Is Playa del Carmen a good place for digital nomads?
You’ve probably heard a lot about working remotely and living in Bali, too. Long-term travelers flock to those places because of their alluring lifestyles, costs of living, and, of course, wifi.
There’s a country still making a name for itself in the remote world, though, and it’s arguably one of the best on the planet for digital nomads — Mexico.
Mexico is a haven for travelers who love beaches, mountains, and big cities. It has a vibrant culture, delicious food, and a welcoming vibe any long-term visitor would love.
Mexico is, in a nutshell, a country you simply can’t overlook when planning your nomadic route.
Of course, the entire country of Mexico is huge. You could spend years traveling around and never see everything it has to offer. For those seeking an infrastructure perfect for remote workers, though, you can safely set your sights on Playa Del Carmen, one of the best cities in Mexico for digital nomads.
Playa Del Carmen has everything travelers love about Mexico, but with the added bonus of speedy wifi that’s perfect for video calls, programming, and pretty much any type of online work you can imagine.
Not only that, the coworking and cafe scene in Playa Del Carmen is growing everyday. You’d be hard-pressed to find a coffee shop without at least one other digital nomad working away.
Playa Del Carmen for Digital Nomads
Beyond the convenience for nomads, though, Playa Del Carmen also has some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world — all sitting next to cheap monthly rentals, mouthwatering restaurants and street food, and easy-to-access transportation.
If you’re looking for your next digital nomad stop, I highly recommend Playa del Carmen.
Here’s what to expect from Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
Cost of Living in Playa Del Carmen
Compared to much of the world, the cost of living in Playa Del Carmen is cheap.
It sits well below costs in the US, many European countries, and Australia. It is even cheaper than much of South America.
To give you an idea of how much you might pay for a month of digital nomad life in Playa Del Carmen, here’s a breakdown of common expenses:
- 1 Bedroom Airbnb Apartment: Expect to pay well under $1,000 USD per month, especially if you’re happy to live farther away from the beach.
I paid just over $800 per month for a modern, 1 bedroom apartment, including all utilities and fees, located just one block from Mamitas Beach, one of the most famous in Mexico. Renting a studio located a bit farther away from the coast might cost half that.
- Food: A huge convenience for nomads who like to cook are the giant grocery stores in Playa Del Carmen. During my 3 months living here, I paid about $40 per week on groceries, which covered breakfast, lunch, and dinner on most days.
Besides grocery costs, I spent about $10 total eating out a couple times per week.
For all food, my costs averaged around $200 per month, but you could easily pay less by foregoing imported foods, wine, etc.
- Coffee: This one’s key for digital nomads, and luckily, coffee in Playa Del Carmen is cheap.
If you’re going to chains like Starbucks, expect to pay standard prices of around $4 for a latte. But local coffee shops (like Bendito Cafe) will run you about half that.
What’s the Wifi Like in Playa Del Carmen?
There’s no question more important to digital nomads than this one, and when it comes to Mexico, the waters are a bit murky.
Most guides about living and working in Mexico are slightly outdated, claiming the wifi isn’t up to par for online-working-needs.
Fortunately, that’s not true anymore in many of the larger cities like Playa Del Carmen.
Here, for the most part, you can expect speeds of around 10 mbps and up (in my search for Airbnbs before moving there, 10 mbps was the average download speed I found). Even wifi in cafes like Ah Cacao can support your online job.
If you prefer to keep a backup on hand in case your wifi does drop, though, buying SIM cards with data in Playa is simple.
Around nearly every corner, you’ll find a convenience store called “Oxxo,” which is similar to 7-11. There (or at official service provider stores), you can buy Sim cards from several different companies, with Telcel typically being the best and most widespread option. The more expensive plans run between $20-$30 per month, but depending on your needs, you can opt for a cheaper option (click here to see plan options).
Things to Do in Playa Del Carmen
If you like beaches, there’s no question of what you’ll be doing in Playa Del Carmen. Some of the best beaches in the world can be found here, are completely free and open to the public.
The stretches of sand running along most of Playa, from the Mamitas Beach area to Playacar, are soft and white, bordered by clear, blue water.
All over Playa, you’ll find watersport options like stand up paddle boarding, jet skiing, and parasailing. Of course, those activities are aimed at tourists, so you’ll pay a higher price tag than you might like.
If you’re on a budget, just bring your towel and find a spot for the day.
Just outside the city center, you’ll find cenotes, which are sinkholes that have revealed freshwater beneath them, making for some crystal clear swims.
Cenotes are located all around Playa Del Carmen and are easily accessible by taxi or colectivo (shared van).
When you’re looking to spend time away from the beach, the areas surrounding Playa Del Carmen are also home to countless ruins — some sitting right on the edges of cliffs overlooking the ocean below, and others just a few minutes drive from wherever you end up staying.
How to Find Cheap Apartments in Playa Del Carmen
If you’re looking for the cheapest of the cheap apartments, you’ll be better off waiting until you get to Playa Del Carmen to go apartment hunting.
Searching for a place once you’re here will give you access to local rentals you won’t find online.
That being said, the cheapest apartments available might not be ideal for digital nomads when it comes to things like workspaces and wifi.
When I was looking for a 3-month rental, I used Airbnb, where you can find an apartment within any budget (a modern studio might cost $400, and a 2 bedroom “penthouse” might cost $1,500).
Yes, there are fees involved, but often, being able to read reviews about an apartment before renting is well worth the small amount of extra money you’ll spend.
Besides looking on Airbnb, you can also try checking out Facebook groups like Rentas Playa, although you’ll need a decent grasp of the Spanish language to really delve into this option.
When searching for apartments, you’ll want to make note of which season you’re heading to Playa in. During the months of December to February, prices start to rise because tourists from cold climates head south to escape the winter.
The shoulder months of September and October are far cheaper, although you might experience more rain, so definitely weigh your options.
Best Cafes to Work From in Playa Del Carmen
Playa Del Carmen has a great cafe scene, with spots like Ah Cacao, Bendito Cafe, Choux Choux, and even Starbucks offering solid work options.
If you want to escape the tourists (and loud groups taking a break from the heat), stick to cafes off the main stretch of 5th Avenue, where countless people go shopping.
Instead, use the side streets and further ends of 5th Ave to find quieter places more conducive to spending a full day working.
My favorite cafes to work from in Playa Del Carmen are the Ah Cacao on the far end of 5th Avenue, between Calle 20 and 30, and Bendito Cafe, which is about a 10-minute walk from the main action of Playa. In both cafes, you’ll find both good coffee and good wifi.
If you prefer the coworking scene, you’ll find that in Playa Del Carmen, too.
Nest, a digital nomad favorite, is located right in the center of town. If you work odd hours, it might not be the best option (it’s open 9 AM to 10 PM Monday to Friday, closes at 5 PM on Saturday, and is closed completely on Sunday), but the atmosphere and location couldn’t be better.
CoWork-In is another option located a little further out from the center of the city. If you like working early mornings or late nights, though, it might become your regular spot (it’s open 7 AM to 12 AM every day).
If you’re interested in trying out CoWork-In, rates run less than $3 per hour, and go down from there if you buy a day, week, or monthly pass.
How to Get Around Playa Del Carmen
One of the many draws for digital nomads is the fact that you don’t need a car or motorbike to get around Playa Del Carmen.
With colectivos, taxis, and coach buses serving Playa Del Carmen and the surrounding areas (and the rest of Mexico), you won’t have any trouble with transportation.
If you’re staying for a while, consider renting or buying a bicycle, which is the chosen mode of transport for many Playa locals. Otherwise, do as nearly everyone else in Mexico does, and use Playa’s vast network of colectivos, which are like shared vans.
Colectivos run specific routes, and will pick up and drop off passengers anywhere along those routes.
Simply flag one down to get on (or go to the colectivo stand on Calle 2 Norte between Avenue 15 and 20), and get on the one going in the direction you need, either by asking the drivers, or looking at the main destinations written on each van’s windshield.
Colectivos don’t run on a specific schedule. Instead, they’ll just leave once they’re full (if you’re getting one from the colectivo stand).
To get off, keep an eye out for your destination (or follow Google Maps on your phone during the ride) and yell “stop” to the driver once you’re there.
Rides are cheap, costing less than $2 USD for a full hour’s drive, so if you’re comfortable sharing a van (albeit a very sweaty one), this is the way to go.
If you’re traveling farther afield or want to spend a weekend away, use the bus company called ADO — one of Mexico’s many coach services.
ADO runs routes all over the country, with trips between places like Mexico City and Oaxaca (a 7-8 hour journey) costing less than $30 USD. Not only that, the buses are clean, modern, and often include drinks and snacks.
Easy Day Trips from Playa Del Carmen
If you’re taking a temporary break from work, Playa offers tons of options for weekend or day trips that are both easily accessible and cheap.
Tulum is a city of gorgeous beaches and ancient ruins on cliffs.
Grab a colectivo or ADO bus to get there (about a 1.5-hour journey), and spend the day touring the ruins before jumping in the ocean for a swim.
The entrance fee to the ruins is only a couple of dollars. So with the cost of transport, you can easily keep your day trip at under $5-$10, including a cheap meal.
When you look out over the horizon from Playa Del Carmen, you’ll notice a few buildings and boats in the distance — that’s Cozumel.
Cozumel is an island off the coast of Playa that’s easy to get to by ferry and a great place to spend the day.
Two piers offer ferries directly to and from Cozumel, which cost around $10 USD and run hourly throughout the day.
Either head to the pier near The Royal Playa Del Carmen (a big resort on the beach) or jump on a boat leaving directly from downtown. And then simply catch one coming back whenever you’re ready.
While you can easily spend a ton of money visiting Cozumel, if you’re happy to spend the day snorkeling off a public beach, just grab a cheap snorkel from the Walmart in Playa, and spend your day exploring the water.
What’s it Like for Digital Nomads in Playa Del Carmen?
In one word, life in Playa Del Carmen for digital nomads is easy.
While living in Playa Del Carmen, you’ll find:
- A good internet infrastructure
- A variety of coworking options
- Tons of cafes to work from
- Large grocery store chains like Walmart
- Cheap and delicious food
- An affordable cost of living
If you’re looking for a dream digital nomad destination with everything mentioned above, plus friendly locals and a wonderfully laid-back lifestyle, head to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Chances are, you won’t want to leave.
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Featured image by Oksana Ferrari. With many thanks for letting me use her picture of Playa Del Carmen!
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