Tulum, a charming coastal town on the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, has become an increasingly popular destination for expats seeking a laid-back beach lifestyle.
If you’re considering making Tulum your home, this guide will provide essential information to help you make an informed decision.
In this guide:
- Tulum’s highlights: the pros and cons
- The cost of living: average expenses, rent, real estate prices
- Available amenities, travel connections, and infrastructure
- Healthcare: options, facilities, and costs
- Leisure and socializing: things to do and making friends
- Where to live in Tulum: best areas and neighborhoods
- Natural Beauty: Tulum has stunning beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and a lush tropical jungle backdrop. The town is nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, offering breathtaking natural scenery.
- Tropical Climate: Tulum enjoys a tropical climate with warm temperatures year-round. It’s not too hot, with cooler breezes compared to some other Mexican coastal areas.
- Mayan Heritage: Tulum is home to a rich cultural heritage blending Mayan and Mexican influences. You can explore ancient Mayan ruins, visit local markets, and enjoy traditional Mexican cuisine.
- Plenty of outdoor activities: If you love nature, Tulum’s proximity to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and outdoor activities like snorkeling, diving, and exploring cenotes will appeal to you.
- Beachfront Living: Tulum offers beachfront living options, allowing you to wake up to the sound of the waves and enjoy breathtaking sunrises over the Caribbean Sea.
Things to keep in mind when moving to Tulum
- Hurricane Risk: Tulum is located in a hurricane-prone region, with the hurricane season typically running from June to November.
- Infrastructure Challenges: While Tulum has seen rapid development, the infrastructure, including roads and public services, may not be as advanced as in more established urban areas.
- Limited Healthcare Facilities: While Tulum has good healthcare facilities, for specialized treatments or emergencies, you may need to travel to larger cities like Cancún or Playa del Carmen.
- Tourist Crowds: Tulum is a popular tourist destination, which means that during the peak tourist season, some areas can become crowded with visitors.
For more details on the climate, geography, local insights, and the pros and cons, read our guide to Living In The Yucatan Penisula.
Legalities of moving to Tulum
Citizens of the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and most EU countries can visit Mexico for up to 180 days without a visa. Other Europeans can stay up to 90 days.
However, if you want to stay in Tulum longer than this, you need to sort out the legal side of your move.
Visa options for expats moving to Tulum
- Temporary Resident Visa – Perfect for those planning to stay in Mexico for a year or more but less than four years. This visa is most suitable for retirees, remote workers, or anyone considering long-term tourism.
- Permanent Resident Visa – If Tulum is your final destination, a permanent resident visa is your best choice. After four years of living with a Temporary Resident Visa, you become eligible to apply for Permanent Residency.
- Investor Visa – Individuals looking to invest in Tulum or other parts of Mexico can opt for the Investor Visa. This allows the holder to engage in profitable activities, including setting up and managing their business.
- Real Estate: Acquisition of property in Mexico with a specified minimum value of roughly $220,000
- Business Ventures: Buying shares in a Mexican corporation amounting to a minimum of roughly $110,000, creating at least three jobs.
For more details on all the residency options, read our Living In Mexico guide, Visas and Residency section.
Cost of living in Tulum
Here’s a rough estimate of the cost of living in Tulum to help you better plan your finances.
- Monthly budget: A monthly budget starting from $2,500 for a couple is generally sufficient for a comfortable life in Tulum. This includes housing, groceries, transportation, and dining out.
- Rent: Rent for a two-bedroom apartment typically ranges from $800 to $1,000 per month, depending on the location and amenities.
- Utilities: basic utilities (electricity, water, gas, internet) cost around $150 per month.
- Groceries: around $200 to $300 for a couple, covering essential items.
- Dining out: approximately $20 to $40 for a three-course meal for one person.
- Cell phone: $30
- Health insurance: on average $1,500 a year
Renting in Tulum
The demand for long-term rentals in Tulum has been growing fast due to two main factors.
Firstly, Tulum offers a more budget-friendly option for extended stays compared to well-known destinations like Cabo or Miami Beach.
Secondly, there’s a growing trend of remote work, with numerous companies permitting their employees to work from abroad, creating more demand for long-term rentals in such destinations as Tulum.
As a result, rental-wise, Tulum is one of the most expensive destinations on the Riviera Maya.
The most popular rental options are in a comfortable location near the beach, where you can walk to restaurants, cafes, and shops. Most downtown rentals are condos or apartments with pools and gyms nearby.
Here are the average rental costs in Tulum:
|Type of housing||Price per month|
|Condos||$800 – $1500|
|Apartments||$600 – $1200|
|Villas||$2000 – $4000|
|Beachside apartments||$1500 – $3000|
|Villas in gated communities||$3000 – $5000|
These are approximate values, and actual costs can vary based on factors such as the size of the property, its proximity to amenities, and the time of year.
Vivanuncios and TodoTulum often have listings for long-term rentals. Look for classified ads in local newspapers, too.
Check out Tulum expat groups on Facebook. People often post rental leads or recommendations.
One of the most popular options is to rent a short-term apartment, and while you are in Tulum, look at all the areas and search locally for a suitable long-term option.
Before you rent or buy a home in Tulum, read our guide, How To Avoid Pitfalls Renting Or Buying Property In Mexico.
Real estate in Tulum
Tulum offers various types of real estate options, including:
- Condos and Apartments: Condos and apartments are readily available, with prices starting at around $100,000. Beachfront condos can range from $300,000 to $1 million.
- Houses: Traditional Mexican-style houses can be found in both urban and rural settings. Prices vary widely based on location, size, and amenities, starting at $150,000, but are often more expensive than condos.
- Luxury Villas: For those seeking a luxurious beachfront lifestyle, luxury villas with private pools and stunning ocean views range from just under $1 million to several million dollars.
To get a feel for what is on offer in Tulum and the price range, have a look at FarHomes Tulum listings.
Tulum does not have its own airport, but Cancún International Airport is approximately a 1.5 to 2-hour drive away. It offers both domestic and international flights.
Tulum is connected to major highways, providing access to neighboring cities and attractions.
Tulum is 130 kilometers south of downtown Cancun and 65 kilometers from Playa del Carmen. Bacalar and Chetumal are 210 and 250 kilometers to the north, respectively. Highway 307 connects Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.
Public transportation is limited to the colectivos/combis (minibusses) connecting Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Most residents prefer to have a car.
Shopping in Tulum
Tulum offers a variety of shopping venues, ranging from supermarkets and large malls to quaint boutique stores and open street markets.
- Chedraui is the largest supermarket with a huge variety of goods available. It is also quite pricey.
- Super Aki also stocks a great variety of products and brands while being a bit less expensive.
- Bodega Aurrera is the cheapest option when it comes to supermarket shopping; it offers all the essentials you need.
- OXXO Minimarket – a chain of convenience stores mostly open 24 hours and are all over Tulum.
Local markets for fresh and affordable produce
Here, you will find a great variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, cereals, and budget-friendly bulk items at excellent prices.
There are two most popular markets: one is situated in Tulum Centro, and the other is just about four blocks away.
Tip: Gypsea Market is a trendy spot to get your organic and eco-friendly produce, artisan bread, and gourmet cheese, and enjoy a complete gourmet French breakfast.
Most popular shopping centers in Tulum include Plaza Andador, Plaza Faeli, and a handful of other locations, including:
- Tulum Art Club: This is a gem for art lovers. Not only could you buy local art, but you can also enjoy events and workshops hosted here.
- Tulum City Center: As it suggests, it’s right in the heart of Tulum. It’s a great spot for shopping, eating, and people-watching.
- Ki’bok Coffee: Not necessarily a shopping center, but definitely worth a visit. It’s the perfect spot to sip on a cup of locally sourced coffee and pick up bags of beans for your morning brew.
- Mixik: For all things homeware and decor. You’ll find an assortment of quintessentially Mexican pieces that elegantly mesh modern design with traditional elements.
Tip: Tulum has emphasis on sustainability and supporting local businesses, you won’t find many shops selling mass-produced items, rather, they focus on artisan-crafted works that reflecting the traditions of the local community
Internet and mobile connection
Tulum’s digital infrastructure is far from perfect, with Tulum Beach in particular being notoriously unpredictable for phone and internet connection.
In the town center, however, internet connection is mostly consistent.
If you are going to work remotely in Tulum, coworking-tulum.com has a list of places with fast wifi, and fiber optic.
- Telmex: Known for its reliable connectivity, Telmex is a popular choice among locals. Monthly cost ranges from $20 – $40 for 10 – 50 Mbps.
- Totalplay: More on the expensive side, Totalplay offers fiber optic connections with plans starting from $25 – $70 per month for 30 – 250 Mbps.
- Izzi: Offering a range of telecommunications services, Izzi provides internet speeds from 20 to 100 Mbps, costing approximately $20 – $40 per month.
- Telcel: As a dominant player in Mexico, Telcel offers 3G and 4G services at competitive prices. The monthly cost for a data plan ranges from $10 to $30.
- AT&T Mexico: Less popular but equally reliable, AT&T provides 3G and 4G services, with data plans costing between $20 and $50 per month.
- Movistar: A good choice for those on a budget, Movistar’s data plans cost around $10 – $30 per month.
There are good healthcare facilities in Tulum, but not all the services can be accessed locally. For more specialized treatments or consultations, you might need to travel to other cities.
Hospitals and facilities in Tulum
Here is the list of the major medical facilities available in Tulum:
- Tulum General Hospital: This state-run hospital offers comprehensive medical services, including emergency care.
- Costamed Tulum: Part of a group of private hospitals in the region offering high-quality medical care. It’s also one of the preferred medical facilities among expats.
- Red Cross Tulum: The Mexican Red Cross provides emergency services in case of accidents and natural disasters. They also run health clinics offering general healthcare to citizens and non-citizens alike.
- Tulum Medical Center: This reputable medical center offers a broad spectrum of specialized medical care services, including surgery, gynecology, dentistry, and general medicine.
Public and private services
Mexico offers both public and private healthcare systems.
Expats with a valid temporary or permanent residence visa can enroll in the country’s national healthcare scheme.
However, many expats prefer to invest in private healthcare insurance to avoid waiting lists and get access to English-speaking doctors and specialists.
Local private healthcare insurance can cost from $600 to £1,600 a year, depending on your age, health, and coverage.
If you want to be covered in Mexico and your home country, consider international health insurance. To make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal.
For more details on the options and costs and how to enroll in the healthcare system, read our guide, Healthcare And Health Insurance For Expats In Mexico.
Schools in Tulum
Expats moving to the area with children can access publicly funded schools. However, the majority prefers private education.
There are not many options in Tulum itself. The majority of private schools near Tulum are in Playa del Carmen.
Also, you will find that although some of them have the word ‘International’ in their names, they are strictly speaking private bilingual/multilingual schools following the Mexican Education System.
- Colegio Inglés Tulum: A bilingual preschool, primary and secondary school in Tulum. Approximate yearly fees are $10,000 – $12,000.
- Ak Lu’um Waldorf Community: Located 8 km to the north of Playa del Carmen, this is a sustainable, bicultural, and bilingual school from pre-school through 6th grade. Approximate yearly fees are $5,500 – $7,500.
- Colegio El Papalote: A bilingual school (preparatory, primary, and secondary) in Playa del Carmen
- El Arbol Azomali: A bilingual school in Playa del Carmen.
Where to live in Tulum
There is a distinct separation between a beach area in Tulum and the town itself.
- Central hub with shops, pharmacies, bars, and restaurants.
- Known as ‘pueblo,’ it forms the primary town center.
- Surrounded by more private neighborhoods like Aldea Zama and La Veleta, slightly distant from the main strip.
Beach Road or Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera):
- Located 2-5 kilometers/miles away from the town area.
- High-end restaurants, hotels, beach clubs, and bars.
- Housing in this area tends to be notably more expensive.
Here are some of the popular neighborhoods among expats living in this idyllic coastal town:
- Aldea Zama: The epitome of luxury living in Tulum, Aldea Zama is known for its upmarket residences and condos, tranquil ambiance, and proximity to the beach and town center. It has emerged as a hub for expats who appreciate its modern infrastructure, security, and chic lifestyle.
- La Veleta: A rapidly developing area, La Veleta offers a diverse range of housing options, from budget-friendly studios to upscale villas. The neighborhood’s many yoga studios, vegan restaurants, and boutiques attract a vibrant, health-conscious community of expats. It’s great for families thanks to its proximity to Colegio Inglés Tulum.
- Aldea Privada: The most exclusive neighborhood in Aldea Zama, where you can find luxury villas.
- Tulum Beach Zone: If you are looking for a life in the sun and sand, the Tulum Beach Zone is the right place, bringing you right up to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. It is synonymous with boho-chic resorts, high-end restaurants, and beach clubs. Although it’s on the pricier end, the ocean-view apartments are worth every penny.
- Tulum Pueblo: Tulum Pueblo is the town center, providing a taste of local life with affordable housing options.
Tip: Living in Town Pueblo is very conveient as you are withing walking distance of everything. However, the area is extermely noisy even at night. If you like a good night sleep, stick to Aldea Zama or La Veleta.
Leisure and socializing
Living in Tulum is less about sophisticated cultural activities and more about nature, beaches, and the outdoors, made comfortable by some modern facilities like shops and restaurants. It’s also a great place for partying and music festivals.
Meeting people and making friends is easy, especially if you’re young or young at heart and like parting.
Tip: There are quite a few bars and nightclubs in Tulum central and along the beach which are brilliant for socializing and making friends. Mezzanine is a great one where both expats and young locals go.
If partying is not your cup of tea, here are just some of the expat groups and events that could serve as the perfect springboard for your social life in Tulum:
Expat groups in Tulum
- Tulum Expat Community: This Facebook group is a great platform for both getting your questions answered and making new connections.
- The Girl Gang: A supportive and empowering network for women, this group organizes regular meetups and activities in Tulum.
- International Meetup Tulum: An informal group for expats to hang out, make new friends, and share their experiences about living in Tulum.
Events and festivals
Art With Me: An annual festival combining art, music, and culture, you’re sure to meet an eclectic mix of locals and expats here.
Tulum Vegan Fest: If you’re vegan or curious about a plant-based lifestyle, this event is perfect for meeting people with similar interests.
The Zamna Festival is the epicenter of electronic music, with the most incredible production in Latin America.
Day Zero Tulum is an annual dance music festival celebrating the end of the Mayan calendar.
Things to do in Tulum
No matter what your interest is, you’ll find plenty of incredible ways to spend your time. Here’s a collection of outdoor activities that Tulum has to offer:
- Exploring Mayan ruins: Take a step back in time as you visit the well-preserved, ancient Mayan ruins perched atop a cliff right on the Caribbean Sea. This is an ideal place to absorb a bit of history and take some stunning photographs.
- Cenote hopping: In the cavernous depths of Tulum, there are numerous natural freshwater sinkholes known as cenotes. They are perfect for a refreshing swim, snorkeling, or simply lazing around in pure solitude.
- Beach yoga: With its crystal clear waters and pristine white beaches, Tulum is a paradise for yoga enthusiasts. Participate in one of the many beach yoga classes available daily.
- Biking: Tulum is a haven for cyclists. Whether you fancy cycling along the coastline, through the bustling town, or even delving into the jungle, there are endless opportunities.
- Snorkeling and diving: Tulum offers the golden opportunity of snorkeling and diving in its extensive coral reefs, providing a chance to see a stunning array of vibrant, exotic marine life.
- Sian Ka’an Reserve: Discover Sian Ka’an – a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its exceptional biodiversity. Here, you can see turtles, dolphins, crocodiles, and hundreds of bird species.
Learning the language
There is no need to learn Spanish to enjoy life in Tulum. The Riviera Maya is a popular tourist destination, so locals are proficient in English.
Nonetheless, if you aim to enrich your cultural immersion and connect with locals who may not speak fluent English, you might want to think about taking some Spanish classes.
Joining a language school is also a brilliant opportunity to meet people and make friends.
There are several language schools, including:
- Meztli Spanish Language School: Known for its weekend excursions and immersion programs alongside intensive Spanish courses.
- El Camino Tulum Language School: Offers Spanish courses to tourists and expats to facilitate better immersion in the local culture
- Spanish Lab Tulum: Offers group classes, family tuition, and individual lessons.
Final thoughts on living in Tulum
Tulum is not the cheapest area to live in Mexico. It’s been discovered and is developing rapidly, but the rich experiences and unique lifestyle it offers make it worth every penny.
Tulum thrives on its vibrant expat community, making it an easy place for newcomers to assimilate.
We hope this guide makes your decision to move to Tulum, Mexico, a bit more informed. Happy planning, and we hope to see you soon in the tropical paradise of Tulum!
Other popular locations in Mexico to consider:
- Living In San Miguel De Allende As An Expat
- Living In Mazatlán As An Expat
- Living In Puerto Escondido
- Living In Baja California Sur & La Paz