According to the State Department of the United States, Mexico is the top foreign destination for American travelers. Latest data shows that 1.6 million Americans live in the “navel of the moon”, as is the meaning of Mexico in the Nahuatl language, the most predominant of the indigenous Uto-Aztecan languages. Well, 1.6 million Americans cannot be all wrong or mistaken.

There’s something irresistible about Mexico aside from the obvious proximity to the United States. The central highlands have an even, temperate climate, practically all through the year. And though there are many hair-raising stories about drug lords, violent crime is concentrated in certain identifiable hotspots. Also, according to InterNations, Mexicans are the friendliest people on earth, after only the Taiwanese.


Still, money is a major travel factor. And many Americans cross their southern border in the hope that a dollar will secure for them much more than what they can get within their own borders—with the same amount. But how far can the mighty dollar be stretched in Mexico?

How To Eat For Under A Dollar In Mexico

The cost of food invariably depends on location. For those in Mexico city, street vendors offer some of the cheapest prices imaginable. Tacos de Canasta, or basket tacos, is one of the cheapest. For a dollar, you’ll get yourself 4 or 5 deliciously satiating tacos. These are tortillas filled with different food items like potatoes, beans, or marinade. They are sold in baskets, usually covered with a piece of cloth. A good tip is to look for joints with many local patrons. It’s a mark of quality and trust. Alternatively, travelers should seek out the many Comida corrida joints that ubiquitously line the city’s streets on almost every corner.

Comida corridas are the American version of fast foods, only serving larger, more filling portions. One dollar is slightly on the lower side. However, 2-3 dollars, which you can share if traveling with a companion, can get you a decent 3-course meal. This is usually a bowl of tasty soup, a single rice serving, a full main plate, and a delicious dessert. Some restaurants are also extremely cheap. La Esquina del Chilaquil, located at the intersection of Alfonso Reyes and Tamaulipas in the picturesque Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City, is one of the cheapest in the whole city. Sumptuous Chilaquiles sandwiches, topped with green or red salsa, with milanesa, goes for about 2 dollars. Travelers can also find cheap, delicious Tamales, driven around in carts, for as low as $0.5. Two or three of these should be enough to fill you up.

Travelers can also find some great price offers at any of the food markets in the city. Mercado de San Juan is particularly popular. This food market sells practically anything and everything, including weird, creepy stuff like crocodile meat or edible bugs. However, for budget travelers, Central de Abasto is a much cheaper alternative. In this sprawling 810-acre market, a breakfast of torta de pollo will cost a dollar or less in many stalls. These are toasted buns that come with a sandwich of chicken breast, and a topping of lettuce, avocado, or similar delicacy. For tacos and fruits, the I-J corridor of the market is ideal. The food in this market is pleasantly fresh as the produce comes directly from the farmers.

At the same price point, travelers can opt for Barbacoa tacos which is a meal consisting of tender meat, usually steam-cooked, served with tasty spices and tacos. If you’re staying where you can do your own cooking, this is the place to get your produce. Going to what’s arguably the largest market in the world will cost just about $0.2.

  • Directions: Go to Aculco Metro Station (Line-8) then board a bus with the signage of Central de Abasto.
  • Best Time To Visit: Though Central de Abasto is a 24-hour market, morning hours (before 9:00 AM) are usually perfect for fresh produce. For ready-made meals, travelers can visit at any time.

These are food prices within Mexico city. Food prices will most likely be even cheaper outside the city or in other far-flung towns in the country. But for the offensive heat, Merida, in the southeastern state of Yucatan is a great choice on the dollar. Oaxaca, on the west coast, is another pocket-friendly travel destination. According to Numbeo, groceries are 20% cheaper in Oaxaca than in Merida. If you’re keen on a dollar a day, you’ll have to limit your travel. Alternatively, travelers can visit free attractions in Mexico.

Related: From Mexico City To Temple Ruins: A Complete Itinerary

Other Amazingly Free Attractions In Mexico City

As a country that’s a treasure trove of history and culture, Mexico deservedly maintains many well-resourced museums within its borders. In Mexico City, many of these are completely free. These include Museo Soumaya, located in the rich neighborhood of Polanco, Mexico’s Beverly Hills. This museum houses three millennia of intriguing artifacts including some interesting Mesoamerican remains. Museo Nacional de la Acuarela offers what is arguably the best watercolor art in Mexico City, also at zero cost, all through the week. There’s also Museo del Estanquillo, which means “small shops” in English, and lives up to its name. It houses the personal collections of a famed city chronicler called Carlos Monsiváis. If you’ll not enjoy his collections, you’ll definitely enjoy the amazing roof-top view and the kaleidoscope of continuously changing street sounds, sights, and speed, of Madero Street, that’s directly below.

If you like the immersive experience of quiet forest trails and majestic trees, head to the lungs of Mexico City, the Bosque de Chapultepec. This is the largest urban park in Latin America and covers an area of 1,600 acres. You can squeeze a dollar from Merced (Line-1 subway) for free entry inside the sprawling forest. And with a bike, you won’t pay a dime for public transport.

In Centro Historico, at the heart of Mexico City, there are many historical places that can pique a traveler’s interest at no charge. These include Zócalo, the city’s main public square and the theater of political expression and agitation. There are also many quaint colonial buildings within this historical area.

There you have it. Mexico City is so big, it’s a universe on its own. But you can explore it without breaking the bank.

Next: Dos & Don'ts Of Visiting Mexico (That You Didn't Think Of)