A colourful street in Tepoztlan, Morelos
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Money in Mexico: A traveller’s guide

Official currency: Mexican peso

Symbol: MX$

Currency code: MXN

Mexico is a cheap destination to visit in general, but tourist areas like the Yucatan and Cabo can be expensive.

Food, accommodation, and public transport options are usually very affordable, but tours and attractions in major cities can add up. Travelling to off-the-beaten-path and rural destinations in Mexico can help reduce trip costs for those on a budget

The best ways to pay in Mexico

  • You can pay by card in most shops and restaurants, but cash is still needed for street food and smaller businesses.

  • Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are the most commonly accepted bank cards in Mexico.

  • Some establishments will add a 5% to 7% surcharge when you pay with a credit card.

Cash and ATMs in Mexico

Mexico prints banknotes in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 pesos, but the most common notes are MX$50, MX$100, and MX$200. Try to hold on to smaller notes and coins when possible as it can be hard to get change in places like markets and shops, or for taxi rides.


ATMs, or cajeras, are everywhere and they are often cheaper than exchanging money in Mexico. Many have fees of between US$2 to US$5 to withdraw cash - any more than this and you should try somewhere else.

ATMs in airports, malls and stations in particular all tend to have ridiculously high fees. BBVA Bancomer and Santander tend to have the lowest withdrawal fees.

It’s important to never accept the ATM’s exchange rate, always select “withdraw in local currency” to avoid high exchange rates. You can use a travel card, like Wise, to avoid high exchange rates from your own bank back home.

Exchanging money in Mexico

Although some tourist areas may accept US Dollars, Euros, Canadian dollars and British pounds, the rate is never going to be good and it’s best not to rely on it.

Airports, hotels, and travel agencies also tend to offer poor exchange rates or high commission fees. The best place to exchange money in Mexico is at a bank where you will always get the current exchange rate.

Tipping in Mexico

Leaving a tip, or propina, isn’t mandatory in Mexico but it has become a part of the culture in areas with a lot of American tourism.

A 10-15% tip is standard at sit-down restaurants, some will include it on the bill so make sure to always check. Tipping for drinks isn’t necessary. Rounding up to the nearest note for things like taxis is appreciated.

How to travel Mexico on a budget

Buses like ADO are the most affordable, efficient and widespread transport option in Mexico. It’s easy and convenient to save money by using these for getting from town to town instead of taxis or car rentals.

But Mexico is large and the bus might not always be the cheapest option. The route from Cancún to Mexico City, for example, takes 27 hours by bus (1,800 MXN) but a flight takes just 2 hours (500 MXN). It’s always best to check low-cost airlines like Volaris and VivaAerobus as they might not always appear on comparison sites.

Stray off of the package holiday route, and out of peak season, and Mexico can be a budget-friendly place to travel. Eating local street food is a great way to cut down on costs and taste many of the best flavours of Mexican cuisine.

Tacos, quesadilla, sopas, tortas, and other street foods generally cost between 15 to 45 MXN. Local markets are another great place to buy food, especially if you want to cook yourself.

Make the most of free museums in places like Mexico City. Museo Soumaya is free to enter everyday, Palacio de Bellas Artes is free on Sundays, and Museo Dolores Olmedo has free entry on Tuesdays.

Tip-based walking tours also offer a wonderful experience based on what you feel the tour is worth. Free concerts and cultural events are another great way to experience Mexico on a budget.

How to stay safe with money

It’s best not to carry large amounts of cash around, just withdraw enough for a couple of days.

The only exception to this is if you are visiting an island like Holbox where ATMs and digital payment methods can be unreliable - usually these remote places rely on tourism heavily and are quite safe.

ATMs can be targeted for petty theft in large cities in Mexico, so it’s best not to withdraw or carry large amounts of money. Be aware of your surroundings and use a money belt for any excess cash.

Typical prices

  • One night’s stay at a mid-range hotel (double room for two) - around 1700 MXN (USD$100)

  • A local meal at a Mexican restaurant serving traditional cuisine  - 150 MXN

  • A three-course meal for 2 at a mid-range restaurant - 600 MXN

  • Coffee - 50 MXN

  • 1 litre of milk - 25 MXN

  • Taxi - $25 MXN per kilometre

  • Car hire per day - $800 - $1000 MXN

Planning a trip to Mexico? Read our travel guides

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Jo Williams

Author - Jo Williams

Jo Williams is a freelance writer with 10 years' experience working in travel and tourism. A Brit who got fed up with the 9 to 5 corporate life, she sold everything to become a full-time wanderer.

Jo has travelled to over 70 countries and worked throughout Europe for a major tour operator. She hopes to inspire you to work less and travel more.

Last Updated 27 January 2024

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