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Want to live like a local in Playa del Carmen, Mexico? If you’re dreaming of finding the perfect short term rental in Playa del Carmen, but don’t want to make a bad choice, read on.
I’ve been both a landlord and a tenant in Mexico and here are some tips to help you find the best Playa del Carmen vacation rental property for your budget and avoid problems.
Why Digital Nomads and Expats Are Choosing Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
One of Mexico’s fastest growing cities, Playa del Carmen’s draws include dreamy white, sand beaches, turquoise blue waters and a palm tree-fringed coastline.
It’s also a popular jumping off point for visiting Mayan archeological sites such as Chichen Itza and Cobá, colonial cities of Valladolid and Merida as well as the many natural wonders of the Yucatan Peninsula such as cenotes (sinkholes), coral reefs and jungle.
Update: Read our post about the impact of sargassum seaweed on Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Its combination of affordability (compared to Europe or the US), growing number of co-working spaces and reliable high-speed internet service makes it especially appealing to digital nomads– location-independent people who work remotely.
For a travel writer like me, Playa del Carmen is one of the best places to live in Mexico for digital nomads. It offers an almost-perfect combination of reliable WiFi, proximity to Cancun International Airport and beachy lifestyle.
Although more expensive than other beach destinations in Mexico such as Puerto Escondido or Mazunte on the Pacific, it’s affordable enough that as I can live very comfortably on less than $400 USD per month (plus housing).
Day-dreaming about becoming a digital nomad? Learn how to earn income while travelling the world with this list of top jobs for digital nomads.
Where is Playa del Carmen?
Playa del Carmen is located 45 minutes southeast of Cancun on the Caribbean Coast of Mexico north of Tulum. It’s easily accessible from Belize, Guatemala, Chiapas and Cancun via ADO bus, colectivo (shared mini-vans) or private shuttle.
It’s also close to several luxury all-inclusive resorts and hotels, including some of my favourite upscale resorts in Mexico such as Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla, Secrets The Vine Cancun, Dreams Playa Mujeres, Grand Velas Riviera Maya and more.
1. Overpaying for Your Vacation Rental in Playa del Carmen
One of the biggest mistakes people make when booking a short term rental in Playa del carmen is overpaying. When it comes to budget, the price you’ll pay depends on the season, the length of time you will be renting and the location.
Generally, you’ll pay less for Playa del Carmen vacation rentals if you rent for a longer periods of time, outside of high season (Holiday periods and January-March) and further away from the beach.
Budget: $800-$1000 USD a month (generally long-term rentals only)
Mid-range: $1,000 – $2,500 USD a month (short-term rentals and easily available)
Luxury: $3,000 USD a month (easily available)
Your needs may vary, but my wish list for a 3-month stay in Playa del Carmen is usually a one-bedroom or studio self-contained apartment located near 5th Avenue no further north than 46th (CTM), with AC, excellent WIFI, within a 5 minute walk to the beach, proximity to the bike path, major grocery stores, restaurants and bars. It must have a swimming pool, a private balcony or terrace and be located on an upper floor within a low-rise building.
Ideally it should be within a safe neighbourhood suitable for a solo female traveller and be relatively new without any history of insect infestations. My budget is between $1,000 and $2,000 a month for a short-term rental. Phew! Sounds like a big wish list doesn’t it?
Sound impossible? Not really. Playa del Carmen is experiencing a condominium building boom (just listen to those hammers pounding night and day!) and there are a growing number of apartments available to purchase or rent.
And unlike other beach destinations in Mexico such as Puerto Escondido, it’s even possible to find last-minute short term rental accommodation during peak periods.
Here’s an examples of a vacation rental I stayed in within the mid-range monthly budget of $1,500-$2000 in high season and its pros and cons.
- The location of Suites Coral within the Zazil-ha neighbourhood is quiet (apart from occasional construction noise), it’s just a two minute walk to Playa del Carmen’s beaches, handy for shopping as there’s an OXXO next door, a fruteria a few doors away and several large grocery stores within easy walking distance.
- The building has a secure entrance (from door is locked with access by key or buzzer). As a solo traveller, I felt very safe walking the streets in the neighbourhood both during the day and night
- Wifi signal was excellent ( reliable, good speed ) which meant I was able to work online without interruption.
- This studio had great AC, a small balcony to enjoy morning coffee, balcony doors with screens, which is important to me as I don’t want to get mosquito bites. Read my post on 12 Ways to Avoid Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika and other Mosquito-borne Illnesses.
- My studio apartment at Suites Coral was modern, clean and insect free. I didn’t see any cockroaches, bed bugs or other pests during my stay.
- There are lots of fantastic restaurants within a few minutes walk of CTM and Quinta Avenida. Check out my post on Best Places to Eat in Playa del Carmen for some recommendations.
- The elevator is handy if you’re carrying groceries and aren’t up to climbing stairs
- For me, a negative with Suites Coral was that the kitchen was very small and minimally equipped. The kitchen utensils, pots and supplies were basic and the refrigerator bar-sized which meant there wasn’t much space for storing food. Not a problem for a short-term stay but if you’re planning a long-term stay and like to cook, that could be an issue.
- Weekly housekeeping was not included with my unit. I paid extra to get housekeeping however the cost was reasonable at 300 MXN pesos for each cleaning.
- AC is billed as an extra cost according to usage. In my case amounted to less than $15 for the month as I didn’t use the AC very much because the studio enjoys a good breeze from the balcony.
It is often possible to negotiate the cost of your vacation rental in Mexico. On Airbnb, scroll to the bottom of the listing and click Contact Host.
In your message, list your length of stay, your admirable record as a guest ( no smoking, tidy, quiet) and your country of origin as well as the dollar amount you’d like to pay.
I’ve negotiated discounts of hundreds of dollars this way. If your offer is accepted, the prospective host will respond with a Special Offer, which means all you have to do is click and book the new, lower rate.
Generally, the longer you stay, the lower the cost per night.
Pro Tip: If you’re planning on spending the winter in Mexico, be sure to check out our tips on cooking in a vacation rental in this post on How to Cook in an AirBnB (Without Losing Your Mind).
2. Staying in a Noisy Neighbourhood
Another big mistake that’s easy to make when looking for a place to rent in Playa del Carmen is staying in a noisy vacation rental.
While it’s totally fine and even fun if you’re partying to stay in the heart of Playa del Carmen’s nightlife for a few nights, for a longer term stay you’ll likely want some peace and quiet. That means staying away from 5th Avenue.
Equally annoying can be construction noise. Construction is booming in Playa del Carmen so it’s well worth looking for a rental that isn’t located directly beside a construction project.
One of the neighbourhoods to consider is the Colonia Hollywood neighbourhood. We rented a kingsize one-bedroom apartment with jacuzzi, large wrap-around terrace at the La Dolce Vita, a well-managed, low-rise, 8-unit apartment building.
- The AC worked perfectly in the bedroom and kitchen and there was no extra charge for using it
- Rooftop terrace was nicely decorated and the swimming pool was relatively large
- A continental breakfast is included in the rate. Although we only used it only once– until we were able to pick up groceries– it would be handy for people planning a short-stay.
- The host was very helpful and arranged an airport taxi pick-up, offered plenty of insider tips on restaurants to eat at and day trips to enjoy. Check out the post on XPU-Ha: One of the Best Undiscovered Beaches on Riviera Maya for one of our favourite day trips.
- The apartment was spacious and the neighbourhood was safe, convenient and handy to restaurants, beach clubs and beaches.
Another relatively quiet neighbour hood is the Nueva Quinta (or New 5th Avenue) neighbourhood on Calle 46 ( also known as CTM) between 5th and 10th.
You’re an easy walk to restaurants and beautiful Caribbean beaches yet far enough away from the boom-booming of Playa del Carmen’s nightclub scene.
#3 Forgetting to Pay Attention to Extra Costs
When choosing your vacation rental, it’s also important to watch for extra costs such as cleaning fees, electricity charges and fees for additional guests.
Of these extra costs, one of the most overlooked is the cost of electricity. The cost of electricity is expensive in Mexico (it’s the priciest utility in the country) so it’s worth asking if electricity is included in your rental rate especially if you plan to use the air conditioning.
Using your AC can easily add hundreds of dollars to your expenses if electricity isn’t included.
If electricity is not included in your monthly rental rate, ask about the cost per kilowatt and be sure to take a photo of the meter when you check-in.
It’s not unusual for AC to cost an extra $10 per day (or more) to the cost of your vacation in Mexico.
Ask the following questions to determine if the rental rate for your condo includes:
- weekly housekeeping,
- be sure to ask if water delivery is included in your short-term rental rate. It’s convenient, much less expensive and more eco-friendly to have a large bottle of water supplied with your rental unit rather than lugging home a container of purified from OXXO every day.
- free wifi
- use of the gym or swimming pool
- reduced rate on airport transfers
- amenities such as free access to one of Playa del Carmen’s Beach Club’s?
Another consideration when choosing your vacation rental is paying the deposit. If you book with AirBnB you pay the full amount when you book and this money is held without interest by Airbnb for months.
A rental agency on the other hand will generally takes a deposit (ranging from $500 USD to higher) with the balance due 30 or 45 days prior. This means you get to keep your money in your own hands longer.
Airbnb will accept payment by credit card such as Visa and Mastercard while most rental agencies expect payment by bank wire or international money transfer such as Western Union (with extra costs).
It’s worth noting that in addition to the service fee, Airbnb charges a 3% currency conversion fee when the currency you’re paying with is different from the default currency of the country where the listing is.
Extra costs can add up quickly, while extra amenities can go along way in adding to the enjoyment of your vacation in Mexico.
Final Thoughts on Playa del Carmen Vacation Rentals
So, whether you’re looking for a budget, mid-range or luxury home away from home next winter, there is plenty to choose from in Playa del Carmen Mexico.
Check out the details below for more information, tips and resources to help make your stay on Mexico’s Riviera Maya as enjoyable as possible.
How to Get to Playa del Carmen Vacation Rentals: You can take an ADO bus to and from Cancun Airport but if your flight arrives in the evening or if you’re travelling solo and are unsure of where you’re going, it’s handy to book a private shuttle van that will pick you up at the airport and deliver you directly to your apartment rental.
Or, you can use Happy Shuttle, a shuttle van service that offers one-way pickup for $65. The driver was on-time, the vehicle was new (and had AC) and best of all, the driver was experienced with Playa del Carmen and knew where he was going.
Often, if your driver is from Cancun there’s no guarantee that he or she will be familiar with Playa del Carmen beyond the major hotels. Overall, the booking process and service at Happy Shuttle was excellent.
Laundry: It’s quite economical (around 14 MXN a kilo) to get your laundry washed in Playa del Carmen so it’s not necessary to have a washing machine and dryer in your apartment.
I never spent more than 100 pesos($5 USD) for a week’s worth of laundry including bedding and towels. Plus, there’s something wonderful about picking up fresh, clean clothes that are nicely folded rather than spending a sunny day standing by a washing machine.
Facebook Resources: Join the Facebook Group: Real Estate for Expats in Playa del Carmen to see listings of vacation rentals, short and long term rentals and house sales in Playa del Carmen, Akumal, Puerto Morelos and Puerto Aventuras. You can also post your needs (budget, location, size etc) and landlords will respond with what’s available https://www.facebook.com/groups/589843537856986/
Official Riviera Maya Tourism Board: Get travel information, handy maps, tips on accommodation and more at the Official Riviera Maya Tourism Board in Quintana Roo.
Where to Buy House Supplies: If your condo or apartment isn’t as fully equipped as you would like, it’s worth investing a few dollars at the Tiangus or Sunday Flea Market in Playa del Carmen.
This street market takes place on Calle 54 between Avenida 10 and 30 although it also spills out onto surrounding streets and stretches down to Quinta Avenida. Pots, pans, kitchen linens, kitchenware such as cutting boards, garbage bins, food storage containers, clothing and virtually everything else you could dream up is for sale here.
It’s also an interesting food destination as you can enjoy BBQ shrimp on a stick, fresh mango smoothies and even chapulines de maize, the gigantic version of the dainty spiced and toasted grasshoppers popular in Oaxaca. The Sunday Flea Market begins around 10:00 am and ends around 3:00 pm.
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Dividing her time between Canada, Guatemala and Mexico (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is the founder of A Taste for Travel. Her award-winning travel and food writing has appeared in Lonely Planet’s cookbook Mexico: From the Source, National Geographic Traveler, Fodor’s and 100+ other publications.
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