Not sure what to pack for Mexico? This ultimate Mexico packing list details everything you need for your Mexico vacation!
Before you can sip mezcal in Oaxaca or get your tan on in Tulum, you need to ready your Mexico packing list to ensure you’ve got everything you need for the adventures ahead.
It’s important to remember that Mexico is a big and diverse country, so tailor your packing list to wherever you’re visiting.
After this post, you’ll know what to pack for top tourist destinations in Mexico such as:
- Mexico City
- Playa del Carmen
You can easily adapt this Mexico packing list to any destination in the country. If you have a question about what to pack for a particular place in Mexico, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a DM on Instagram (@alexnotemily).
Important Note: The advice in this post isn’t intended to discourage you from dressing how you feel most comfortable. Rather, its purpose is to provide guidance for foreigners who want to fit in while traveling around Mexico.
Moving to Mexico soon? I dedicated a whole section to what to pack and what to leave behind in your home country.
The Biggest Mistake Travelers to Mexico Make
Outside of wearing shorts and flip flops (more on that later), the biggest mistake I see travelers making in Mexico is not dressing for the weather.
Travelers—generally, those visiting Mexico for the first time—don’t check the weather before packing for their trip. Not only does Mexico have various climates, but it also has different seasons.
- May-October (part of the month)
- In some parts of Mexico, it rains every day.
- Be prepared for torrential downpours & possibly hurricanes.
- October (part of the month)-April
- Especially in desert climates, “dry” means really REALLY dry.
- Items you might want to include on your packing list:
- Heavy-duty moisturizer
- Lubricant eye drops
- Leave-in conditioner
You should also double-check the average temperatures for the hottest and coldest months of the year in your destination since the seasons might not line up perfectly with your home country.
For example, when I moved to Querétaro, it surprised me to learn that the hottest months of the year here are April and May which is significantly different that in my home state of Michigan where the hottest months are typically July and August.
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What to Wear in Cancun, Playa del Carmen & Tulum
If you’re visiting Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum, then it’s a safe bet you’ll be spending most of your trip either at the beach or around the pool. Feel free to wear whatever you want: shorts, crop tops, bro tanks, swimsuit coverups and flip flops.
Even when you’re in town, unless you’re at an upscale restaurant, no one will bat an eye if you walk into an establishment wearing jean shorts and a bikini top.
Along with eating at nicer restaurants, if you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, pack a selection of more formal outfits for dinners where you’re expected to get a little dressed up.
Think cute dresses, patterned rompers, flowy jumpsuits and strappy sandals.
Need help packing for an all-inclusive resort? Check out this packing list from the Travel Channel.
Everyone looks cool and comfortable in linen shirts/pants. Guys who want to wear shorts should avoid the cargo variety since nothing screams TOURIST like 9,837 pockets.
Flip flops are fine.
Although you’re much more likely to find me in Puerto Escondido for a beach getaway than the Riviera Maya, my packing list includes:
- Short sleeveless dresses that can double as a swimsuit coverup
- Crop tops
- Flowy skirts that you can tie up after you’ve had a few mezcalitas and need to get back to your hotel without tripping in the street
I’ve been known to pack a pair of denim shorts, but when the weather is really hot and humid, I tend to leave them trucked away in my bag. Anything too tight-fitting is a no-go for me (including bras).
For makeup, I leave the foundation, concealer and eyeshadow at home. If you paint it on, just know that it’s going to melt off.
Even if you like to travel light, set your minimalist instinct aside and pack a second swimsuit. Whether you’re staying in a humid hostel or an air-conditioned hotel, there’s a good chance your bikini or swim trunks won’t dry overnight.
You’ll be glad you gave up space in your backpack when you don’t have to try to slither into a damp swimsuit.
Advice for Packing for Tulum
If you’ve always dreamed of wearing a flower crown at Coachella but sadly never had the opportunity, feel free to use your trip to Tulum as a chance to embrace your inner boho-chic hippie.
Alright, the flower crown itself might be a bit much, but go wild with big straw hats, fringe, matching floral sets and crocheted everything.
Free spirits flock to Tulum so worry about getting THE picture for the ‘gram not about looking out of place.
What to Wear in Mérida
Lots of travelers know how to pack for a beach vacation in Mexico, but where many start to run into trouble is upon moving inland.
Unless you’re at the beach or very very near to it, flip flops aren’t acceptable footwear for traveling in Mexico.
In fact, one of the major don’ts for traveling in Mexico is wearing flip flops.
As charming as they look on your Instagram feed, Mexico’s streets can be perilous. For navigating potholes, loose bricks and uneven sidewalks, I recommend close-toed shoes or sandals with little to no flipping/flopping.
This pair of women’s sandals is perfect for walking around town. I love that they’re cute and supportive.
If your Mérida travel itinerary includes exploring Mayan Ruins and bike riding, you may want to pack a pair of sneakers. Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit for swimming in cenotes.
Even if the heat and humidity try to trick you into thinking otherwise, beach attire isn’t appropriate in Mérida. Instead, opt for cool cotton and quick-drying fabrics.
As a rule, people tend to dress more conservatively in Mexico. Regardless of how hot it gets, locals opt for long pants and short-sleeved t-shirts over shorts and tanks tops.
What to Wear in Mexico City
The further you travel away from the beach, the more conservatively you should aim to dress. When in doubt, wear jeans in Mexico City.
Even on hot days, most locals wear long pants.
If you’re visiting Mexico City in the winter, be sure to pack a sweater or jacket. Believe it or not, it gets cold in Mexico.
In central Mexico, when the sun starts to set, you will get chilly if you’re seated in the shade. With the exception of April and May, I always bring at least a light jacket when I go out at night in Querétaro.
From Mexico City and Puebla to Querétaro and San Miguel de Allende, layering the name of the game in Mexico. My go-to outfit is jeans, a tank top and a short kaftan or sweater.
For footwear, you’ll usually catch me in a pair of boots (a carryover from my years of living in Madrid). I love this pair of Earth Origins boots for comfortable city trekking.
Sneakers are another safe bet for exploring the city.
In addition to flip flops, avoid wearing high heels unless you’re confident you can teeter down cobblestone streets without breaking your neck.
What to Wear in Oaxaca
As with Mexico City, you should pack for warm days and cool nights in Oaxaca. Depending on the season, you might want to bring a rain jacket.
Unlike, say, Berlin, clothing with different colors and patterns are welcome in Mexico. I also like to pack some neutral pieces since they’re easy to style.
If you’re in need of some style inspo for your trip to Oaxaca, check out Susan’s (@brooklyntropicali) Instagram. She’s ~*influenced*~ me to incorporate more midi skirts into my Mexico wardrobe.
When I spent a few weeks backpacking around Oaxaca, I traveled outside the city to do some hiking in the Pueblos Mancomunados. If you’re planning to hit the trails, you will need leggings or hiking pants, good hiking boots and a warm jacket.
Sleeping in a cute cabaña in the mountains is all fun and games until you’re up the whole night shivering. Learn from my mistakes and pack what you need to stay warm so you can enjoy your trip.
What should you not wear in Mexico?
The most important advice for not looking like a tourist in Mexico is avoiding wearing your bikini or swim trunks unless you’re actually at the beach.
Here’s a quick rundown of what NOT to wear in Mexico:
- Flip flops (again, unless you’re at the beach)
- High heels
- Short shorts
- Anything super revealing (it’s not fair, but I just try to limit catcalls)
- Flashy jewelry
- Socks with sandals (because DUH)
Should you use a backpack or suitcase in Mexico?
Ah yes, the great debate: backpack or suitcase in Mexico?
You only need look at the name of this blog to know what I’m going to tell you:
If you’ve never traveled with a backpack before, there’s no better place to give it a whirl than Mexico. For starters, rolling suitcases and cobblestone streets don’t mix.
When I arrive in a new city, I hate being dependent on cabs to get from the airport or bus station to my accommodation. When you’re traveling with a backpack, it’s a heck of a lot easier to walk or utilize public transportation.
Even if you do have the budget to spring for a cab, Mexican taxi trunks are notoriously small. If you’re traveling with a buddy or small group and everyone has a big rolling suitcase, you might have to each get your own cab.
For a single-climate itinerary such as a beach vacation, check out the Osprey Porter 30. Since it’s carry-on size, you’ll be able to skip baggage checks and save on luggage fees.
If you’re packing for multiple weather zones, go for the larger Osprey Porter 46. This is my go-to bag and fits the carry-on requirements for nearly all airlines.
You read my full review of the Osprey Porter 46 travel backpack here.
I love that latest models of both the Osprey Porter 46 and Osprey Porter 30 have laptop sleeves so you don’t have to bring a second bag for your computer.
When you’re traveling in Mexico (traveling anywhere, really), the more bags you have the greater risk there is of someone walking off with one of them.
Mexico Travel Must-Haves
While you’re preparing your Mexico packing list, remember to purchase travel insurance. World Nomads offers affordable plans so you can have peace of mind on any travel budget.
Like travel insurance, here are some other Mexico packing list essentials you have may have overlooked:
- Hand sanitizer
- Bug spray wipes
- Sleeping mask
- Quick-dry towel
- Reusable shopping bag and/or foldable daypack
Whenever I’m packing for a trip in Mexico, I always throw a scarf (check out this one with a hidden pocket) and some Ziploc bags into my backpack. Both have a myriad of uses.
Recently, I purchased this security doorstop alarm and plan to bring it along for my next solo trip around Mexico. The sturdy design makes opening the door inwardly difficult, and the alarm can be heard up to three football fields away.
Toiletries to Pack for Mexico
You know what you need to look and feel fresh while traveling. Just keep in mind that you must pack any liquids in containers measuring less than 3.4 oz. if you’re planning on traveling with only your carry-on.
Regardless of where your final destination in Mexico, don’t forget to pack sunscreen and actually wear it.
Throughout the country, the sun is Mexico is very intense. Pack sunscreen for both your face and body.
At the beach, sunscreen is often overpriced, expired or both, so bringing some from home is a good idea.
If you get to Mexico and realize you forgot something, don’t freak out. Mexican pharmacies are well-stocked, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a decent replacement if not the same brand that you use at home.
Technology to Take to Mexico
Even if you’re not a full-on digital nomad, chances are you’re planning on taking at least some electronics to Mexico.
Readers often ask me if it’s safe to take your smartphone to Mexico, and rest assured that many Mexicans own smartphones and you’re not going to stand out when you snap a selfie.
However, if you’re concerned about your just-out-of-the-box iPhone 12 Pro Max getting stolen (hey! That’s why you buy travel insurance), then consider a cheaper alternative.
The Moto G smartphone has a high-quality camera at an affordable price point. It takes great pictures and video, but it won’t be the end of the world if something happens to it.
Whether you buy a budget smartphone or bring your regular phone, make sure it’s unlocked so you can easily pop in a SIM card once you’re in Mexico. Here are a few apps you’ll want to download:
- Google Translate
- Uber Eats
Instead of traveling with a guidebook (my Bible is The Rough Guide to Mexico), invest in a Kindle.
Don’t tell my partner, Taylor, but my Kindle Fire is my favorite travel companion.
One reviewer called this particular model a “selfie stick on steroids.” This sturdy, Bluetooth tripod is one of the most useful travel gifts I’ve ever purchased for myself.
Take it from me: There’s no worse feeling than being one hour into your overnight bus from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido and seeing that your phone is on 2% battery.
Since a free outlet never seems to be around when you really need it, add a portable charger to your Mexico packing list.
If you know you need reliable WiFi for work, consider purchasing a WiFi hotspot. From a 24-hour global day pass to an unlimited plan, you can choose the WiFi option that is best for you.
What should I pack for 7 days in Mexico?
You may need to adjust this list slightly for your particular destination(s) in Mexico, but overall, here’s what you should pack for 7 days in Mexico:
- 1 sweater or hooded sweatshirt
- 1 rain jacket
- 1-2 pairs of pants/jeans
- 1 skirt and/or 1-2 pairs of shorts
- 1 sleeveless dress
- Comfortable sandals
- Sneakers or boots
- 3-4 t-shirts or tank tops
- 1-2 swimsuits
- Unlocked smartphone
- Bug spray wipes & sunscreen
- Quick-dry towel
- Earplugs & sleeping mask
- Reusable shopping bag/ foldable daypack
- Carry-on sized travel backpack
What Not to Bring to Mexico
Fans of traveling light know that nearly as important as what you pack is what you decide not to bring.
Opting for the Osprey Porter 30 or Osprey Porter 46 as your travel backpack will help ensure that you don’t overpack. Additionally, here are a few items you can forgo:
- If you’re traveling to Mexico from the U.S., the outlets are the same as what you’re used to at home.
- Coming from Europe, Australia or somewhere else? You will likely need to bring an adaptor.
- Flashy jewelry
- Would it break your heart to lose your great-grandmother’s diamond ring? Leaving it at home is your safest bet.
- Avoid making yourself a target for theft.
- Too much cash
- You don’t need to bring all the cash you need for your entire trip.
- Open an account with a bank like Charles Schwab that reimburses you for ATM fees & withdraw cash as you need it.
Moving to Mexico Packing List
First and foremost, you need to bring your important documents plus copies to Mexico. You should also leave a copy of everything with a family member or trusted friend.
In addition to physical copies, scan your important documents into the computer so you also have digital copies.
Important Documents to Bring When Moving to Mexico
You might want to consider having some of this documents translated into Spanish:
- Driver’s license
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Work permit
- Medical records
- School records
- Social security card
Clothes That Actually Make Sense
On this checklist for first-time expats moving abroad, two of the most important tasks you must complete before moving to another country are:
Decluttering and stockpiling things you can’t live without.
Instead of packing your entire wardrobe, bring the clothes that will serve you the best in your new climate (see descriptions above) and donate the rest or leave it behind.
Set aside part of your moving-to-Mexico budget to buy some new clothes once you’re settled. See what people in your new city are wearing and shop accordingly.
Taking in the local style and adapting my wardrobe to fit in is one of my favorite parts of moving to another country.
Favorite Products from Brands You Can’t Find in Mexico
But for some items, you like what you like and there’s simply no equitable replacement. When I moved to Mexico, I made sure to pack beloved makeup and skincare products as well as new bras from my favorite brand.
You should also pack enough prescription medication and contact lenses to get by until you’re established.
Some expats recommend packing favorite snacks, but the only thing I really miss from the U.S. is Triscuits. As much as I love my Triscuits, I’m not willing to sacrifice the space in my backpack.
Travel Backpack and Other Luggage
Speaking of luggage, when you move to Mexico you’ll likely need more than just the Osprey Porter 46.
You should still invest in the backpack since you can use it for future trips, but rather than spending money on bulky luggage that’s just going to gather dust in your closet, buy your big suitcases used.
Pro Tip: You can find barely used luggage for cheap at Goodwill and garage sales.
Leave some room in your backpack for decorative items that will instantly make your new place in Mexico feel like home.
Think your favorite blanket, photos and posters. Don’t bother with frames for the last two since custom framing is very affordable in Mexico.
Printable Packing List for Mexico
Packing for a place you’ve never traveled to before can feel overwhelming, but this Mexico packing list post should make the task at hand seem significantly more manageable.
As promised, here’s a link to a free printable packing list for Mexico that you can download. Cross off the items as you add them to your backpack.
Feel free to save it to Pinterest for later use.
Now that you have your packing list for Mexico all sorted out, what about the do’s and don’ts for traveling to Mexico?
From must-know safety tips and advice for dealing with money to how NOT to get sick while enjoying street food, this post has 35 helpful tips for traveling to Mexico (many of which the guidebooks forget to mention).
If you have any questions about packing for your trip to Mexico or traveling around Mexico in general, feel free to leave them in the comments below.