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Thinking of moving to Mexico but not sure about finances. Read our full breakdown on cost of living in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico

In December we spent most of the month in San Cristobal de las Casas (we were in San Cristobal de las Casas from 23 November – 19 December) and, moved to Merida towards the end of the month.

The cost of living in San Cristobal was comparatively cheaper to other places we’ve been in Mexico however that last week or so of the month our costs up.

Eating out was a big expense for us this month with $358.67 of the total falling into San Cristóbal de las Casas and $336.28 over only 11 days in Merida! Oops.

We also spent a significant amount on activities while we took a few weeks off work. The below total for activities includes:

December 2020: Income and Expense Report

Expenses  
Rent (AirBnB Merida, paid in December for 19 Dec – 16 Jan) $1,000.29
Cellphone $20.00
Groceries $151.01
Eating Out $694.95
Activities $577.86
Toiletries/Pharmacy $14.14
Laundry $15.26
Laptop Repayments $91.00
Taxi (San Cris) & Uber (Merida) $50.85
Travel (flight) San Cris to Merida $112.31
   
Total expenses $2,727.67
Income $6,120.71

Note:

Our income and expenses is for x 2 people and is made up of multiple streams (and excludes business expenses such as VAs, other. contractors, software etc.)

All $ mentioned are converted to USD using the latest exchange rate at the time of reporting.

In December our income was made up of:

  • $207.71 Teaching English Online
  • $3,934 Freelance (in December 2 x clients were late paying invoices for work that had been completed to the value of $1,410 which will be transferred to the month it is paid)
  • $1,979 – Part-time employment income

Planning a trip to San Cris? We hope you found this post on the cost of living in San Cristóbal de las Casas valuable – let us know if there’s anything we’ve missed.

No matter where in the world you are, just know there are 10 travel tips you can use anywhere to get the most out of your time there. Make it the best experience imaginable! Don’t look back – after some time – saying, “I wish I had done this and that”.

For this reason, we have created a checklist of things to do for an in-depth look at customs and culture even if you don’t have a lot of time.

Here is our list of 10 travel tips you can use anywhere at every destination.

Let’s go into detail. We’ll use Mexico as an example, as we’ve been living here for several months now! But really, no matter what destination, if you do these 10 things your stay will be so much richer.

1.  Learn the Language

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to become fluent in all the languages of the countries you visit. Just enough to make a connection with the locals.

Learn to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’. Maybe learn how to introduce yourself, and how to order a beer (or anything else). You will see that locals open up whenever you make the effort of communicating in their native tongue!

Sometimes the local people don’t speak English, and communication can be quite challenging. What to do? Break the ice in their language to build rapport, and bust out Google translate to bridge any remaining communication gaps.

Wait, can we have two number one must tries?

The restaurants at tourist destinations are often overpriced, and have all kinds of food on the menu – just not the real deal. To really get to know the local cuisine you have to visit a restaurant that only locals frequent. How do know you’ve arrived? A place where the menu is not be written in English is a good sign. Another clue would be a slight feeling of being out of your comfort zone. I can promise it will be a great experience!

“What is your favorite restaurant” or “Where do the local families go for dinner”? These are our go to  questions when we are chatting with locals. Want a fancier dining option? Just ask, ‘Which restaurant(s) do the locals go to when they want to celebrate’. We suggest you add these Q’s to your arsenal, as well, if you are keen on trying some good, and local food.

3. Visit a Local Market

Go where the locals go to buy their groceries. Look at all the things that might be different from what is sold in your country.

In Mexico, go to the market (not the supermarket) to do your groceries, the produce is fresher and (so much) better priced. You’ll also find delicious meals ready to devour at the market and get a real look at local life. Just go, and try everything.

Apprehensive? That’s fine! Remember, they, you, and I have been carried through our respective markets – sometimes kicking and screaming – by our parents. You don’t have to call them mom or dad, but I am positive you can find an AirBnB Experience or tour guide to help calm the nerves. That’s how we got our feet wet with Mercado de Abastos in Oaxaca, Mexico (a 15 block street market known for its variety of goods, and petty crime). Now we feel at ease at any market even though we stick out like a sore thumb!

4. Use Public Transportation

To get to know a city use public transportation, like the locals – busses or Tuk-Tuks or the Metro whatever the popular mode of transport is, use it.

You will have the opportunity to learn how locals move about their city and in many cases navigating a city by yourself helps you get to know the place better.

Sometimes using public transport can be scary at first, but I promise it will be a worthwhile experience. It can be quite complicated too if you don’t have a good grasp of the language (see point one) and really is an experience in itself.

For example:

The public transport in Mexico is vastly different depending on where you are but colectivos (a.k.a Combi: a kind of shared minibus or shuttle) are popular in many small-size cities. They are the perfect (and sometimes only) option for intercity travel between smaller towns. For long distance trips (major intercity or interstate travel) you can travel ADO (the Greyhound of Mexico) at a much less expensive cost than flying – best if you don’t mind slow traveling.

5. Visit a Religious Site

At every destination you visit, there are religious sites. Get to know the culture, a little better, by visiting at least one. It can be a temple, a church, a shrine, or even a religious pilgrimage site.

In Mexico, you’d have to be trying pretty hard to not make your way to a church. Wait, what? Almost every town or city is centred around a church, but each is unique – from the architecture to the religious practice. See our post here about the indigenous villages of Chiapas

6. Participate in a Cultural Activity

​​Most everyone knows, ‘When in Rome’. So, if you have the chance, wherever you are, definitely participate in anything the locals do. Why? Well, it’s best to ‘Do as the Roman’s do’, when the goal is expand your cultural horizons! You know, not only learn and grow, but to blend in.

It can be anything from learning their dancing style to participating in ceremonies like building an altar for Dia de Muertos. Or Zen meditation, tantric yoga, and/or their go to local sport. Cultural festivals will give you a glimpse into the heritage and traditions – don’t miss out!

If you only visit the tourist sites, I am sure that will be a fun trip. But we want you to repeat the traveller’s mantra, “DMO (Don’t Miss OUT)!”

Ask around. The locals will know what kind of places are really worth a visit, and which places might not be.

If you prefer a more guided option, we highly recommend an AirBnB experiences over tour companies as you’ll usually be dealing with/having your experience with a person wanting to show you their slice of the world.

For example

In Merida, Mexico Cenotes (crater filled with water) are a popular activity but if you visit the known cenote sites you are likely to be climbing over people to get in the water – ask around, and blaze the trail less taken.

8. Walk Around Aimlessly

One of the best things you can do to really get to know a place is to walk around, and see where your feet take you. If you only go from tourist attraction to tourist attraction you will miss the most important part: The people living in the place you are currently visiting.

An additional bonus: It’s completely free! Walking around is one of the best and cheapest ways to get to know a place.

Another one of our favourite things to do when we get to a new place is take a free walking tour. Try booking on Guru Walk.

9. Ask About the Daily Routine of a Local

Not only will you have a perfect reason to start a conversation with a local, you will also probably learn something about the culture of the place in the process. Just ask your host or any random person you meet in a bar or on the streets.

A wise post once noted, ‘Get them talking about themselves and their is no limit to what you can learn’ – don’t miss out!

10. Capture all Experiences in Pictures and Text

To wrap up our 10 travel tips you can use anywhere, our advice is to capture all you memories. We write a blog about our experiences, but you don’t have to. You could just write a diary, or use an App. Or fill a scrapbook.

If you do these 10 things at every destination, your trips will be awesome and memorable.  Why? Because you didn’t leave anything undone!

What other things should people do at a destination? Tell us in the comments!

Lately, Airbnb has been criticized by many travellers for becoming more and more commercialized, filled with people who only want to make a profit, lacking its soul – by losing sight of the whole social component. We are all kind of disappointed that most listings nowadays are either professional hotels, hostels, or bed and breakfasts. If we wanted to (or could afford to) stay in a hotel we would book a hotel, am I right?

When we are looking for places to stay we want to stay in local neighbourhoods, engage with locals, eat with locals, and most of all get valuable tips about the place we are at. We want to have a strong social component to our stay. This is still possible using Airbnb, you just need to follow a couple rules and it will be easy to find these real locals to stay with.

Because we need to work we do need a quiet private space and we are generally looking for a few criteria: good Wifi is an absolute must; location – is it easy to get around; is there are a supermarket close by; and are there two areas where we can sit far enough away from each other that we we aren’t disturbing each other’s calls.

So how do you find the perfect place?

1. ASK THE HOST FOR UPLOAD, DOWNLOAD SPEEDS

We learned the hard way that you should never rely on someone’s word that the internet connection is “good”. If you need the internet for work like we do. The good news is that it’s a fairly easy fix – ask your potential host to run a speed test prior to booking and get a screenshot of the results.

I always send a quick friendly message, something along the lines of “Hi XYZ, my husband and I are interested in booking your place for a month, and it’s really important we have high speed internet connection. I’d really appreciate it if you could run a quick speed test, and send me the results. Here is the link to run the test https://www.speedtest.net/.”

We need minimum 6mbps download AND upload to run video calls but depending on your requirements you may need more or less.

2. SET FILTERS

If you need the place to yourself always select ‘Entire Place’ and adjust the price settings if you don’t want to be tempted by places outside of your budget. We also add ‘Kitchen’ to the filters so we can cook our own meals.

If you are looking to stay with locals, even if you filter out all “Entire Place” you will still get a lot of hotel rooms and hostel beds in your search result.

Try adjusting the price range a little bit and also use the map to zoom out of the city centre.

Many people live in the suburbs so if you are only looking at listings in the city centre chances are high you will only find overpriced hotels.

3. BOOK WITHIN 3 OR 1 MONTHS OF YOUR STAY

When a host is creating a listing they can enable the calendar for 1-year booking, 3-month booking or 1-month booking.

The commercial listings like hotels might not have a problem accepting bookings one year in advance. However, a private person often won’t really know their plans that far in advance. Therefore, setting your option to book at 3 months or 1 month is a good way to catch the private person host – don’t book too far in advance or the real hosts might not be an available option.

4. READ REVIEWS

When you have found a booking that seems good to you the last step is to read the reviews. You want to read about how much the host interacted with the guests and how the overall atmosphere was between guest and host. That way you can make sure your host wants to talk to (and spend time with) you when you are their guest. If that’s important to you or if you just want local tips and help when something goes wrong, it’s helpful to have an open and friendly host.

And if after doing all of the above you still have trouble finding some local hosts, why not try one of the other options? Like Couchsurfing. We signed up to Couchsurfing recently but have yet to use it because of the ‘rona.

5. DISABLE INSTANT BOOKING

This is particularly important if you want to stay in a home with a local, rather than having a place to yourself.

Instant book is a setting in Airbnb that enables booking without having to request approval from the host. This is mostly done by commercial listing and less done by hosts who invite people to their homes.

People want the option and security to look over a guests’ profile and reject them if they don’t seem like a good fit. Even if they don’t plan to reject people on principle, still the option to say no just in case is reassuring.

If you only filter automatic booking postings, you may be missing out on the real local hosts.

Want to check out the Airbnb’s we’ve been staying in? We do house tours on Instagram – just click on the ‘Airbnb’ highlight.

  1. Find a way to make money online
    You can do pretty much anything online, think about what skills you have now and how you can apply those to the digital world, for example, Zahn is graphic and web designer taking clients remotely from all over the world and Addison is using the skills and knowledge at his “normal job” to help people in New Zealand to navigate ACC and get their claims reviewed. Also, see our post here on teaching English online here.

  2. Save, save, save
    While ideally, you’ll constantly be making money online while you travel it is always advisable to take a healthy savings fund for any unexpected issues that may come up.

    Don’t think you can save with your current income? See numbers 1 & 3!

  3. Sell all non-essential items 
    We were pretty certain we didn’t want to store our belongings while we were on the road, a) because we plan to be away for at least a year and b) because storage units are expensive and we didn’t want to burden our friends and family so we sold everything that didn’t have sentimental value and made some extra funds to top up our savings account. 

    Regardless of if you decide to go the whole hog or not, it’s a good opportunity to get rid of anything you don’t need.

    See our post here on selling everything you own.

  4. Find your first destination and research the heck out of it!
    For us, it had to be cheap, warm, be close to the beach, has good food and decent WIFI so we decided our first stop would be Mexico. Consider – the cost of living, weather, community, visa restrictions, and any other factors that are important to you.

  5. Sort out your banking
    We use TransferWise, a money transfer service, and an online bank. They offer service to several countries and currencies and reasonable, transparent fees and a debit card at no cost. They also have business banking options so we can keep track of our business income and expenses for tax time.
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