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Living in Tulum: Ultimate Guide From an Expat!

I lived in Tulum for many months over the past few years and I want to share everything I learned with you all on how to navigate this beautiful beach village.

During my 4 months living in Tulum, and around a year in Mexico overall, I learned tons of tips and tricks for navigating Mexico’s most trendy beach destination.

Transportation

Bikes in Tulum Mexico

The main methods of transportation in Tulum are by bike, scooter, rental car, taxi, and ADO bus. 

There is no Uber in Tulum, so you’re at the mercy of the Mexican Taxi Mafia if you want to take a cab within the city.

Because of this, I recommend arranging your transport independently.

Most people choose to rent a bike in Tulum or a scooter for transportation, and take an ADO bus or rent a car for day trips from the town. 

I recommend renting a scooter to get around Tulum. 

👉 Book your Tulum scooter rental ahead of time by clicking here. 👈

If you don’t know how to drive a scooter or are on a budget, you might be better off renting a bike because it’s a lot cheaper and easier to navigate.

I wouldn’t recommend renting a car in Tulum because there aren’t many options and the scarcity majorly inflates rental prices. 

If you would like to rent a car it’s better to rent it in Cancun and drive it down to Tulum. 


How to Save Money While Living in Tulum

Mexican pesos (Photo by WorldRemit Comms via Flickr)

In Tulum, cash is still king.

It’s most important to get a travel debit and credit card that will waive foreign transaction fees. A travel debit card will work more in your favor since Mexico, in general, is a cash-oriented location.

Travel debit cards are hard to get from big banks, alternatively, you can look into if your bank has any international affiliates.

I use Bank of America and their affiliate ATM is Scotiabank in Mexico, so if I use Scotiabank I don’t have to pay any ATM fees. It saves me between $7-$10 per transaction to use an affiliate ATM.


Banking Fees

The bank that I used in Tulum was Scotiabank (photo by Reg Natarajan via Flickr)


ATM

The ATM fees you’ll be looking at are the ATM charges leveraged by your home bank and the Mexican ATM (usually $2-4 per transaction from each), 3% foreign transaction fee from your home bank, and the fee leveraged by the Mexican ATMs for using ‘their conversion rate”.

The last one is the kicker, the ATMs first ask if it’s okay that they’re charging you a (usually 70 pesos) tax and fee to use them, if you say “no” to this your transaction will be canceled.

On the next page, they ask if you will accept “their” conversion rate – which includes a 5%-12% fee the bank is tacking on to the standard conversion rate. It’s very sneaky because most tourists don’t know that they can decline the bank’s conversion rate and avoid the steep fees.

How to avoid ATM fees: Either try to find a debit card where international transaction fees are waived (sometimes this can be negotiated if you have other relationships with your bank, like if you invest with them), or see if your bank has a “partner bank” in Mexico.

I know that the bank I use, Bank of America, has a partner bank in Mexico called Scotiabank, and they have several branches in Tulum.

If I use Scotiabank with my BOA debit card I avoid the ATM use fees, but Scotiabank still shows a page asking me if I will accept their conversion rate and 12% fee.

ALWAYS decline the bank’s conversion rate if given the option. If you use these tips you could go from paying a potential 15-19% in ATM-related fees to 0%-3%.

Tip: it’s always better to just take out large amounts of cash, especially if there’s only one branch of ATM you can use without fees because the ATMs frequently run out of cash in Tulum.


Credit cards

It’s easier to get a “travel rewards” credit card than a travel debit card. They waive the international exchange fee and give you rewards for every dollar spent.

Travel Rewards cards sound amazing on paper, but the problem is once you’re actually out of the country a lot of places, like Mexico, are cash economies and will either just not accept credit cards or charge you a 3-5% fee.

If you’re paying a 3% fee to the merchant to be able to use your card, it’s like you didn’t have your international transaction fee waived at all.

I would highly recommend getting a Travel Rewards credit card because it offers some other insurances; like my Bank of America Travel Rewards card (no I’m not sponsored by BOA, I wish!) offers 3 months theft protection.

This means if I buy something with my card and it gets stolen within 3 months of the purchase, the card kicks in and offers insurance on it.

The problem is, in Mexico few places take credit cards. For instance, when my bike was stolen on my first day in Tulum, the card insurance didn’t help me because the bike rental place only took cash.

The same thing when I bought my current bike to replace the rental, they only took cash. So while my Travel Rewards card is certainly not useless in Mexico, it IS infrequently used.

How to avoid credit card fees in Tulum: 

  • Ask everywhere you go if there’s a fee for credit cards – I say “¿Hay alguna tarifa por las tarjetas de crédito?” – if there is a credit card fee, use cash instead.
  • Make sure to get a travel credit card before you leave, it doesn’t matter if it has a high APR, just remember to pay it off in full every month. Even with minimum spending on my Travel Rewards Card, I was able to buy my flight to Oaxaca with points.
  • Pay by credit card/debit card and save your cash when you can. If you find a place where you can pay by card with no fees, always pay by card there.

Exchange Rates

This is the sneakiest way you can lose money while traveling – most people don’t walk around knowing the Interbank Exchange Rate on any given day, and lots of services (from shops, ATMs, PayPal, and money exchanges) will take advantage of that by trying to charge their own rate.

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This Cenote, for instance, is 250 pesos or $17 USD, even though $250 pesos is only $12-13 USD.

Tips: 

  • The ATMs run out of cash so you might have to try more than one spot, and you won’t always be able to use your affiliate bank.
  • Scotiabank, HSBC, and BBVA are most common ATMs/Banks in Tulum Centro.
  • Get cash in Centro because Hotel Zone ATMs charge higher fees

Avoid exchanging money ever. Even places that say “no fee/no commission” that’s because they’re charging their own exchange rate, or even giving you fake currency.

Take out cash from an ATM and only take out an amount you can use before going home.


How Expensive is Living in Tulum?

Tulum can be very cheap or it can be very expensive. Tulum is generally more expensive than Playa del Carmen or Cancun because it is smaller and has less competitive pricing.

The prices have risen steeply in past years due to the tourism boom in the area, but it’s still an economical travel destination.

How expensive is housing in Tulum?

  • AIRBNB – You can get a nice 1 bedroom/studio AirBnB in Aldea Zama, La Valeta, or Tulum Central areas for around $1,000 a month (taking advantage of monthly discounts) if you do some searching or $40-$60 per night. 
  • HOSTEL – A bed in a nice hostel will cost around $500 a month or $30 a night, a bed in a cheap hostel goes for around $10 a night.
  • HOTEL – A room in a hotel on the beach is $100 a night on the low end, but could easily go up to $1,000 per night.

How expensive is Transportation in Tulum?

  • BIKE RENTAL – 100 pesos Per day, 1 day free per week. To buy a bike (which I did) is 2,000 – 3,000 pesos (100-150 USD), so if you’re going to be there more than a month it makes more sense to buy instead of rent.
  • COLECTIVO – budget 1 peso per minute, meaning a 45 min Colectivo trip from Tulum to Playa del Carmen should be 45 pesos (around $2 USD). 
  • TAXI – The taxi prices are all over the place, for the same trip you could get quoted 100 or 500 pesos depending on the driver because they usually up-charge tourists. Some standard pricing I’ve noticed is:
    • 100 pesos to go from Tulum Central to the Hotel Zone
    • 200 pesos to go from Hotel Zone to Tulum Central, this is way overpriced but people at the beach don’t have another option
    • 100 pesos to go from Tulum Central to Tulum Ruins 
    • 50 pesos to go from one place in Tulum Central to another 
    • 700 pesos to go from Tulum to Playa del Carmen 
  • CAR RENTAL – 600 pesos per day (average price) for an economy car 

👉 To book bus trips ahead of time, go to Busbud.com  👈

  • BUS – You can take ADO (pronounced Ah – Dio) almost anywhere and can book tickets online at BusBud.com. The bus prices vary greatly, here are some examples of prices:
    • Tulum to Playa: 75 – 300 pesos one way depending on bus company/booking platform 
    • Chiquila (Isla Holbox) to Tulum: 500 pesos one way 
    • Tulum to Valladolid: 50 – 150 pesos depending on bus company/booking platform 
    • Tulum to Bacalar: 300 each way on ADO 
    • Tulum to Cancun Airport: 300 – 400 pesos on ADO 
  • SCOOTER – I was quoted at prices 1,000 USD or above for a month’s rental, not including gas. The going rate for scooters is $40-50 per day.

👉 Book your Tulum scooter rental ahead of time by clicking here. 👈

$3 USD worth of tacos from Taqueria el Crucero

How Expensive is Food in Tulum?

Food in Tulum can be very cheap or very expensive, you could have a whole meal made from scratch at a taco cart (including a fresh drink) for under $5 or you could have a $100 meal in the hotel zone. It’s all about what you want to do, but here are some general prices:

  • Meal from a food cart – under 20 pesos per taco – 40 pesos per Torta (sandwich) 
  • Ceviche in Tulum Central – 200-250 pesos 
  • Ice cream –  40 pesos per scoop 
  • Coffee from a cafe in Tulum Central – 50 pesos 
  • Fresh cut fruit from a fruit cart – 40 – 60 pesos
  • Water bottle – 20 pesos 
  • Breakfast dish in Tulum Central restaurant: 100 pesos 
  • Meal in Tulum Central restaurant: 150 – 250 pesos    
  • Meal on Av. Coba (the street that goes to the beach) 250 – 350 pesos 
  • Meal at a restaurant on the beach – 350 – 450 pesos  
  • Cocktail in Tulum Central – 100 pesos 
  • Cocktail on the beach – 350 pesos 

How much do activities cost in Tulum?

  • Cenotes near Tulum or Playa del Carmen – 250+ pesos entrance fee 
  • Kaan Luum lagoon – 300 pesos entrance fee
  • Cenotes farther out –  100 pesos or less entrance fee
  • Beach – (Playa Paraiso & Tulum Beach are the public beaches) free 
  • Beach club – 300 – 500 pesos per day 
  • Tulum Ruins – 70 pesos entrance fee 
  • Si’an ka’an BioReserve – 1,000 pesos for boat tour + 100 pesos entrance fee
  • Chichen Itza – 540 pesos entrance fee for adults 
  • Music Festivals – usually around $100 USD per day for entrance tickets

Coworking in Tulum

Remote working is big business in Tulum, you can sign up for a service like co-working Tulum that has a bunch of different locations or I had a friend who paid for a subscription to a 1-location space, similar to WeWork.

A dedicated space guarantees good wifi and a quiet work environment, she wasn’t too happy with the space since it was too full and noisy.

 I rarely had to make calls, if I did I would just stay home because my Airbnb had great wifi and was guaranteed to be quiet. A 1-location co-working space is only worth it in Tulum (in my opinion) if you don’t have good wifi at your Airbnb. 

Cooking class with Tulum Coworking events

Coworking Tulum is a private club you need to pay (last time I checked) 80 USD a month to be a part of.

Every weekday they arrange a different place around Tulum with good wifi for everyone to co-work at, it’s essentially a rotating co-working space.

You also get 15% off dining at partner locations. They also have events: while I was with them they had Co-Sailing (renting a party boat), Co-Dining (renting out restaurants), and Co-Hort (Classes like cooking and exercise classes).

Even though I had great wifi at my Airbnb in La Valeta it was nice to have a ready-made community. These groups are made for remote workers though, not backpackers because the memberships and events are pretty pricey.

Tip: You can join their Whatsapp public group chat for free by registering on their website.

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Co-Sailing party with CoWorking Tulum

Best Coworking Spaces in Tulum 

Aldea Zama

I have yet to find a good spot to eat in the Aldea Zama area, it’s mostly tourist traps with NYC prices ($8 froyo is common in Aldea Zama).

That being said, Aldea Zama has places with great ambiance, great wifi, and OK food. Here are two places I would recommend to bunker down with your laptop and a cappuccino, but wouldn’t recommend for dinner:

  • $$$ Orchid House: killer ambiance, the shrimp tacos are also pretty good. Good for calls since I was the only person there every time I went.
  • $$$ Norita Tulum: Pool-side cabanas, good wifi, nice drinks. Good for calls since you can spread out.

Tulum Centro

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Xi’bok cafe

Xi’bok cafe $$

  • Great food and drinks, try the rojo chilaquiles.
  • Only has wifi on the third floor when I went, ask the hostess where the best wifi is when you go.
  • Not good for calls since it’s very noisy.
Botanica Garden Cafe

Botanica Garden Cafe $$

  • The wifi is pretty good, great ambiance, good food, and there’s live music.
  • No AC because it’s outdoors.
  • Not good for calls, live music.
  • Few power outlets

Starbucks $

  • Not the most aesthetically pleasing, but good wifi, lots of power outlets, they usually don’t play music, and clean bathrooms.
  • Get there early or you risk not being able to secure a table.

Digital Nomads working with beach wifi (photo by Steven Zwerink via Flickr)

Wifi in Tulum

The wifi in Tulum is notoriously bad. I would recommend the Starbucks in Tulum Centro for the most consistent wifi in Tulum because even at the high-end cafes that advertise free wifi it is very spotty.

If you sign up with a coworking office or coworking community like Tulum Coworking they will make sure you have adequate wifi.

Tip: If you need wifi for work reasons, have your Airbnb send you the upload and download speeds they have before booking.


Best Places to Eat in Tulum

The saying goes “you only have to feed a tourist once”, so there’s no need to provide good food.

Unfortunately, this is very true in Tulum, and there are a lot of tourist-trap over-priced restaurants with not very good food.

This section has all of the amazing restaurants I’ve found in Tulum where the locals go, as well as some tourist-oriented places I personally found to be very great.

Best everyday cheap restaurants in Tulum

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Taqueria Honorio

$ Taqueria Honorio

Slow roasted meat and everything homemade, known as the best taqueria in Tulum. Only open till 3 PM.

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El Dorado

$ El Dorado

Great ceviche and fresh fish dishes. I would recommend this spot over the more touristy La Barracuda because I never had a bad bite of fish at El Dorado.

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Xi’bok cafe

$$ Ki Bok Cafe

Best coffee shop + Breakfast I went to.

  • Tip: try the Chilaquiles.
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Burrito Amor

$$ Burrito Amor

This was my favorite place to order from on Tomato.mx (food delivery service in Tulum), all the burritos come wrapped in leaves rather than plastic.

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Agusto Salad Bar

$ Agusto Salad Bar

“make your own” salad place that’s fresh and reasonably priced.

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Tacos Tulum los Mejores

$ Tacos Tulum los Mejores

On the go taco spot outside the Super Aki on the corner of Av. Coba and the main street (Highway 307), you’ll see all the local policemen lined up here for an afternoon meal. Only open till 5 PM.

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Taqueria “El Crucero

$ Taqueria “El Crucero”

Another terrific on-the-go taco cart outside the Super Aki. Different carts will be outside the Aki on different days but not all of them are that tasty. Look for if the food cart rotisseries or smokes its own meat, otherwise it could not taste that fresh.

  • Tip: Try the mixed tacos and horchata.
Panna e Cioccolato

$ Panna e Cioccolato

Biking through Tulum Pueblo is hot work! I’ve stopped in here for a quick $2 cone of gelato countless times.

La Negra Tomasa

$$ La Negra Tomasa

You can get the most amazing seafood tower (La Torresona) and a drink for around $13 USD, hands-down the best seafood I’ve had so far in Tulum.

Fruit Carts (Photo by jait214 via Flickr)

$ Fruit Carts

These will be scattered over the main street and Av.Coba (the street that goes to the beach). Usually, you can get pineapple, mango, and coconut with a variety of toppings.

Palma Central (Photo by Bernard DUPONT via Flickr)

$ – $$ Palma Central

Food trucks and outposts of different restaurants in Tulum.

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El Vegetariano Mar y Tierra

$$ El Vegetariano Mar y Tierra

One of the better vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Tulum.

  • Tip: Try the cheesecake with berry sauce.

Restaurants with the best ambiance in Tulum

$$ Botanica Garden Cafe

Botanica Garden Cafe

Great ambiance and live music.

$ La Negra Tomasa

On this list twice, the upstairs portion of the restaurant is painted bubble-gum pink and is a great spot for large groups or working on your laptop, there’s also usually live music after 5 PM.

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PASHA

$$ PASHA

This restaurant is gorgeous, I actually had a photoshoot here with my friend who is a model, there’s nothing else like it in Tulum. Turkish food, drinks. Also, they do a great daytime deal if you’re ordering for delivery off Tomato.Mx for Shwarma wraps.

  • Tip: Try the Moussaka.

$$ Sushiclub Tulum

Sushi place by the beach with AMAZING drinks.

  • Tip: Try the smoked cocktails.

Hartwood Tulum (Photo by Lou Stejskal via Flickr)

Best splurge-worthy restaurant in Tulum

$$$ Hartwood

Cash only and expect a line on Friday-sat nights.


How to order food & groceries for delivery in Tulum

Delivery service

Tomato.MX is the Uber eats of Tulum 

  • Some restaurants on Tomato accept card, and some only accept cash – if you order and are paying cash you’ll need to specify how much change you’ll need when ordering.
  • The delivery charge is only 30 pesos ($1.50) USD.

Chedraui supermarket (Photo Dennis Sylvester Hurd via Flickr)

Where to get groceries in Tulum

The Chedraui supermarket in town will deliver groceries if you spend a min 200 pesos (10 USD). You can order online for delivery on their website.

For a long-term stay, I recommend an Airbnb with a kitchen and going food shopping; the only food stores are convenience stores like 7-11, then the Super Aki and the Chedraui.

I would skip the Super Aki in Centro and go a little further to the Chedraui on Av. Coba for your food shopping. Every time I’ve been to the Super Aki it’s been kind of dirty and only had alcohol and processed foods in high supply.


Where not to eat in Tulum

Anywhere on Av Coba (the street leading to the beach), Aldea Zama, or La Valeta. These are where a lot of expensive tourist traps are.


Best Bars & Clubs in Tulum

Hotel Zone 

Azulik Hotel & Kin Toh restaurant (photo via Mary Madigan at Flickr)

$$$ Kin Toh at Azulik Hotel

Gorgeous architecture, and good drinks. If you’re not a guest at the hotel and want to go to the more “exclusive” iconic tree-housey areas you’ll need to pay for a tour of the hotel museum.

Last I checked it was $10 USD but prices are going up in Tulum every day. I’ve been to the restaurant here and it’s quite pricy and not necessarily the BEST food, Heartwood is a lot better for the money if you want a good dinner. 

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Casa Malca is an iconic photo spot

$$$ Casa Malca

If you want to actually experience this place you need to pay their 100 USD “beach club fee” that gets you all-day access and towel service, otherwise don’t bother because if you don’t pay the access fee you can’t go to the bar they’re famous for (the Haring Bar).

The bonus is the fee goes towards your daily consumption, not true for every beach club in Tulum, and it’s easy to spend $100 here on drink and food over a whole day.

I would recommend it if it’s within your budget since they’re one of the exclusive clubs that clean the seaweed off their beach every day. Also, it’s one of the most iconic places to take photos in Tulum. The food here was nothing to write home about but it also wasn’t bad.

$$ iScream Bar

This place is fun but they added a large service charge to our bill and then drew on top of it with hearts and smileys so we wouldn’t see and just pay the total.

They prey on drunk tourists, but it’s a popular place that usually doesn’t have a line on the beach (and they sell ice cream!). 

$$$ Papaya Playa Project

Going to the Full Moon Party at Papaya Playa Project in 2019 is one of my best memories, it was magical.

They still happen every month (on whichever weekend is closest to a full moon) however someone told me that they’re taking advantage of the pandemic by making people buy private tables (instead of just entrance tickets) for $1,000 each.

Which is … insanely expensive.

See if that’s still the policy when you go, when I went in 2019 the tickets were only about 20 USD.

Gitano Tulum (Photo via Lou Stejskal on Flickr)

$$$ Gitano

There are two Gitanos, one is closer to Tulum Ruins and Playa Paraiso and one is more in the center of the Hotel Zone.

I would recommend the one closer to Playa Paraiso for chill drinks with friends and the one in the center for a night out. They’re both really fun but there’s usually a line, also the food at Gitano is notoriously bad! It’s strictly a night-out spot.


Batey’s Mojito bar (Photo by Paul Simpson via Flickr)

Tulum Centro

Tulum Centro, also called Tulum Pueblo, is great for bar hopping.

Centro is also much cheaper than the hotel zone, people will be less dressed up, and you won’t have to pay for the 400 peso taxi to get home at the end of the night.

  • A lot of people congregate on C. Centauro Sur where a lot of bars are.
  • $ Mistico Shisha Bar is a popular spot for nightlife.
  • $ Batey’s (Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar) is also popular with tourists.
  • There are not as many dance spots in Tulum Centro

NOTE: All over Tulum Pueblo and the Hotel Zone you’ll see sterile lit-up pharmacies. Seriously, I think in the Hotel Zone alone there are at least 10.

Going into one to buy band-aids or whatever you associate with a pharmacy back home you’re in for a surprise. They carry all normal pharmacy items but mainly service partying tourists with prescription drugs like Xanax that are legal in Mexico.

Don’t be surprised if your pharmacist tries to push hard drugs on you with your Tylenol purchase! 


Where to get clean drinking water while living in Tulum

This section of the post includes affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The water in Tulum is unfortunately not safe to drink, many locals don’t even risk it. In the resorts a lot of the tap water is purified, you can contact your hotel and ask, but for long-term stays in Tulum purified water is not provided

Garrafones (Photo by Jason Pratt via Flickr)

Garrafones

For long-term rentals and Airbnbs, your options are to arrange a water delivery service (your Airbnb host should be able to help you with this).

They’ll deliver “garrafones” (ga-Rah-phone), or large gallon jugs of drinking water, directly to your home, many locals use this service.

You’ll get the cleanest water this way but you’ll be dependent on the delivery service and could potentially run out.

You could also arrange to have your groceries delivered from the Chedraui on Av. Coba, it’s a 200 pesos minimum spend and they’ll bring you Garrafones or bottles of purified water.

I would recommend garrafones delivery if you don’t have a travel purifier, but it’s much easier to travel Mexico with a travel water purifier.


Travel Purifiers

GRAYL bottle purifies via manual filtration.
GRAYL bottle purifies via manual filtration.

👉 I travel with a Grayl water purifier so I can drink the tap water wherever I am, you can buy one on Amazon here. 👈

Your other option (what I use) is bringing your own water filtration system with you. I’ve been using a LARQ bottle for the past few months in Mexico and I have not gotten sick yet. The LARQ works by using UV light to kill any bacteria or viruses in the water, but it will not remove chemicals.

Because of sanitation issues, the tap water in Mexico is heavily chlorinated and doesn’t taste great.

If this bothers you, a different water filtration you could use I also always travel with is a GRAYL bottle. Similar to the Lifestraw, the GRAYL filters out everything (dirt, viruses, chemicals, etc) through mechanical filtration.

After using this bottle the water should be super clean and tasteless, I’ve also never gotten sick using the GRAYL bottle, but the more you use it the more often you’ll have to replace the filter.

I’m not bothered so much by the taste, so I just use my LARQ UV-purifying bottle in the Riviera Maya because I never have to worry about running out of water or running out of replacement filters. In areas where the water is dicier, I will use the GRAYL.


Tipping in Tulum

Tipping at restaurants, especially touristy/modern ones, is expected.

Check to make sure service isn’t already included. If a restaurant adds a steep service charge to your bill you actually don’t have to pay it and can send it back unless it’s listed on the menu as “a 10% service charge will be added to your bill”.

Common tipping scams in Mexico to look out for:

  • If the restaurant adds a 20% or more service charge.
  • If the restaurant adds a service charge and then asks for a tip on top of that (which is more common) they’re banking on you either not checking the bill or not knowing Spanish.

I’ve actually had a bar (iScream Bar in the Hotel Zone) draw hearts and smiley faces over the part of the bill where they added a large tip for themselves. We weren’t drunk, like most of the patrons of iScream were, so we saw it.

The standard is 10%, and lots of tourists come from America and tip 20% or more because it’s what we’re used to – there’s nothing wrong with tipping your server extra!

If you’re paying in card they might have a section that says “tip 10%/15%/20%” for you to choose from.

I’ve seen some restaurants in the hotel zone only have the options of 20%/25%/30%, in that situation you need to tell the server “10%” or “15%” and it’s quite awkward.

It’s not normal to tip 30% in Mexico, but if you want to help your server out and you have the money you totally should!

  • Grocery Delivery: The Chedraui grocery delivery men were lugging crates of food (and sometimes Garaffones of water) up 3 flights of stairs to my apartment, you best believe I tipped them! 10% isn’t the standard for grocery delivery since sometimes the bill could be 200+ USD. $5-$10 per trip would be more standard, and not everyone tips for grocery delivery but it’s appreciated.
  • Food Delivery: When I ordered on Tomato.mx they show you which restaurants take cards and which only take cash, if you pay in card there will be a space for you to tip your delivery driver.
  • Street Carts: No tip required, if they have a tip jar you can throw in your change, it’s always appreciated!
  • Tours: If you hired a private guide a tip is expected – it’s usually something like $5-$10, but only if you had a good experience. Always tip if you had a good time and got a fair price is my advice.
  • Cabs: No tip is necessary in cabs, if you hire a private tour driver they will expect a tip, but for just taking a cab from Aldea Zama to Centro a tip is not required (especially since 3/4 of the time they will already be ripping you off). I’ve seen some articles saying you’re supposed to tip cab drivers always in Mexico, but my friends who are Mexican citizens say it’s not common to tip cab nor Colectivo drivers for a normal trip.

I always tip if someone helps me carry my bags, one time an Ado Bus driver saw me give a big tip to my taxi driver (he carried my suitcase for me over 4 lanes! He didn’t have to) and then everyone at the Ado Bus station started asking me for tips! It’s not normal to tip your bus driver anywhere (I’m pretty sure), especially in Mexico.

The word for “Tip” is Propina. On the bill sometimes it will be written as “Servicio”.


Where to Stay in Tulum

Tulum Pueblo (also called Centro) 

Tulum Pueblo is by highway 307 (the main street) where a lot of clubs and bars are.

It’s very noisy in Centro, but if you want to be near the bars, but don’t want to pay Hotel Zone prices, this area is a good choice. It’s a mix of residents and tourists.

My studio in Tulum Villas area of Centro

Tulum Villas

Tulum Villas is a small residential area on the east side of avenue Coba, centrally located with a mix of ex-pats, tourists, and locals.

I stayed in Tulum Villas for a month. The houses in Tulum villas are typically older than the rest of Tulum. The apartment I rented looked fantastic but had some plumbing issues not usually found in new developments.

After staying in Tulum Villas and Aldea Zama for over a month each I would recommend Aldea Zama, it’s not centrally located like Tulum Villas, but nothing a 15-minute bike ride can’t fix.

I paid $1,100 USD for a month-long stay in a studio apartment in Tulum Villas


Hotel Zone 

The hotel zone is about a 15 min bike ride from Tulum Centro down Avenida Coba.

It’s a long stretch of hotels, bars, and restaurants that are right on the beach. Some of the most famous sites in Tulum are here. Expect to pay 100 USD a night (at least).


Aldea Zama 

Aldea Zama is a recently developed area where you’ll find a lot of luxury condos in the jungle between Av Coba and Av Kukulkan.

It’s connected to its neighboring region La Valeta by a dirt road called Itzamna (more on that below).

In Aldea Zama and La Valeta you can find a lot of luxury pool-rooftop accommodations for cheap if you know where to look.

Aldea Zama is popular with Ex-Pats and people staying in Tulum for more than a few months since it’s usually condos for rent in this area and Hotel Zone has mostly hotels.

If you’re looking for a long-term stay I recommend finding roommates and getting an in-person price, people staying at a nicer development in Aldea Zama than me sharing a 2-bedroom were paying $750 each.


La Valeta 

Also called area 15, La Valeta is in the jungle-like Aldea Zama area but it’s farther in from Avenida Coba, the main street that leads from the town to the beach.

La Valeta is the most recent area of development in Tulum, it’s separated from Aldea Zama by Av Kukulkan which goes all the way to the beach.

La Valeta is connected to Aldea Zama by the street Itzamna.

Safety: Av Kukulkan and Itzamna are undeveloped streets with no lights and unpaved roads.

It’s fine for the daytime, but there have been stories of people hiding in the woods with machetes at night attacking cyclists (you need to go slow because the roads are unpaved).

One time when I was staying in Aldea Zama I wanted to catch the sunset on the beach before heading home. It’s about a 20-minute bike ride to the beach down Av Kukulkan and by the time I was halfway back the sun had set.

This is not a big deal on a developed street like Av Coba, but there are no lights on Kukulcan, it’s just a dirt path cars and bikes whizz down. I was going super slow and using my phone as a signal light when a guy stopped me.

In Spanglish we worked out that he wanted to drive slowly behind me to make sure I got home ok, and he told me no local would bike these roads after dark – THAT’S how dangerous these roads are at night.


How to find roommates in Tulum

There are dedicated Tulum Facebook groups you can find roommates on or you can consult CoWorking Tulum’s public Whatsapp group chat, which you can sign up for.


What to Pack for Tulum

  • Sunscreen: If you have room in your checked bag you should bring your own sunscreen, you can get it from the Chedraui in Centro it’s more expensive here – about $10-15 per bottle
  • Bug Spray: I still have scars on my legs from days I forgot bug spray in Tulum! no matter how long you’re coming to Tulum for, bring bug spray with Deet. It’s a jungle after all! Mosquitos are more plentiful the deeper you are into the jungle, so Aldea Zama will have a lot more mosquitos than the beach area or Tulum Pueblo.
  • Rashguard: The Cenotes and other freshwater swim spots discourage sun-screen because it damages the ecosystem, most make you shower before getting in the water to remove sunscreens and lotions. A rashguard is the best way to limit sunscreen use.
  • Snorkel: You can rent snorkels in most places but it’s expensive and I can’t say how they’re sanitized, better to just bring your own.
  • Dry bag: I have a dry bag fanny-pack that’s come in handy countless times at the beach where there are no lockers. It fits all the essentials: phone, keys, cash, and earbuds, and keeps them dry even when I’m fully submerged so I don’t have to worry about leaving my belongings unattended while I swim.
  • Water-Shoes: There are a lot of rocky beaches and rockier Cenotes in Tulum Water shoes come in handy. I recommend Tevas because they work as water shoes and normal shoes, but you can buy a pair of water booties for $10 or less on Amazon.
  • Clothes: Tulum is known for its boutique stores but from what I’ve seen the more reasonably priced ones are very cheap clothes from AliExpress marked up, or very very expensive like $200-$600 for an outfit. I personally didn’t find Tulum the place to go shopping for my budget/style so I packed everything I would need for the trip.

Where to Get Your Laundry Done in Tulum

I did a lot of research into laundry services in Tulum since my apartment in Tulum Villas didn’t have a washing machine. This one came out on top:

 Agua y Mar Lavanderia

  • Calle Sol Pte., Tulum Centro, Centro, 77760 Tulum, Q.r., Mexico
  • On average 2 weeks of laundry for me was under 100 pesos ($5 USD), which is very reasonable – if you want your whites bleached you need to ask, and they do not do delicates (everything is washed in warm water and put in the drier).

Note: There’s no dry cleaning in Tulum.


Communication / Cell Service in Tulum 


I was staying in Mexico for an extended period so I purchased a local sim from Telcel, which is one of the larger cellular companies that work all over Mexico.

Getting a local SIM will change your phone number, but it’s usually a lot cheaper to get a local SIM than getting international service through your provider in your home country.

Buying a local SIM will change your cell phone number, so I also communicate through WhatsApp (which uses data to text people through your Original number) and iMessage which uses an Apple ID.

SIM/Telcel Info:

  • SIM card = 15 pesos
  • First-week coverage = 50 pesos for 500MB, the 500MB of data ran out in the first three days of use so then I upgraded to 8GB which would last 30 days and cost 500 pesos(25 USD). Telcel messaged me all the time that I was running out of data, but even with extensive Spotify usage, this data package lasted me 3 weeks, and then I had to upgrade.
  • In Oaxaca, 500 pesos (25 USD) is 8GB of data, in Tulum $500 pesos is 6GB, so just many other things, data is more expensive in the Mayan Riviera. How fast you’ll go through it depends on your data usage. I used Spotify and youtube quite a bit and 8BG lasted me 3 weeks. With more conservative use, 6GB could easily last all month.
  • You can buy a sim or top off your card at any store in town that has the “Telcel” sign. There’s a bunch near the ADO station in Central.

Note: you can top off your data online – Telcel will text you with the information, but I had a hard time with them accepting my American Visa card for online payment.

Note: some US cell providers include Mexico and Canada free of charge in their cell plans.


Tulum Resources

  • Unfortunately, there are no ride-sharing apps in Tulum
  • Google maps: download map offline
  • Google Translate: download Spanish offline
  • Whatsapp: will text and call people from your at-home cell number off data
  • Google Voice: Will give you a US number you can use off data
  • Tomato.MX: restaurant food delivery
  • Chedraui.com.mx: grocery/water delivery
  • Amazon.MX: Amazon delivers to Tulum, and if you have a Prime membership in the states it carries over. Make sure to order from Amazon.com.mx so you’re not just importing things from America
  • BusBud.com: I use it to book buses all over Mexico, they always take foreign debit cards but charge a small fee for the service.
  • CoWorking Tulum: private club for digital nomads

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