17 Top Mexico Packing List Items + What NOT to bring (2017 Update)

What should I bring on my Mexico trip?

After my extensive travels to Mexico I often get asked, “What should I take on my trip to Mexico?” so I put together this essential checklist.

At the bottom of the page I share, “What NOT to bring to Mexico”, as well as my thoughts on what to wear and FAQs about Mexico travel in general.

In addition to all these physical items definitely make sure to also bring: an open heart & mind, patience, a balanced sense of humor and an adventurous spirit! 🙂

1) Universal Waterproof Phone Case – This case is a MUST if you want to bring your phone to the Mexican beaches, on boats, or anywhere where it can get wet, fall into the water or where it can get damaged by sand. It even makes it possible to take underwater photos and videos (with sound) and it costs less than $10!! Read the reviews on Amazon if you don’t believe us how good it is! 🙂
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2) LifeStraw – If you venture outside of the resorts or anywhere where there isn’t quality bottled water available you’ll need a quality water filter. The most likely way to get sick in Mexico is from drinking unsanitary water and so the LifeStraw is a great little item to bring. It’s small, lightweight and is inexpensive.
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3) Charcoal Tablets – Mexican food is not known to be easy on the stomach, especially if you like it spicy like I do. Even if you take precautions with the food and water you can end up with the dreaded Montezuma’s revenge. If this happens, you will want to have some charcoal tablets with you before it becomes an issue. Taking 2-4 tablets at the first sign of problems will absorb the troublesome pathogens and help you stay healthy on your trip.
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4) Travel Insurance – Heading overseas without travel insurance is never a good idea and Mexico is no exception. Make sure you are covered in the event of illness, accident or theft. I recommend World Nomads as they covered my $4000 medical bills when I broke both of my wrists falling from a bike in Canada. When something goes wrong you seriously do not want the financial headache in addition to an already stressful situation. Travel insurance is one of those things you simply cannot afford not to have.
View their plans at WorldNomads.com ➜

5) Lonely Planet Mexico – It’s always a good idea to keep a guidebook handy. Having quick and easy access to maps, advice and places to see, eat and sleep can save a lot of time and stress on a trip. Looking through a guidebook can give you all the inspiration and information you need to have an enjoyable trip. The book will also give you a lot of useful safety advice and tips for your trip.
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6) Spanish Phrasebook – Unless you already speak Spanish, having a travel oriented phrase book is a must while travelling in Mexico. While in resorts you may be able to get by in English, it won’t be long before you run into someone who responds with a blank stare. Mexicans will also appreciate an attempt at the local language even if they do speak english.

Study the book and learn the basics, being able to say hello, please and thank you is a start but being able to have everyday interactions such as ordering food, checking into a hotel or asking for directions will make your time in Mexico a lot easier.
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7) Bug Repellent – The mosquitos in Mexico can be a problem, especially after heavy rain. Bug repellent can prevent anything from itchy bites to serious disease. The most common and effective type of bug spray is DEET, which is safe to use for most people in the quantities required for Mexico. Organic bugs sprays are available for those who prefer not to use DEET.
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8) Packing Cubes – A great way to keep your backpack or suitcase organised. Just pack your cubes as you would organise your drawers at home and you will be able to find anything you need in an instant without making a mess of everything you have in your bag.
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9) Travel Laundry Bag – A good travel laundry bag can really come in handy as your trip progresses. Being able to keep your dirty clothes separate in a waterproof sealed bag will mean the clothes you have not worn yet will stay as fresh as when you packed them. When the bag is full simply take it to a place with laundry service.
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10) Affordable Underwater Camera – If you want to take quality underwater photos (and don’t want a more expensive GoPro) then this is a great little camera that won’t break the bank. With the beaches, the turtles, the rain forests and the waterfalls, there are plenty of things you’ll be dying to take pictures of in Mexico. But all of these activities require a camera that is waterproof and that’s why I recommend this little beauty!
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11) Sunglasses: Womens & Mens – A big draw of Mexico is the weather. If you are heading there you are probably looking forward to catching a bit of sun and you probably don’t want to spend your entire trip squinting. Make sure to pack a pair of sunglasses for your comfort and make sure they have UV protection to prevent damage to your eyes.
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12) Flip Flops: Womens & Mens – Whenever you are heading to a warm country it’s always good to carry a good pair of flip flops. There’s little worse than getting a shoe full of sand from a walk on the beach and they can also double up as shower shoes. Flip flops also take up very little room compared to most footwear.
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13) Day Backpack – Being able to carry around all you need for a day trip is important. Even just a day on the beach requires you to take at least towels, sunscreen and water. A day at one of the sights such as Chichen Itza or the ruins at Tulum will require taking along a few supplies, having a comfortable backpack makes it easy. Just save a little room if you have a habit of buying souvenirs.
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14) Rain Jacket: Womens & Mens – While the weather is often quite sunny in Mexico, when it rains it really comes down. A thunderstorm can interrupt the nicest of days in Mexico at a moment’s notice. The blue sky quickly shifts to grey and the heavens open. You will not regret packing a lightweight rain jacket if you get caught in one of the sudden storms, it does not need to be warm as it tends to stay humid, just waterproof.
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15) Hiking Shoes: Womens & Mens – Mexico isn’t all pools and beaches, some days you will find yourselves exploring cities or trekking around Mayan ruins. Taking a good pair of walking shoes will allow you to do a range of activities that just wouldn’t work in flip flops or heels. Ventilated shoes are good for the heat in Mexico but may be a problem if the rain starts.
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16) Passport Holder – Passports can be a massive hassle to replace, especially while abroad, so it makes sense that you would keep it safe. Keep it in a strong passport holder separate to your wallet. Perhaps keep a spare ATM card with the passport and store it in a safe place during your trip. This way, if a thief targets your cash, you don’t also lose your passport and you are not left without money.
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17) Mexican Power Adapter – The Mexican power outlet is the same as the US and Canada, but if you are coming from a place that has a different type you will need an adapter to charge all your electronics.
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Other packing list items for Mexico


What to wear in Mexico

1) Lightweight airy clothes.
2) Keep swimwear solely for the beach or pool.
3) If you are planning to visit conservative parts of rural Mexico dress modestly.
4) Flip flops for the beach destinations but comfortable walking shoes for cities.
5) Buses, malls and hotels can have overzealous air conditioning, it’s worth having a sweater or pashmina at hand.
6) Parts of Mexico can experience heavy rain usually for short periods of time, so it’s worth having a raincoat.
7) Jeans are still very popular in Mexico, in the winter it’s much cooler in the mornings and evenings.
8) Handbags should be worn across the body rather than off the shoulder to deter bag snatchers.

What NOT to take to Mexico

1) 🚫 DON’T BRING unnecessary electronics. You do not want to be burdened with too many electronics on your trip to Mexico. Most people head to Mexico to relax. I’d recommend leaving anything you can survive happily without at home.
2) 🚫 DON’T TAKE large amounts of cash. Gone are the days where you had to carry around large amounts of cash in Mexico. Many places accept credit card and there are ATMs in most of the places you will need them. Pickpocketing can still be a problem so try just carry what you will need for the day.
3) 🚫 DON’T PACK too many warm clothes. While it’s worth taking at least one warm outfit with you, any more is overkill. Pack for heat and maybe wet, but not too much for cold.
4) 🚫 DON’T BRING fruits. Many types of fruits are illegal to bring into Mexico. If you are the type to pack snacks, make sure to leave fruits at home or you could face a large fine from customs.
5) 🚫 DON’T TAKE heavy books. While you may want a book or two to read at the beach if you have not made the move to an ereader, books can easily become more of a pain to carry around than they are worth. Think about how long you are going for and how much you will read.
6) 🚫 DON’T PACK valuables. In an unfamiliar country you do not want to be worrying about losing you valuable possessions. Make sure to only take valuable you need and keep them as secure as possible.
7) 🚫 DON’T BRING expensive jewelry. You do not want to draw attention to yourself as an easy target for thieves. Leave any expensive jewellery at home. Same with anything sentimental and anything you cannot easily replace on travel insurance.
8) 🚫 DON’T TAKE everyday supermarket items. Mexico has large supermarkets with many of the things you would find back home. Don’t worry too much about everyday items, you will be able to pick them up when you are there.

FAQ’s about travel in Mexico

1) Is the tap water drinkable?

As a general rule NO. It’s advisable to stick to bottled water that is inexpensive at supermarkets and local shops. Always ask if the ice is safe to drink and if you are unsure, just go for bottles. Or, as mentioned above, check out the LifeStraw.

2) Will the locals speak English?

Anywhere near a tourist resort you will find a high number of English speakers. However, not everyone you encounter will speak English. It’s worth keeping a notepad and your guidebook with you and your hotel’s business card to give to the taxi driver so they know where you are going. A basic knowledge of Spanish will put you at an advantage but if it comes to it, there is usually someone around who can help out.

3) Will I need to tip?

Mexico has tipping customs similar to the US. A 15% tip is adequate for good service in a restaurant. However it is often already included in the bill under “propina”, be careful to look for that if you do not wish to tip twice. Young people packing bags in supermarkets do not get a wage, so it’s customary to tip them anything from 10 pesos (around $0.50). Other service providers such as tour guides and shuttle drivers should be tipped as you see fit. Musicians will often have a tip jar on stage or passed around, so don’t forget to throw in a little if you are enjoying their music.

4) Are there places that are not safe to go?

Yes, some Mexican states are simply not safe or tourists. The US State department has a good guide state by state guide advising precautions for traveling in Mexico. Caution should be taken when leaving tourist areas especially at night. Within the tourist centers it is mainly pickpockets or muggers to be cautious of, but still take precautions.

5) Can I use US Dollars in Mexico?

As a rule you should try to use only Mexican pesos. Many places may advertise in USD or state that they take it but it is unlikely you are getting a favourable rate or will be simply overcharged. ATM’s are common and almost always work with international cards, there is little advantage to taking large amounts of US dollars with you to Mexico.

6) What is the best way to get around?

For the budget conscious with a sense of adventure the local buses are usually a good option. For local buses try keep some loose change and research which buses you need to take. The intercity buses are much easier and can be booked online or at local bus stations or ticket agents.

Taxi’s can be inexpensive for short journeys. Always agree a fare or insist on using the meter if it has one. If you don’t speak Spanish it’s usually easier to get a taxi from a rank as there will usually be an English speaker around. If you are leaving from your hotel, ask the reception to call you a taxi as they will know a safe, reliable firm.

For larger distances it’s often easier to fly, Mexico has a large network of domestic flight routes.

7) Can I drive while in Mexico?

Yes, carry your licence at all times when driving in Mexico. Local liability insurance is necessary and should be included in any rental car agreement. US or foreign auto insurance will not cover you in Mexico.

Take care when driving through towns for pedestrians and animals. Road markings are not as visible after dark so do not plan on driving far if you are not confident. If someone starts flashing their lights at you, they want to overtake. Slow down at police huts, they will usually wave you through, but may have a couple of questions. Watch out for topes , Mexico’s evil speed and barely visible bumps, learn what they look like, they are not always sign posted.

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