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 amazing. I honestly would not go to the beach or poolside without it. Everyone is aware that getting your phone wet is a “no no” but few people realize how even a little bit of sand can really mess up your phone’s camera. Sadly, I experienced this first hand when sand granules scratched my lens. 🙁

This super affordable little case also allows you to still use your phone’s touchscreen and takes killer underwater photos and videos with sound.
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2) Affordable Underwater Camera – This little camera takes really great underwater photos and won’t break the bank. It is safe for snorkeling and diving up to 30 ft and also works well as a dry land point and shoot.

Unless you are heading to Mexico for a photography trip I don’t recommend hauling around your giant SLR simply because you won’t want it to get damaged or stolen. This underwater camera is a great compromise, and you don’t have to worry if your friend accidently spills their sangria on it! 🙂
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3) Flotation strap – If you’re going to bring your waterproof phone case or underwater camera into the ocean don’t forget to bring one of these! This way if you accidentally let go while snorkeling your iPhone won’t drop to the bottom of the sea!
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4) LifeStraw – Getting food poisoning from consuming bad food or water in Mexico is pretty common. If you venture outside of the resorts or anywhere where there isn’t safe bottled water available you’ll need a quality water filter. The most likely way to ruin your vacation is from drinking unsanitary water, so the LifeStraw is a great little item to bring. It’s small, lightweight and is inexpensive.
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5) 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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6) 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 ➜


7) Mesh Slip On Water Shoes: Women’s and Men’s – Hiking in Mexico can be epic, especially to places like Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve. It might be tempting to skip hiking shoes to save space in your bag, but having water friendly walking shoes will make your hikes much more comfortable and enjoyable. To handle the rain and mud, look for shoes that are waterproof, like these styles from Merrell.

You can also use these shoes on the beach or to walk to and from your hotel. They are a great buy all around.
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8) Swimsuit cover-up – Although it is fine to wear your bikini at a Mexican Beach or around the resort, unless you want a whole lot of unwanted attention, it’s not the best idea to stroll around the markets or head to the store without covering up. A good swimsuit cover up is a must have!
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9) Leave-in hair conditioner – No doubt you’ll be spending plenty of time at the beautiful beaches of Mexico. But too much sun and saltwater will wreak havoc on your hair. The solution is to use this leave-in conditioner which will protect your hair from the elements and prevent it drying out too much. Simply apply it at the end of your beach days.
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10) Daypack – A quality daypack is a must if you’re going to go any hikes in Mexico. A lightweight daypack like this one is a good choice for carrying all your hiking needs, such as a camera, rain jacket, snacks, and water.
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11) Virtual Private Network (VPN) – If you ever use a WiFi while traveling such as at an airport, restaurant, vacation rental or hotel then you’re potentially putting your online security at risk. I learned this the hard way in a Paris Airbnb where I had my credit card number stolen after using what I thought was a safe WiFi connection.

With a quality VPN such as Nord VPN you instantly protect your sensitive data on all devices with just one click. Also, it’s really affordable so I highly recommend you check it out before going to Mexico.
View NordVPN.com Options ➜


12) Beach bag – Whether you are poolside at a Mexican resort or soaking up the sun at one of the amazing local beaches you will definitely want a beach bag. This one is lightweight and won’t take up much room in your main luggage, but it’s plenty big enough to hold a towel, snacks, and other beach necessities. It’s also waterproof, cute, and super easy to clean.
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13) Sea Bands – If you suffer from sea sickness or motion sickness then this little invention is a godsend. They work by simply applying some pressure to the pressure point on your wrist which has been shown scientifically to restore the balance in your body.
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14) Packing cubes – A great way to keep your backpack or suitcase organized. Just pack your cubes as you would organize 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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15) Reef Safe Sunscreen! – If you want to spend your Mexico vacation adventuring and not nursing a painful sunburn, you absolutely need to pack sunscreen. But I urge you to PLEASE only use “reef safe sunscreen” that is safe for the reefs and wildlife too. Scientific studies have actually shown that the oxybenzone-based chemicals in normal sunscreen destroys the coral reef! Please help Mother Nature out by using a very effective, yet gentle, sunscreen.
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16) Deet-Free Insect repellent – Mosquito borne illnesses are still a problem in Mexico. You’ll want to protect yourself against bites. Pack some deet-free insect repellent (being natural also helps protect coral from harmful chemicals), and be especially vigilant about applying if you’re going hiking in the jungles.
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17) 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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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 favorable 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 to 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 on 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 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 an extensive 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. The 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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