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What You Can Get For a Dollar in Mexico (or Less)

What can you get for a dollar in Mexico? Or less than that? Quite a lot it turns out. 

In looking through some old posts of mine that are getting out-of-date, I found one from 2009 on what you could get for a dollar or less in Mexico City—in pesos. I had been on a travel writing research trip there before I ever moved to Mexico and was seeing bargains all around me. The peso had spiked to 13.5 to the dollar, up from its usual (back then) range of 10 to 12. Now it’s even cheaper, generally between 17 and 20. 

a dollar or less in Mexico

At the end of each country section in The World’s Cheapest Destinations, I have a paragraph on “what you can get for a buck or less.” It’s not meant to be comprehensive, but just a sampling of what one U.S. dollar will buy you in that destination. It’s something people seem to like a lot, so I thought I’d give an update on what that gets you in Mexico now.

This post was updated in early 2024: be advised that in 2023 the dollar declined around the world because of the silly debt ceiling fight in Congress that brought the U.S. financial system to the point of collapse. It recovered in most countries, but not Mexico. The economy is hot in Mexico as it just passed China as the leading exporter to the USA, the minimum wage went up again for the second year in a row, and unemployment is near a record low. 

As I’m writing this in May of 2024, experts expect the peso to get to 18 by the end of the year, but for now it’s stuck at 17 to the greenback. So some of the items in this article could be $1.10 or $1.20 now, but close enough. I’m adding a section on what you can get for 30 pesos or less, which includes the majority of museums in the country, currently less than US$2. 

A note for the photos: Mexicans often use the dollar sign in front of peso prices, so if you see that your Mexican breakfast in a restaurant is listed at $80 on the menu, that’s 80 pesos, or $4.70. And it’ll probably be some of the best few dollars you ever spent. If you see a souvenir listed at 100 with a dollar sign in front of it, it’s not a hundred bucks: it’s about $6.

Prices are relatively uniform in Mexico when it comes to grocery stores, convenience stores, and chain restaurants, but as with any country, they can vary quite a bit for everything else when you compare urban to rural or beach resort area to the interior. In general, you’ll see better prices for food, drink, rent/hotel, and services when you get away from the very largest cities. There’s even more of a disparity at the resort areas attracting foreign tourists because of the influx of free-spending people with dollars or euros.

Still, even in a place like San Jose del Cabo or Cancun, you can get relatively “normal” prices if you go where the locals are drinking, dining, shopping, and getting their shoes shined. Even better though, take the cheap flight and then go elsewhere.

Search flights to Mexico with Kayak. 

So what can a dollar buy in Mexico these days, at 17 pesos? Quite a lot, so read on.

Transportation in Mexico for a Buck or Less

If you join the locals, you can get from Point A to Point B in any Mexican city for less than a dollar. Let’s start with one of the world’s largest and busiest metro systems, in Mexico City. Despite the decline in the peso over the years, the 5-peso fare hasn’t gone up since 2013 for a ride on the metro. At today’s exchange rate, that’s about 30¢. The Monterrey metro is even less (4.5 pesos) but the Guadalajara one will charge you 9.50–still far less than a dollar.

City train systems can get as crowded as Toyko’s during rush hour though, with an equal amount of shoving and elbowing, but a higher risk of theft. So try to travel outside the commuting hours to make it pleasant.

Local buses in Mexico are always a bargain and the most expensive ones will seldom top 10 pesos. Most of the time you can go round-trip for less than a buck and sometimes that will cover three rides. Where I live, I can get all the way to the city bus station for 8 pesos and a shorter ride is 7.

In the Cancun hotel zone, 10.5 pesos will get you to anywhere on the strip and even to downtown Cancun, where you can connect to long-distance buses to Tulum, Merida, and even Chetumal to cross over to Belize. 

local bus in Cancun Mexico

In Mexico City, it can be difficult to figure out the bus routes, but you can hop on one going down the Paseo de Reforma and it’s a straight shot anywhere along that long avenue, from near the center all the way to the Museum of Anthropology and the city’s largest park. One comes by about every 30 seconds it seems. For most bus systems throughout the country there are multiple stops posted on the windshield, not just the last one, so if you see where you’re going on the list, pull out some peso coins and hop on!

Sometimes you’ll find some other interesting transportation options for less than a dollar in Mexico, or ones that are a tad more but worth it, like the funicular ride up to the overlook in my home city of Guanajuato. Not a bad view for less than two bucks, eh?

Guanajuato top of the funicular ride

Mexican Food & Drink for a Buck

When I first started traveling to Mexico and staying in a little Mexican beach house we bought in Yucatan state, the peso was 10 or 11 to the dollar and prices were good if you came from the north. They weren’t so good that Mexico got its own chapter in The World’s Cheapest Destinations though. As I made the country my home later and settled into Guanajuato, the peso kept dropping against the greenback and non-imported items got steadily cheaper. So for the latest edition, Mexico got a full chapter. 

Yes, there’s been some inflation, but not so much with items that can be produced within the country. That’s a very long list, especially when it comes to what you can consume. Mexico doesn’t have to import any of the staples of its diet (corn, beans, meat, cheese, salsa, vegetables) and the country exports a lot of coffee, vanilla, tequila, mezcal, and beer. It even has a robust wine industry stretching from Baja to Queretaro. Some things they produce internally cost more than they should–like cars and gasoline–but most items are quite reasonable. 

a dollar or less in Mexico

Everything on this menu used to be a shade more than a dollar, including drinks, but those were the good ole days, pre-inflation. 

In a typical week of living in Guanajuato, I’ll buy dozens of items that are a dollar in Mexico. Or maybe two or three for a buck. Here are some examples:

A fresh hot tamale or two
A couple of street tacos
A basic torta sandwich
16 ounces of fresh-squeezed orange juice
An all-fruite paleta (popsicle) or an ice cream cone
Two or three fresh-baked pastries like conchas or doughnuts
A few fresh-baked bolillos rolls
A kilo of corn tortillas
A kilo of most seasonal fruit and vegetables in the market

What you get for 25 pesos in Mexico

2 kilos (4.4 pounds) of fruit for a buck fifty

Three or four avocados
A 200-gram bag of candied peanuts
Two hot dogs from a street cart
A slice of pizza with a soda
A shot of mezcal in a dive bar

healthy juice for a dollar in Mexico

Fresh-squeezed juice for a buck or two, including carrot and beet juice

Even in the swankiest neighborhoods of the richest cities, you can find cheap street stalls. Just two blocks from a bunch of high-end hotels and a Bentley dealer in Polanco, Mexico City, I sat down and stuffed myself with three tacos al pastor, a quesadilla, and two beers. A gracious waiter made sure all was well the whole time. My bill was about $4.60.

When I went back on subsequent visits, I always managed to find someone selling tacos, gorditas, tortas, other street food items for a buck or less each. After all, the workers have to eat somewhere.  

Other Items for a Dollar in Mexico (or Less)

If you browse an ever-present Oxxo store, you’ll find plenty of Mexican junk food for a dollar or less, including items in the ice cream freezer. If you go to the market instead, you could fill up several bags with new household items that are a buck or less. Mugs, dishes, cooking utensils, packs of sponges, placemats, and on it goes.

So unless you’re really attached to some item you have now, buy all the basics after arrival if you’re moving. Sometimes when I’ve been in an Airbnb place that’s missing something I want for the kitchen, I just go buy it in the market for cheap and leave it. 

Here are a few more $1 random things you might want or need that you can get for a dollar in Mexico:

A bootleg DVD
A glazed clay whistle in the shape of an animal
A bead bracelet
A t-shirt on sale
A shoeshine

Plenty of things are free of course. In the capital that includes the Palacio Nacional with a famous Diego Rivera mural that covers multiple walls. Many museums have a free day on Sunday, though some are only free to residents and naturally that’s going to be the most crowded day. You can rent a bike for free in the capital from Bicigratis. The best time to do it is Sunday morning, when Paseo de la Reforma is blocked off. Bring your passport.

Museums in Mexico are almost never expensive. It’s rare to pay more than the equivalent of $4 for even the best of them, but more often the admission will be 20 pesos or less–a buck. If you’re trying to retire on social security checks only and have decided to live in Mexico, you can probably take in more cultural events in a month than you could in a year in the place you came from. 

What Can You Get for 30 Pesos in Mexico?

The sum of 30 pesos is less than two dollars, but it’s a number that crops up a lot so I’m mentioning it here. It pays to hold onto your coins because the largest one is 10 pesos. You often have 30 pesos in your pocket or change purse just from coins. 

As I briefly mentioned earlier, 30 pesos seems to be the standard price for museums in Mexico that aren’t big showpieces. So the museums in Guanajuato are all 30 pesos each, like the childhood home of Diego Rivera and the Don Quixote Iconoografico Museo. It’s incredibly still only 30 pesos to go to the greatest mask museum in Mexico, in Zacatecas.

This is for government-run museums though that aren’t marquee attractions. The Museum of Death in Aguascalientes is run by the local university and it’s 55 pesos for foreigners: a shade more than $3. 

A lot of street food items will be 30 pesos, like a loaded-up torta sandwich or a plate of three tacos al vapor, also known as tacos canastas.  For that amount you can easily find something to drink in a convenience store, a cup of coffee from a shop where the customers are locals, or a couple of Mexican empanadas. 

What Can 100 Pesos Buy in Mexico?

Until things change radically, 100 pesos is worth roughly $5 or $6 and that will get you quite a lot here. If you pull out that bill, 100 pesos will buy quite a lot. For example: 

– a six-pack of low-end local beer like Carta Blanca or Indio

– several kilos of seasonal fruit or vegetables

– several kilos of corn tortillas

– a meal of the day with multiple courses at a locals’ restaurant

– a taxi ride of a few miles (if you’re not in a beach resort area filled with tourists)

– a roasted chicken

– ice cream cones for the whole family

2024 update – Yes, there has been some inflation in Mexico, just like there has been everywhere else in the world. So some items in this article that you could buy for 20 pesos and that was $1 are now 22 or 23 and the exchange rate has changed, so slightly more than a buck. That has hit my budget a little because a beer is now more like 23 pesos in a store for a 12-ounce size, almost $2 for a tall boy. (Buying the big returnable bottles that are around 40 ounces is the most economical, often $2 to $3.

Since people seem to search answers to “what you get for x pesos” a lot, here’s the current exchange rate for the various banknotes you will see in Mexico: 

20 pesos = $1.18

50 pesos = $3

100 pesos = $6

200 pesos = $12

500 pesos = $29.41

1000 pesos = $58.82

I almost never see that last one and good thing: if you get one of those, you’re going to have a tough time getting change anywhere unless you use it to buy a dinner for two that’s 900 pesos. Or you use it in a supermarket. 

The dollar-to-peso ratio is still great though. Consider it a rounding down and enjoy the bargains. 

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What you can get for a dollar or less in Mexico

Saleh Noor

Tuesday 17th of August 2021

Thanks for letting us know about the facts. It means a lot.

Sasha Savinov

Wednesday 17th of March 2021

As someone who lives in a touristy beach town (Puerto Vallarta), I can attest to the fact that you can still find some things for under a buck, even here! The bus costs 10 pesos anywhere in town and you can even get all the way down to Boca de Tomatlan for an extra 10, so $1 total. I think it's about 20 pesos up to Bucerias these days. There are still taco carts here with options for 10 pesos or less. I often eat ceviche tostadas for around 20 pesos as it's so fresh here. Hard to find those 20 peso beers in bars these days but 25-30 is pretty standard and you can still grab tall-boy cans from the local shops for 20.

Niamul Anan

Thursday 4th of March 2021

I find this article very much helpful. Thanks for sharing with us. This is quite effective.


Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

Wow! Really surprising post! We love to explore and learn posts for our future Mexico trips and understand things that we didn't know... It's definitely good news for us that we can get so many things so cheap!


Tuesday 23rd of February 2021

Two or three tacos? Four or five avocados? Man, I need to head where you live right now! Here in Yucatán things are much more expensive, and for sure I go to the most basic local places.


Wednesday 24th of February 2021

Geez, Martin ... excepting Wayan'e or the joints on 60/62/47, I dunno. Outside of Centro, I'm looking at anywhere between 6 - 8 MXP per taco. That goes for Izamal and Progreso, too.

That said, Wayan'e is worth every centavo. Hell, I'd pay 5 bucks for one now.

Enjoy the sunshine. I miss Mi Mérida! See you in 2022, Inshallah.