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Food Budget- Help Me Be Realistic


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#1 Tori Tucker

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 08:28 PM

Hi! I'm looking at a 7 night trip to Cozumel August 9-16 for my dad and I. We go to Cozumel every summer but we've always stayed at an AI. Never stayed at a non AI so this is where I need your help!

I found a trip to the Iberostar for both of us for $2300 and another trip to a smaller non AI for $1200. So of course, this leaves us $1100 for food. I thought this may be more than enough but I googled it and most said $70-$90 per person, per day. So you don't have to do the math, thats $980 to $1260. If it matters, neither of us drink and we're not food connoisseurs, we'll probably wanna dine one night but for the most part we're happy with fast food.

My dad doesn't speak Spanish, but I'm half Mexican so I do speak Spanish fluently enough to order in hole in the wall restaraunts with no English.

Is it worth it to book a smaller hotel and pay for food? What's been your experience? I do have enough money to pay either way, I'm just wondering. I'm 14 though, my dad said if I could make the money he'd take me to Cozumel this summer so I did to both of our surprises LOL, I'm just trying to budget every dollar.

One last thing is transportation/entertainment. Staying at the non AI in town, we're not worried about entertainment because we can get to town without a taxi. We prefer walking around the center to watching a show.. But we're also okay with the entertainment at Iberostar, we're just not sure about having to rent a car/taxi to get around..


I know that's more to AI / non AI than food, like how drinks add up pretty quickly when you have to pay. Just wondering what you guys thought.
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#2 DJDiverDan

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 09:24 PM

You can eat very well for less that $50 a day if you are carefull where you go -- and I don't mean just fast food. You can still get a breakfast special at Ernesto's for about $5 (plus tip) that includes coffee, eggs and fried potatoes. Splurge and get the fresh squeezed OJ. Breakfast at Rock n' Java or Jeanies Wafflehouse or the Museum, or even Las Palmas across from the Ferry pier is also very affordable. For Lunches, go to one of the several Loncherias -- my favorite is Sabores, wher 70 pesos (about $5) will get you chips & salsa, soup, an entree with rice and beans, and all the agua fresca you can drink. Through in another $5 for a huge portion of guacamole. There are many locally owned restaurants back in town where you can easily have a very good dinner for less than $20 a person. If you are careful, and don't drink a lot of alchohol, you can eat well for less than $35 per perso per day.
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#3 mstevens

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 10:14 PM

I love food and going to my favorite restaurants is one of the main things that brings me back to the island time and again. I doubt I have ever averaged anywhere near $70 per person per day. I have certainly spent that on some days, but never more than one day out of a week. My very favorite places tend to be loncherias and taquerias.

My wife says she spent about $500 pesos per day on average for meals over a 7-week stay. That was paying no attention at all to budget, occasional splurges (Kinta, Kondesa, Le Chef, etc.) and occasional home delivery. I suspect that for a single week it might be a tad higher since toward the end of her stay she got a bit tired of eating out and skipped a few meals or had something quick at home.

For one place that's fairly representative of quality food with prices in the middle of the market, check out Parilla Mission's menu. That should give you an idea of some prices. Their orden de arrachera is quite a substantial meal, the sort of thing that could very reasonably be your most expensive one of the day, at $80 pesos. Their comida familiar price does not appear on the menu and I don't recall what it cost. Perhaps someone can chime in. Of course, you'll want something to drink and something like horchata or a soda is going to set you back a buck or two.

Breakfast at someplace like Panaderia la Cozumelena ran my wife $112 (pesos) including tip for cafe de olla and a nice, filling breakfast such as molletes con tocino. Fresh-squeezed juice and crepes with cajeta at another place was $65 pesos including tip.

Lunch at El Coctelito consisting of two limonadas and what my wife says was the best pescado al ajillo she had all trip was $135 pesos including tip.

I heartily endorse the idea of staying in or near town, as San Miguel is a fun and interesting place.

And impressive job on saving the money and acting as travel agent!
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#4 Tori Tucker

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 10:36 PM

THANK YOU so much to both of you for replying!! :) What you suggested sounds about half of what I expected.

MS- agree, I think it is well worth it to stay in town! And your picture is making me anxious to go.. hahahaha!

Again thank you so much both for your well written advice!!
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#5 Charles

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 01:50 AM

You can splurge on $35 dollars a day per person. Lots of places you could go and spend less than $50 dollars for two people per day. Make sure you pay in pesos.
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#6 mexcelia

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 06:22 AM

Congrats on saving the monies to come down........ As far as eating expenses, I believe that you can do well with less money, and your bodies will thank you too. At the mercado close to the downtown area you can find lots of fresh fruit that often takes care of my breakfast, or brunch cravings. Fill a small plastic container with nuts, raisins, coconut sprinkles and granola and you have another great snack that's quite filling and good for you. Small stands located all over the island will sell you empanadas, flautas, and burritos for 10-20 pesos apiece. If you are a soda drinker, Pepsi is always cheaper than Coca Cola in Chedraui, and staying away from the central tourist areas when dining will almost always save you a lot of money especially if you focus on Cocina Economicas such as the one on 10th. I've turned it into a game, but I live here and it might become tiresome while on vacation. But, I agree with Charles that $35 a day would definitely help you to splurge especially when using pesos. Good luck!
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#7 DJDiverDan

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 08:22 AM

On the transportation issue, which I didn't address above, I would not recommend that you rent a car for more than 1 day, if that. If you want to take a full day to take a trip around the island, see the beach clubs way south of town, maybe spend several hours at Chankanaab Park (which I used to heartily recommend, but the way that they've raised park entrance fees, I'm not certain that it's worth it anymore), go to the Punta Sur National Park at the far south end, explore the wild East Side of the Island, etc., then a one day car rental is fine. Walking will take you anywhere you want to go in town, and even walking from town down to the International Pier, while it's a trek, is not unreasonable. If this 58 year old fat guy can do it, so can a healthy teenager. Now if you want to spend time at the beach clubs, they are much farther south, and unless public transportation takes you (I've never tried it, but I don't go to the beach clubs unless the dive boat drops me off there for a surface interval), cabs can run up the price quickly. Check the boards here for taxi rates to locations in the south of the Island, and ALWAYS pay the cabs in Pesos. They will take Dollars, but it will always cost you 40% more.
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#8 DJDiverDan

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 08:34 AM

One last thing on the entertainment issue -- for me, the single biggest draw for Cozumel has always been the beautiful water and reef life. I've been coming to Cozumel as often as I can for over 20 years now, and my single biggest budget item is almost always the cost of diving. I stay in cheap hotels (not the cheapest; I want AC and a pool, especially for a summer stay), and I eat very well, but usually frugally (though I will splurge on a few high-end restaurant dinners). But diving usually runs me about $90 a day, with tips, for a two-tank morning dive every day, plus one night dive if I can arrange it. Maybe you don't have an interest in diving, but you should at least try snorkeling to see some of the most beautiful and fascinating sights of Cozumel. So do put that in your entertainment budget.
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#9 Coz2wonder

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 10:33 AM

Flamingo Hotel
Calle 6 Norte 81, Cozumel, Yucatan Peninsula
49 usd's a night

Hacienda San Miguel
Calle 10 Norte 500 | Entre Ave 5 y REM
It has a kitchenette, frig and you can prepare simple meals to cut the cost.

Both of these hotels are on the north end of town, great locations, and both are nice.
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#10 mexcelia

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 12:45 PM

I wanted to mention that there is a taxi driver I now use almost exclusively whenever I want to go somewhere. A while back he'd rescued me from a bit of a problem (minor) that I was having with another driver. Since then he's taken me just about anywhere, introduced me to his wife, recommended places where I've bought furniture, plants, and local artwork. I hope I'm not breaking any taxi union rules here, but his number is 987 111 3342 and his name is Jaime (pronounced with an 'H' and a long i...Himy). He speaks English fairly well, is a true islander filled with local knowledge, and follows all rate guidelines......
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#11 Tori Tucker

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 01:28 PM

Charles- Didn't think about paying in pesos! Where's the best place to exchange? I don't usually handle the money on these trips, haha!!

Mexcelia- He sounds great!! Love that you know locals :) Is it free to call him from landlines in Mexico?

Dan- Us too. I have girlfriends my age in Cozumel who live there, who I planned on seeing and letting my father do his own thing (I'm kinda typical, lol) I'm sure we could find some source of entertainment no matter where we go!!

Coz2- Never thought about getting a small kitchen, that's an even better idea! I love Mexcelia's idea too of fresh fruit and taco stands
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#12 Carey

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 01:32 PM

You are a girl after my own heart! I know your Dad is proud of you for saving up that money and now figuring out how to spend it most wisely.

As other people have already said, you can eat very well in town for considerably less than the budget you've been told other places on the internet. If you stay in town, you can even eat at a Mac's or a Burger King if you get tired of Mexican cooking. But there is an awful lot of good stuff to sample in a week.

Let me give you some examples here. Assuming you're staying in downtown, you could get a delicious breakfast at a place like Girasoles for under $80 pesos/person including the tip. Nice, filling breakfast. And there are tons of other places already mentioned. Lunch, the loncherias are the ticket and figure, again no more than $90 pesos/person and often quite a bit less for a great, filling meal. Dinner you can eat cheaply and well at a taqueria like El Pique up on Avenida 30 very close to the center of downtown for under $100/person. Or if you want to splurge, a place like Kinta's will cost you twice that or more but still not so bad for a special treat. Guidos maybe $30/person for a big nice dinner with no drinks.

Get a hotel room that has an in room fridge. Then your Dad can buy booze and have drinks at home before you go out and you can get soft drinks to keep there and even sandwich makings. Important to have a mini fridge! It will save you money and is extremely convenient.

Now, getting to the beaches from in town adds in some costs for taxis, don't forget. Figure $30 RT to get out to The Money Bar or Chankannab Park to spend the day. And if you want to go way south to a beach near Iberastar which would be Palancar beach club, your RT will be more like $40 or even $45 RT. So you'll want to take that into account.

Where are you planning to stay in town? If you're staying right downtown, you can walk to all the restaurants and shopping but you'll want to taxi to the beaches. There's a cute little beach at the north end of downtown but there aren't beach chairs and it's kind of rocky.

If you stay somewhere like Hotel Cozumel or even the Blue Angel Resort, you'd be walking distance to downtown and have your own pretty waterfront place to sit on. Hotel Cozumel is an easy walk from downtown. Blue Angel Resort is a bit further not bad at all and certainly a $4 cab ride tops to downtown and very easy to catch one. Just remember be sure to get a fridge in your room. That's a deal killer without it in my opinion.

If you have any more questions, ask away. We'll be glad to help you squeeze that peso until it screams, kiddo. This is a good place to do it without feeling like you're missing out.
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#13 Valli

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 02:53 PM

What a lucky father! If you are staying in a place with a small fridge/kitchen, you can head to Mega or Chedraui for some good cheese, ham, buns and make really good sandwiches. Also the bacon is great in Cozumel for yummy bacon and eggs. But honestly - there are so many good suggestions in the previous posts, you will be very happy and well fed without "breaking the bank." I have also purchased the rotisserie chicken and with the left overs made very good chicken salad. And of course, you can make chicken tacos, chicken fajitas, etc. Another few places for really good cheap breakfasts (and lunches/dinners):
Abuelo Gerrardo's - one of the oldest restaurants in Cozumel, on 10th, almost across from the church - great breakfasts and excellent deal on lobster dinners.
Miss Dollar - on 20th, good and reasonable breakfasts
Cocina Italiana -(lunch) - 6th Nte between 10 and 15th (or 15 & 20) - really good and well prepared fresh food which include a bottomless pitcher of ice tea or lemonade, you select your entree, comes with salad and garlic toasts - between 65 and 85 pesos per person, but you will be very satisfied.Choices include fish, chicken, various pastas and a to die for tiramisu.
El Torrito - 65 between 17 & 19 - open 7 a.m. to about 10 p.m. Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Let us know where you decide to stay and please report back on your August trip.
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#14 Tori Tucker

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 06:03 PM

Thanks so much to both!

Carey- I was thinking about a small hotel called La Casona Real. I think it's somewhere in the middle of San Miguel but I can't find much on the location!! I see you live in Cozumel (I can't even tell you how jealous that makes me! haha) so maybe you or anyone else knows about it or has seen it? If so I would love to hear your input.

I love the idea of a mini fridge. I'm looking into hotels with it. We love that ocean view at McDonald's!! I'll have to talk to him about it. A question, is the McDonald's there the same price as ones in the U.S.? Stupid question I know, but you never know! haha


Valli- Thank you! And I looove Italian!! You got me there!! lol :)Thanks for the list- we'll definitely hit up a few.

Love this forum!! Can anybody reccommend any sea food restraunts? My dad adores sea food
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#15 Carey

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 07:10 PM

yes, that's a great location. It's changed owners recently so needs to be checked out again. It is only 4 blocks from my house so if you will shoot me an email to careycsutton@hotmail.com to remind me personally, I'll go on over there and scope it out for you in the next couple of days.
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#16 Tori Tucker

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 07:42 PM

Oh thank you SO much! That's so sweet. I'll definitely email you!
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#17 nauticab

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 09:14 PM

you can "splurge" at the rock n java noodle bar (downstairs of mega), share the large "create your own dish" (108 pesos), share a spicy tuna roll, drink water and spend all of 195 pesos, plus tip. and be VERY FULL.
$30 a night wothout drinks at guidos???? what are you guys eating? i eat at guidos with a drink for under $15. the best dishes aren't always the most expensive.
before moving here, my friend and i would visit with a $20 a day food budget. yes, you read that right, $20. we would go out each morning and buy a juice and breads at the local bakery, buy bread, ham, cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and eat sandwiches for lunch, and go out to eat a reasonable dinner. and still had some $$ left over for some drinks at the old charlies.
we would buy the booze at the grocery store, store it in our mini fridge, take a drink with us in a to go cup when going into town. always stayed at hotel barracuda, IMHO opinion the best place to stay close to town for budget, location, amenities, and the view- now with a beach, ocean entry and a pool.
granted this was 13 years ago, add a just a few more bucks and you can eat nicely, even today.
there are so many holes in the wall, taquerias, etc., that will serve you a full meal for 50 pesos for lunch. plus going there you will be helping support the local families and not just the big shots in the larger chain like places. you can enjoy a wonderful mix of both, just have a little adventure, that is what it is all about!
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#18 Carey

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 07:55 AM

Re Guidos, I chose them as an example because they are the most expensive restaurant I've encountered in town when I was taking my parents out a lot at Christmas this year. And, of course, that's the one they liked the most.

Yes, you can get a pizza for $120 pesos. But my parents were having well prepared red snapper dishes with a caesar salad and their famous bread and the bill did indeed come to close to $30 US/person. The place ain't cheap by Cozumel standards and moderately priced by San Francisco standards.

Guido's new place, however, their deli on the corner of Avenida 10 and Calle 10 I believe it is, has a truly excellent comida de corrida that I believe they offer at night, too (until 9 PM). $89 pesos and includes a choice of 4 starters which are all served generously, wonderful home made bread, aqua fresca, choice of 3 entrees which were inventive and delicious -- a fish with pineapple sauce, a pork chop with apples and a vegetarian stuffed squash plate all served with generous amounts of bulgar wheat. AND a dessert.
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#19 MarkC

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 10:21 AM

What was the cheaper AI resort you were looking at?

breakfasts are decent at the AIs and lunch isnt bad. I think I ate ONE dinner at the Allegro 2 weeks ago, they rest were all in town or at a beach bar.

I prefer beach bar restaurants to almost anything else in town or at the resorts.

Paradise, Mezcalitos and Coconuts are all wonderful.

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#20 mstevens

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 11:06 AM

I prefer beach bar restaurants to almost anything else in town or at the resorts.

Paradise, Mezcalitos and Coconuts are all wonderful.


I do like Mezcalitos (Camarones Mezcalitos = super yum), but it's definitely not a budget choice. On many trips Mezcalito's has been our biggest meal bill.
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