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What Currency is used in Mexico? Should you bring cash or cards?

If you are a first time visitor to Playa del Carmen you are probably wondering what currency is used in Mexico. You may also be wondering if it is better bringing cash or cards. Well, in this weeks post we are going to talk about money!

a collection of Mexican pesos
The Mexican peso (MXN)

We are going to answer the following questions you may have:

  • What currency is used in Mexico?

  • What currency is the best to bring to Mexico?

  • Where can I exchange currency in Playa del Carmen?

  • Are the ATMs in Playa del Carmen safe to use?

  • Do the restaurants in Playa del Carmen accept debit or credit cards?

What currency is used in Mexico?

The national currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN). However the US Dollar is widely accepted across Mexico especially in the more touristic places like Playa del Carmen. In fact most tour companies, restaurants, and even some shops will have their prices in both pesos and dollars.

You do need to be careful of the exchange rate though if you are paying in dollars it should be somewhere between 17-20 pesos to the dollar (January 2019). There will almost always be a sign somewhere telling you this. If the rate is 16 or below it is better to pay in pesos.

What currency should you bring to Mexico?

The best currency to bring to Mexico is a mix of pesos and US dollars. Use the dollars to pay for the big things like tours, entrance fees, accommodation, and travel. For everything else use pesos.

It should be relatively simple to get pesos in your own country before you travel. Although if you are going to want a large amount then you may need to order them, which normally takes 1-3 days. So be sure to give yourself enough time before your vacation.

We recommend bringing at least a couple of hundred dollars worth of Mexican pesos with you so you can get a good exchange rate and it is also helpful to have some currency to pay for your taxi from the airport and for any tips. Read here: “How to get from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen

Where can I exchange currency in Playa del Carmen?

If you find yourself in need of exchanging currency then there are plenty of places in Playa del Carmen where you can do this. You can exchange money in one of the banks, or at a money exchange shop. The rates will vary, as will the commission so do take your time to shop around a little for this.

As with many things in Playa del Carmen you often won’t get the best rate on 5th Avenue. Just by walking a few blocks up to 30th Avenue close to CTM you will find much better rates.

Are the ATMs in Playa del Carmen safe to use?

Many people ask is the ATMs in Playa del Carmen are safe to use, and the answer is yes, and no!

There have been many problems with the stand alone ATMs on the 5th Avenue.

Our recommendation is to avoid using these ATMs at all cost. You will not get a good rate, card cloning is common, and the charges are high for using them. Plus they are very open so it is easy for people to see you withdrawing your cash.

If you want to use an ATM then stick to using a ATM attached to a bank. For the lowest fee we recommend Santander who will charge you just over $35 pesos. They will also tell you the exchange rate so you know exactly what you are getting. Quite often this exchange rate is better than what you would get exchanging cash. Another reliable bank to use is HSBC, although they recently doubled their ATM fee on some of their cash machines to around $70 pesos.

Do the restaurants in Playa del Carmen accept debit or credit cards?

cash and a credit card in a jean pocket

This is another yes and no answer! If you are eating in a restaurant that caters for tourists then yes. However if you are in a more local place then probably not.

You can normally tell if you are in a restaurant that caters for tourists as the waiter will speak in English to you and you will be offered a menu in English. Almost all of the restaurants around the 5th Avenue will accept cards. If you are in a place with plastic chairs and tables, where the menu is in Spanish and the server doesn't speak English they probably aren’t going to accept cards.

If you aren’t sure just ask before you order.

Spanish lesson:
Tarjeta - is the Spanish word for card.
Efectivo - is the Spanish word for cash.
If you want to ask if they accept card you can simply say: “Aceptan tarjeta?” or “Aceptan tarjeta o solo efectivo?”
Or if all else fails just show them your credit card, I’m sure they will understand!

We really hope this helps to answer all of your Mexican currency questions! If we have missed anything, or you still have questions, leave us a comment below and we will get an answer back to you soon.

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