Mexico is a vibrant country, with endless activities to enjoy, from cenote hopping and climbing up literal volcanos to cheering on a lucha libre match. With such an enormous array of experiences, it can be hard to know exactly what to include on your Mexico packing list.
Have no fear, though- no matter where you’re headed in this incredible country, from a Mexico beach vacation to a getaway in the cosmopolitan Mexico City, we’ve got you covered- here’s exactly what to pack for Mexico.
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This post is sponsored by Topo Athletic, which we have used for many years. All fan girl opinions are my own.
What You Need to Know About Your Mexico Packing List
The most important thing to know about your Mexico packing list is that the country spans 1,850 miles from north to south, with everything from deserts to rainforests and mountains that tower over 18,000 feet tall, sitting in its footprint. That is to say that, you’ll need to pack differently depending on whether you’re staying in Oaxaca in winter or if you’re headed to Puerto Vallarta in the middle of the summer.
Even then, weather in any particular region of Mexico can be quite dynamic- for example, you may want to pack different items if you’re visiting Merida in the middle of hurricane season, as opposed to its drier (and hurricane free!) winters.
So make sure to properly research where you’re headed and its weather during your stay- before you even book that airfare and as you’re figuring out what to pack for Mexico.
Some other things to know about packing for Mexico:
- If you’re going to be primarily visiting cities or pueblos, it’s worth mentioning that most Mexicans tend to dress more conservatively than in the U.S. While people tend to dress more casually in beachy settings, like Sayulita, it’s much more common to see folks in long pants and a jacket in the cities, even in the sweltering heat.
That’s not to say you need to bring, like, a tuxedo or long-sleeved dress or something to Mexico. But, know that if you do wear your best pair of Daisy Dukes in a rural small town here, you may get a few more lingering looks than you’d prefer.
- In my opinion, Mexico is not nearly as dangerous and scary as most news outlets would lead you to believe. That being said, it’s probably not the best place to bust out your flashiest Chanel sunglasses or trademark Christian Louboutin heels (trust me- you don’t want to walk around on most of the sidewalks in Mexico in heels, anyway!)- it may, again, draw unwanted attention.
Leave your heirloom engagement ring and expensive tech gadgets at home, unless you need them for some reason- it’s just as easy, if not more so, to lose something as it is for something to get stolen, so why take the risk? You’re going to be off exploring Mexico anyway!
- Regardless of what area in Mexico you’re visiting, some establishments really love to overdo it with the air conditioning here, so I’d recommend bringing along a light jacket to throw on. Bonus points if you bring along a light rainjacket, like this one for men or this one for women- when it rains here, it seriously RAINS.
What to Pack for Mexico
Now, let’s get to the fun part- your Mexico packing list!
What to bring for traveling to Mexico
- Passport: You won’t be able to get into Mexico without it! I’d also recommend bringing along two copies of the second page of your passport (with your photo and personal information), just in case your passport gets lost or stolen.
Travelers from the United States, Canada, and most European countries do not need to get an additional visa to enter Mexico, but be sure to check here to confirm whether any additional paperwork is needed, depending on where you’re from.
- Drivers license: Planning on renting a car in Mexico? It’s really not that scary, once you get the hang of it!
Assuming you’re from the U.S., you’ll need to provide your driver’s license at the rental car facility to pick up your vehicle. It also comes in handy for other times you need to show your ID, like when you’re checking into your hotel.
- Credit card without a foreign transaction fee: Cash is king in Mexico, but there’s still plenty of opportunities to use credit cards, like at hotels, nicer restaurants, and tour companies. So bring along a travel credit card that doesn’t charge you a foreign transaction fee, which can be as much as 4% of your purchase- that can rack up fast.
I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve and my husband, Justin, has a Capital One Venture- look into a couple different travel credit cards and pick one with the perks that suits you and your family’s needs!
- Travel insurance: Listen, traveling is pretty crazy these days, with flight cancellations, delays, and missed connections. And that’s before you even leave the airport!
Be sure to get travel insurance, which can help cover everything from missed tours due to a canceled flight to a broken leg while ziplining.
I’ve heard horror stories of travelers not realizing that their health insurance doesn’t cover them in Mexico and, when they accidentally get hurt during their travels, they’re required to pay tens of thousands of dollars- in cash- upfront to receive the medical care they need. Don’t let that be you!
In fact, take it from me- Justin fell into a massive pothole while we were in Cuba and split his kneecap in two (major ouch). Luckily, we had travel insurance and he was able to receive the medical treatment he needed to get home safely- and we paid $0 for his care.
We specifically buy coverage through World Nomads, given their insurance covers more adventurous activities, like scuba diving, whereas some other insurance providers specifically exclude such activities.
Note that insurance coverage varies by your state of residence and by carrier, so be sure you understand your policy before making your purchase.
- Wireless earbuds: Way more fun than travel insurance or breaking your kneecap, wireless earbuds will help you watch YouTube videos or listen to your favorite podcast on the plane- plus they can act as earplugs if you’re staying someplace ungodly noisy once you actually get to Mexico (listen, Mexico can be LOUD!).
What to Pack for Mexico Beaches
When most travelers think of Mexico, beaches, swaying palm trees, and a margarita on the rocks comes to mind. As they should- Mexico has some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world!
But Mexico offers so many unique activities in the water besides simply sitting at the beach, from cenote hopping to soaking in the hot springs of Grutas Tolantongo. So even if you’re not specifically headed to the coast, make sure to at least pack a swimsuit to make sure you can get up to whatever adventures come your way!
What to Wear to Mexico Beaches
- Swimsuit: Hopefully, this is a no brainer and, since, depending on where you’re visiting, you’ll likely be hitting up the beach, cenotes, pools, and hot springs on the regular, I’d advise packing a couple, so that one is always dry.
Since many travelers do water activities, from kayaking and paddleboarding to cliff jumping and floating down a totally natural lazy river at Los Rapidos Bacalar, I’d recommend something that you can move around in and not worry about any of your jiggly bits flopping out.
For example, I have this one piece, which is great for providing a bit more coverage, in two different colors and a two-piece, like this one, to support my girls while still looking cute.
For the fellows, grab a pair of swim trunks that you can wear from the beach to your local taqueria, like this one. And if you’re worried about sticking out, due to my note above regarding the conservative nature of dressing in Mexico, don’t worry- you’ll totally fit in in beach towns!
- Cover-ups: It’s a good idea to have a cover-up on hand if you decide you want to head to your local watering hole for a cerveza after you hit the beach- while beach towns are more relaxed than cities or smaller towns in the mountains, I still wouldn’t recommend going into most establishments shirtless or with just a bikini on, for example.
I love this coverup– super easy to throw on over a swimsuit and can double as an extra layer over a tank top or dress to keep you warm against that intense air conditioning.
- Rashguard: The sun in Mexico is no joke, y’all and there’s certain places- primarily in the Yucatan peninsula- where you cannot wear any kind of sunscreen without damaging the fragile ecosystems there.
For example, the cenotes near Tulum and around the Yucatan or in the famed Lagoon of Seven Colors in Bacalar are both freshwater systems. The funky chemicals in sunscreen can wash off your body while you’re off having fun in these bodies of water, polluting the delicate pH of the water and compromising the diverse species that call these waters home.
So what does that mean for you, practically speaking? Sunburn and lots of it- unless you plan ahead appropriately!
Bring along a rashguard (a stretchy long-sleeve shirt that’s intended to be worn in the water) to provide extra protection against the harsh sun while you’re in the water. Even if you’re not headed to the Yucatan, it’s a great idea to bring a rashguard along if you plan on spending all day at the beach, so you can take it a little easier with slathering on the sunscreen every hour or so.
Check out this option for men and this option for women.
- Sunhat: Did I mention that there are certain places in Mexico where you just can’t wear sunscreen?! So grab a sunhat, like this one (with a handy adjustable band to make sure it doesn’t fly off your noggin), that offers SPF 50+ protection for your precious face, neck, and back.
- Sunglasses: Not wearing sunglasses when it’s bright out can lead to all kinds of problems, with scary names like macular degeneration, down the line. So protect those ocular orbs with some cool shades, like this one for men and this one for women.
Items to Pack for Mexico Beaches
- Dry bag: As mentioned above, there’s tons of opportunities to get out on (or in!) the water in Mexico, like joining one of the boat tours in Bacalar, swimming with whale sharks in La Paz, or scuba diving near Puerto Vallarta. So it’s handy to have a bag with you that will keep your towel, phone, keys, and other odds and ends dry. Remember, regardless of where you are in the world, it’s not a great idea to leave anything you don’t want to lose unattended on the beach or the shore by itself.
A drybag will make it a breeze to hold all of your things AND keep them dry, whether you’re on a choppy boat during a whale watching cruise or a white-water kayak. We have this one, which is awesome- it has straps so you can use it as a backpack and we’ve even repurposed it as a cooler to dump ice and beers in to take to the beach!
If nothing else, get one of those very fashionable waterproof cell phone cases you can hang off your neck, cuz everyone knows that fun in the sun + margaritas + water + electronics = no bueno.
- Beach towel: While most resorts provide beach towels, many Airbnbs, hostels, and hotels do not. This one is soft and lightweight, making it super easy to pack.
- Snorkeling set: Mexico has some incredible snorkeling spots, like Cozumel, which is home to a whopping 262 species of fish, or even cenotes, like Gran Cenote , which offers incredible underwater formations and teeny turtles to swim with, or Cenote Yokdzonot, which has so many fish! If you want to see these creatures up close and personal, bring along your own snorkeling set- while you can sometimes rent them from gear shops, it’s a lot more convenient to just have them on hand already and, to be honest, a bit less gross.
We have this snorkeling set, which we take to all of our tropical vacations, like Hawaii and Costa Rica. It has a dry-top valve on the top of the snorkel that prevents large waves from seeping into your mouth and a lower purge valve to blow out any water that does leak in. 10 out of 10, would recommend!
- Anti-fog spray: So you can actually, you know, see out of your mask- check out this kind.
What Clothes to Pack for Outdoor Adventures in Mexico
Even if you’re mostly headed to Mexico for a beach getaway or a cosmopolitan city vacay, you’re almost certainly going to be getting up to other adventures, like climbing ruins, hiking, or ATVing- and if you’re not, you’re seriously missing out!
Pack stuff that you can comfortably move in, you marginally feel cute in, even if you’re sweating your butt off, and helps you stay safe during your Mexico adventures.
- Athletic shorts: Most of Mexico is hot and, if you’re hiking or climbing, you’ll be even hotter (and thus, sweatier). Bring along some moisture-wicking shorts- I have a couple pairs, like these, and Justin has a cult-like love for these and these shorts.
- Tank tops: If you’re minimalist travelers like us, it’s awesome to find versatile articles of clothing that you can wear for multiple purposes. You can throw a tank top, like this, over a swimsuit, wear it on a hike, or pair it with a skirt to go out to dinner.
- Sports bra: If you’re gonna do Indiana Jones-esque things like climbing ancient temples, your boobs should be good and supported. I’d recommend bringing along a couple, like this one or this one, that provide enough support for intense activities but are cute enough that you can wear them on their own, like for a yoga class on the beach.
- Hiking boots: Mexico has sooooo many cool hikes, like the Xinantecatl Volcano or Iztaccihuatl Volcano hikes (so fun fact- Mexico is filthy with really, really cool volcanoes).
You should definitely plan ahead to scale that mountain, canyon, or volcano and bring along some hiking boots that provide solid ankle support and additional traction on slippery surfaces.
Justin and I swear by our Topo Athletic hiking boots (which, in my opinion, are the best vegan hiking boots)- they’re the perfect hiking boots for minimalist travelers, given how lightweight they are, weighing in at just 13.1 ounces per boot! This makes them super packable- just tie them onto your backpack and go.
They’re also waterproof, which is handy for hikes with waterfalls or water crossings, like the hike to the Yelapa waterfalls. Plus they have excellent traction- whether you’re on a patch of ice on a mountaintop 14,000 feet in the air or hiking on slippery rocks to a hot spring. These are the boots I own and love and these are the ones Justin rocks.
- Baseball hat: Keep the sun- and sweat- out of your eyes with a good ol’ fashioned baseball hat.
- Hiking sandals: During our last trip to Mexico I only brought two pairs of shoes- my Topo hiking boots for more rugged trails and hiking sandals for literally everything else.
They’re seriously SO convenient- you can wear them as water shoes, while you’re checking out a cenote or hot spring, while exploring the site of an ancient ruin, or even with a cute outfit to go out to dinner.
I love my Tevas and Justin is very fond of his as well.
- Raincoat and umbrella: This is just straight up practical- Mexico certainly gets its fair share of rain, and when it rains, it seriously POURS.
Come prepared- here’s a solid rainjacket for women and men and a convenient travel umbrella that’s super easy to toss into your daypack.
What to Pack for Mexico Cities
Did you know that the most popular tourist destination in the country is actually Mexico City? This sprawling metropolis and the magical little towns that dot the surrounding mountains of Central Mexico, like San Miguel de Allende or Guanajuato, are some of the most popular destinations in all of Mexico and experience weather that’s commonly referred to as “eternal spring.” Basically, expect cooler, springlike temperatures, regardless what time of the year you visit.
So consider packing:
- Comfy shoes: If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend a ton of time walking around the city so be sure to bring shoes that won’t be killing you by the end of the day. In addition to all that walking, Mexico has lots of cobblestone streets and significant cracks in the sidewalks, due to active fault lines in the country, making it essential to have a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
I love my Tevas (here are a pair for men), because I can wear them with practically anything without my feet getting tired or sore. If you’re not a sandals fan or you’re visiting one of the “eternal spring” cities in winter, I’d recommend bringing along a pair of sneakers, like the beloved Stan Smiths (for men and for women).
- Security bags: Pickpocketing and petty theft are common crimes no matter where you go, so why not get a bag that helps you feel more secure?
This crossbody purse or this daypack are each big enough to hold items like a water bottle and camera and have a ton of security features including slash-resistant fabric, lockable zippers, and a way to fasten the bag to a secure object, like a chair or table leg, so it can’t be stolen.
Other than that, what you wear is largely going to depend on what city you’re visiting and the time of year.
For summer in the eternal spring cities, for the ladies, I’d recommend bringing along a flowy dress or skirt (I have this dress in three different colors- it’s SUPER comfortable and looks great in photos!), leggings, and a sweater or cardigan to throw on top of your outfit at night.
For the fellows, I’d recommend bringing along some nicer t-shirts and a button-down shirt and pants that can be dressed up or down (Justin has this pair of pants and wears them everywhere, from going on hikes to fancy dinners).
In the wintertime, you’ll want to wear sweaters (women’s and men’s) and pants (women’s and men’s) during the day, but at night, you’ll likely need an actual winter coat (women’s and men’s) and even a beanie to keep your noggin warm.
Again, friendly reminder to research the cities that you’re going to ahead of time and packing accordingly!
Tech Gear to Pack for Mexico
- GoPro: Whether you’re ziplining, snorkeling, or jumping into cenotes, GoPros are so awesome. These little waterproof cameras take killer videos; have neat features, like in-camera stabilization; and can quite literally fit in your pocket. Amazing!
We also have this GoPro accessories kit, which is way cheaper than just buying the accessories a la carte and we use many of the accessories all the time, like the floating handle and the car mount.
The last time we went to Mexico, it was specifically to get certified to scuba dive and, since the GoPro is only waterproof up to 33 feet, we also picked up this protective housing for our dives. If you plan on diving, I’d recommend picking one up too- we got some really cool footage that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, including some of the sea creatures we saw, like a barracuda and sea turtle.
- International charger: While Mexico uses the same standard North American outlet as we do in the United States, Justin and I always pack an international charger whenever we pack for Mexico- or really, any other country. Why?
Because between the two of us, we have a bajillion electronics (two camera, two cellphones, two laptops… I could go on), which can make trying to figure out where to plug everything in- especially in old buildings in Mexico, which tend to have limited outlets- way more stressful than it should be.
This international charger allows us to charge our menagerie of electronics wherever we are in the world, with a whopping four USB ports.
- Mobile router: Depending on your home country, your cell phone carrier and plan, and where you’re going in Mexico, your regular ol’ cell phone may receive just fine cell service while you’re abroad. The last time we were in Mexico, Justin and I, loyal T-Mobile customers, received pretty excellent service all throughout the Yucatan, without paying a dime more than our normal monthly bill.
That being said, these perks mostly just apply to travelers from the U.S. and the data you’re provided under these plans is usually quite limited. So it’s handy to bring a mobile router along, which you can use as a WiFi hotspot, and get decent internet (and as much as you want) anywhere with cell signal.
In fact, you can even buy a SIM card ahead of time, so you can skip the long lines at the airport and get on to enjoying your vacation that much faster.
- Power bank: We’ve all been there- it sucks when your cell phone is about to die, especially when you’re in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and aren’t totally sure how to get back to your accommodations. Always bring along charging cables and a power bank and your cell phone will never die on you again!
- Photography gear: Between its lush forests, dramatic beaches, and colorful cities, Mexico is an absolute dream for photographers. While most cell phone cameras these days take totally legit photos, consider investing in a better digital camera if you’re looking to kick up your photo game.
Justin and I have this mirrorless camera (you can read my review of the Sony Alpha 7 III here), which we pair with a wide-angle lens for landscape shots and this zoom lens for wildlife shots. I’m not going to lie- photography stuff is definitely pricey, but having nice gear has changed our lives in so many ways and has allowed us to capture magical memories we otherwise may not have been able to.
We also take our Peak Design tripod with us wherever we go, from hiking to, of course, trips to Mexico. It’s incredibly lightweight, packs down the size of a water bottle, and has tons of neat features, like a hidden cell phone mount. If, however, you’re not quite at the stage where you’re keen to spend hundreds of dollars on a tripod, these little cell phone tripods work great too.
Odds and Ends to Pack for Mexico
- Binoculars: Certain parts of Mexico are excellent for wildlife viewing, like the Yucatan peninsula or Chiapas for monkeys or Baja California for whales. If you’re traveling somewhere with an abundance of wildlife, binoculars can be key to actually spotting those elusive animal friends out in the wild.
- Refillable water bottle and a filter: The water is not safe to drink anywhere in Mexico without additional filtration- and you’re going to need as much hydration as possible, thanks to the hot Mexican sun. But imagine how much plastic would be wasted if you had to only drink water out of plastic bottles during the entire time in Mexico?
Be a friend to the planet and bring along a large refillable water bottle and a water filter– we take this one camping, because it only weighs- wait for it- TWO OUNCES! Alternatively, this Grayl water bottle is an all-in-one solution to filter and drink the good stuff.
- Sunscreen: While skin protection is rad, protecting that luscious skin while also protecting our oceans and Mexico’s 65 species of coral is even radder. Slather yourself up with this reef-safe sunscreen– and bonus, it literally smells like a tropical vacation in a bottle.
- Bug spray: I underestimated how bad the mosquitoes were in Mexico- they’re like tiny flying ninjas specifically designed to attack you and leave you with itchy red welts all over your legs and ankles. Ain’t nobody got time for that while in Mexico- come armed and ready to do battle.
- Anti-diarrheals: Listen, there’s literally a phrase coined specifically for getting diarrhea in Mexico- Montezuma’s Revenge. ‘Nuff said.
- First aid kit: As mentioned above, you’re going to be a freaking scuba diving, ziplining, cliff-diving adventure machine while you’re in Mexico- it’s a good idea to have some bandaids, gauze, and antibacterial wipes on hand, just in case one of your adventures go slightly awry.
- Dramamine: Going on a boat, like a whale watching cruise or whale shark snorkeling tour? Dramamine can help you actually enjoy your activity of choice instead of fighting back the urge of losing your tacos to the sea.
And on that note, I hope you have a bit of a better idea of what to pack for Mexico. Do you have any questions about your Mexico packing list? Let me know in the comments below!