Budget for San Cristobal de las Casas – $350 a month
The number one question we get from people when they hear we have been backpacking for over a year is, “how do you not run out of money?!” Or something to that affect. We usually respond with a vague answer about saving up in our respective countries and traveling cheaply, but I think people always wonder if we have some sort of secret pyramid scheme or drug smuggling business we’re getting rich off of. So for transparency’s sake, I thought we’d write out our one month budget for San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico.
San Cristobal is a cute little expat town in the hills of Chiapas, Southern Mexico. It’s safe and in the dry season (November to May) the weather is perfect. Charming cobblestone streets lead to Real Guadalupe, a pedestrian only street lined with cafes, bars and restaurants. The town draws a lot of artists and musicians, so on any given night you can watch an art expo and then listen to quality live music in the street. It’s a fantastic place for a new expat or first time traveler to settle down for a few weeks.
After finding a local women’s cooperative to volunteer with, we ended up living here for 2 months. For a grand total of 350 dollars a month each. Yes, that’s right, $87.50 a week. Lets see how we did it.
Rent: 2000P/ $150 shared, $75 each
Our home for the 2 months was a private room in a shared apartment. The location was perfect, just a couple blocks off Real Guadalupe. The room itself was spacious and (simply) furnished, which was a big selling point for us. Kitchen, hot water and wifi were all included. Other travelers, students and expats would rotate in and out every few weeks, which always kept things interesting. It wasn’t luxurious living by any means, but after a couple of weeks it became home. Cheaper options are definitely available, but for the location it was reasonably priced.
Groceries: $130 each
So we’ve discovered that one of the biggest ways to cut back on traveling expenses is to cook for yourself. It can be time consuming and annoying but trust me, if you’re traveling long-term, eating at restaurants will eat up your budget. Just because we cooked for ourselves, doesn’t mean we ate like peasants. Because we had a bit of time on our hands, and access to fresh ingredients, we were able to make homemade pizza, slow cooked pasta sauce and handmade pesto. The market in San Cristobal is manageable and has anything you’ll need. Buy where the locals buy is always our motto. We did a big market shop about once a week and found fresh fruit, veggies and spices for low prices. To reward ourselves for staying in and cooking, we occasionally splurged on more expensive groceries like quality cheese and natural yogurt.
Eating Out: $30 each
Okay, so sometimes you just need to say f*&k it and eat at a restaurant. Whether you’re tired, hungover, or just need a break, eating out can be a affordable way to treat yourself. We ate out on average about once a week and went to mid-range places.
Going Out: $40 each
Long gone are our days of getting wasted every night. If you’re on a month long trip, you can swing it, but if you’re traveling long term it’s just not sustainable. Not only is it a drain on the wallet, waking up hung-over every other day is a real trip-killer. So aside from the occasional happy hour or after dinner nightcap, we saved our drinking money for special party nights. There are some good drink specials around town, but nothing beats sharing a Cajuama (liter size beer) from the grocery store amongst friends. Also if you run into Rum Fandango, a bottle costs 42 pesos ($3.50). Mix that with a little Coke and you’re set for the evening.
Day/ Weekend trips: $50 each
Chiapas is said to be the most beautiful region in Mexico. San Cristobal is the perfect jumping off point for short trips around the area. The quiet town of Chomula and the waterfalls at Chiflon are easy day trips from San Cris. A bit further out, the ancient and amazing Palenque ruins and the lakes at Lagos de Montebello make for fun weekend getaways. We used public transportation to get to all of these locations and when we couldn’t camp, we stayed at the cheapest hostels possible to keep the cost down.
Transportation: $5 each
The center of San Cristobal is fairly small and you can easily walk wherever you need to go. Taxis can take you out of the center to, for example, the fairgrounds, but can be pricey. Cheap collectivos are also available for short trips around San Cristobal or to the surrounding towns. Most leave from the market area and cost about 6 pesos (50c).
Miscellaneous- $20 each
This is the category I’m putting all our random everyday life purchases in. Toiletries, the occasional water bottle (although most of our water is free, using the Steripen) and the very occasional souvenir, although we’re not big souvenir people. (We did, however, enjoying getting to know a small group of young street sellers who gave us some really interesting stories about their life and culture).
So there you have it, a one month budget for San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. You don’t need to save thousands of dollars to spend a month or two enjoying a foreign country. If you keep an eye on your budget, you’ll be able to travel for a lot longer than if you blow all your money on expensive restaurants and alcohol. Traveling slowly and cooking the majority of your meals significantly helps keep down costs. So what are you waiting for? San Cristobal is the perfect place to start your overseas adventure!
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