The exchange rate is currently at about 16 to 1 at the time of this writing, but that doesn't mean we can buy 16 of whatever we could buy with one dollar. Likewise, just because a beer costs $7 USD in the USA, doesn't mean a $3 brew is a good deal in Mexico. Many foreigners who travel to Mexico don't have a solid understanding of exchange rates and what the bottom line is when it comes to how far their dollar will get them. The truth is, it takes being here for a little while to understand how that rate has been fluctuating, and what the normal prices in this area are as opposed to what normal prices in other areas are before one can grasp what is possible with a $100 bill.
So, how far will a dollar get you? How far will $100 get you? After spending the last six months in Mexico, I'm prepared to answer that question. Needless to say, it depends greatly on your habits, how you like to live (or how you want to travel), and your desire/ability to stretch out a buck. Let's take a look at some sweet infographics I've prepared to help wrap our heads around what's possible...
Let's analyze above where it says "Consumables." Yes, you're reading that right- for one crisp Benjamin you can buy about 140 taco's. That's less than a dollar per taco! There are many places in the States that have no shame in charging $5 each! Except for these taco's are damn good. These aren't your typical taco-kit taco's. And Taco Bell is literally dog food next to these. It's no exaggeration when people say, "Until you've tried a taco in Mexico, you've never tried a taco." These things are finger-lickin' good. I'll take three, please! And for about $2 USD, we are full and happy.
Let's take a look at Beer (which is of great interest to many). "Beers (In)" refers to the approximate number of beers one can buy from a store and drink them "in-house." Whereas "Beers (Out)" refers to the average cost of a beer when we go out to a bar. We could order about 45 beers at a bar (roughly $2 a pop) not including a 10-15% tip. Not bad. Or we could purchase about 160 beers and throw a rage-er with friends for the same amount of money. With this information, we now know that a $3 beer is actually quite expensive in Mexico (unless it's a microbrew or something).
In regards to cocktails, they're absurdly expensive here. At first glance, this can be deceiving. For $100 USD, we can probably order about 18 cocktails, which comes out to a little bit more than $5 apiece before tip. It sounds pretty standard compared to what we'd pay in the USA, until we consider the fact that a 750ml bottle of the alcohol in the aforementioned cocktail costs roughly $8, and contains enough alcohol to make 20 cocktails. Out of principle alone, I can't convince myself to order one unless the ingredients are incredibly difficult to locate and it is an unusually special occasion.
And finally, let's take a look at "Dinners." For $100 USD, we can probably dine about 8-12 times out at a restaurant. So, about $10, give or take. Again, not bad- but if we go grocery shopping or hit up that taco stand, it's going to be much cheaper.
Let's move over to the "Lodging" chart. This varies greatly depending on our requirements for the rooms we sleep in, but we can take away two very important notes from this information. Firstly, it can be considerably cheaper to reserve a place to stay in Mexico (I rent my very nice 2-bedroom apartment on AirBnb for about $40 a night). And secondly, for a lot less money you can use AirBnb or stay in a hostel which often turns out to be an even better experience than a hotel anyway!
Ok, these facts are great in a vacuum, but we probably aren't going to buy 160 taco's. So, how far does $100 USD actually get us when we factor everything together? I've created an infographic for that as well with the data I obtained after several weeks of keeping track of every Peso spent. Due to the extreme variations in cost of lodging, I've left that out of the equation; these stats reflect what I've spent on everything else, with no special effort to penny-pinch.
Based on the information above, it is completely possible to make $100 USD last 10 days. Those who are super cost-conscious might be able to double that amount of time. On the other hand, it wouldn't be difficult to carelessly burn through $100 in a day. It all depends on the lifestyle or experience desired.
My major cost (75%) was food and drink, which includes several trips to restaurants and coffee every day. That being said, I don't go out much, nor do I have a real need to pay for transportation. If partying, exploration, and excursions are on the agenda, Mr. Franklin isn't going to walk as far with you as he does with me. Nevertheless, knowing what the everyday minimum or average cost should be is an extremely valuable tool in planning a trip, or even a move to Mexico.
But who's that good-looking couple up top, you ask? Why, those are my dear friends Juli y Juan, of course! They are private chefs on a gastronomic road trip around the USA. You should definitely seek them out if you're interested in delicious, healthy recipes, or if you'd like more advice on Mexico- they've lived here a lot longer than I have!
Share any thoughts or advice below!