Live Cheap in San Cristobal Mexico

Live Cheap in San Cristobal Mexico
San Cristobal Things to Do!
–>San Cristobal Free Old Town Walking Tour
–>San Cristobal Day Tours
–>San Cristobal Best Restaurants
–>San Cristobal Nightlife (Bar Hopping) Tour
–>San Cristobal Best (and) Cheap Places to Stay
–>San Cristobal Flights, Buses, Trains
–>San Cristobal Livability Factors
–>San Cristobal Cost of Living
Best Travel or Retire Cheap to Paradise Locations in the World

Live Cheap in San Cristobal Mexico

This is Dan from Vagabond Buddha. This is my Live Cheap in San Cristobal Mexico guide.  Yes, this is the same place as San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

Are you looking for the cheapest paradise location in the world to live with the lowest cost of living possible? Do you want to live in paradise but prefer not to burn through your money doing it? Maybe you are looking for a cheap retirement paradise? Maybe you are starting an online Internet business and you want to spend as little cash as possible? Maybe you want to live cheap in paradise while you write your first novel? Maybe you inherited a small fortune and you want to make it last as long as possible while you travel the world? Live cheap in San Cristobal Mexico is one of the places to consider. Identifying the best live or retire cheap in paradise locations in the world is what we do at Vagabond Buddha.

I left the USA in 2007 and I have lived in or visited 65 countries since then. As I go, I am comparing them and providing information about which ones are best to live in.  I will tell you which ones I think are cheap and fun to live.  I hope this will help narrow your search time.

I make videos as I go so you can see with your own eyes.  Here is my Youtube Channel with videos of the places I have visited in the last 24 months. If you are interested in knowing the other countries I have visited or lived in, just ask for a link to my old travel blog. My first post was in 2007.

Qiang Hui of Hobo Ventures is traveling with me. She joined my travels about one year ago. You should check out her Instagram account. She is fun to follow.

If you would like to learn how to make money online, or how to live internationally possibly with less money than you spend at home, please grab a free copy of my Ebook.

San Cristobal Mexico Facts

Before launching into specifics about San Cristobal, here is some interesting background information about San Cristobal which is located in the state of Chiapas Mexico. Here is a Google Map with my arrow pointing to the location of San Cristobal. I am here now as I type these words. 🙂 It is super fun and beautiful.

  1. The City was founded in 1528 but underwent a number of name changes until it received the name San Cristobal in 1829. The indigenous people still call it Jovel, which means “the place in the clouds.” San Cristobal is at 2200 meters (7200 feet) above sea level, and it actually seems to be in the clouds for parts of each day.  It is a misty mountain hippie paradise.
  2. Unlike many other cities in Mexico, the Spanish built this city from the ground up. They did not destroy an old city that was here before they arrived.  So you are not walking on top of the contempt that old Spain Spanish brought to new Spain.
  3. San Cristobal is a favored tourist destination because it maintains its colonial charms of red tile roofs, cobblestone streets, flowered wrought iron balconies, and the indigenous population with their cultural beauties.
  4. The architectural influences of the old town colonial area include Baroque to Neoclassical to Moorish. Many of the buildings are lavished with bright colors to attract tourists and accentuate their facades.
  5. San Cristobal was designated as a Pueblo Magico in 2003. This is a designation given to the most charming smaller cities in Mexico based on their maintenance of food, culture, arts, and architecture.
  6. The culture of San Cristobal is defined by the indigenous population including their colorful textiles, amber and filigree jewelry, local foods, colorful markets, and ceramics.
  7. Chiapas has long had a politically active indigenous population. In 1974 Bishop Ruiz, formed a Congress in Chiapas of representatives of the 327 indigenous communities in Chiapas. The purpose was to unite indigenous people into one voice, and reduce the oppression possible when they were treated separately by government. Despite these early successes with political activism, economic and social marginalization of indigenous groups continued.  When Mexico signed a treaty (NAFTA) with the United States that took centuries old land ownership rights from indigenous communities, turmoil errupted.  Indigenous fighters (Zapatista) took over San Cristobal in 1974.  A peace accord was quickly reached but tensions still flair in the region from time to time, when the indigenous community leaders feel the national government is not living up to the 1974 peace accords.
  8. Since the Zapatista uprisings in 1994, San Cristobal has become a lightning rod for international organizations interested in following mistreatment of indigenous populations around the world, along with those interested in learning about ancient cooperative living cultures. The San Cristobal tourist sector includes shops that sell Zapatista (EZLN) shirts and souvenirs.

If you book my recommended flights, tours (Viator Tours, Get Your Guide Tours) or accommodations, you will pay nothing extra, but we will earn a small commission.

San Cristobal Free Old Town Walking Tour and Map

Here is the Youtube video of our San Cristobal Mexico Free Old Town Walking Tour.

Click the interactive Google Map on your smartphone to be guided on this tour.

The order of the stops may seem odd to you, but it was the only way I could get the interactive Google Map to guide you down the two walking streets I love. If you decide to redesign the interactive map, then please make sure to visit these two places also. They are on the walking streets I want you to see (Café Bar 500 Noches San Cristóbal, La Casa Del Pan).

Guadalupe Church: It is mainly the view I want you to see here. Make sure to walk behind the church and see the view of the valley and misty mountains also. When you leave, the map should eventually guide you down my favorite walking street (Real de Guadalupe), and take you to the Zocalo, Cathedral, and Governor’s Palace.

San Cristobal Cathedral: There are three things to see at this stop. The Zocalo, San Cristobal Cathedral, and the former Governor’s Palace. This cathedral was completed in 1721. Before that, the Virgin of the Assumption was built on this spot in 1528. The current cathedral has Baroque, Moorish, and Indigenous influences. It is not uncommon to see older indigenous woman traversing the interior on their knees. Of course, the Roman Catholic Church built a separate church off the back for the indigenous people to worship (San Nicolás Temple). Racism was freely accepted in most of the educated world at that time.  Slavery was profitable for the ruling class, so racism was convenient.  This included many in the Roman Catholic Church.  Many in the Roman Catholic Church believed indigenous people had no souls.  Europeans treated their pets much better than the indigenous humans.  There were humans at that time, and even some today, that routinely prayed to God daily–yet murdered people the same day–often at the request of their government or religious leaders.

Zocalo: There are actually two squares carrying the name Zocalo on Google Maps. The second one is in front of the Cathedral and should be correctly labeled Cathedral Plaza. The only real Zocalo is the one on the side of the cathedral. All colonial-era cities were designed with a park next to or in front of the Cathedral, called the Zocalo. During the colonial-era, the city’s main market and water supply were here in the Zocalo.

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Museo de San Cristóbal MUSAC (Governor’s Palace): This has been the seat of the government since colonial times. It was last rebuilt in the 19th century. Because it is the representation of authority in Chiapas, it is frequently the focus of protests by Chiapas indigenous groups, such as the Zapatistas.

Amber Museum (La Merced Monastery): This was originally the first monastery in the city built in 1537 by Mercedarians from Guatemala. It was built like a fortress including barracks for soldiers in case of attack. It was converted into a military barracks for 100 years ending in 1960 when it served as the city jail for 30 years. It has been the Amber Museum since 2000.

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Café Bar 500 Noches San Cristóbal: You don’t need to eat here. There are two reasons to go to this stop. First, it will force you to go to one of my favorite walking streets. Second, go inside the food mall behind it and check out all the foreign restaurants. There is even Thai food in this mall.

Sweets and Handicrafts Market: This is just a great place to try local candy and sweets and to shop for locally made indigenous arts, crafts, and jewelry. There are two stories here of individually owned stores with very colorful indigenous arts and crafts.

Santo Domingo Church (Iglesia Santo Domingo): Along with the Church, you must see the open markets in front of church selling indigenous arts and crafts. The Dominican monastery was completed in 1551. It is considered one of the more ornate structures in Latin America because of the gilded altars and the ornate stucco work on the front facade. There are two museums on the complex also. The first, Museo de la Historia de la Ciudad (History of the City), and the second, Centro Cultural de Los Altos, has collections of textiles from many of the indigenous ethnicities of Chiapas State.

Mercado José Castillo Tielemans (Traditional Mexican Market): There are very few tourists here except backpackers. But it is one of the best places to discover the local palate of traditional dishes such as saffron tamales, sopa de pan, asado coleto, atole de granillo and a sugar cane drink called posh.

If you book my recommended flights, tours (Viator Tours, Get Your Guide Tours) or accommodations, you will pay nothing extra, but we will earn a small commission.

Casa Na Bolom Museum (House of the Jaguar): This home originally built in 1891 later became the home of Frans and Gertrude Blom in the 20th century. The couple spent 50 years documenting indigenous textiles, tools, clothing, arts, and archaeology. Their passion is on display at this museum.

Best San Cristobal Day Tours and Map

Guided Tours

Viator Tours: The Viator Tour options are listed at this link. Here are five of the 77 tours available on the link when we searched:

  1. Agua Azul Full-Day Tour With One-Way Transfer from San Cristobal to Palenque
  2. Sumidero Canyon National Park and San Juan Chamula from San Cristobal
  3. Small-Group Full-Day Tour of San Cristobal de las Casas and Surroundings
  4. Indigenous Villages Cultural Tour: Chamula and Zinacantan from San Cristóbal
  5. Maya Cultural Tour from Tuxtla Gutiérrez: Chamula, Zinacantan, San Cristobal

Get Your Guide Tours had 12 tours listed for San Cristobal on the day we searched.

Self-Guided (Cheap Bastard) Tours

If you are an adventurous sort, you should try one of my self-guided (cheap bastard) tours.

Chamula Mexico:  This is our $2 USD Tour from San Cristobal to Chamula.  If our following video visiting Chamula for only ($2 USD roundtrip) looks fun, then grab a collectivo at this corner for $1 USD each way, to Chamula. The collectivo is a white minivan with the words “Centro Chamula” on the front. Here is the video of us taking this cheap self-guided day tour to Chamula:

If you book my recommended flights, tours (Viator Tours, Get Your Guide Tours) or accommodations, you will pay nothing extra, but we will earn a small commission.

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San Cristobal Best Restaurants, Street Food, and Surprise Experiences

In addition to a great diversity of interesting local foods, San Cristobal has a large diversity of foreign foods that you wouldn’t see in a typical town of this size in other parts of Mexico. Because it is such a beautiful place to live, many of the tourists have moved here and opened up restaurants. The old town walking streets are full of both foreign and domestic food options. 🙂

La Casa Del Pan: We had a delicious breakfast here upon arrival on the night bus from Oaxaca to San Cristobal. I had Huevos Rancheros and Qiang had a Kale Omelette. We both loved our dishes. Including coffee and tip it was 250 Pesos, $12.50 USD. This place also has amazing bread and cookies that they sell out the side door for cheap. A baguette is $0.60 and a cookie is $0.30.  Imagine how cheap you could live if you bought baguettes here, and tomatoes and other veggies at the market, and had sandwiches for many meals?

Te Quiero Verde: This was a highly rated vegetarian restaurant on Tripadvisor and Google so we gave it a try. I had a veggie burger and Qiang had a couscous salad. It was delicious. Including a tip and drinks, it was 240 Pesos, $12 USD.  That included a glass of wine!

San Agustin Food Mall: This food mall has all foreign food restaurants inside. The food is generally more expensive than local foods, but sometimes you just need a foreign fix, right?

Tamales Yo’ o Moc: This is the tamales place we ate at during our free old town walking tour of San Cristobal. It was delicious and super cheap and they had a million different kinds of tamales, even dessert tamales. $4 USD for two people including drinks.  The tamales range from 14 to 18 Pesos, less than $ 1 USD each.

El Brasileiro: I was on a fast and Qiang felt like eating meat. Qiang found this Brazilian place that was rated #2 out of over 300 hundred restaurants in San Cristobal. She has a pork dish that was so large she had to bring it home. It literally took her all day to eat the amount of food they gave here. She said it was very delicious and only cost $10 USD. It was really big.  That $10 USD included my coffee, her lemonade, and the tip.

Frontera Artisan Food and Coffee: This is a great coffee shop to people watch and work on your computer. The wifi is good and they have great pastries and juices.

Best Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Juice Places in San Cristobal Mexico: I have been on vegetable juice only while we are here.  Here are the two fresh juice extraction places we found. Juice 1 (across from this cafe), Juice 2 (it is next door to this music store).

Vagabond Buddha’s Mobile Kitchen: Both Qiang and I love to cook spicy food. Our Airbnb places always have kitchens, so we eat at home a bunch.  Some days we work on our digital businesses all day and never leave home.  We shopped in these two local markets. The first was good for fruits and vegetables, the second was good for less perishable stuff, like pasta, oils, shampoos, etc. Local market 1, Local Market 2.

Best San Cristobal Nightlife (Bar Hopping) Walking Tour and Map

There are 4 bars on this tour but I am not recommending any of them. They are just on the map because they result in a walking tour that takes you through the fun areas. As you walk, listen for music you like and stop when it sounds fun to you. Please leave a comment below when you find a favorite.

Just click the below interactive map or ==>this link<== on your smartphone to start your tour.

If you book my recommended flights, tours (Viator Tours, Get Your Guide Tours) or accommodations, you will pay nothing extra, but we will earn a small commission.

San Cristobal Best (and) Cheap Hotels

You should stay in the old town area of San Cristobal. You can walk to most of the interesting things to do and see. You won’t need to get in a taxi. Here are accommodations you should consider. They go from most to least expensive, as follows:

Casa Lum (Expensive but super nice, amazing location.)

Casa Cafeólogo (Medium price, amazing location)

Hotel San Martin (Cheap and great location)

Hostel (Supercheap, crazy good ratings)

Airbnb House Share (Where we stayed): This is a house share on Airbnb. We have our own bedroom and our own bathroom, and we share the kitchen and Internet with our host. They are super nice people and have gone out of the way to make us feel comfortable. We have been extremely happy staying with (Heloïse and Pablo) in their home. Hot water, great water pressure, great Internet, and only 2 blocks from the fun part of town. All this for just $13 USD per night. I would totally stay there again when we return. Check out our Life and Food video above to see our video inside their place.  We love them.  (If you are new to Airbnb, use this code for a big discount).

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San Cristobal Flights, Buses, Trains

Buses: We took the ADO bus from Oaxaca to San Cristobal. Right click in your chrome browser to get an English translation. The trip was 11 hours and cost 457 Pesos each per person. Buy your ADO tickets at least one week in advance to avoid their last-minute gouging. As the seats fill up, they raise the price as much as 200 Pesos per ticket.

Normally we recommend ETN or Primera buses between various cities in Mexico. But as we have headed further south in Mexico it seems ADO has a monopoly on travel. You will need to check their web page to see if they have a bus from your city to San Cristobal. You can visit the English ETN website. In fact, just right click any website in your Google Chrome browser to translate into English.

San Cristóbal International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Ángel Albino Corzo (TGZ)): You can fly into TGZ and take a Taxi to your accommodations in San Cristobal. It takes about 1.5 hours and costs about 1000 Pesos, $50 USD. If you are on a budget, ADO Bus has a bus that goes from Tuxtla airport (TGZ) to San Cristobal every few hours for 79 Pesos $4 USD. These are super nice buses. Uber wasn’t operating here during our visit. Let me know if it is up and running when you are here. I have provided a list of 5 places to stay in old town San Cristobal, see above.

Flights (International or Domestic): The cheapest day to depart on flights is typically Tuesday or Wednesday. I always seem to find the cheapest flights, foreign and domestic, on Skyscanner. Buy a Mexican SIM card for your smartphone when you land in Mexico. Make sure to get your phone unlocked before leaving your home country (this applies to US Citizens).

Train: There is still a train through Copper Mountain but it does not go to San Cristobal. That is the only train in Mexico still. Otherwise, you need to take buses and flights.

Please book using my recommendations. 🙂 If you book my recommended flights, tours (Viator Tours, Get Your Guide Tours) or accommodations, you will pay nothing extra, but we will earn a small commission. This is why we are able to keep creating these travel guides.

If you would like to live cheap or retire early in paradise, learn how to make money online, or how to live internationally possibly with less money than you spend at home, please subscribe to Vagabond Buddha or get a free copy of my Ebook.

San Cristobal Mexico Livability Factors

This is Dan from Vagabond Buddha. Here are the factors I use to decide if I would want to live somewhere. I call them my livability factors.

Livability Factors: Weather, Walkability, Overall Cost of Living, Things to do, Internet reliability, Social considerations, Food choices, Expat opportunities, and Real estate prices.

San Cristobal Desirability Score: I rank each livability factor separately before I think about the overall desirability score. San Cristobal has a medium desirability factor. Right now, my personal top six places to live or retire cheap in (Mexico) paradise include Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Puerta Vallarta, and Tulum. I hope to have a top 10 in the world before too long.  Stay tuned or subscribe.  I have more places to see in Mexico before firming up my Mexico scores. If you would like to know how my next 3 stops compare to my existing top 6, please subscribe to our YouTube Channel or Vagabond Buddha.  Your interaction helps us also. 🙂

Walkability: San Cristobal is totally walkable. You do not need to buy a car if I lived here.

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Internet Reliability: The WIFI in our Airbnb was 6.6 MBPS download speed and 1.9 MBPS upload speed. Speed Test. That is the wireless connectivity within our room. It is totally suitable for my purposes.

Food: This has the most foreign food diversity that I have ever seen in Mexico for a town this size. There are 200,000 people living in San Cristobal and most international foods are here also. There are just a bunch of foreigners who have moved here and brought their native palate with them. So it is not challenging to find international taste buds when foreigners open restaurants here. They stay open and prosper.

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Weather: We came to San Cristobal from Oaxaca, Mexico. The first things we noticed was that it was cooler here. That is because Oaxaca was at about 1500 meters (6000 feet) above sea level and San Cristobal is at 2200 meters (7200 feet) above sea level. April is the warmest month with an average high of 74F, 24C, but it cools down at night to 46F, 10C. January is the coldest month with an average low of 40F or 4C at night, but it warms quickly in the day to 70F or 20C. The rainy season is May through October when it rains about 4 to 8 inches per month (112 to 226 mm), with the months of June and September on the higher end of that range. Because of the long rain season and the cold weather in the winter, I am labeling San Cristobal as merely medium.

Things to Do: There is live music everywhere in the old town, day and night. We really felt safe walking around old town, day and night. If you are into outdoor sports there are many options for you here like hiking and exploring the beautiful mountains around Chiapas. There are also rivers for other outdoor activities. There is an active nightlife here with foreigners from all over the world, permanent and tourists. Arts and crafts are a big deal here. In the evenings you see not only local indigenous people but also foreign hippie-ish people selling their handmade jewelry, arts, and crafts. This is a hippies heaven. If you have liberal social beliefs and consider yourself a bit of a hippie, this place will feel like home. Everyone sings, plays instruments, and dresses creatively. It is a lovely place.  The foreign influence on daily life is as strong here as I have seen anywhere in Mexico.

Social Considerations: You will feel need to learn Spanish here. You will be isolated otherwise.

Expats Penetration: There are a bunch of Expats living in San Cristobal. They are working here, running businesses, and living the good life. But they are not the same kind of Expats you will find in places like Ajijic, Guanajuato, and San Miguel. They are generally more European and have fully integrated into the culture.  So, they don’t really need Expat support systems.

Real Estate: You can get a 1 Bedroom 1 Bath condo in the old town area for around $75,000 USD. Click here to search. I do not recommend buying until you have lived here for at least one or two years.

San Cristobal Mexico Cost of Living

After you have visited at least 4 or 5 of the places in Mexico I have reviewed, then consider where you want to live. Once it is time to pick a place to rent for a year or so, I recommend renting an Airbnb apartment here for a few weeks or months. Once you are here, then begin your search for a place to rent long term. If you try to rent over the Internet speaking only English, you will be quoted only Gringo prices. If you are here, you can speak directly to landlords. I guesstimate $375-625 USD for a decent 1 bedroom apartment in the old town area of San Cristobal, Mexico.

Monthly Cost of Living, San Cristobal, Mexico ($USD)






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Moderate Hotel





Backpacker Hostel





High-End Restaurant





Neighborhood Restaurant





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Per Month





Per Day




The above table is just my notes from my time here. The above numbers are for one person and do not include alcohol, tours, or extras. I do not guarantee these prices for anyone.

For more information about how the above “Cost of Living Monthly Multiplier” works, please visit the bottom of this page at Vagabond Buddha.

Please subscribe here or on our Youtube Channel if you would like to receive the costs of living estimates for our next Mexico stop, or for other countries in the world. We head to a new place in the morning.

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Thanks for watching our videos and reading our live cheap in paradise blogs at If you would like to learn how to live internationally or make money online, please grab a free copy of my eBook. Contact us if you would like to collaborate with us on social media.

This is Dan of Vagabond Buddha. Thank you for stopping by. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?

Warning: I am not offering you these prices.  These are just my notes and estimates from the time of my visit and this post.  Your costs will likely be drastically different if significant inflation or deflation occurs or the market changes after this post.  I will not update these numbers until I am on the ground again here, if ever.   

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