How Living in Hotels Can be Cheaper Than Rent
I love writing articles like this! I love busting stereotypes & telling people about opportunities they may not know exist. In this post, I’m going to open up my bank account & show you EXACTLY how living in hotels can be cheaper than rent ~ as long as you pick your destinations wisely! I’ll show you how to live in hotels & let other people cook & clean for you….all for less than $50/night.
$50/Night Average X 30 Nights = $1,500
My Rent in Portland, OR = $1,900/Month (not including utilities)
And you won’t be staying in shady accommodations! I’m talking about quaint B&B’s, family-run inns, darling hotels, & fab Airbnb’s ~ places with character & charm. In this article, I’m specifically focusing on accommodations in Mexico & Central America, places often overlooked. Which is a travesty! Not only are there great bargains south of the border ~ but you’ll also find festivals, flavor, stunning beaches, & so much music & dancing: you just may consider moving.
**Author’s Note: Article updated as of December 2022.
Helpful Resources for Hotel-Living
If you’re planning to travel for an extended amount of time & want to “live in hotels,” I highly recommend getting a guide book. During my travels in the last two years, I’ve used ALL three books below. First, I started with How to Travel the World for $50/Day, by Matt Kepnes (aka Nomadic Matt). This is a great first read: it’ll make you want to sell all your possessions & travel the world…which is exactly what I did! It will tell you where around the world your dollar stretches the furthest. He also explains in detail how to “travel hack” ~ which means, how to get free flights all over the world.
Read my article about how I got $3,650 worth of free flights in 2016 here.
Cost Overview, By Country:
These are numbers from my actual credit card statements, including airfare, excursions, transportation, food, & hotels in each country.
- One Month in Mexico (mainly Cozumel) = $2,000
- One Month in Guatemala (Antigua, Lake Atitlan, & Semuc Champey) = $1,200
- One Month in Nicaragua (Granada & Ometepe Island) = $1,500
- One Month in Costa Rica (San Jeronimo, Manuel Antonio, & San Juan) = $2,200 (approx. $800 of that cost was for a two-week volunteer program on a coffee farm in San Jeronimo).
- One Month in Colombia (Cartagena, Guatape, & Medellin) = $2,100
- One Month in Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands = $2,200
- One Month in Peru (Cusco, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Puerto Maldonado, Amazon, & Lima) = $2,400
How Living in Hotels Can be Cheaper Than Rent
Okay…let’s dig into how living in hotels can be cheaper than rent! Our tour starts in Mexico, then we’ll work our way south to Central America. Keep in mind as you’re reading: all the things I’m NOT paying for on the road ~ like toilet paper, tissue, paper towels, cleaning supplies, simple toiletries, & in most cases, breakfast & coffee. ALL these things are included in my nightly hotel price.
At home, these “simple” things can add up to hundreds of dollars per month.
Another thing I’m not doing? CLEANING & LAUNDRY!! I hate cleaning. Laundry is okay. But do I really want to do either one? Heck no. All hotels below will clean your room daily if you wish & do your laundry for a nominal price.
So living in hotels can not only save you money ~ it can also save you the most precious commodity: TIME.
Great Budget Hotels in Mexico
Our tour starts in Mexico ~ & more specifically, the Yucatan Peninsula. The Yucatan is gorgeous, beaches are beautiful, it’s safe, & you’ve got SO many options in terms of great budget lodging. My focus in this section is on two very different Yucatan destinations: Cozumel & Merida. Why? Because phenomenal budget options are available in both locations. Places like Cancun & Playa del Carmen tend to be more expensive & more crowded ~ making it hard to spend less than $50/night & get a great place.
In Cozumel, I’ve got two great budget options for you: Suites Colonial & Villablanca Garden Beach Hotel. Suites Colonial ($42/night US) is great if you want to be right near the central Cozumel square ~ close to restaurants & shops. It still manages to be wonderfully quiet, even though it’s in town. Their breakfasts (located at sister property, Casa Mexicana), are legendary.
If you’re looking for a little more privacy & larger grounds to explore across from the ocean, check out the Villablanca Garden Resort ($45/night US). It’s about a mile outside of town, surrounded by cute restaurants & a dive shop right next door. Rooms at Villablanca are slightly older than Suites Colonial, but suites are large & well-designed.
These are just two fantastic budget options for you in Cozumel ~ but there are plenty more!
Check Cozumel hotel prices here.
Now let’s head to Merida, which is on the western side of the Yucatan, about four hours from Cancun. After all the tourists in Cancun, I was SO happy to get to Merida! It’s more “authentic” Mexico, versus “tourist” Mexico. My favorite choice in Merida was a gorgeous hotel tucked away in a corner off one of Merida’s many lively squares: Hotel Caribe.
Courtyards are one of the best characteristics of Mexico’s hotels, & this hotel had one of my favorites. Wi-Fi worked perfectly, the rooftop pool has sensational cathedral views, & there’s a good restaurant on site.
I really loved Merida. It makes a great base for digital nomads or travelers who love authentic Mexican culture. And its surrounded by ancient Mayan ruins, cenotes, & countless side adventures: it’s a great city to base yourself in. Not to mention: I got about $1,200 USD worth of dental work done here for the price of $240!!!
That made my entire stay beyond worth it.
Check all hotels in Merida here.
Great Budget Hotels in Guatemala
Next up on our tour ~ we’re headed to one of my favorite countries: Guatemala! Every place I stayed here simply oozed with charm & character. On Lake Atitlan, for instance, volcano views were stunning ~ & I averaged paying less than $39/night.
Our first stop in Guatemala is its crown jewel: Antigua. This gorgeous colonial town is about an hour’s drive from Guatemala City. When I flew into Guat City (as locals call it), I hopped in a shuttle with four other travelers, & headed straight to Antigua. My choice for luxury on a budget here is La Villa Serena ($48 US). Each room has a different theme: “Passage to India,” “Out of Africa,” & it’s set around a beautiful courtyard filled with orchids. You’ll feel right at home here. And it’s set behind a large, imposing wall ~ so safety is not a concern. Breakfast is served each morning in the courtyard, & Marina’s little dog may wander under your feet as you sip your morning coffee.
I LOVED this place!!
But Antigua is filled with great budget hotel options! And charm is Antigua’s middle name. You might also love Las Camelias Inn ($48), Hotel San Jorge ($50), Hotel El Carmen ($50), or Hotel Casa Antigua ($47). On the high-end, Antigua also boasts some of the finest hotels in Central America ~ so if you’re looking for luxury, you can definitely find it here! Likewise, Antigua is bursting with lively, colorful hostels ($11+) ~ so no matter your budget, you’ll find great options.
Check hotel prices in Antigua here.
One of the most popular destinations in Guatemala is beautiful Lake Atitlan. I stayed there, all around the lake, for nearly a MONTH!! Volcano views, especially in San Marcos, are ridiculously amazing. Budget lodging options abound ~ & you can even find some luxury hotels sprinkled around the lake. I found the view below on HomeAway, on Carlos’ private estate, for $39/night.
Search all Lake Atitlan lodging options here.
Other popular destinations in Guatemala include the beautiful turquoise pools at Semuc Champey, & of course, the famous Tikal Ruins. I can’t get into specific recommendations for each place in this article ~ but will cover them separately!
Great Budget Hotels in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the NEXT Costa Rica! It boasts beautiful beaches with cheaper prices than it’s more popular neighbor to the south. We’re focusing here on hotels in Granada & Ometepe Island ~ though San Juan del Sur is also a popular town on Nicaragua’s southern coast, & popular with ex-pats. Our “How Living in Hotels Can be Cheaper than Rent” tour ends here, because great budget options in Nicaragua are endless!
Our first stop in Nicaragua is the colorful colonial city of Granada. If you fly into Managua International Airport, Granada’s only 45-minutes away, on the shores of Lago de Nicaragua. This city is FANTASTIC!! The food is phenomenal. And, as for budget lodging: this place is basically mecca.
My top choice: Backpacker’s Inn. Don’t be fooled by the name ~ it’s more like you’re staying at someone’s sprawling estate than a hostel, with pools, hammocks, & pool tables. My room here was HUGE!! For less than $40/night, including breakfast in the courtyard.
Other great Granada hotels around the $50/night range include: Hotel Real la Merced (across from La Merced Church), Hotel El Maltese ($23), & Casa Cuiscoma ($33). The beautiful budget options in Granada are endless, which is how living in hotels can be cheaper than rent ~ infinitely!
Search all Granada hotels here.
Ometepe Island Hotels
Then there’s Ometepe Island. Which is something out of an island-jungle fantasy. You can climb volcanoes to your heart’s content here. I stayed in a gorgeous hotel with pool, overlooking Lago de Nicaragua for about $35/night. Priceless.
Search all hotels on the lake here.
How Living in Hotels Can be Cheaper Than Rent
I hope this article has got your mind thinking in new directions. And remember: this article is only focusing on Mexico, Guatemala, & Nicaragua ~ but reasonable hotels can be found ALL throughout Central & South America, not to mention Southeast Asia!
Read Next: A Photo Gallery of Granada, Nicaragua