Some travelers seek out beaches or mountains on vacation, but other travelers are definitely city people. If you’re one of those, have you visited the best urban value in North America? That would be…Mexico City.
I’ve been there five times and am always amazed that the place is not jam-packed with tourists. Almost everything you would spend money on is half or less what you would spend in a comparable city in the USA or Canada.
Don’t just take my word for it though. Search comparison site Trivago publishes a monthly Hotel Price Index that looks at the average prices in their 35 most-searched American cities. Here are the average nightly double room booking rates in the ones that are really going to cost you a bundle:
New York City – $398
Boston – $389
Vancouver – $299
San Francisco – $296
Seattle – $293
How does Mexico City compare? Trivago’s booking data shows that the average double room cost was $97 per night in September. It hasn’t gone above $100 the entire year. (If you’re wondering, the best U.S. bargain of the bunch in September was Phoenix, at $113, but in a colder time of the year it’s going to be Niagara Falls, which drops from a high of $157 in July to $90 in the dead of winter.)
Last time I was in Mexico City, my hip boutique hotel was $50 a night, right off the Paseo de la Reforma in the Zona Rosa. Here’s what you’ll pay for a familiar chain hotel room:
Other Travel Bargains in Mexico City
It’s not just lodging that’s cheap, however. Flights to the capital city are often cheaper than ones to Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, despite having a lot fewer connections. Last time I was headed to my house in Guanajuato, I got a one-way ticket back from Mexico City because it was only $168. I’ve flown there from a few different U.S. cities for less than $400 round-trip. Here’s a look at what it would be in January from multiple cities. It’s hard to see the small print and Skyscanner is only showing a few cities, but some round trip samples are $313 from Toronto, $306 from Boston, $224 from New York, $220 from Denver, and $228 from San Francisco.
Taxis in Mexico City were already a bargain before Uber came along, but now you have that option too. A taxi from the airport to your hotel will usually be less than $15 via the pre-paid taxi stand in the airport. Here are the authorized companies there and the locations in the terminals. You can take Uber in the other direction for even less—sometimes half that if traffic isn’t heavy. (There is a metro stop at the airport, but you can’t bring luggage on, so that’s not an option for most people.)
Mexico City is the foodie capital of Latin America. The only city that comes anywhere close is Lima, but only at the the high end. Mexico City food is fantastic whether you’re splurging at a celebrity chef’s place or getting tacos at a street stall. You won’t spend much at the street stalls ($1 – $3) or simple restaurants ($2 – $8) and you have to go to a very trendy place to spend anywhere close to what you would in the United States. A beer in a restaurant or bar will be $2 – $3 usually, a soda or juice less than a buck. If you have a kitchen where you’re staying, get ready for unbelievably low prices on fruit and vegetables. Whatever is in season will usually be less than a dollar a kilo, including avocados and mangoes.
Admission prices are low across the board. The famous Museum of Anthropology will only set you back 70 pesos (under $5) and it’s big enough to keep you occupied an entire day if you want. Frida’s Blue House is probably the most expensive stop in the city at $13 on weekends. You can get an all-day tour out to the pyramids of Teotihuacan for $35 or less including admission, transportation, and a guide.
How does Mexico City compare to the rest of the world? Well, the site Numbeo says “Cost of living rank 448th out of 524 cities in the world.”
Eight years ago I did this post on what you can get for a buck or less in that city. Now I could add even more items to the list. Sure, there’s been some inflation, but back then a greenback got you 13.5 pesos. Today it gets you 19. So now it’s really the best city vacation deal in North America.
Here’s a more recent post with advice on traveling in Mexico City on a budget.