Six Ways to Travel Mexico on the Cheap

South of the border dreamin’? Here is our guide to traveling through Mexico while sticking to the budget.
By Christine Delsol
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Umbrellas on the beach in Cancun, Mexico
Umbrellas on the beach in Cancun, Mexico  (iStockphoto)

The hippie-era Gringo Trail is history, but U.S. tourists still tend to think of Mexico as an undeveloped (read: dirt-cheap) country. Yet Mexico’s economy is growing steadily even while the rest of the world tries to pull out of an extended recession. Mexico has received nearly 12 percent more foreign visitors this year than in 2011, a year in which summer tourism already had taken a 20 percent leap over 2010. And wherever tourists go, prices soar.

Travelers who don’t visit Mexico have been known to clutch at their chests when confronted with hotel and restaurant prices equaling—or exceeding—typical U.S. prices. Margaritaville might be elusive these days, but a little preparation will make even the most popular tourist destinations kinder on your budget. Here are six money saving tips to stretch your vacation dollar south of the border.

Timing is everything
Traveling off-season, of course, saves money, especially on lodging. However, Mexico’s high and low seasons depend partly on where you’re going. The winter high season begins around December 20 and extends through Easter week. Remaining months are generally considered low season, but prices at the beaches spike in July and August, when Mexicans are on vacation. Cancún and the Riviera Maya can have as many as eight price periods. Prices can double for Christmas and Easter weeks, but the time just before and right after high season are the lowest of the low—you can enjoy virtually the same weather and plenty of Christmas cheer at the lowest prices of the year just by moving your vacation up a week.

Go inland, young man
Most foreign tourists (and exorbitant prices) flock to Mexico’s beach resorts, but you don’t have to travel far to find relief. To see Mexico on the cheap, trade glitzy Cancún for sleepy Puerto Morelos or chic Puerto Vallarta for tiny San Pancho to ease the peso burden. Heading inland will save even more—you could pay $50 a night for what would be a $150 to $200 room in Cancún if you trade your beach vacation for a trip to the mountains. Bonus: Central Mexico’s higher elevations are cool and insect-free while the coasts swelter in the hot and humid months within the low season.

Published: 1 Oct 2012 | Last Updated: 10 Oct 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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