Cost of Expat Family Living in Playa Del Carmen
When we left California in January of 2020, we had no idea we’d end up living in Playa Del Carmen for over a year. We never dreamed we’d become an expat family in Playa Del Carmen.
Puerto Vallarta was on our shortlist of places to move since Puerto Vallarta is a digital nomad hub. Cancun is great for families, but we didn’t want to be in a big city, so Playa Del Carmen ended up being the perfect place for us.
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Our family gap year was supposed to be a world adventure with 10 days in Costa Rica before heading to Shanghai, Beijing, Nanning, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and many other countries in Asia.
When our family gap year was canceled, and I lost my job, our best option was to move to Mexico and regroup.
We got here in August 2020, and it’s been a lot of fun. After talking to my wife, we will likely be staying in Playa Del Carmen for another five to six months.
Our 2-year-old still refuses to wear a mask, so we’re here until he understands that he has to wear a mask for extended periods. At the moment, the longest we’ve been able to get him to keep it on is a whopping 20 minutes.
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Our largest expense is rent, like most people, but we found the perfect apartment for our family. We used Facebook Marketplace, expat groups on Facebook, and Airbnb to find our apartment.
What we love most about our apartment is the location in Centro. We’re a 2-minute walk from the grocery store, markets, and restaurants.
What’s even better is that we are a 10-minute walk away from the main tourist area in Playa Del Carmen. Along with being close to 5th avenue is the beach. We can be at the beach in 10-minutes, on foot.
We were able to get all of this for 8000 pesos per month. When we first moved in, rent was $350, but the exchange rate has not gone in our favor, so our rent fluctuates between $350 and $400 per month.
That’s not too bad for a one-bedroom with everything included (except electricity), with the perfect location.
Our next largest expenditure, next to rent, is groceries. We had to change the way we purchased groceries because we were overspending, and the food would go to waste.
Instead of going grocery shopping once a week, my wife goes multiple times a week.
The food here is fresher, so there is no need to store it in the fridge for several days.
We get perishables and meat 3-4 times a week since the grocery store is 2-minutes away. Plus, our little one likes to go to Chedrui in the morning for a mini muffin, so it’s a win/win situation.
We can get the groceries we need for the day, and he can pick out a mini-muffin and see his favorite cashier.
We’re in a great location, so we don’t need to use taxis often. We can walk to most of the places we need to go, but if it is raining or our toddler isn’t cooperating, we’ll take a taxi.
The average taxi price is 50 pesos ($2.50) anytime we need to go anywhere in the area.
Many tourists get overcharged for taxis, but the price should never be more than 60 pesos when you go somewhere local. Of course, if you need to go to another city, like Tulum or Akumal, that’ll be more expensive.
We usually spend less than 800 pesos ($40) on transportation per month. One of the best things about being an expat family in Playa Del Carmen is we’ve learned the real price of things, not the tourist price.
When we first arrived in Playa Del Carmen, we made the mistake of eating at touristy places instead of local restaurants.
As a general rule, you do not want to eat on 5th avenue. There are a few exceptions, but most places on 5th avenue are not worth the cost.
After spending too much money our first month here, we finally started looking for local places to eat, and we are glad we did. The food is five times better at half the cost.
When we eat out, we usually spend 1500 ($75) pesos per month. This cost also includes anything we order from Rappi or other food delivery service apps when we have a lazy day.
Fun Kid-Friendly Activities
My wife will be the first to admit she is cheap. She doesn’t like paying the overinflated tourist prices for anything, so we do not do many tourist activities.
We try to find budget-friendly things to do in Playa Del Carmen. Given the current situation, the options are limited.
One of our favorite places to go in our area is the park. There is are a few large parks in Playa Del Carmen, with only two being open. It is large enough for him to slide, run, and play soccer.
You can’t forget about the beach, so we hang out at the beach in the sun 2 – 3 times a week. Our son loves to play in the sand with his toys, so we spend a lot of time playing in the sand.
It’s great to be able to pack a bag and head to the beach, especially in the morning when it is empty.
For bigger things, such as tours, we like to DIY our itineraries. Instead of hiring a company, we take the bus, pay the admission, and hire a tour guide when we arrive.
DIY is the most cost-efficient way to see the Mayan Ruins. Some of the other tourist activities are strict about using a tour company, so we decided to skip them for the time being.
If you want to go to the eco-parks, the best way to do so is by staying at Hotel Xcaret. Although the hotel is expensive, you get what you pay for.
All the parks and tours are included without worrying about finding tour guides, transportation, or food.
We do not have a washer or dryer, so we get our clothes washed once a week. The lady we use is amazing.
She picks up and drops off our clothes and charges us a fair price. We always make sure we tip because she does a great job.
I also started getting manicures/pedicures when needed. She comes to our apartment and charges a great price.
We usually get this done twice a month, but sometimes it is only once. Our goal is to support the local community as much as we can.
Since we’ve been an expat family in Playa Del Carmen, we’ve been able to keep our expenses low. Keeping our expenses low allows us to save a substantial portion of our monthly income.
We save 70% of our income, thanks to maintaining low monthly expenses.
Something else that is important to us is giving back to the locals where we live. As expats, we must give more than ever take where we live.
Remember, some people live where you vacation, who may never be able to afford to enjoy the things in their backyards.
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This is just a reminder to see people. We don’t like to advertise the specific things we do for the local community because it comes from the heart, not for likes on social media.
This is just a reminder to be kind and give when you can. You never know how you can change someone’s day or maybe even their life.
Expat Family Monthly Cost of Living Chart
|Item||Monthly Cost (Pesos)||Monthly Cost (USD)|
|Transportation (taxi, collectivo, bus)||600||$30|
|Misc (Gym, Toys, Nails, Laundry, Random Purchases)||2000||$100|
|Day Care |
|Current Total Expenses||17900||$875|
There is another line item in our budget for acts of kindness. We don’t talk about how much we spend on our acts of service. This varies each month, depending on our travel plans.
FAQ’S ABOUT LIVING IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN WITH KIDS
Since moving to Playa Del Carmen last year, we’ve been asked a lot of questions. Most of the questions are about safety, which for us hasn’t been a concern.
Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about living in Playa Del Carmen as an expat family.
Is Playa Del Carmen safe for expats?
This has to be the number one question we get about living in Mexico. Is Playa Del Carmen safe for expats? Based on our experience, the answer is YES!!!!
We left the US when racial tensions were at an all-time high with the recent murder of George Floyd. After our own scary experience with the police, being in Mexico was a breath of fresh air.
I’ve never been scared walking down the street, but I also carry a pocket knife for general protection while I am out. The pocket knife has nothing to do with Mexico; it’s just for my safety as a woman walking alone anywhere.
We’ve had instances where strangers have protected us in weird situations. There was an instance where a stray dog was growling at my toddler and me. A man stood in front of us with a knife to protect me and our son.
On another occasion, a man was trying to flirt with me, and when he became a little aggressive, someone stepped in and told him to go away.
Is Playa Del Carmen good for families?
Our son attended preschool for the first time and Playa Del Carmen and loved it. He’s learning how to shape, play with other kids, and even speaks Spanish.
His teachers love him, which breaks our hearts because he will be leaving soon. Our son’s teacher is like his Abuela (grandma), he’s always happy to see her.
If you are planning to visit Playa Del Carmen, it’s one of the best family vacation destinations. There is so much for kids to do, which includes learning and fun.
Is it expensive to live in Playa Del Carmen?
The cost of living in Playa Del Carmen depends on your lifestyle. If you like to go out drinking, partying, or stay in an expensive condo, then you will pay more.
If you live a moderate lifestyle which includes; cooking at home most of the week, shopping off of 5th avenue, and doing occasional excursions, then it’s very affordable.
We have a good quality of life at an affordable price. Our lives are simple but fulfilled.
Is Playa Del Carmen better than Cancun?
In my opinion, yes!!! Playa Del Carmen is better than Cancun. There isn’t much to do in Cancun, especially with kids.
You will spend most of your time taking day trips, so staying in Playa Del Carmen would be better. The cost of living is slightly less, plus the amenities are cheaper.