An In-Depth Digital Nomad Guide to Tulum

digital nomad tulum

In this digital nomad guide to living in Tulum, you’ll find everything you need to know to set yourself up in one of the most beautiful Caribbean destinations in Mexico.

Short on time? You can click on the dot point that takes your fancy and head straight to the relevant section. 

Contents:

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    Why Choose Tulum

    Cost of living: Tulum is one of the most expensive areas in Mexico, but depending on your standards and circumstances you can live as inexpensively or as lavishly as you desire. The basic commodities are similar no matter what your economic position is.

    Weather: Consistently warm weather all year round.

    Internet: The wifi speed and reliability in Tulum varies depending on the set up at the premises, however, there is good wifi to be found to run a business efficiently online. Although it’s not US standard, it’s improving.

    Food: There are over 300 Tulum restaurants on TripAdvisor. There is an abundance of good restaurants to suit all budgets and tastes, from street food to high end.

    Natural beauty: There are so many places to see such as beaches, ancient ruins, cenotes, lagoons and jungles. 

    Accessibility: The international airport is 2 hours from Cancun to Tulum.

    Visa policy: Citizens of 65 countries do not require a visa to enter Mexico as tourists, visitors in transit or business visitors. Tourists and business visitors can stay in Mexico for up to 180 days. 

    Tulum Basics

    Currency: Mexican Pesos (MXN)

    Language: Spanish is the official language spoken by the majority of the population. However, most people working in the tourist industry speak both Spanish and English

    Money: There are 3 major banks; Scotia, HSBC & Bancomer with ATMs. You will also find ATMS at all major supermarkets. Avoid using ATMs at the beach (take money out in the pueblo), they charge outrageous fees and most of them only have USD. Most restaurants and retailers accept cash only. 

    Climate: The wet season is between June and October with average temperatures of 88°F (31°C) and the dry season is between December and April with average temperatures of 81°F (27°C).

    Area: Tulum is divided up into 2 areas – the town (pueblo) and the beach (hotel zone). The restaurant and accommodation prices are a lot higher in the hotel zone than in the pueblo. 

    Safety: Touristic areas like Tulum, Cancun and Play del Carmen are safe overall and comparable to most American and European cities. Like anywhere follow general safety precautions and have common sense. Make sure to keep your apartment locked and secure and the same for your bike or scooter.

    When to Go to Tulum

    Peak tourist season in Tulum is between December and April; there is another wave between July and August.

    During these times the prices of accommodation and car rentals increase significantly. Go in the low season, you’ll save a considerable amount.

    How to Get to Tulum

    The closest airport to Tulum is Cancun Airport. There are a number of ways to get from Cancun Aiport to Tulum, you can hire a car, take a private shuttle, taxi or bus. Car hire is about $30 USD (540 MX) per day and will take about 2 hours. The bus is the most cost effective way and it is very comfortable and safe.

    Bus instructions: Once you leave the customs area at the airport, there will be an ADO bus company booth to purchase tickets. Recently, ADO added a direct route to Tulum, but the times are limited. It will cost $14 USD (250 MXN) and will take about 2 hours. The other option is to Playa del Carmen, which costs is $9 USD (177 MXN). Buses run every 40 min and take about 45min.

    You will need to change buses at Playa del Carmen bus station and purchase a ticket to Tulum. The cost for this bus is $2.77 USD (50 MXN). Buses are frequent between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. It will take about 1 hour to Tulum. There will be many taxis available outside the bus station to take you to your accommodation.

    Accommodation in Tulum

    Our monthly accommodation expenses were between $800 USD (15,000 MXN) and $1,070 USD (19,900 MXN). For long-term stays we only use Airbnb. It’s always worth asking the host if they offer any special rates for stays longer than 30 days because in most cases we’ve received a discount of 50%. 

    Don’t forget to ask about internet speed and reliability, because the connection quality depends on the setup at the premises.

    You’ll most likely find somewhere in Tulum pueblo because there limited long-term options by the beach.

    October – December 2016 (2 months)

    Cost: $1,070 USD (19,900 MXN) per month (including wifi and utilities)

    Location: South end of Tulum pueblo, about 10 – 15 min walk to the center.

    Amenities: Wifi, pool, fully-equipped kitchen, washing machine, dryer, air conditioning, and TV with Roku (TV streaming service).

    Summary: Overall, we were very happy in our large top-floor studio. It had everything on our wish list, including a pool, which was a little difficult to find with our budget. There was a generously-sized kitchen, open living area, and bedroom. The appliances, such as washer, dryer, fridge, microwave, TV and air conditioner, were all new and functional. The furniture was basic but comfortable enough. Wifi was decent and reliable – streaming was smooth most of the time, but we did have some patchy Skype calls. 

     

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    April – September 2017 (6 months)

    Cost: $800 USD (15,000 MXN) per month (including wifi and utilities)

    Location: North end of Tulum pueblo. Close walking distance to supermarkets; Chedraui 10 min, San Francisco 5 min, and La Bodega less than 10 min.

    Amenities: Wifi, fully-equipped kitchen, washing machine, dryer, air conditioning, cable TV and balconies.

    Summary: Excellent value considering what is included, perfect living and working spaces that are modern and clean. The location is very convenient, close to the major supermarkets, with great restaurants within a 10 min walk. For essentials, there’s OXXO and Seven Eleven within a 5 min walk. Wifi has been consistently reliable with the occasional outage and there haven’t any problems using Skype. We have a large marble dining table that makes an excellent workspace, plus we have 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and 2 balconies.


  • Transport Tulum

    Our monthly transport expenses: $150 USD (2,800 MXN) per month for a scooter.

    Getting around Tulum is relatively easy. The pueblo is walkable, but quite a hike if you have to walk from the pueblo to the hotel zone in the sun − it would take you over an hour.

    Taxis are easy to find and quite cost-effective, although fees can add up if you travel to and from the beach frequently, especially if you’re heading to the main hotel zone near Hartwood, La Zebra, and Be Tulum.

    Taxis here don’t have meters, so remember to agree on a price before hopping in. The cost is based on zones; we haven’t quite figured out how exactly they are divided up. Some (not all) taxi drivers have lists of the rates/ zones, so you can check the price.

    Anywhere within the pueblo: $1.50 USD (25 – 30 MXN)
    Pueblo to public beach: $5 USD (90 MXN)
    Pueblo to hotel zone: $6 – $10 USD (120 – 150 MXN)

    Bikes are around $80 USD (1,500 MXN) per month per bike.

    Car hire depends on the season but cost about $1,140 USD (21,300 MXN) per month. We like to hire a car for a couple of days if we do a day trip, which is about $30 USD (540 MXN) per day.

    Scooter hire is $490 USD (9,150 MXN) per month from scooter shops like Kelleys. If you search around you can get it a lot cheaper, like we did for $150 USD (2,800 MXN) per month.

    Many people hire bikes, but we prefer a scooter. We thought about buying a scooter, so we looked on Facebook Marketplace and both sellers we contacted offered rental options, so we decided to go with renting instead of dealing with the hassle of buying. 

    We managed to get a great deal compared to what the scooter shops were offering: we ended up paying 100 MXN ($5 USD) per day for 3 months. Be sure to check out Facebook Marketplace.

    Scooter shops and owners will request that you leave your passport, give a credit card number, or make a deposit. We don’t feel comfortable leaving our passport for 3 months. One owner wanted a 7,000 MXN ($375 USD) deposit, which is the full price of the scooter. We decided to go with the owner who requested a deposit of 2,800 MXN ($150 USD) instead.

    The incidence of scooter theft is high in Tulum, so make sure you have a secure place to park. Always wear your helmet − we were told the fine is $107 USD (2,000 MXN) per person and they may even confiscate your scooter.

    Mobile & Internet in Tulum

    We chose Telcel, it’s the major service provider in Tulum so it has the largest coverage. There are several small stores within the pueblo where you can purchase new SIM cards and recharge. Just look for the big blue signs. 

    Telcel SIM: $8 USD (150 MXN)

    Package (data only): We chose 1.5GB for $11 USD (200 MXN) over 30 days every month. This was sufficient since we try to use wifi when we can (at home and in restaurants) and use WhatsApp or Skype to make calls.

    The process for buying SIM cards is pretty straightforward and you won’t need to bring your passport – ask to see the list of packages, then choose your preference.The Telcel assistant will set up your SIM and recharge. No passport required. Once the process is complete, a confirmation SMS will be sent to your mobile.

    I always like to test the data on my phone before leaving the store. This is just an extra precaution based on bad experiences in other countries, but haven’t had any issues here. 

    Not everyone at Telcel speaks English, so some basic Spanish and pointing can help.

    Telcel’s coverage is pretty good in and around the pueblo but gets patchy on the beach. 

    Telcel mobile data speed test below:

    Wifi quality really depends on the setup at the premises, so it can differ from place to place. The infrastructure is improving more and more with time − while it’s not up to US standards, it is getting better.

    At our Airbnb (North end of Tulum), we have Infinitum by Telmex, which is supposed to be one of the better internet providers. It’s been quite fast and reliable for Tulum. We’ve had no problems with the quality of Skype calls, but have had a few dropouts, however, most of the time it requires just a reset.

    Infinitum wifi speed test at our Airbnb below:

    Shopping in Tulum

    You’ll find groceries, home accessories, toiletries, basic electronics, and sports stuff at Chedraui. It’s kinda like a smaller-scale Walmart.

    Taxis are conveniently located outside of the store, so you don’t have to cart your shopping home.

    There’s also a San Francisco supermarket, which is located near the intersection of Coba Av and La Bodega on the corner of Carretera Estatal Coba-Tulum and Okot. Basically, all the supermarkets are on the north end of town.

    It’s also nice knowing we there is an iShop Mixup (an authorised Apple premium dealer) in Playa Del Carmen, which is a cheap bus ride an hour away. Also, PDC has big shopping malls that will satisfy most needs.

    Coworking in Tulum

    We don’t use coworking spaces so can’t comment on the experience. Instead, we ensure our accommodation facilitates good working conditions: big workspace, lighting, and − of course − decent and reliable internet. We may miss out on meeting people, but we found this is a good system for us. Coworking space expenses would tip us over our budget. A couple of popular cafes to work at are Tulum Art Club and Babel Cafe, both are located in the pueblo.

    Mail & Shipping in Tulum

    Use Savana Tour, Travel & Business Center (their office is next to Mot Mot Diving) for mail forwarding services. It’s pretty straightforward: provide the postal address as noted on their website here. Once your mail or parcel arrives, go to Savana and look for your name under the list of mail recipients on their monitor, then show them your ID and you’re done. The cost to receive 1 letter was 30 MXN ($1.65 USD) and 1 small parcel (face serum) was 50 MX ($2.77).

    Where to Eat in Tulum

    Most restaurant prices are significantly higher in the hotel zone than the pueblo. 

    There are so many good places to eat, it was difficult to decide on which ones to include. Here are some of our favorites.

    La Zebra (hotel zone)

    Cuisine: Mexican (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner).

    Good food with good internet and beachside office.

    Check them out

     

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    Los Aguachiles (south end of the pueblo)

    Cuisine: Seafood and Mexican (Lunch & Dinner).

    This is our number-one-favorite fish taco place. Try the breaded fish tacos (or shrimp) and the ‘Marvellous Tuna Tostada’. The mezcal drinks are pretty tasty too.

    We do see people frequently tapping away on laptops, but have found our mobile data faster.

    Check them out

     

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    Taqueria La Eufemia (hotel zone)

    Cuisine: Mexican (Lunch & Dinner).

    This is our favorite weekend beach spot – the cheapest beer by the beach and tasty tacos, sweet tunes and all round good vibes. Try the poc choc and fish tacos! 

    Check them out

    Del Cielos (pueblo)

    Cuisine: Healthy and fresh (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner).

    This is favorite brunch spot – extensive menu full of fresh and tasty dishes and beverages. I usually go for the mollete or salmon tartine. Don’t forget the Gitano iced coffee or green juice!

    Check them out

     

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    Be Tulum (hotel zone)

    Cuisine: Mexican and Seafood (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner).

    The food is pretty damn tasty, they put a lot of love into their dishes. It’s a little more than we’d like to spend but good for the odd occasion. Not only is the food impressive but the restaurant setting and hotel is something else – muy hermoso! It’s also worth noting they have some of the fastest internet we’ve seen along the beach.

    Check them out

     

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    La Barracuda (pueblo)

    Cuisine: Mexican and Seafood (Lunch & Dinner).

    We never got the chance to try anything but the whole crispy fish, it was too delicious! We preferred La Barracuda over the infamous El Camello Jnr. The seasoning was tastier and they serve a salad, turmeric rice and soup which we liked much more.

    Check them out

    Burrito Amor (pueblo)

    Cuisine: Burritos, salads and breakfast (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner).

    Best burritos in Tulum! 

    Check them out

    What to See

    Here’s a list of our favourite places that we highly recommend:

    Laguna Kaan Luum (picturesque lagoon)

    $2.50 (50 MXN) entrance fee.

    Cenote Cristal (jungle oasis)

    $3 USD (60 MXN) for Cenote Cristal or $6 USD (120 MXN) for 2 cenotes Cenote Cristal and Cenote Escondido which is located across the highway and worth a visit.

    Cenote Sac Actun with Pet Cemetery (snorkel in the caves)

    It’s $26 USD (500 MXN) for 1.5 hour guided tour.

    Bacalar

    Although it’s not in Tulum, it’s one of my favourite places and worth the 3 hour bus ride.

    *Exchange rates are based on the rates as of 17 May 2017.

    Thanks for reading. Over the coming months we’ll continue to expand and add value to our Digital Nomad Guide to Living in Tulum, so if you’re still interested in this destination, we’d love to see you again!

    Feel free to leave a comment, share our guide, or email us with any questions.

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