in Mexico City and often cost less than traditional taxis. They also provide a more secure and convenient way to get around the city.

Shared Transportation

Shared transportation options, such as colectivos (shared vans), can be a cost-effective way to travel between cities or tourist destinations if you’re planning to explore beyond Mexico City.

Safety Tips

While Mexico City is generally safe for tourists, it’s essential to stay vigilant and take precautions to ensure a safe and budget-friendly trip:

Use Reliable ATMs

Withdraw cash from ATMs located inside banks or well-known establishments to avoid skimming scams. Notify your bank of your travel plans to prevent any issues with your credit or debit cards.

Carry a Copy of Your Passport

Leave your original passport in a secure place and carry a photocopy or a digital image of it. This reduces the risk of losing your passport or having it stolen.

Stay Aware of Your Surroundings

Be cautious in crowded places and be aware of your belongings at all times. Petty theft, like pickpocketing, can occur in tourist areas.

Research Neighborhood Safety

Before choosing your accommodation, research the safety of the neighborhood, especially if you plan to walk around at night.

Budgeting and Currency Exchange

Lastly, create a budget for your trip and exchange currency wisely. Keep track of your expenses using a travel budget app, and consider exchanging a small amount of currency in advance to cover initial expenses. You’ll generally find better exchange rates at local banks and exchange houses in Mexico City compared to airports or hotels.

Mexico City is a destination that can be enjoyed by travelers on a budget. With careful planning and the right strategies, you can immerse yourself in the city’s rich culture, savor its delectable cuisine, and explore its historic landmarks without overspending. So, pack your bags, brush up on your Spanish, and get ready for an unforgettable budget-friendly adventure in Mexico City!

Saving on Entertainment and Nightlife

Exploring the entertainment and nightlife scene in Mexico City doesn’t have to drain your budget. Here are some tips for enjoying the city’s nightlife on a budget:

Free Cultural Events

Keep an eye out for free cultural events and performances happening around the city. Many museums, galleries, and cultural centers offer free exhibitions and events, allowing you to immerse yourself in Mexico’s vibrant arts scene without spending a peso.

Happy Hours and Drink Specials

If you plan to enjoy a night out, look for bars and restaurants offering happy hours or drink specials. Many establishments in Mexico City offer discounted drinks and appetizers during specific hours, making it more affordable to unwind and socialize.

Local Music Venues

Experience Mexico City’s music scene by visiting local music venues and bars that feature live music. These venues often have cover charges that are significantly lower than larger, more touristy clubs.

Health and Safety

While enjoying Mexico City on a budget, it’s essential to prioritize your health and safety. Here are some health and safety tips to keep in mind:

Travel Insurance

Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and trip cancellations. It’s a small investment that can provide peace of mind in case of unexpected situations.

Vaccinations and Health Precautions

Consult with a healthcare professional about recommended vaccinations and health precautions before your trip. Ensure you have any necessary medications and a basic first-aid kit with you.

Hydration and Sun Protection

Mexico City’s high altitude can lead to dehydration and increased sun exposure. Stay hydrated by drinking bottled or purified water and use sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from the sun.

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Personal Safety

While Mexico City is generally safe for tourists, it’s always wise to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. Stick to well-lit areas at night, avoid displaying valuable items, and use reputable transportation options.

Budgeting Tools and Apps

To help you manage your expenses while visiting Mexico City on a budget, consider using budgeting tools and apps. Some popular options include:

Travel Expense Tracking Apps

Apps like Expensify and Trail Wallet can help you track your daily expenses, ensuring you stay within your budget.

Currency Conversion Apps

Download a currency conversion app to quickly convert prices from Mexican pesos to your home currency, helping you make informed spending decisions.

Learn About Local Customs

Respecting local customs and etiquette is not only a sign of cultural sensitivity but can also help you avoid unnecessary expenses. For example, tipping is customary in Mexico, so be prepared to tip service providers such as waitstaff, taxi drivers, and tour guides. Knowing these customs in advance can prevent any awkward situations.

Connect with Locals

Interacting with locals can enhance your travel experience and provide valuable insights into the city. Strike up conversations with residents, ask for recommendations, and learn about their culture. You might discover hidden gems and budget-friendly activities that aren’t in your guidebook.

Plan Ahead

Planning your activities in advance can help you make the most of your time and budget in Mexico City. Create an itinerary that includes free and low-cost attractions, allocate funds for meals and transportation, and set spending limits for shopping and entertainment.

Shop Wisely for Souvenirs

When shopping for souvenirs, compare prices at different stores and markets before making a purchase. Bargaining is common, so don’t be afraid to negotiate for a better price. Keep in mind that some of the best souvenirs are often the ones with personal meaning or cultural significance rather than the most expensive ones.

Reflect and Savor the Experience

Finally, remember that traveling on a budget doesn’t mean missing out on the true essence of Mexico City. In fact, it often allows you to experience the city more authentically, connect with locals, and create lasting memories. Take the time to savor the moments, try new foods, and immerse yourself in the culture—it’s these experiences that make budget travel truly rewarding.

In conclusion, visiting Mexico City on a budget is not only possible but also incredibly rewarding. By planning ahead, making smart choices, and embracing the local culture, you can explore this vibrant city without breaking the bank. So, embark on your budget-friendly adventure and discover the beauty, history, and culture that Mexico City has to offer. Your wallet will thank you, and you’ll cherish the memories for years to come.