The Allure of Living in Tulum
Tropical magnetism. We could go on and on, but to truly appreciate the nature inspired vibration of living in Tulum, you need to go. If you are looking for the best beaches in all of Mexico, you simply must go. The charm of the community and proximity to the U.S. for a place like Tulum will draw people from all over the world for many years to come.
Tulum living as an expat
The sublime natural beauty of the Tulum beaches, the surrounding ruins and jungle cenotes are a postcard of a tropical paradise. Add in the Maya culture, food, live music scene, plenty of interesting international locals, coupled with spiritual and natural adventures waiting to be discovered-you start to get an idea of what living in Tulum has to offer.
Tulum has also become a mecca for yoga, exclusive business retreats, food and art festivals. It has also become a destination of choice with digital nomads looking for an office with a view. Tulum has made broadband internet access a priority. There are several major internet service providers in the area in and around town and the beach hotel zone.
The Tulum beach road and hotel zone south of the famous ruins overlooking the Caribbean, is a social media and hospitality phenomenon. The beaches of Tulum, the Mayan ruins, cenotes and the bohemian vibes make it one of a kind in Mexico and the world.
The magnetic vibe of this magical place, as it is so often described, can be a little intoxicating and addictive. People tend to come back for more “Tulum time” with a compulsion to return. And it’s part of the reason this sleepy and magnetic Caribbean fishing village is waking up as a fast growing Mexican Caribbean community.
Cost of Living in Tulum, Mexico
Living in Tulum, as most people from Mexico will tell you, is one of the more expensive places to live in Mexico. It is a Mexican Caribbean tropical tourist destination that appeals to both the luxury adventure seeker and the “eco-chic crowd.” Relative to what we consider as expensive lifestyle locations in the U.S. or Canada, Tulum is still a bargain for what you get in return. In general you will save 30-50% of your monthly living expenses depending on where you are moving from in the U.S. or Canada.
High end “eco friendly” small hotels and beach clubs south of the Tulum ruins are lined up along the beaches for miles. Nearby golf resorts and all inclusive day parks to the north define the higher end of things when it comes to entertainment. The famous beach road in Tulum is most certainly “uptown.”
With miles of white sand public beaches, a charming downtown, and lots of amazing places to eat very well and cheap, there are plenty of good reasons to be in Tulum as an expat on a budget! Some of the common attraction elements that most people share is an appreciation for simple luxuries, a quality of life, good food, tropical Caribbean nature and a sense of adventure.
Is Tulum safe?
Safety in Tulum is always one of the first topics to come up for expats considering a move to Tulum. For expats and locals living in Tulum, the largest crime complaint is theft due to “opportunity.” Burglaries and petty theft are the most common offenses. Keep a mindful eye on your belongings, secure your home, and be aware of your surroundings and you will be fine.
Tulum has seen more cartel related violence in recent years-but the violence has been so far limited to between themselves for territory. With growth and expansion in tourism traffic and population, the market has also attracted attention of organized crime.
Tulum is still rated as a safe place for tourists to visit and for expats to live. I can personally speak for the living aspect, I have never felt like I was in danger in my 13 years of life in Tulum. I hear the same story from many other expats as well-we all feel safe in Tulum. Please review our latest safety in Mexico report for more details on living safely in Tulum and other places in Mexico.
How to get to Tulum
Driving and Border Crossings
Make sure you have gathered up all of your necessary documents before bringing your car to Mexico. Make sure that you have your Mexican auto insurance before you cross the border. The most simple, and quickest way to purchase auto insurance is on-line as it will be one less thing to do at the border.
With any border crossing you use, it is better to get an early start and cross in the morning hours. This is just in case you have any hiccups, you will have the day to sort it out and still get to a destination with a decent hotel for the night. Never drive at night.
Entering at the Brownsville border crossing is the most direct route to Tulum, although there are many points of entry. I personally went through the Nuevo Laredo entry back in 2007, and yes of course I wrote a story about my personal driving adventure to Tulum!
Flying to Tulum
To get to Tulum, fly to Cancun International Airport or to Cozumel…those are two primary airports you may use to get to Tulum. The largest, most popular airport is Cancun International Airport. It’s located about 1.5 hours drive from Tulum on Hwy 307. International flights arrive and depart out of Cancun all hours, day and night and so do the cabs, collectivos, buses and shuttle services to take you to your final destination. You may also fly into Cozumel Island and take a ferry to Playa del Carmen and then the highway 307 south to Tulum.
Most commonly used is the International Airport in Cancun (CUN). Cancun International has hundreds of daily flights to and from 21+ cities in the United States, including Miami, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles Chicago, Newark, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Washington, DC, etc., and to and from seven cities in Canada, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Quebec, Halifax, Ottawa, and Calgary. For most of these cities, there are multiple daily flights giving you a good choice of departure/arrival times.
The Cancun airport is 118 KM or 73 miles north of Tulum, about an hour and half drive on highway 307.
There is also an airport in Cozumel. If you choose to fly into Cozumel, you will need to take a 30 minute ferry ride over to Playa Del Carmen. The ferry ride is safe and fun as you will probably see dolphins swimming next to you. When you get to the dock, you may be another 20 minutes to your destination by cab.
Puerto Aventuras is the closest marina to park your boat – 25 minutes north on the highway.
Re-locating your pet to Mexico is one more thing to prepare for. Driving into Mexico with your pet is much more simple than flying in with your pet as airlines have very strict guidelines you must adhere to as well as black out dates.
For More Information on bringing your pet to Mexico: Click Here
Getting around and some things to do in Tulum
Having a car is nice but you have local transportation options that can get you to Playa del Carmen or Cancun via the collectivos and buses. Bike riding or a scooter is the most simple and economical way to get around Tulum and the way a lot of people prefer to travel. Walking in the evenings is the best way to get some exercise, bump into a friend, and burn off the dinner you just ate, walking on the beach or strolling downtown.
Speaking of dinner….Tulum has become world renowned for it’s eclectic and delicious dinning options. This is due in large part to the international mix of locals; French, Argentinian, Italian, Thai, Mexican, Mayan, Austrian and German. There is an abundance of talented and creative chefs in Tulum and many of them are classically trained or continuing family traditions.
Living in Tulum you will likely be doing most of your shopping and dining out in town, and you will save plenty when compared to the beach zone. The best part is you also have amazing food options and a lot of the same shopping options for less money! Eating like a local is a not a sacrifice in Tulum, it’s delicious and cheap.
If you are a Tulum local, you have many wonderful activities to participate in, you may have a hard time deciding which way to go. Morning meetings with friends for coffee or tea, yoga, dance, art, jewelry making, beach excursions, jungle adventures and exploring cenotes or nearby towns and ruins, are a few of the more common activities.
With more and more expatriates arriving in Tulum, we are also seeing more expat groups, social networking, clubs and virtual work spaces, there are already several online groups for expats living in Tulum with thousands of members. Walking downtown, running errands, going to the bank or grocery shopping will likely involve an encounter with someone you know.
Yes, Tulum has all the qualities of a charming and bustling small Caribbean town, but it is growing fast. The magnetic pull of the natural beauties of the area and magic energy of the place is something you need to experience and feel for yourself.
Tropical Weather of Life in Tulum
Next to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the consistent warm weather in Tulum has to be one of the biggest draws for expats, especially in the cold winter months in more northern latitudes. The annual average lows in the evenings are in the mid 60’s-70’s F (17-22 C) with average highs in the mid 80’s – low 90’s F (27-32 C). Most days are blue skies with white fluffy clouds drifting by on the steady Caribbean sea breeze. The months of September and October tend to have the most rainfall. The coolest months are January and February.
The hottest and most humid months are June, July and August (90 F days on average or 32 C). Actually not as hot as most of the southern US during the summer! This is also the rainy season and there can be prolonged periods of rain, especially in the peak months of September and October. Throughout the rainy season you can expect tropical showers.
Hurricane/Rainy season is from June – October with most of the threats coming in October. This does not mean that the entire season brings threatening weather. Most days during this rainy season are warm and mostly sunny, with always a chance of tropical storms brewing offshore. It’s amazing to watch them come in from the beach! Most places are built to hurricane standards and you will typically have plenty of notice if one is coming-know what to do in the event of a hurricane.
Long-term rentals in Tulum
Inventory on long term rentals can be tight-especially heading into the high season (December-April), as owners are more focused on vacation rentals. Things are loosening up a bit in 2020 with a lot of new condos and homes being built and completed in Tulum. The best time to find a rental in Tulum is during the off season-in the summer. You can find single room studio’s from $5,000- $15,000 pesos a month or 2-3 bedroom, furnished condominiums from $12,000- $40,000 pesos a month. Amenities, furnishings and location will be variables that will affect the rents.
More Cost of Living Details
Tulum Beach versus Tulum Town-Food and Shopping
As you make your way down the famous Tulum beach road, a long line of boutiques, small hotels, restaurants and spas that cater to the eco chic, “Tuluminatis” where prices are closer to what you may expect back home, maybe even more. But Tulum also has the “once in a lifetime” dinning and shopping experiences you can only find there, more than once!
Especially on the beach where you are a captive audience, you may find the prices one the beach closer to what you are paying back home. But, Tulum is also like 2 towns in 1, there is the beach, and there is the town of Tulum. IF you live more like a local, shopping for groceries and eating at local restaurants in town, you’ll save a lot of money living for about 30% less than you can in the average U.S. cities. You’ll save a lot more if you are coming from places like NYC, Boston, The West Coast or any resort “town” in the U.S.
Depending upon your standards and circumstance, you can live as inexpensively or as lavishly as you desire. The basic commodities are similar no matter what your economic position is. There are many options for rentals and real estate. For Tulum real estate advice click here.
Tulum Daily Expenses, Restaurants and Utilities
- Gasoline (approximately $2.75 USD per gallon)
- Drinking water-usually delivered to your home ($8.00 – $20.00 USD per month)
- Local fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, fish, eggs and pork, are the most affordable way to eat and produce is 50-70% cheaper than US.
- When eating out, you can go to “local” taco joints and home-style family kitchen restaurants called “cocinas economicas” and have a healthy meal including your drink (usually a juice), for around $80.00 pesos or about $4.00 USD.
- Dining on the beach or at a more upscale restaurant in town will be more expensive and the prices range from $180.00 – $350.00+ pesos per entree.
The most expensive utility in Mexico is electricity. You have to be conscientious of your usage. The way most people do this is by not running too many electrical appliances at the same time and only using the A/C when absolutely necessary. When you get your first bill, you will understand the meaning of “be conscientious of your usage”. There is a reason many small businesses leave their lights off until a customer walks in.
Average Prices of Real Estate in Tulum
Prices for real estate range anywhere from $65,000-$85,000 for a small 1-2 bedroom home in a more modest local neighborhood, up to $2,000,000.00 + for an oceanfront hacienda. Modern and newer studio and 1 bedroom condominiums in town start at around $100,000 U.S.D. in 2020 you will find plenty of new condos to choose from if you are buying.
There are plenty of raw land lots of various size and residential development lots – typically 10 x 30 to 50 meters, in the Tulum area for sale. Price ranges for these land properties follow a general rule, the closer you are to the Caribbean, the higher the price per square meter. Generally speaking, the real estate gets cheaper the farther from town and the beach you go. There are also a number of self-sustaining, eco-friendly, “planned communities” popping up farther inland from Tulum.
Mortgages are available but the interest rates are prohibitive. Some pre-sale developments offer limited financing options up to 5 years. Cash deals, or private financing is the favorable approach for real estate investment in Mexico.
Make sure that you get title insurance if possible when purchasing a home or land in Tulum and use a Realtor from a trusted name or one who was personally recommended to you.
Tulum has 3 small hospitals, 1 public hospital and 2 private facilities, including CostaMed, which is part of a larger network of hospitals in Mexico, all are capable of handling emergency care and all 3 of them have minor surgery facilities. The private hospitals, Tulum Hospital *south end, and CostaMed *north end, both directly on Hwy 307 (main ave.) Tulum, and have English speaking doctors. The Tulum hospitals are limited in space and equipment, so for anything major, they will refer you to Hospiten in Playa Del Carmen 40 minutes north, or to the hospitals in Merida or Cancun after you have been stabilized. There are ambulances in Tulum if you need the transport.
There are a number of hospitals and clinics in Playa del Carmen, many with English-speaking doctors. Medical facilities include Playa Med Hospital, Clinica Medica del Carmen, Hospiten Riviera Maya and Buceo Medico Mexicano, which specializes in diving-related medicine and has a hyperbolic chamber and emergency ambulance on call.
In fact, Hospiten Riviera Maya Hospital, which is located on Highway 307, right next to PlayaCar and Sams Club, has a direct billing relationship with many major international and Mexican health insurance providers, including IMG, International Medical Group. IMG offers private, major medical health insurance to expats who live outside their home country 6 months a year or more. You can choose to have health insurance coverage in the U.S. and Mexico, or for less money, exclude the U.S. coverage.
If you live in Tulum, you have health insurance options: Mexico has a Social Security System which is free at the point of delivery for Mexicans as well as foreign nationals with a Residente Permanente status. Foreigners living in Mexico without full immigrated residency status can purchase the IMSS health insurance for about $300.00 US a year. For more information on IMSS: Click Here
Tulum Infrastructure and Services
Tulum has grown a lot! In 2010, there were no paved roads, beyond the highway that runs through the middle of town, or street signs. Today (2020), almost all the city streets have been paved and they all have names. Tulum now has 3 stop lights along the main avenue from end to end and they are adding more of them around town in 2020. Thankfully “rush hour” is still mostly a matter of staying alert for a mix of rental cars, scooters, pedestrians, taxis and dogs. The downtown zone is still only about 1 mile long, so even in heavy traffic it does not take long to get around Tulum. There is a lot more expat traffic, with a growing number of expats in the community, many of them buying retirement properties.
Tulum continues on the path of progress and Mexico wants to protect this crown jewel of nature. So far that planning and execution has been playing catch up with providing infrastructure improvements in roads, electricity and water treatment. More infrastructure is being added every day to support this growing Mexican town on the Caribbean.
There has been a lot written about some of the ecological challenges and impacts to Tulum along this steep growth curve, it’s not a great look for Tulum or the environmental and earth friendly image, but the attention is bringing some action.
The city does have issues with water treatment-they continue to expand treatment infrastructure, but it is a game of catch up right now. There are more eco-conscious development projects going now, community recycling is becoming more active but overall infrastructure still lags, new and more modern shopping centers/pavilions with attached residential are also going up and bringing their own infrastructure-this is common in Mexico too. In 2020 Tulum, the city may get what it needs, time, the time needed to catch up, as things likely slow down for while in a post pandemic world. At least for the moment. Tulum will need to stay focused on their infrastructure to support this newly “discovered” fast developing and popular destination for expats and tourists.
There are several banks in Tulum including BBVA Bancomer, HSBC, Scotia Bank and other smaller branches. ATM machines are every where that dispense pesos and dollars.
Living in Tulum will provide you with all kinds of fresh produce options and has 2 major modern grocery stores, the Chedruai and the Super Aki. Chedruai is a modern major grocery store chain, that will have almost everything you are used to buying back home, including most US brands of foods. Super Aki is a smaller chain grocery store, but also carries many US brands and has everything you need for groceries. In addition to those larger stores, Tulum also has several healthy grocery stores that sell more organic products, including Gypsy Market and CoConAmor. There are also fresh produce stands found on many street corners in Tulum.
There are several different veterinarians to choose from. Ask for a referral from a local neighbor to choose.
There is a post office in Tulum but mail delivery is VERY sketchy. If you live here, you want to go paperless as much as humanly possible and pay your U.S. bills online. UPS and Fed Ex do deliver here but it’s very expensive to have anything shipped from the U.S. or Canada. Savana, the local “fax, mail, print” shop, will accept a package for you for a nominal fee. When your package arrives, they will write your name on a board. Once you get to know the owner, she may call you to let you know your package has arrived.
Non denominational Lighthouse Church – English speaking, Christian Church :
- Tulum – 10:00 a.m. Sundays
Puerto Aventuras – 2:30 p.m. Sundays
Playa del Carmen – 6:30 p.m. Sundays
For more information: www.lighthousechurch.mx
There are many Spanish speaking Catholic churches throughout Tulum, the largest Catholic church is located behind the main square centro in downtown. There is also a Mormon church on Main Street as well as a Jehovah Witness and others.
Tulum has low crime rate. but there has been a recent rise in local cartel incidents involving territory battles. So far, no tourists or expats have been involved in this violence and relative to actual real danger to you, it is a safe community. The largest crime complaint are crimes of opportunity.
As quoted from the U.S. Travel.State.Gov website, July 2013:
“The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality.
Crimes of opportunity are instances such as: If you forget your wallet in the cab, it is not likely anyone will turn it in for you. If you take a bike ride and leave your bike unchained for more than a few minutes, your bike may not be there when you return. If you leave your sun glasses on a table at a restaurant, they may be picked up and no one will have seen who left with them.
Although your possessions may come and go if you aren’t careful, the degree of violent crime is very low.
Please review our latest safety report for Mexico for more details and statistics. As with any plans to viist Mexico or any other foreign country, make sure you check the US Department of State website for any travel alerts, advisories or restrictions.
Call Your Bank
Call your bank and credit card companies to notify them of your plans to travel or move to Mexico. It is not necessary to carry a lot of cash, and not recommended, as banks and ATM’s are prevalent in Tulum. Most merchants and restaurants accept U.S. credit cards, however, to avoid a block on your debit or credit card, notify them of your travel plans. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere, but you will get a better exchange rate if you use pesos. All ATM machines can dispense pesos and some dispense dollars.
As you settle in to life in Tulum, you will find making phones to a be a bit different with some new numbers to keep in mind! From the US or Canada, to call into Tulum, dial the following sequence: 011-52-984, and then the 7-digit local number. 011 is the code for international telephone connection, country code 52 is for Mexico, and 984 is the area code for Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. For more details on how to make phone calls in Mexico, check our article here.