Drawing up a Mexico packing list is as important a part of planning a trip to Mexico as deciding where you want to stay, what you want to see, and how you want to get around. However, it can be a little overwhelming to decide what to take with you, and indeed, packing for a trip often winds up being the thing that we leave right until the last moment!
Organizing Your Mexico Packing List
The best items to include in your Mexico packing list depend a lot on which part(s) of the country you plan on traveling to, and the season that you will be going on your trip. If you are headed to coastal destinations and beach towns such as Tulum, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Holbox, then you can absolutely get away with a generic summer wardrobe Mexico packing list.
However, if you are planning on traveling cross country through Mexico, visiting Mexican cities, or visiting mountain towns to do a spot of hiking, more consideration is needed. The sheer mention of Mexico conjures up images of paradisiacal white beaches that run parallel to crystal clear cerulean waters and lush coconut groves.
However, Mexico is not *just* a tropical getaway destination. This is actually the 13th largest country in the world (by area).
The climate varies from tropical to arid depending on where in the country you are actually going to be! The tropic of cancer essentially divides the country in two.
During the summer months, it is hot (but often rainy) all across the country. During the winter, the northern states and places like San Cristobal de Las Casas or Mexico City can be a little cool, whereas some areas, like the Yucatan peninsula and Quintana Roo, are hot all year round.
Consider the Type of Activities You Will Do
If you plan on hiking, snorkeling, trekking, or doing any other form of adventurous activity, pack accordingly. For instance, if you are considering doing mountainous hikes, you will absolutely need to pack layers, softshell trousers, walking boots, and hiking socks.
If you will be hiking or trekking during the rainy season, you should pack things such as a waterproof jacket, a poncho, and a waterproof backpack cover, if necessary. You may be able to pick some things up locally, especially in large cities like Mexico City. In smaller towns, the selection of outdoor gear may be sparse, and the available options are expensive.
Essentials to Include in Your Mexico Packing List
A list of essential things to pack for Mexico is detailed below. This includes everything from electronics, handy devices, and travel accessories, to luggage and paperwork. A Mexico packing list for clothing follows.
Theft Proof Backpack
When you travel, you may take a couple of backpacks with you. For instance, perhaps you take a medium-sized backpack to use as your hand luggage, and you pack a small, 5L daypack to use when you are exploring and sightseeing.
Consider ensuring that one of these is a theft-proof backpack such as those offered by Pacsafe. Theft-proof backpacks are a little more expensive than your average backpack, sure.
However, they also come with additional security features that give you peace of mind and protect your belongings. This is especially important if you are traveling with expensive cameras, photography equipment, electronics, etc.
Even if that is not the case, you should still want to secure your money, passport, and travel documents. Theft-proof backpacks usually feature a TSA-approved locking system, are slash-proof, and are waterproof.
Investing in one is good practice wherever in the world you travel, not specifically for your Mexico packing list. You can buy anti-theft bags in a variety of forms and styles – from backpacks to more attractive purses and even fanny packs.
You cannot drink the water in Mexico. Even locals do not drink it.
Generally, the water is purified at the source. However, the distribution system may allow the water to be contaminated en route to the tap.
The water in Mexico generally also contains a lot of sediment and sodium. It is really not worth the risk of potentially getting sick.
The only exception to this is some upscale hotels and resorts which have on-site water purification systems. If they do, they will have signs confirming as such.
Hotels and Airbnbs usually leave you a bottle of water or two when you check in but you are still going to find yourself buying a lot of bottled water in Mexico. Buying large bottles and then having a reusable water bottle that you refill is far more economical than constantly purchasing 500ml bottles of water.
This also helps you to minimize your plastic waste. Lifestraw water bottles are particularly good.
They are lightweight, durable, and offer an additional level of filtration. Better still, they keep your water cool – important when you are traveling somewhere as hot as Mexico!
This company is ethical too. One purchase provides a lifetime of safe water for a child in a developing nation.
Mexico uses the same three-pronged plug socket as the USA (Plug type B). However, occasionally (and frustratingly!) you will find that some hotels and accommodations use a Plug type A.
This is a two-pronged plug with two flat parallel pins. This is less common but worth keeping in mind.
You will find that a lot of hotels and souvenir stores do sell travel adaptors, but to save time and energy, it is better to purchase this before your trip, if you can. Order a couple to be sure that you can use your various electronic devices while your cell phone is charging.
Your passport is the most essential item that you need for your Mexico packing list. Make sure that you keep it protected with a cover!
It is a good idea to take a photocopy of your passport, and have photos of it stored on your phone, should anything happen. Keep a photocopy stored in your luggage, in your hand luggage, and at home.
The amount of paperwork required to enter Mexico is minimal – even during the pandemic era. You will be required to fill out a small health form at the airport before departure, as well as a passenger locator form that specifies the details of your trip, where you are staying, etc. You will be given copies of these forms before you arrive at immigration in Mexico.
However, if you want to be extra organized, you can print these out online before you leave home. Be sure to keep everything safe and secure in a waterproof document wallet.
You never really know what is going to happen when you travel anywhere. So, it is better to be safe than sorry and include a small travel medikit within your Mexico packing list.
Cuts, scrapes, and grazes can become stressors if you find yourself suddenly rushing around on vacation trying to find a pharmacy. You can purchase pre-packaged travel medikits from Amazon, and various pharmacies and department stores in your home country.
These usually contain all the essential things like band-aids, gauze, scissors, tweezers, and alcohol wipes. They are usually big enough that you can then go ahead and add in your own additional items.
Be sure to pack whatever prescription medications you need. Painkillers are a good idea.
So too, are antihistamines, antiseptic cream, calamine lotion/non-prescription hydrocortisone cream for mosquito bites, and rehydration sachets. You will find pharmacies that open late or 24/7 throughout Mexico should you happen to forget anything.
Having insect repellent is a must in Mexico. There are a plethora of bugs that will bite and sting you here – none more annoying than the mosquito!
Some mosquitos in Mexico do carry the Zika virus and malaria. You will need to spray yourself with the spray every day and night. Mosquitos are even more active at night and around bodies of water.
You can consider purchasing a strong, DEET-free product. If you happen to forget repellent in your Mexico packing list, you can purchase this locally at Walmart, pharmacies, and OXXO convenience stores.
Depending on how long you are going to be spending in Mexico and the types of accommodation you will be using, you may want to consider purchasing additional mosquito repellent devices. For example, Mosquito resistant bracelets and plug-ins.
Travel Compression Bags or Packing Cubes
Travel compression bags and packing cubes can help you fit more in your suitcase, and to make everything more compact. They also help you to better organize your luggage into different sections/destinations which is great if you are visiting Mexico as part of a wider adventure.
Packing cubes and compression bags help you to keep all of your clothes neat and wrinkle-free. So which is the better of the two?
It all comes down to personal preference. Compression bags help you fit more into your case and do a good job of compressing bulky items.
If you are looking to travel only with a carry-on, compression bags can be a good way to reduce your luggage size and get everything to fit. Just be careful to check all the details when you purchase compression bags and try to buy ones that do not require a vacuum. Otherwise, it will be tricky to try and fit everything back into your bag again when you are repacking on your return from Mexico.
Reef Safe Sunscreen
Sunscreen is an absolutely essential item on your Mexico trip packing list. The sun here can be intense – even during the winter and even on a cloudy day.
You should purchase two different sunscreen products – one for your face, and one for your body. Aim for a high SPF of at least 30 plus if you can.
It is important to purchase a separate sunscreen for your face because a lot of the body formulations are far too heavy and oily to apply to your face. You should purchase reef-safe sunscreen for Mexico.
A lot of the cenotes, beaches, and coral reefs are home to fragile ecosystems and unique flora and fauna. The chemicals and ingredients in your generic sunscreens can be extremely harmful.
Ethics aside, some cenotes will make you shower before entering and will only permit you to apply approved sunscreen. After-sun lotion to soothe and hydrate your skin after being in the sun is also a must.
Pack a small beach towel for visiting beaches, pools, and cenotes in Mexico. Most hotels and accommodations do not permit you to take their towels off the premises.
It is a good idea to purchase a microfibre towel. These are quick-drying, meaning they will not be soggy and disgusting if you have to shove them in your bag to transport them back to the hotel after a day at the beach.
Portable Power Bank
When you are out and about on vacation, it can be alarming how fast our cell phone batteries run down. But they are mini-computers after all and most of us use them for taking photos, checking directions on Google maps, looking up information online, listening to music, and texting.
A portable power bank can help ensure that your devices stay fully charged throughout the day. Better yet, a good one doesn’t break the bank and can often be picked up for as little as $15-20.
Make sure it is fully charged before you head out all day. A fully charged power bank should contain enough juice to fully charge your phone at least a couple of times.
Security Door Stopper
Mexico is a wonderful travel destination that is unfortunately stereotyped as being dangerous and out of bounds for independent travelers. Most visits here are trouble-free and you will likely feel very comfortable once you arrive. Mexico is safe for the most part.
However, it is always worth taking precautions where your personal safety is involved. Although it may be rare, there are occasions where tourists are the victims of petty crime, opportunists try the doors of hotel rooms, or people let themselves into properties while guests are asleep.
To avoid this, consider purchasing a security door stopper. This device is small, cheap, and takes up virtually no space in your luggage.
However, it can both prevent you from being a victim of petty crime and give you peace of mind about the safety of you, your travel companions, and your belongings. You can purchase door stoppers that not only block people from forcing their way in, but also set off a loud siren if someone does try to enter.
Selfie Stick with Tripod Feet
Everyone is different when it comes to their approach to travel photography. You may prefer to carry a DSLR, or you may be happy with the quality of the photos that your phone takes.
Regardless of the device, you are using, it is worth investing in a tripod – particularly if you are a solo traveler. Even if you are traveling to Mexico with your partner or friends, having a tripod is great as it means that you can take professional-quality photos rather than those simply taken at arm’s length.
If you are just using your phone for your travel photos, a selfie stick with tripod feet is a great investment. These are low cost and enable you to take a range of different style photos. Better yet, you will never have the awkwardness of having to ask a stranger to take your photo again!
Female travelers should always carry period products in their luggage just in case. Period panties and menstrual cups are great reusable items that save you from having to use/purchase tampons and pads.
Period proof underwear, although it may sound somewhat questionable, is a great, comfy and convenient option. Not to mention, period-proof panties are super absorbent and you won’t leak or have any embarrassing incidents, even during your heaviest days.
So, if you are on a long journey traveling from one city to another, you are hiking or doing something athletic, or you roll around in your sleep, you will not have any disasters. Tampons and pads are widely available throughout Mexico.
However, in more rural areas, you may find that the stores only sell pads. Menstrual cups are another alternative, although they are perhaps not for the squeamish.
Tote Bag/ Laundry Bag
Include a small tote bag or reusable laundry bag on your list of things to pack for Mexico. Ideally, you may want to use the former, or even just a reusable Walmart bag.
This will double as a bag to use to transport your laundry to the lavanderia, and a bag to use at supermarkets and mercados in Mexico. In an effort to be environmentally conscious, a lot of stores in Mexico do not offer plastic bags.
So, if you do not have your own, you will find yourself headed back to your Airbnb/accommodation with your arms full of items. Alternatively, you may also like to purchase a specific drawstring laundry bag.
This not only looks ¨nicer¨ than hauling a pile of your dirty laundry down the street, but it also helps you separate your dirty clothes from your clean ones within your suitcase. Simply add the used clothes to the laundry bag as you go.
Shampoo, Conditioner, and Hair Products
It is always worth packing your own hair products when you travel. You can never really trust the quality of what is provided in hotels which are typically generic and do not address any particular hair complaint.
This is particularly important if you have frizzy, dry, damaged, or problem hair. The water in Mexico, full of sediments and sodium, is actually very drying.
Pack the shampoos and conditioners you like, even if you only purchase small travel-sized bottles that are not all that economically priced. A nice idea if you have thick or dry hair is to pack a couple of sachets of deep conditioner.
Hair types aside, swimming in chlorine-treated pools and salty seawater can dry out and damage anyone’s hair. An anti-frizz hair serum or some Argan oil can also help to tame unruly hair during the day.
Similarly, Mexico does get very rainy and humid from May through to late October. A dehumidifying spray can help you to fend against the elements.
Hand Sanitizer, Wipes, and Surface Wipes
It is always a good idea to carry hand sanitizer with you in your hand luggage/daypack. This is true now more than ever.
Most businesses, restaurants, stores, and hotels in Mexico require you to have your temperature checked and to use a hand sanitizer before entering. However, it is nice to have your own small bottle on hand to use.
You should also consider purchasing some antibacterial surface wipes. That way, you can wipe down things like airplane seats, or questionable-looking tables, for your own safety and peace of mind.
Clothing for Your Mexico Packing List
The below Mexico packing list comes with the assumption that you are visiting Mexico for the purpose of visiting popular beach towns and resort areas, or famous ruins such as Ek Balam, Uxmal, and Chichen Itza. This amount of clothing is sufficient for 10-14 days.
Of course, different, additional clothing items may be appropriate if you are also visiting cities and mountainous areas, or planning hiking expeditions. Getting your laundry done in Mexico is actually very affordable.
It typically costs no more than 40-60 pesos for 5-6 kilos of clothing. Keep in mind that most lavanderias have a minimum flat price of around 5-6 kilos.
So, even if you just take 2-3 kilos of laundry, you will be charged the same. Regardless, the pricing is still very good.
It is just something to be aware of. Your clothes will be washed, dried, and folded ready for collection the next day.
Laundry places can be found on practically every other street in Mexican towns and cities. So, you really don’t need to worry about whether you will be able to find one, or about packing more clothing than necessary.
Mexico Packing List – What Clothes to Take to Mexico
- 7 x underwear
- 2 swimsuits (one to use while the other is drying)
- Beach cover-up
- Beach towel
- 3-4 summer dresses (for female travelers)
- Flip flops/comfy shoes for wearing at the hotel
- 1-2 pairs of light, breathable cotton pants
- 3-4 pairs of shorts
- 4-5 t-shirts
- 2-3 outfits to wear on evenings out
- Comfortable walking shoes or sneakers
- One pair of heels/dress shoes/shoes for going out in the evenings
- Small 5L daypack for daytime exploration (consider a theft-proof backpack)
- Beach tote
- Small bag for going out/evening use
Additional Mexico Packing List FAQs
Assorted additional useful information for drawing up a Mexico packing list is detailed herein.
You can pick things up locally if you need
If you realize that you forgot some things to pack for Mexico then rest assured, you pick most things up locally if necessary. This is particularly true if you are planning to spend any time in major cities or resort areas like Mexico City, Merida, Cancun, or Tulum.
All of the high street stores that you would expect to find in the United States and other western countries can be found in Mexico. For instance, Zara, H&M, Pull & Bear, etc.
You will also find great domestic stores as well as a lot of charming independent boutiques that often sell beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces. In Tulum, Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox, etc, you will find some gorgeous Boho-chic dresses, purses, shirts, and trousers.
In the Yucatan peninsula too, you will find gorgeous handmade dresses and shoes that place a contemporary twist on traditional dress. Just be sure to double-check the prices as a lot of independent stores in tourist areas do NOT use price tags and can be very expensive.
Some parts of Mexico are more conservative than others
Some parts of Mexico are much more conservative than others. For instance, in coastal areas and in cities like Merida and places in the Yucatan, you will see a lot of women, both local and expatriate, walking around in shorts, dresses, etc.
Sometimes, it seems as though the local women in these areas practically live in spandex and athleisure wear. Nobody bats an eyelid at people dressing like this, as should be the case.
However, smaller villages, and particularly settlements in inland Mexico, are much more conservative. Women will usually dress modestly covering both their shoulders and knees and they will not wear clothing that displays cleavage.
Obviously, you should feel free to dress as you feel most comfortable. However, dressing as the local women do, and erring on the side of modesty helps you to blend in, not draw attention to yourself, and avoid unwanted advances.
Chiapa de Corzo, Tuxtla Gutierrez and Comitan de Dominguez in Chiapas are examples of such places. While locals are mostly friendly, fewer tourists pass by here and it is better to try and blend in if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself as a tourist.
Even Mexico City feels more conservative than the coastal parts of the country. Temperatures of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit may seem like warm weather depending on where you are from.
However, locals here will still be wearing layers and coats. Tasteful skirts and tops are fine but you may feel uncomfortable with the looks and attention you get if you walk around in shorts and more provocative vacation clothes in Mexico.
Leave the valuables at home
It is estimated that 44% of Mexicans live below the poverty line and in general, this is not an affluent country. That being said, Mexicans are some of the most friendly, welcoming people on the planet, and generally speaking, you will feel safe and comfortable here.
But this is not the place to bring a $500 handbag, flashy jewelry, or Designer label clothes. Doing so and looking like a wealthy tourist is both somewhat unethical and makes you a target.
Whether that is a target for being scammed and charged exorbitant prices or a target for having your bag snatched or slashed in crowded markets. If you are traveling with expensive clothing and jewelry, it can also be an additional stressor when you leave your belongings in hotels or load your luggage onto the bottom of buses.
Just leave them at home and pack some cute boho dresses and clothes or buy them locally. You may see Gucci-clad westerners in some affluent areas of San Miguel de Allende or Merida, but generally, you don’t want to be trailing expensive things across Mexico with you.
Do you have any additional questions about this Mexico packing list or planning a trip here in general? I live in Merida and I am always happy to assist as best as I can.
You may also be interested in reading these Mexico travel tips before your trip. Safe travels! Melissa xo