Barato Yet Bougie: The $20 Life in CDMX


South America

Coming from Newark airport, where I paid $9 for a tuna roll sandwich that looked like it had been sat on by Shrek, I was very emotional when I bought my first Mexico City taco. It was a ~taco al pastor~, a delicious multicultural phenomenon that was inspired by the Lebanese doner kebab. I can still remember the juicy morsel of pineapple, floating atop shaved slivers of seasoned meat, gently caressed by a warm, corn tortilla. I can still remember my last words – “GET IN MY BELLY.” I can also remember the slightly-confused restaurant patrons wondering why a weird tourist was yelling at her food.

She's so beautiful :)

Basically, that whole magical experience cost $1 USD. I’ve been living in Washington D.C. for two years, and the only thing you can get for a dollar is a big fat NOTHING. My laundry costs $3.50! I guess I could buy a bad romance eBook on Kindle. But if you’re holding 20 pesos (about the equivalent of a dollar) in Mexico City, the opportunities are endless. Let me walk you through a typical day in the life of Samar, where I spend $20 USD and live my goddamn best life.

Breakfast: Since I’ve been living in Mexico City for about three weeks now, I’ve gotten accustomed to cooking my own breakfast. Since I’m inept at cooking, I make the simplest, most delicious breakfast I can – avo toast. Here’s the cost breakdown:

½ avocado = 6 pesos

2 slices of toast = 4.28 pesos

A dab of salsa = 1 peso

Total = 11.28 pesos ($0.59 USD)

Impact Hub: I then head to work via a twelve-minute walk to the Impact Hub, a co-working space for companies that strive to make a social impact like Ashoka and Sistema B. I marvel at the incredible Roma murals and the never-ending stream of dog walkers, canasta taco carts, and greenery. HOWEVER, if you’re not lucky enough to be twelve minutes away from your destination, transportation here is BARATO (cheap). A 15-minute Uber ride is usually 30-40 pesos, the MetroBus is 6 pesos, and an EcoBici for the whole day is around 100 pesos.

Total = 0 pesos ($0 USD)

Her eyes penetrate my soul every time I walk past. pc:

Lunch: Alright, we’re back to food. I’ll try not to make you drool this time. I head over to my fave spot, Boicot Café, where Impact Hub workers get 15% off! The wifi password is ‘coldbrew’. I get the chilaquiles, a classic Mexican brunch food, and a horchata cold brew frappe, a strange yet delicious combination of old and new drink innovations.

Total = 140 pesos ($7.29 USD)


Classic Mexican Breaky.

Buy a Book: After work, I head to a local bookshop to scope out a deal. Mexicans love their antique book shops, including A traves del espejo (through the mirror). The best way to improve in any language is to immerse yourself in its scriptures, so I get a classic – Percy Jackson y El Ladrón del Rayo. Hey, gotta start slow. I see you judging over there.

Total = 40 pesos ($2.08 USD)


Bosque Chapultepec: I gear up on my red EcoBici (I bought the year pass for $20 USD) and avoid the horrid CDMX traffic to get to Bosque Chapultepec, the largest urban park in da world. My favorite tourist spot is Castillo de Chapultepec, because of that VIEW. Also the history, beautiful architecture, fountain in the garden, blah blah blah. Best part: free for students.

Total = 0 pesos ($0 USD)

Royal people actually lived here. pc:

Pulque: From there, I take an Uber to a famous pulqueria, Las Duelistas, to try pulque for the first and last time, my guys. Seriously, I can’t even with this stuff. It looks like rotten, smoking milk and tastes worse. But I don’t even like Kombucha so I don’t know what I was expecting. Leave it for the Aztec Gods.

Total = 60 pesos ($3.13 USD)

Don't drink the Kool-Aid! I mean pulque. pc:

Nightclub: My second to last stop consists of a popping gay bar, Kinky Bar. Be warned, the line is a little long and the cover is a bit steeper than other locales. But with three floors and distinct playlists, it’s a pretty good night. Also lots of beautiful topless men. Happy Pride!

Total = 80 pesos ($4.17 USD)


Late Night Tacos: I got hungry again. Sue me. I stop by a roadside taco eatery, where the meat is roasting on a fat spit and the scent drifts for miles. I get a tinga quesadilla (warning: quesadillas in Mexico City don’t have cheese in them) and a classic al pastor taco. And then I sleep until noon the next morning!

Total = 40 pesos ($2.08 USD)

What’s your favorite thing to do in Mexico City? Comment below!

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