Whether you are a history buff, foodie, lover of the arts, collector of hand-made crafts, or are looking for a relaxing vacation experience, Mérida should be on your list. As the capital of the state of Yucatán, it serves as an important city attracting a wide variety of people from all walks of life. While Mexico has suffered from negative news, many people visit Mérida on a regular basis. What if you could visit this wonderful city on a budget? Sound good? Read Our Guide to Mérida Mexico On A Budget for tips, tricks, and hacks for your trip to Mérida.
PLEASE NOTE: With the currect COVID situation, many activities listed here have been postponed.
- 1 Our Guide to Mérida Mexico on a Budget
- 1.1 Travel to Mérida via Cancún on the ADO bus
- 1.2 Prepare for the hot weather in advance
- 1.3 Stay in Centro and walk to your new favorite spots
- 1.4 Cook tasty meals with fresh ingredients at home
- 1.5 Try one of the many luxury hostels in Centro
- 1.6 Step back in time in a historic hotel with modern conveniences
- 1.7 Walking or public transportation helps you to get to know the city
- 1.8 Yes, Uber is available in Mérida
- 1.9 Experience happy hour Mexican style
- 1.10 Delicious and famous Yucatecan desserts
- 1.11 Free entertainment is found all over Mérida
- 1.12 Culture, art, and history create lasting memories of The White City
Our Guide to Mérida Mexico on a Budget
Located in the Yucatan peninsula, Mérida is a vibrant and culturally rich destination. It has an extensive history found in museums, city tours, art galleries, restaurants, monuments, and other attractions.
Why is Mérida a little known city?
Tourists frequent coastal and beach destinations. Even though Mérida is close to the beach, it is not directly on the beach.
The best things about visiting Mérida are the many events, locations, museums and things to do, no matter what your budget is. Frequent and free community events, local food, and public transportation make it easy to navigate the city, learn about the culture and, most importantly EAT!
Travel to Mérida via Cancún on the ADO bus
- Tip #1 The most budget-friendly way to get to Mérida is to fly into Cancún.
Since Cancún is a popular destination in Mexico, many airlines offer low fares especially if you fly during the low season.
- Tip #2 Consider visiting during the low season just after Easter until late September. You will be able to take advantage of lower pricing on accommodations during this time.
News flash –
Low season is also HOT weather, so be prepared!
- Tip #3 The best days to fly are usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I’ve found these days will have lower airfare. Use a fare-finder tool on Expedia or Southwest Airlines to find the best fare for your location.
- Tip #4 If you decide to visit in January, you can take advantage of a variety of free concerts, plays, circus acts, dance performances, lectures, and more during the annual Mérida Fest. Unless it rains most events are well attended almost entirely by locals.
Let’s see exactly how this works . . .
- Tip #5 Once you arrive in Cancún, you can take the ADO bus directly to Mérida. With three different levels of service, you can review all to compare pricing and schedules. Most people will also tell you that the lowest level of service is quite basic and not that great.
Spend a few more dollars to get the mid-range or higher level of service. It’s worth the extra money to save aggravation and a possible bus breakdown which has known to happen on the cheapest level of service.
Prepare for the hot weather in advance
Think about this for a moment –
Mérida is inland. This means you will experience both heat and humidity. It’s no surprise, weather in Mérida is slightly different than other coastal and beach destinations.
Therefore, it gets mucho calor as locals say with an average daily temp of 97 degrees Fahrenheit and 75 to 95% humidity.
- Tip #6 Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen AND mosquito spray as the mosquitos in Mérida are super pesky little guys! These two items can be pricier than the U.S. and your favorite brands may not be available.
Most importantly, remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. For this reason, you might consider drinking water with a high PH and electrolytes added. Notably, you’ll find many different bottled water brands in most grocery stores, averaging $18 pesos per 950 ml bottle.
Stay in Centro and walk to your new favorite spots
Staying in Centro may be a little pricier than staying on the outskirts. News flash: you’re able to experience Merida Mexico on a budget better from a central location.
You’ve heard the advice a million times –
The closer you stay to the things you want to do, the more you will enjoy your vacation.
- Tip #7 Plan 5 – 6 months in advance and visit during low season. Expect to pay from $40 – $60 nightly for a one-bedroom, one-bath house.
- Tip #8 In Mérida, you can find options that advertise a bedroom or guest house with shared living and kitchen space.
Let me explain –
This wonderful option offers a budget-friendly stay as well as allows interaction with the host or other guests. Plan 5 – 6 months in advance and visit during low season. Expect to pay from $26 – $50 nightly for a one-bedroom, one-bath with shared spaces.
Remarkably, you will find your new favorite spots within walking distance. You’ll also be able to hop on and off a bus quickly.
Trust me, it is well worth paying a little more to stay in Centro. I’m a huge fan of Airbnb in Mérida Mexico however there are many choices for accommodations.
Cook tasty meals with fresh ingredients at home
Do you want to know the best way to travel frequently on a budget? It’s easy when you rent a house and cook delicious meals at home.
Don’t even try to deny it –
Dining out can be one of the most expensive costs of traveling.
Without a doubt, cooking at home ultimately will save quite a bit of money. When exploring your accommodations, send the host a message to inquire about the kitchen and amenities.
In addition to chatting with your host, read feedback from other guests for valuable information.
That’s right, I’ve learned so much by chatting with locals. Each person has a unique perspective and interesting ideas to offer.
Try one of the many luxury hostels in Centro
If you are adventurous, you may try staying at a hostel. There are some wonderful hostels listed on Airbnb where you can see reviews, photos, and the location.
It’s worth noting some of the luxury hostels in Centro have WiFi, swimming pools, and free breakfast.
As a rule, I highly recommend vetting your hostel on multiple internet sites for reviews and recommendations.
- Tip #9 For a hostel in Centro expect to pay between $8 – $20 USD. Remember, in a hostel, you may or may not have access to a kitchen. At these prices however it may be worth eating out every meal!
Step back in time in a historic hotel with modern conveniences
Hotels, especially historic hotels, are quite fascinating in Mérida. For instance, you will find a diverse variety with a vast range of prices.
By contrast, hotels range from new and modern to older with an antique look and feel.
One of my favorites is the historic Gran Hotel de Mérida located on Calle 60 #496 in Centro. I love to shop at the lovely women’s clothing boutique, grab a latte at Starbucks, have gelato and people watch in the plaza where the hotel is located.
The central location is within walking distance, short Uber, or quick bus ride to many of the things to do, see and experience in The White City.
- Tip #10 Before booking a hotel, I recommend researching it on multiple internet sites. Don’t rely exclusively on the hotel’s website for information. Utilize Google, Trip Advisor, Airbnb, VRBO, and other sites that provide reviews to learn about historic hotels for your Mérida Mexico budget.
- Tip #11 The nightly rate ranges from $45 – $65 depending upon the season.
If you decide to stay at the Gran Hotel de Mérida, ask for a room towards the back of the hotel away from Calle 60 which is a busy street.
Walking or public transportation helps you to get to know the city
Whether you know it or not, walking or taking public transportation helps you experience the culture from a local viewpoint.
Seeing the neighborhoods and people who live here is an important part of traveling and your time in Mérida.
- Tip #12 I love to walk and that is my first choice to get to where I’m going. I find amazing and wonderful things when I walk but I have to be aware of the uneven and sometimes precarious sidewalks.
- Tip #13 Public transportation is readily available in Mérida. Depending upon where you are, you will have choices between buses, vans, or Uber.
But let me share one more thing –
Time is very precious to me. I’m not one to spend time waiting for a bus or trying to figure out the best route to get from Point A to Point B (even if it does save a little money).
Yes, Uber is available in Mérida
- Tip #14 When the walk is too far, it’s too late or too hot, I opt for Uber. Most of the time it will cost me between $1 – $2 to get where I am going around Centro.
Now hold on a minute, I know you’re thinking a dollar or two here and there will really add up over time.
But check this out . . .
Waiting on a bus, time spent starting and stopping then finally reaching your destination can take between an hour to an hour and a half. Consider spending $2 – $4 on an Uber vs. $1 on a bus. Ultimately, it is up to you and your budget!
Compare the cost of taking Uber from Centro vs. taking Uber from Altabisa, for example. If you have planned things in Centro, take into consideration the time and cost of travel.
- Tip #15 For more information about public transportation in Mérida, read this article.
Eat at a small, local kitchen called a cocina economica
Personally, I’ve been able to visit super yummy cocina economicas all over town. Talk about the best thing for your Mérida Mexico budget!
Check out some of the neighborhood markets and ask for recommendations from people you talk to. In short, these are places you may never try on your own.
My favorite cocina economicas?
Go to Parque Santa Ana on Calle 60 at Calle 45. The address looks like this on google: Calle 60 y 45. Then check to Mercado Santiago on Calle 57 between 70 and 72. The address looks like this: Calle 57 x 70 y 72.
- Tip #16 Yucatan regional classics are called panuchos and salbutes which are a sort of crispier version of an open-faced taco. Each will cost about $10-$15 pesos.
- Tip #17 Add a Chaya drink with pineapple or lemon for $15 pesos.
Chaya is a local herb similar to spinach. It is used in a variety of ways and recipes from soup to drinks and medicinal purposes just like we would use spinach.
- Tip #18 A taco from Wayan’e is a must when you are in Mérida. There are three locations; google which is the closest to you when you are hungry for tacos from this famous stand. My favorite location is Calle 15 X 18A y 20 in Colonia Itzimná.
Local tip –
Be sure to go up to the counter to view all the wonderful fillings available at the moment. Be sure to try the huevos con chaya and the castacan (pork belly) which is their specialty.
Experience happy hour Mexican style
Here’s the kicker . . .
Many cantinas and local dive bars offer happy hour with botanas which means snacks.
Depending on the establishment, botanas can range from a small snack to a more filling small appetizer.
- Tip #19 If you ask any local where the best botanas are, they will most definitely tell you about Eladio’s. This famous botanas bar is located on Calle 59 #425 x 44 in Centro. They have happy hour specials with botanas, entrees, a wide variety of drinks and music. It is an experience not to be missed!
- Tip #20 A smaller establishment with a lot of character and live music is La Negrita Cantina on Calle 62 #415 x 49. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, they serve two margaritas for the price of one – $50 pesos. And, guess what? You also get botanas! Live music starts around 5:30 or 6:00 – arrive early to get a table. The best seats are the ones in the large open-air courtyard.
But one thing’s for sure . . .
After these yummy snacks and food, you need dessert!
Delicious and famous Yucatecan desserts
- Tip #21: Just a couple of blocks from La Negrita, you will find Pola Gelato on Calle 55 #467D x 62 y 64. Milk-based and sorbet-style, dairy-free gelato is hand-made with local ingredients. Regional flavors are also the primary focus but also include traditional gelato favorites like stracciatella. Available in a dish or a hand-made waffle cone and one scoop is only 30 pesos. Try a shot of espresso on top!
Here’s the secret –
It’s impossible to visit Mérida without buying pan or pan dulce (bread or sweet bread) from a panaderia.
So it’s no surprise, there are plenty of panaderias in town. BUT one of the most exceptional is the one facing the Monumento A La Patria on Paseo de Montejo y Calle 27A.
- Tip #22 A must visit is to Panificadora Montejo on Paseo de Montejo just before it turns into Prol. Paseo Montejo. You’ll find an impressive selection including a refrigerated section with custards and other desserts. Depending upon your choices, expect to pay between $8 pesos to $40 pesos.
To make your selection, grab a tray and tongs. Place your items such as mil hojas (flaky pastry dough with custard filling and rich black and white icing), pan dulce, vanilla muffins, or croissants, on the tray and then take it to the counter. Your items will be wrapped up when you pay.
- Tip #23 Another must-have is a Marquesita. You will find Marquesita carts all over the city but in case you don’t see one, there is a shop on the Paseo de Montejo between Calle 35 y 37.
Let me warn you –
This is a taste you’ve never had before. One is perfect…two is too many (take it from me who has had two…no Bueno!). These yummy treats are made to order.
They are a mix between a crispy crepe and a waffle cone. Rolled up with Edam cheese and another filling of your choice like cajeta (a caramel sauce), honey, chocolate, jam, peanut butter, or Nutella, you can see why one is a great idea and two is not!
Free entertainment is found all over Mérida
The amount of free entertainment in Mérida is so extensive that you can literally find a free event every single day of the week. Read this article about the Neighborhoods in Mérida for more information.
- Tip #24 Since 1965, Santa Lucia Park on Calle 60 x 55 hosts the Yucatecan Serenade every Thursday at 9:00 pm. This is an open-air event with live music and local history; exhibiting traditional costumes and dancing.
Most definitely, this is a night that I would splurge a little on restaurants located in the passageways close to the stage.
A range of delicious choices include:
- La Tratto (Italian)
- Bryan’s Burger Bar (American)
- Apoala (Traditional Yucatecan)
- Ki Xocolatl (Desserts, Drinks & Chocolate)
Here’s something really interesting . . .
Make a reservation to sit outside at any of the restaurants in the park for approximately 8:00 or 8:15. Santa Lucia Park will start filling up with people around 8:30. By arriving early, you will be able to enjoy your dinner and the show!
There is never a rush to finish your meal so the waiter can turn the table. Take your time and linger as long as you like. That means remember to tip your waiter accordingly (15 – 20% is a good tip).
- Tip #25 For entertainment, food, and shopping with small local vendors, attend the Noches Mexicanas on Calle 56A at the intersection of the Paseo de Montejo. This enchanting event occurs every Saturday from 9:00 pm – 11:30 pm. You will find unique artisan vendors, local food, music, dancing, and entertainment.
- Tip #26 Another great location for entertainment, food, and shopping is the Plaza Grande between Calles 60 and 62, between 61 and 63. People from Chiapas sell embroidered linens and clothing. Numerous restaurants and food vendors surround this area and the entertainment is non-stop.
This is a beautiful place to experience the heart of Mérida. You could literally spend the entire day here in this lovely park.
One of the first things I did when I arrived in Mérida was taking a photo in front of the colorful Mérida sign. Many locals and tourists alike line up to have a photo op at Plaza Grande.
- Tip #28 There’s only one way to experience an authentic re-enactment of a Mayan tradition. Check out the Pok Ta Pok Mayan Ball Game located in front of the Catedral de San Ildefonso at the Plaza Grande. This event occurs every Saturday at 8:30 pm. I definitely recommend arriving early to get a good spot in front to see the exciting warriors play this unique game.
- Tip #29 If you are here on a Sunday morning, don’t miss the Mérida BiciRuta on the Paseo de Montejo. Every Sunday 8:00 am – 12:30 pm the Paseo is closed off for biking, walking, and community connection. Rent a bike at Bici Mérida on Paseo de Montejo at Calle 56 495B. A one-hour rental costs $20 pesos and two hours is $30 pesos. Moreover, this is a really fun way to spend your Sunday morning.
Culture, art, and history create lasting memories of The White City
- Tip #30 While you are on the Paseo, check out the east side where artists set up their offerings from paintings to jewelry to home accessories and other hand-crafted items.
You can find many deals here between 9:00 am – 2:00 pm at the Artists on the Paseo. Be sure to ask how they came to live in Mérida, many have interesting and engaging stories.
- Tip #31 Visit Museo Casa Montejo at Calle 63 #506 to see an authentic colonial mansion. This stately restored 16th-century house-turned-museum features art exhibitions and cultural events. Entry is free and they offer guided tours for those interested in the history of the house.
- Tip #32 For everything you could ever want under the sun, the Lucas Galvez Market probably has it. Undisputedly, this is the largest market in Mérida where you can immerse yourself in everything local; culture, incredible foods, and hand-crafted goods. Find rows of spices, hammocks, hand-embroidered clothes, flowers, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, chicken, pets, household items, shoes, shoe repair, jewelry, and more.
That means you need to leave a Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb trail so you don’t get lost in the chaos of this enormous market. Lucas Galvez Market is located on Calle 59A between 67 and 69. It is open every day from 8:00 am until about 4:00 pm.
- Tip #33 Take a final photo op sitting in the double white chairs found all over Mérida. Santa Lucia Park has huge ones that many people love. What are these chairs?
The answer might surprise you . . .
As part of the Yucatan culture and identity, it is very rare to find in other Mexican states an abundance of “sillas tu y yo” or “you and me chairs”. In addition to that, the origin of these chairs is unknown. Some say the design was taken from the “butacas confidentes”, the name of similar chairs in France during the Renaissance.
In Mérida, you will find culture and individuality; a beautiful city with a unique quality. Influences from both Latin America and Europe provide a backdrop for this guide to Mérida Mexico on a budget.
Most certainly, there is something for everyone with many things that are free or almost free. I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips and enjoy your stay in Mérida; a hidden gem in the Yucatán peninsula.
For more information, visit: How to Buy a House in Mérida Mexico