3 days into this adventure and I slowly seem to get the concept of spending less than 30 US$ a day. This means however a drastic lifestyle change (adios Sushi, Starbucks, spontaneous unnecessary purchases and Michael Kors). This also means bargaining for a dollar or two (now we are talking!) on a bus fare or an overnight stay (my experience in the Marrakech souk is finally coming in handy! Boom!). This is incredible to see how cheaper life is getting when you don’t just accept the first price that is given to you! I am grateful to be reminded that life can be simple and less money does not mean unhappiness, on the contrary!
What I have learned so far:
- In Mexico, they have buses called collectivos, use them! They are cheaper, faster and more flexible than an ADO bus. On ADO buses, check if a second class is available. This only means that your seat is not guaranteed and you might end up standing… for a few hours. Ok, I give you that one, I’d rather spend 5 additional dollars to get a seat, what can I say?!
- Pick a hostel where breakfast is included or that has a kitchen. Cooking while traveling helps you to save a buck or two (or three!)
- Slow down! Staying an extra night at a same place allows you to check your options. Transportation is definitely one of the expenses that could mess your budget so you want to make sure you have got that covered
- Ask around. Locals usually have a pretty good idea on cheap deals or seasoned backpackers might have found a hidden gem that has been waiting for you. I would stay away from lonely planet as they don’t seem to have done their homework for backpackers on a tight budget (Dixit M and I completely agree with him)
- Avoid tour operators. As much as I love(d) them, after all they do make your life easier, their financial demands are simply not realistic with a ‘I can only spend 30 dollars a day’ budget
- Replace your hostel overnight by an overnight bus, safety permitting. You save time and money, win win!
- Walk (well I am learning. In the process, I might have silently cursed M a few times). Walk like nobody’s watching. Walk like your life depends on it. Your wallet AND your body will thank you (no seriously how dangerous are those quesadillas and burritos?! Mother lord! Deliciously dangerous!
While massively (read: a few pesos here and there!) saving on transportation (thank you collectivos) and accommodation (thank you hostelworld), we were able to treat ourselves to a fresh made juice (simple joy!) and a visit to Tulum ruins, a peaceful place, well at least before the tourist tsunami hits the ruins at 10 am! After that, run Forrest, ruuuuun! The ruins are inhabited by a million iguanas – for once no exaggeration from yours truly. I love those beautiful creatures that seem to guard the Mayan ruins. They gave the ruins a ‘Je ne sais quoi’. While Tulum downtown itself was not special (though much better than Cancun), we liked Playa del Carmen very much even though it can be described as an overcrowded touristy little city, go figure.
We are now relaxing in Chetumal where we decided to stay two nights (see above mentioned point #3, bingo!) to get ready to start the Central American part of our Latin American adventure. Exciting! Mexico, you have been a fantastic guest during my short stay. Gracias amigo y hasta luego! Next stop: Belize!