This dreamy & unique land sitting on the coast of the balmy state of Quintana Roo, Mexico was at the very top of our list for over a year, before we finally hit it up over Christmas in 2018
In the budget travel world, Tulum is generally regarded as expensive & whilst this CAN be the case, it is definitely an affordable place to visit if done right.
We researched the eff out of this place (what a task right? Haha) and want to share what we learnt planning & navigating our way around, and help you change your mind set when it comes to feeling like this little paradise is out of reach. Believe us when we say, it is far from.
This is a long one, so as always grab a bevvie (preferably tequila) & strap yourself in as we take you through the ultimate guide to traveling Tulum on a budget…
*this post may contain affiliate links that if you click & choose to purchase via, can earn us commission at no extra expense to you. all opinions are our own & based only on products/services we actually use & love.*
First things first, we need to make our way to paradise.
The closest airport to Tulum, Mexico is located in the tourist hub of Cancun which is 2hrs north of Tulum itself. The cheapest way to fly to Cancun is actually from the U.S or from within the Caribbean itself, due to the location.
Whilst we were in the U.S, we took advantage of our location and used it as an opportunity to see some of the Caribbean. If you are from Australia (like us) depending on the flight deals at the time, this may be the cheapest option and route for you. However, wherever in the world you are flying from, there will always be a budget airline option.
AND we have done the research, so you don’t have to!
(All below Airlines & Routes have been sourced from; Skyscanner.com, Kayak.com or the Direct Airline Websites)
- The Cheapest airlines traveling to Cancun from the U.S/Canada – Interjet, Volaris, Aeromexico, Swoop, Southwest, Jetblue, Spirit & Frontier.
- The Cheapest Airlines traveling to Cancun from Australia – Virgin Aus, United, Delta, Air Canada, Qantas.
HOT TIP – generally the cheapest route for us Aussies is to fly into the U.S first. Eg. L.A for as low as $600 AUD return & then fly to Cancun for approx. $200 – $250 AUD return *
- The Cheapest airlines traveling to Cancun from Europe/UK region – Thomas Cook Airlines, Air France, Turkish Airlines, KLM.
- The Cheapest airlines traveling to Cancun from South America – Interjet, Aeromexico, Copa Airlines, Avianca, Wingo
- The Cheapest airlines traveling to Cancun from already within the Caribbean & Central America – Interjet, Aeromexico, Volaris, Copa Airlines, Avianca.
- The Cheapest airlines traveling to Cancun from the Middle East – Pegasus Airlines, Evelop!, Turkish Airlines.
- The Cheapest airlines traveling to Cancun from Africa & South Africa – Thomas Cook Airlines, Air France, Iberia, Air Canada, Turkish Airlines.
- The cheapest airlines traveling to Cancun from Asia – Vistara, Lufthansa, EVA air, China Southern, China Eastern.
- Always check secretflying.com and the Secret Flying facebook page to search for mistake fares first!
- To ensure you are taking the cheapest possible route – always compare the price between getting a direct flight from your home city > cancun VS a flight from your home city > US and then to Cancun, as most of the time the later will be more affordable (plus a FREE stopover in the U.S never hurts!)
On the Road
Upon arrival in Cancun, you will be greeted by many drivers advising they can take you to Tulum for the ‘great deal’ of at least $70USD. Whilst this might be affordable if you are traveling in a group of 3-4 or more, if you are traveling solo or as a couple, it’s a pretty quick way to unnecessarily say bye Felicia, to a lot of cash up front.
We suggest instead, ‘tunnel visioning’ your way to the exit & walking approx halfway through the parking lot to the ADO bus desk to grab yourself a ticket on the local bus.
There is no direct bus to Tulum, so you will need to purchase a ticket to Playa Del Carmen (a seaside town approx. 1hr 15 mins south of Cancun.) and from here, hop on a second bus to Tulum, taking approx. 55 mins.
Bus ticket prices
Cancun Airport > Playa Del Carmen Bus station – 120 MXN pesos / $6-$7 USD / $8-$9 AUD
Playa Del Carmen > Tulum – 70 MXN pesos / $3-$4 USD / $5-$6 AUD
The buses are surprisingly super comfortable, with air-con, a bathroom & charger ports.
It may not be a $1 bus like in South East Asia, but the there is a HUGE difference in price between grabbing a taxi/driver and taking the bus, particularly if you are traveling solo or with your other half. If you take the bus, you are saving yourself up to $50-$60 just getting there – HELLO COCKTAILS.
WHERE TO STAY IN TULUM
Tulum is broken up into two areas – Tulum town & Tulum beach.
Tulum town is a bustling area filled with a good mix of travellers & locals. It is where the hostels and home stays are located and has an abundance of restaurants & markets at really affordable prices. If you are after authentic Mexican tacos and margaritas – this is your spot ya’ll. (more on that later!)
Tulum beach is up there as one of our most favourite destinations. We actually had to pinch ourselves a couple of times when cycling through the area, as it was EVERYTHING you expect Tulum to be and more. It was a sensory overload as we witnessed the most stunning beaches, exotic jungle vibes and ‘instagrammable ‘ boho gems everywhere we looked.
Between the two areas, it makes for a hard decision of where to stay, but taking one look at the price difference will certainly help you make up your mind.
Although beautiful, Tulum beach is very touristy so of course, everything is at tourist prices. As much as we all need a splurge in our lives every now & again, the best way to spend as much time as possible in this gorgeous corner of the world is to cut accommodation costs.
So what is the price difference?
The Resorts in Tulum Beach are generally upwards of $2-$3,000 AUD for 7 nights and the hostels/hotels/home stays in Tulum town are as low as $85 for 7 nights.
To maximise our time in Tulum, we opted to stay in Tulum town. Not only did we save money, it also gave us the opportunity to mingle with locals, meet other travellers easily and get an idea of local life. Whenever booking hostels or hotels – we opt for booking.com or hostelworld.com
We chose to stay at the wonderfully vibey, Weary Traveler Hostel.
This particular hostel is the original hostel of Tulum (there are now HEAPS to choose from) and cost us $75 a night for a private room (dorms are much cheaper – at approx $21 a night.)
It’s located just a 6 minute walk from the ADO bus terminal and only a 10 min drive/20 min bike ride from Tulum beach.
Weary has some added bonuses that make the hostel extra amazing-
- They have a HUGE kitchen with breakfast supplies you can help yourself to every morning. Pasta and rice is provided for other meals (just grab your veges and/or meats from the markets/grocery store)
- Free Caprisoca cocktails for happy hour EVERY night!
- Free salsa lessons & yoga on the rooftop
- and one of the best social atmospheres we have experienced in a hostel.
There are of course more expensive and cheaper options available – depending on your budget, you will find something suitable on booking.com
(click HERE for a $25 discount off your next stay – even if you already have an account!)
Taxi’s are a bit exxy in Tulum, we didn’t mind grabbing one from time to time (particularly at night or if we had a long way to go) however the most cost effective way to get from Tulum town > Tulum beach & around the area is by bike. There are many rental stores available; we used the one next door to our hostel called – Flying Fish Tulum (which also doubled as a diving shop) for 120 MXN pesos/ $6.50 USD/ $8.50 AUD per day.
FOOD IN TULUM
It goes without saying, but imma say it anyway – if you are after world class guacamole, authentically incredible tacos, Caribbean coconuts or delicious freshly squeezed juice – Tulum is where it is attttttt. From street food > upper class restaurants, there are options available for everyone and it the perfect place for an introduction to the Mexican culinary traditions.
Being able to save money on food and still experience the beachfront restaurants is all about finding a balance. For us, that balance was 1-2 meals a day and snacks at local establishments or street food vendors & 1 meal a day at Tulum beach.
Where to Eat in Tulum Town
The street food is generally located on the main street in Tulum town and you can get tacos for as low as $0.80c each!
There are lots of restaurants to choose from too, our favourite local taco –ria? (haha) was called El Canaston and located on Av. Satelite in Tulum town.
They don’t serve alcohol here, but you get a great selection of authentic Mexican food and a freshly squeezed juice for approx 70 pesos / $3.60 USD / $5.30 AUD
We ate here twice & on both occasions were surrounded by only local families going out for a meal, which was a beautiful, traditional experience.
Some other delish restaurants to eat local food were;
Taqueria Honorio, Weary Traveler Hostel (If you are a guest) and Antojitos La Chiapaneca.
Where to Eat in Tulum Beach
Although not the most affordable place to hit up for a smoothie or juice, it is such an iconic spot in Tulum and a beautiful place to unwind after a long day exploring, or a perfect way to start the day. We came here just the once as a treat and tried the Kombucha and the Tropical Smoothie.
Something we didn’t actually realise about Matcha Mama until we arrived – there are two. One in Tulum town & one on Tulum beach which is super convenient!
Prices are approx.
Juices – 100 Pesos / $5.30 USD / $7.50 AUD
Smoothies – 120 > 180 Pesos / $6.30 > $9.50 USD / $9 > $13.50 AUD
Smoothie Bowls – 180 > 230 Pesos / $9.50 > $12.50 USD $13.50 > $17.50 AUD
Raw Love Tulum
A slightly cheaper alternative for a smoothie bowl is the wonderful Raw Love, located within the Ahau Resort.
Upon arrival, head left to find this lush raw café hidden literally inside the jungle. Located outdoors with only palm trees as your shade, for beach bums like us it is ACTUAL heaven on earth.
If you are after epic jungle dining vibes & the luxury of feeling the sand between your toes as you sip on a smoothie bowl – lovers, this is your PLACE.
Prices are approx.
Smoothies – 90 > 130 Pesos / $4.70 > $6.80 USD / $6.80 > $9.75 AUD
Smoothie Bowls – 150 > 190 Pesos / $7.80 > $10 USD / $11.50 > $14.50 AUD
**PRO TIP** – they only accept cash at raw love & the nearest ATM is a fair walk from here, so try to remember to bring some with you to save time!
This incredible establishment could quite easily be mistaken for a secret garden. With an overwhelmingly beautiful amount of greenery in funky pots and tall lush palms everytime you look up, you really think life couldn’t get much better. That is, until you stumble across an Italian seafood restaurant at the end of the footpath.
This place is an absolute must if you love pasta as much as we do. It is pretty pricy – so we only recommend eating here if your budget allows or using it as your one ‘splurge’ for a meal in Tulum.
It is situated right on the beach with the most beautiful views – if you do choose to eat here, make sure you come in time for sunset!
Some other Restaurants to choose from as a ‘one time splurge’
Nomade, Ahau Tulum, Azulik, Coco Tulum.
**PRO TIP** – Keep an eye out for Happy Hours at Tulum Beach in the afternoons! 2 for 1 drinks are very common!
THINGS TO SEE
We are spoilt for choice when it comes to soaking our troubles away on our beautiful earth – there’s ocean swimming, river swimming and even pool swimming for the faint hearted. But we really striked gold when we stumbled across these incredible treats from mother nature.
There are SO many Cenotes to see in Tulum, in fact if we are being specific, there are over 6,000 in the Yucatan Peninsula.
When in Rome, eating your weight in pasta & gelato is a must and when in Mexico, visiting as many cenotes as humanly possible is just as customary!
These fresh or salted water holes are 100% naturally created when the ceiling of a cave collapses, exposing underground entrances to the mayans ‘underworld.’
Cenote hopping is the best way to spend a day in this wonderful country and it’s definitely a budget friendly activity!
One of the most expensive will be the popular Gran Cenote for 180 Pesos / $9.50 USD / $13.50 AUD
You can also hire a snorkel here (if you haven’t brought your own) for just 80 Pesos / $4.20 USD / $6 AUD
In our opinion, it is popular for a reason and is definitely worth a visit. Swimming in crystal clear waters with turtles below us and bats above us was an experience we will never forget.
We highly recommend a visit to this Cenote as an introduction to the concept – but be sure to get here early like we did, to have it all to yourself. Gates open at 8am.
Some other great Cenotes are;
- Cenote Zahil Ha – has its own BAR!
- Do Ojos
- Calavera Cenote (10 min bike ride from Gran Cenote & much less touristy)
- Tak Be Ha
- Cenote Cristal
Las Palmas Public Beach
This beach is fairly common amongst tourists but mostly amongst locals. It is a BEAUTIFUL 15 min bike ride from Tulum town through the jungle & narrow beachside streets and you are almost guaranteed to see some Mexican wildlife along the way.
Upon arrival, simply park your bike and head down to find a spot.
There are local bars along the beach selling guac by the truck load and some yummy cocktails to really get your vibe on.
The only issue with hanging here, is the lingering seaweed problem that seems to be in Tulum to stay, for the time being at least. Because it is a public beach, it isn’t really maintained. It wasn’t affecting the water when we visited but the beach itself had seaweed piled up along the shore.
Other Public Beaches;
Paradise Beach/Playa Paraiso, Tulum Beach (similar to above)
In Tulum Beach – each resort or privately owned properties/villas have access to their own private beach and these are beautifully maintained so you won’t see any seaweed accumulated on these.
At Azulik – you can get a day pass to use their beach for $40pp however this can be used for food & drinks whilst you are there.
We actually wandered down to the hidden beach in front of Ahau after our delish smoothie bowl at Raw Love (as above) for a walk & a chat to some other travellers and found peace in a truly perfect morning.
Because we ate at one of their café’s, they were more than happy to let us use their beach to hang out on. There is also beach club on site serving meals and drinks as well ,so unlike Azulik (who charge a fee to access the area prior to then be reimbursed with food & drink) Ahau is simply just a beach club you can wander into at your own leisure as long as you are a customer of one of the many restaurants/bars.
In our opinion, this is another attraction that cannot be missed as it is the perfect place to learn about the Mayan history whilst simultaneously soaking in amazing views of the Caribbean sea – HEAVEN.
Located north of Las Palmas public beach it is just a 15 min bike ride from Tulum town and costs only 65 Pesos / $3.50 USD / $5 AUD per person.
- Arrive early to avoid the insanely large tour groups if you want to get some gram’ worthy shots & take in all the beauty without distractions (the ruins open at 8am)
- If you have a large camera & it’s possible to do so- keep it inside of your bag upon entry. We personally had no issue, but we have heard multiple stories from people who have had their cameras confiscated upon arrival and given back to them at the exit. It’s definitely not an ideal situation to be in if you are planning on shooting here.
- Bring Water! – It’s incredibly humid here – even in the cooler months & there is a lot of ground to cover- staying hydrated is a no brainer.
- Bring Swimmers! The ruins are located right on the cliffs of the Caribbean and the beaches are absolutely beautiful – when you’re finished wandering, hit them up for a cool down!
We hope this helps to create room for Tulum on your travel list – particularly if you are savvy like us and like to stretch the limits to be able to stay in a place you love for as long as possible!
Over to you – Do you have any other handy tips for visiting Tulum on a budget?
We’d LOVE to hear them – leave us a comment below!
Peace, Love & Happy Travels.
Emma & Reece!