Thinking in dollars… or pesos… or pounds. Urgh!

The way I think about money is somewhat muddled. When we go to the shops in Mexico I often convert purchases into US dollars in my head. Which was fine for a while when the Australian and US dollar was one for one.

But now the Aussie dollar isn’t worth the same as the US. What does this mean? That I often end up spending more money than I’d planned, because my $60 grocery store trip was actually $70 Australian dollars, yet in my mind it’s still $60.

Coba pyramid Mexico Double-Barrelled Travel

Selfie in front of another Mayan ruin – priceless

The weirdest thing is, I don’t even know why American dollars is my currency of choice, considering the longest we’ve ever lived in the country has been for five months. I lived in Australia for 21 years and England for five, yet I still keep coming back to the American dollar.

To further confuse things, we also get paid in a number of different currencies, including pounds, US dollars and Australian dollars. We get the American dollars paid into our PayPal account, which we deposit into our British bank account. We get Aussie dollars deposited into our Australian bank account.

But then all the money we spend is in Mexican pesos. Unless it’s NetFlix, which comes out of PayPal, or Amazon, which comes out of our British bank account, or Airbnb which comes out of the Aussie account.

Are you still with me? I think I’m a little lost myself.

Coba ruins Mexico Double-Barrelled Travel

I feel like that one time, in the Mexican jungle, when I got lost but still managed to pose for this photo…

The point is, I would love a great system for converting, or linking, all my bank accounts into a one stream with one currency. Is there an app for that? If not, someone please go develop one!

Anyway, each month I’ve been thinking that our budget is $3,000 Australian dollars, but the problem is I’ve been thinking in US dollars, not Aussie. Which means we’ve actually been going over our budget every month, now that the Aussie dollar isn’t the same as the US.

For example, this month we spent US$3,073.62. So I’m thinking we’re all hunky dory and only slightly over our budget.

But turns out that figure equates to $3,536.80 Australian dollars. Which is, er, $500 over budget.


Prawn cocktail Mexico Double-Barrelled Travel

I ate the biggest ever prawn cocktail in October. It cost US$7. Yes, I was excited.

Prices in Mexico

Mexico is pretty cheap. Not as cheap as Bolivia (I don’t think anywhere in the Americas is) but still inexpensive.

We’re paying around US$40 a night for a one bedroom apartment on Airbnb. Hotel accommodation is more expensive, but still not ridiculously so.

We’ve been paying around US$80 for a week’s worth of supermarket shopping (not including alcohol.)

Actually, wine is rather pricey in Mexico. You can expect to pay about US$7 for a glass of red, and they certainly won’t be filling it up to the brim. Mexicans don’t know much about wine either and some of the bottles I’ve been served taste more like they belong in my salad dressing than running down my throat.

Eating out is pretty cheap though. We’ve rarely paid more than US$20 per person for a meal, and this price is for a more ‘fancy’ restaurant and would include two, or maybe even three, courses.

Mexican salsas Xoximilco Double-Barrelled Travel

Think Mexican food is all about guacamole? Think again…

Street food is the way to go though. Mexican food was made for street food stalls, and we can easily eat a delicious street food meal for US$5 a pop for the two of us.

(As a side note, I recently read a gringo host’s profile on Airbnb who advises not to eat the Mexican street food at any cost, whilst staying in her apartment in Oaxaca. This saddens me. These people are missing out! And Dave and I haven’t fallen ill yet. Touch wood.)

Street food Valladolid Mexico Double-Barrelled Travel

At a new street food discovery – this little cart inside a tiny building in Valladolid

Tips for visiting the tourist sites on the Yucatan Peninsula

We spent a lot of money tramping around the ruins of Mexico last month, which was worth every penny. Some of these sites were as little as $3 to get in, and the big name ones like Chichen Itza were about US$16.

If you plan on seeing them yourself, I would recommend hiring a car and driving there rather than going on a tour. If you tour it, you’ll not only pay a lot more – think US$80 per person – but you’ll also be trooping around the ruins with thousands of other people.

If you hire a car, you pay US$40 – 50 a day for the vehicle, a few bucks on petrol, and then you have freedom to explore at your leisure, which for me is priceless.

For Chichen Itza, we got there as the gates opened and were sharing the huge site with a handful of people. As we left at 11am the tour buses were streaming in, all the touts had set up their tables and were yelling at us for a sale, and the serene and magical setting of the ruins had lost all of its charm.

Having a car also means you can leave the ruins for a cenote well ahead of the tourist rush. The cenotes are breathtaking, and I’ve been filling our Instagram feed with a lot of images from our jaunts to them, but this beauty is hampered somewhat when you’re taking in the scene with 100 others.

Mexican ruins Double-Barrelled Travel

Wahoo! Another Mayan ruin completely to ourselves!

Our plans for the next month

We fly to Oaxaca from Campeche tomorrow morning (I’m writing this on the 3rd of November) and plan on living in the Oaxaca city region for the next month. We just booked this apartment today to stay in for two weeks. If we like it enough, we might stay on. It’s a bit of a splurge for us – US$350 a week – but doesn’t it look delightful?

Both of us are working really hard right now, and we couldn’t think of a more serene surrounding to get our writing projects done.

The exciting news is that on the 18th of November our travel buddy Kristin, who we met on the Inca Trail in March and then travelled with to Ecuador and Colombia, is flying back down from the US to join us for our last few weeks in Mexico.

I’m really looking forward to having her smiley, friendly and familiar face around again, and Dave is excited about having his beer buddy back. (I don’t drink beer. Yuck.)

What are your travel plans for the next month? Let us know if you’ll be in Mexico!

Airbnb friends Mexico Double-Barrelled Travel

Dinner with our friendly Airbnb hosts in Valladolid, Mexico

Breakdown of our spending in October:

Travel budget in October (US dollars)
Public transport (buses, taxis and a week’s worth of car hire) $511.47
Petrol for car hire $90.34
Accommodation $903.52
Eating out $564.55
Groceries $288.41
Alcohol $47.97
Attractions $242.69
Scuba diving $233.92
Tips $28.71
Laundry $9.89
Bank fees $30.74
Toiletries $53.81
Other* $67.60
Total $3073.62
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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

7 comments on “Thinking in dollars… or pesos… or pounds. Urgh!”

  1. Richard Hunt Reply

    BeforeI travel to other countries, I go to the website and get the traveler’s cheatsheets for every country. You cut them into wallet size pieces by folding and gluing them. On one side is the US to MX peso and on the other side is the MX peso to US in convenient increments. For example, the USD side goes 1,2,3,4,5,10–increments in 5s to 50, 100, 250, 500 and 1,000. The MX peso side starts at 10 pesos and goes up to 10,000.

    This is especially helpful when you are in countries where the exchange is like $1USD to 1,000 or more.

  2. Sky Reply

    Whoa. Yeah, you definitely lost me in all of the crazy conversions there! It is interesting that you translate everything to USD. That’s obviously what I think in but, hey, I’ve been here forever. Good luck simplifying that process!

    Love the budget breakdown – these are some of my favorite posts.
    Sky recently posted…Central America Adventure – 2 months to Departure!My Profile

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Thanks Sky, glad you enjoyed it.
      Yep, I seriously confuse myself. I think I just need to try and train my brain to convert everything into Aussie dollars and then forget the US dollar – it’ll probably save me money anyway now that the Aussie dollar has fallen against the US, and considering most of the money we earn is in Aussie dollars.
      Thanks for your comment!

  3. LoveAlwaysSummer Reply

    Hi, Carmen! Great post and very useful. Even if we travel a lot for more than 3 years, and we usually know our expenses, we always read articles like this one before budgeting our next trip. And yes, we are all the time confused about the currency :).
    We just spend in Mexico-Yucatan area 14 days, including New Year`s Eve 2016 in Cancun. Altho it was touristy, busy and with higher prices in this period, we managed to spent 35$ per day/person, of course using public transport and eating from the street vendors and local restaurants. We loved Mexico and it is indeed safe!
    Here is our article, maybe it will be useful to other travelers:
    Safe travel!
    Anda from LoveAlwaysSummer

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Glad you found the post useful and thanks for sharing your post – I’m sure that’ll be helpful for our readers too.
      $35 a day is a bargain for that area! Well done. We love Mexico too, as you can probably tell.
      Thanks for reading 🙂

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