Mexico is one of those countries that has it all! From the bustling capital of Mexico City to the picture-perfect beaches of Tulum, there are so many options if you’re looking to backpack around Mexico.

It’s a cliche to say this, but there’s really something for everyone in Mexico — from the history buffs to the beach bums. Ask anyone that has visited Mexico and you will surely get non-stop praise for the people, the culture, and the tasty tacos.

So, let’s jump in!

Why Go Backpacking in Mexico

I’ve spent over eight months traveling across the whole country, and it never ceases to amaze me how much there is to see and do.

Although it’s gotten a little bit more expensive recently due to currency fluctuations, it’s still among the more affordable countries to travel to. This definitely makes Mexico easy to travel on a budget. The variety of experiences, from cities and cuisine to nature and beaches also makes Mexico a perfect backpacking destination.

Isla Holbox in Mexico

Whether it’s culture, nightlife, nature, or beaches, Mexico has it all and more. Best of all, the people will welcome you with open arms! You’ll love their vibrant personalities and zest for life.

If you’re headed to Central or South America, then Mexico is also one of the best places to either start or finish a big Latin American journey.

Hostel Scene in Mexico

While not everyone who backpacks stays in hostels, for most of us, it’s a big part of the backpacking experience.

The hostel scene in Mexico is all over the place, but in a great way. There are lots of options depending on your budget or the vibe you’re looking for.

If this is your first time backpacking, then maybe you’re a little bit nervous about staying in a hostel, but it’s an amazing way to travel.

Staying in hostels is so much fun. The people you meet from all over the world will amaze you, and most hostels offer awesome activities such as cooking classes, salsa lessons, and yoga.

It’s especially perfect for solo travelers because you can pay as little as $8 a night to stay in a dorm room where you’ll be able to meet other travelers while keeping your expenses low. The best place online to find cheap hostels, as always, is You can check for hostels in Mexico here.

Hammock in a bungalow hostel in Mexico

In regions like Oaxaca or Chiapas, it’s a bit more common to find more basic or ‘bohemian’ hostels that are often run by locals. For instance, in the town of San Cristobal de las Casas, there are a lot of homely but simple hostels that are some of the cheapest places to stay in the whole country.

I have a lot of fond memories of spending my evenings around a fire pit in the garden of Rossco Hostel in San Cristobal. At Mama’s Home in Tulum. I was having home-cooked meals every day (cooked by, you guessed it, the resident mama). I especially love these very homely and personal hostels.

In big hotspot destinations like Mexico City or Playa del Carmen, a lot of the hostels are part of a more commercial chain. That’s not a bad thing as these more premium hostels have really perfected the hostel formula, albeit with a different vibe from those mom ‘n pop hostels.

In some places, the hostel scene has a major surfer vibe, such as in Puerto Escondido, thanks to the big waves there. I always love being around the surfing community as it usually brings lots of fun cafes, bars, and restaurants and good vibes.

A lot of the hostels in Puerto Escondido have a trendy vibe and lush gardens with swimming pools, reminding me almost a little of Bali. La Escondida and Huitzilin Hostal are two great examples of what you can expect to find here.

If you’re looking for a wild time with other backpackers from all over the world then definitely join the party hostels in Tulum or Playa del Carmen. If you’re looking to relax on a beautiful beach, Isla Mujeres or Puerto Escondido may be your favorite spots.

Here are some of my absolute favorite hostels:

Hostel: Why I Love It:
Mexico City:
Casa Pepe
This is my favorite hostel in Mexico City, it’s
perfectly located in the heart of the city and
has so many activities going on. It’s a bit
more expensive but it’s a good time.
Hostal Luz de Luna Nuyoo
For $11 a night, it’s an amazing experience. The
staff is really friendly and you’re close to some
of the most incredible restaurants in Oaxaca.
Puerto Escondido:
Tower Bridge Hostel
Puerto Escondido gets incredibly hot, so
having a hostel with a pool is an absolute must.
San Cristobal de las Casas:
Posada del Abuelito
This small hostel fills up so quickly,
so it’s one of those places you’ll want to book
as soon as you know you’re heading to San Cris.
Tribu Hostel
This is the perfect hostel for all my yogi’s,
offering free classes in the morning.
Mama’s Home
Free breakfast and lots of tequila shots from Mama await you at this hostel in the heart of Tulum.

Other accommodations

If you’re looking for a bit more privacy, you can opt for private rooms in hostels which are usually around $30 a night (but the price depends on what town you’re in). You can also often find hotel rooms in the same price range by looking around on sites like

Just type in your destination on and watch a ton of options pop up. Just make sure you read the reviews, so you get a good idea of what to expect.

While I’ve managed to stay in budget rooms for around $20 per night a bunch of times in Mexico, they were honestly not the best (I’ll spare you the details…). I’d say $30/night is the minimum for at least a decent-budget room with a shared or ensuite bathroom. If you’re a couple sharing, that works out to be about the same as two dorm beds.

Mexico City has become one of the hottest spots for digital nomads and entrepreneurs, so if you’re looking to meet like-minded people while living in a cool spot with great vibes and great wifi, then you’ll find accommodation types just for you. This includes many co-living places as well as the Selina hostels which are focused on nomads and have over a dozen locations in the country.

The Classic Backpacking Route

To be clear: Mexico is huge! It’s almost as big as all the countries in Central America combined. That’s why it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to start.

Unless you have, say, six months of time to travel around Mexico, you need to just accept the fact that you won’t see it all, and that’s okay. Even with limited time, there is so much to see. A lot of backpackers follow the classic route from Mexico City to the Yucatan Peninsula.

For starters, I recommend beginning your journey in Mexico City, which is the perfect starting point since most flights go to the capital. Most backpackers then head to Oaxaca for a few days, home to some of the yummiest cheese, moles, and tlayudas you’ll ever have.

From there, head down to the stunning beaches of Puerto Escondido. Remember Mexico is big, so this can be quite the drive but it’s worth it. It has nice sandy beaches, awesome vibes, and a plethora of beach activities. If you’re big on surfing, Escondido is your paradise.

A crowded beach in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico

Next up, hop on a bus and head off to Chiapas. The southernmost state of Mexico is home to some of the most stunning waterfalls and jungles you’ve ever seen. It’s higher up in the mountains, so you’ll be going from some of the hottest temps in Mexico to some of the coldest.

Misol Ha waterfall in Mexico

After a few days in the old colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas, transition to the Mayan ruins in Palenque. The ancient ruins are so impressive, you won’t be able to take your eyes off them.

The facade and plaza of San Cristobal Cathedral in Chiapas, Mexico

From there, we are making our way to the Yucatan, starting in Merida where you can have a day at the beach and a day in the city.

Don’t miss swimming in the cenotes! These caves and sinkholes with turquoise waters are surrounded by magical jungles. Merida is also the closest town to Chichen Itza, making it the perfect place to stay for a day trip.

Ik-Kil cenote without tourists

From there, head down to one of the local’s favorite spots, Holbox. I love this island, there are no cars allowed, only golf carts and bikes. Enjoy a few days of relaxing on the beach, fishing for lobster, and swimming with whale sharks.

You’ll then pass through Cancun, but we aren’t staying, we’re on our way to the adventure capital of Mexico, Tulum! Although it’s become a hugely upscale destination in recent years, with many high-end resorts catering mainly to Americans on a brief stay, you can absolutely be a backpacker in Tulum. The key is to stay in the town itself where it’s cheap and to rent bicycles or motorbikes to take the short trip to the beach.

Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico

Once you reach Tulum, you have a few options, if you’re heading further south into Central America, then head into Belize to continue your adventure. If not, make a pit stop in Playa Del Carmen, or Isla Mujeres for a few days before catching a flight out of Cancun.

For a slower-paced and potentially deeper experience, I suggest dedicating two months to this route. However, if that’s not possible, at least a month is recommended to get a great taste of these regions of Mexico.

Top Experiences in Mexico

Usually, countries have like two to three highlights but Mexico literally has like 100 highlights. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s a lot!

Here are some of my favorites.

Grab your Scuba Certification in Tulum, you can learn in the cenotes and explore the magical underground rivers. Or dive at the reefs in Isla Mujeres.

Float down the ancient canals of Xochimilco in Mexico City. Join a group of travelers and listen to mariachi bands while having a fiesta on colorful boats.

Colorful boats or Mexican gondolas in Xochimilco

Explore ancient cities like Chichen Itza or Palenque to get a glimpse into the life that used to be there during Mayan times.

Palenque ruins

Ride a wave or two in Puerto Escondido. But get ready, the waves are pretty big here!

Catch a Lucha Libre fight in Mexico City. It’s one of the most unique experiences you can have! Men with masks and capes wrestling each other – it’s crazy!

And lastly, what’s Mexico without some Tequila and tacos? Enjoy a tequila tour and try some of the best tacos in Mexico City.

Is Backpacking Mexico Safe?

Like anywhere in the world, I highly recommend traveling with caution and common sense. When traveling to Mexico, make sure to take extra precautions such as avoiding walking alone at night (especially in big cities) and being aware of your surroundings anytime you’re out exploring.

I’m sure everyone back home has warned you of the cartels and horror stories from Mexico. We know that they mean well — they just want you to be safe.

But based on my personal experience, I can assure you that backpacking in Mexico is a safe and enjoyable experience.

Most of the problems in Mexico are restricted to very specific and easily avoidable regions (they’re mostly in the far north and the southwest coast of Mexico). Not going to Mexico because of these distant trouble spots is a bit like, say, refusing to visit Miami because you heard some bad things about Seattle. Mexico is a federation consisting of 32 (!) different states, and the situation in the backpacker-friendly areas is luckily very different from the known trouble spots.

A street in Mexico

Of course, as anywhere, be sure to take care of your belongings and don’t give thieves any easy opportunities. In big cities like Mexico City, I recommend taking taxis or ride-shares (like Uber) versus walking around late at night or taking the bus. The most important thing is to stay alert and aware of your surroundings and you should be fine.

The coach bus systems between the cities are reliable and many other travelers are making their way through the country. You can pair up with them if you don’t want to be alone. But tourism is a major industry in Mexico, so they prioritize our safety because they want us to keep coming.

Backpacker Budget for Mexico

Mexico used to be one of the most budget-friendly countries in all of Latin America, but since the pandemic and the further rise of tourism, prices have gone up. That said, you can still find some incredible deals and budget-friendly spots.

Hotels are usually around USD $25-$35 a night, hostels start at $12-20 a night.

Food is also really cheap in Mexico with tacos costing as low as $1 and complete meals around $3-5. So you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank.

A table with a plate of tacos, drink, and condiments

Getting around is also fairly inexpensive with many bus companies offering tickets for as low as a few dollars per ride. And longer bus rides usually don’t exceed USD $25. Finally, cultural activities are usually either free or really cheap!

If your budget is really stretched, I would recommend spending more time in Chiapas and other places in the interior, as you’ll have more options when it comes to lodging as well as cheaper meals. The Yucatan Peninsula is usually more pricey, so maybe avoid Tulum where dinners can be around $20 per person and cocktails are $10, unless you really avoid the expensive beach bars.

Just be mindful and you’ll be good. Regardless of inflation and changing exchange rates, backpacking in Mexico is still totally doable on a budget.

Do You Need to Know Spanish?

If you’re sticking to a backpacking route through Mexico, you won’t need to speak Spanish at all. In touristy areas, English is pretty common and almost everyone speaks it.

However, if you’re going off the beaten path or heading to remote towns and villages, then yes! You should learn some basic Spanish before your trip.

If anything, just knowing a few phrases like “hola“, “gracias“, “por favor” and my favorite “una mas cerveza!” will go a long way with the locals. The more you know, the easier it will be to navigate around the country.

So don’t be afraid of the language barrier, take it as an opportunity to learn something new and dive into culture.

How to Get Around

Booking buses is really easy. ADO (Mexico’s main bus company) has an app in which you can search for routes and book your tickets. You can also use the booking platform 12Go which offers tickets from a range of bus companies.

Taxis are also everywhere, just make sure to negotiate the price before getting in. Sometimes it may take some persistence, but they usually get there!

Rates vary depending on where you are. In bigger cities like Mexico City, you can find Uber and Cabify.

In other towns, you can jump on a collectivo (local bus) and get to your destination for just a few dollars. It’s what all the locals take and while it might be hot and crowded, it’s the cheapest way to get around besides walking.

A local bus in Mexico City

Finally, renting a car is an option for those who want to explore more freely. It’s not too expensive, usually starting around $20 per day with no additional charges or fees. While few backpackers would do their whole trip this way, getting a small crew together and sharing a rental car is a great way to do some local sightseeing at your own pace.

In some places, you can also rent scooters or motorbikes, though this is sadly not as common as in other parts of the world like Asia. I’ve mostly had success finding good/cheap motorbike rentals in beach places.

When you’re planning your trip, I would advise you to have an overview plan of when and where you want to be somewhere. However, with so many people backpacking I recommend having some flexibility to explore and go with the flow.

And there you have it, your guide to backpacking in Mexico! Get ready for late nights, delicious food, and some of the best vibes you’ll ever experience.

Buen Viaje!

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