Next stop: Mexico City! Your plane is booked and your bag is packed… or, not quite.
Where to start with what to pack for Mexico City?!
First things first, remember that the weather is pretty dry and temperate with occasional predictable showers — aka some of the best weather on the planet, in my opinion, check it out if you don’t believe me — and the altitude is likely higher than you’re used to (over 2200m).
So…. what should you pack for Mexico City? I’ve put together the ultimate, totally inclusive list of
almost absolutely everything you could possibly need for your trip to Mexico City below.
Don’t stress, if you forget ANYTHING you can find it just fine in Mexico City. Mexico’s capital is modern, and with lots of American stores (even Walmart, if thats your thing).
Whether you’re an obsessive perfectionist packer (like me, no shame) or a last-minute scrambler, have no fears — I’ve got you covered in this Ultimate Mexico City packing list!
First: What to Pack for Mexico City
Things You Might Not Think Of
Unless you’re entirely fluent in Spanish, you’ll want a dictionary (preferably a Mexico-specific version to include very unique local slang). Many college-educated Mexicans speak at least a bit of English, though many people I’ve come across are too shy to do so. Most service workers (bus station attendants, Uber drivers, grocery store checkout clerks) do NOT speak any English. Brushing up on your Spanish will improve your experience, and ensure you’re on the right bus.
While Mexico City is much safer than anyone would have you believe (especially the media, and retirees who spend one week a year in Cabo and think they know ALL about the whole country), petty crime isn’t uncommon. Protect yourself from opportunistic crime by carrying a slashproof bag. I love the Travelon line because they are also tamperproof (little zipper clasps make it impossible for anyone to sneakily slide a hand inside) and lockable, making them the perfect choice for any journey on public transport.
I have the Anti-Theft Classic Light Slim Waist Pack (above), which I’ve converted into a cross-body bag, and I LOVE it! It’s just big enough for my mirrorless camera. I’ve also just bought a slightly bigger bag, the cross-body bucket bag which is perfect for my carry-on item on the plane and fits all my essentials.
I’m a BIG fan of this natural, organic version, as I’m trying to reduce or eliminate the amount of potentially harmful chemicals I put on my skin – the largest organ in my body. Sunscreen is necessary (especially if you’re pale), because even when the weather is cool, the sun is intense. I get a sunburn if I’m walking around Mexico City unprotected, even for an hour or two.
Mexico City is pretty dry, especially when compared to my native state of Michigan, but every now and then a serious shower will strike (including on Day of the Dead). You don’t want to be left unprepared, and for some reason umbrellas seem to be especially difficult to find. Save yourself the sorrow, and wet dripping clothes, and pack a little travel umbrella. If an umbrella isn’t your thing, a light, little rollable rain jacket is great, too.
Mexico City can be noisy at night and into the wee hours of the morning, mainly due to intense, soul-crushing traffic. Long, drawn out honks are not unusual at 4am, and if you’re lucky enough to be around during a holiday, you’ll be blessed by the booms of a cannon. All. Night. Long. Save yourself stress and use ear plugs to avoid an unintentional all-nighter. I like these disposable ones, but have recently switched to these washable/reusable ones.
Especially if ear plugs aren’t your thing (it took me a long time to get used to them), try using soothing music to squelch the exterior noises instead. I’ve heard these Bose noise-canceling headphones are the bomb, but I haven’t been able to justify the expense yet (they’re like the cost of a domestic flight ticket!). The bluetooth ones are especially good for sleeping – no wires yanking out of your phone.
Mexico City is really, really dry. Never in my life have I needed lip balm so badly and so regularly. Pack your favorite, most moisturizing type of balm. I personally always choose Lush, as it is cruelty-free, ethical (no palm oil), and just a high quality product in general. It isn’t in a tube so it doesn’t look like a lipstick and it goes on clear, so it’s a good choice for men, too.
Even if you’re the kind of person who NEVER needs moisturizer on your face or lotion on your body, Mexico City will probably be a first for you. My hands and cuticles crack, and my face dries up and even peels, if I don’t regularly apply a good quality moisturizer (I choose Lush Celestial for the face, and Lush Charity – which supports awesome causes – for the body).
Because of the high altitude and also the dry air, you’ll need to stay on top of hydration. Public drinking fountains aren’t a thing in Mexico City, even in malls or at the airport, so you’ll want to bring your own water bottle. Rather than hurt the environment (and your wallet) by buying individual bottles, try buying one big jug, and leaving it in your hotel room or Airbnb to fill up your water bottle each time before you go out. Sometimes restaurants will fill it up as well, for a small fee (or maybe even free if you ask extra nicely). My favorite water bottle is the kind that collapses and packs flat – no more bulky bottle!
Avoid buying the aforementioned jugs of water altogether, and get your water from the tap! While water in most Mexican cities is SUPPOSEDLY potable, I definitely wouldn’t drink it without purifying/sterilizing it first (and neither do most Mexicans). I’ve even stopped using it to brush my teeth after experiencing repeated stomach bugs. This is my favorite purifier, and it can charge via USB.
Whether you’re locking up your cash and camera in your room (I don’t always trust the provided safe, and sometimes one isn’t even provided), or removing the combo lock to use on your backpack zippers to prevent pickpocketing, this handy device will be SO useful and provide priceless peace of mind. I use the pictured version of the Travelsafe, which is big enough for my camera and money and passport (and could also fit a small ipad). You’ll want a bigger one (like this) or an entire backpack/bag protector (like this) if you plan to put your laptop inside.
Door Stop Alarm
This little guy is perfect if you’re traveling alone and worried about someone illicitly entering your room at night – not every room will have a slide lock or deadbolt. Whenever I travel alone (which is my usual travel setup), I worry about this, sometimes even jumping up in the middle of the night due to a creepy sensation that someone is in my room. I use the model pictured, and it is surprisingly cheap.
Carry-On Size Suitcase or Backpack
While I always prefer to travel carry-on, when I’m arriving to Mexico City it is an absolute MUST! Mexico City is one of the few airports in the world (and the only one that I’ve ever been to) that performs an additional screening of your bag between the time it leaves the compartment on the place to its arrival to the baggage carousel. This means several things: One, you’re going to wait a really long time to get your bag, and end up with a big pack of people trying to get through
purgatory customs. Two, you’re giving airport workers the opportunity to go through your bag unwatched. I have heard so many horror stories of stolen goods, from toiletries to valuables (which you shouldn’t have in your bag anyways) to favorite items of clothing (WTF). Gone forever.
Then: What to Pack for Mexico City
When I take a trip, ESPECIALLY a short or weekend trip, I try to travel as light as possible. That goes double for electronics. I don’t bring my computer, I only bring one camera (either my mirrorless or my GoPro), and I try do as little work-work as possible (and by that I mean emails).
The associated plug types for Mexico are Type A and Type B. For more information on staying safe when using your electrical items in Mexico visit the Electrical Safety First website.
iPhone (or other phone with offline maps)
No matter what phone you bring, please don’t go waving it around at night in a dark alley, leave it sticking out of your backpocket on the subway, or set it on the edge of the table in a busy restaurant. I’ve always felt fine to use my phone for navigation or text on it in public during the day, but don’t go tempting fate or being totally clueless… unless you want to get parted from it, real fast. I usually choose a certified refurbished phone (like the one shown) to save a TON of cash and get the same quality.
I am OBSESSED with my Nikon 1 AW1, which I got about 3 years ago now. It’s waterproof (you can even take it snorkeling without any additional equipment, it’s crazy) and shockproof, and works with 1 Nikkor lenses. Love. Love. Love. This thing is also super light and compact.
I got this one from my sister (we had a VERY nontraditional registry) and I LOVE it! I always like to keep a few memory cards with me on a trip. I’ll use a different one each day… hedging my bets just in case my camera gets stolen. It’s never happened, but you never know! (knock on wood)
If you’re from the US, you do NOT need an adapter for traveling to Mexico City! Yay, one less thing to pack on your trip! If you’re not from the US, you’ll likely need an adapter. I just keep this universal one in my pack – it’s good for all the countries (and I got it for under $10)!
I will not go anywhere, even the grocery store, without my Kindle. The charge lasts forever, it’s lighter than a “real” book, and it has revolutionized the way I feel about waiting. Now, I love long lines (okay that’s a bit facetious) because it gives me the opportunity to catch up on a good read. I thought I’d miss the heft of a book in my hand, the feel of the pages… but honestly, the convenience is SO worth any sacrifice. I read voraciously, and even more now that I have the world’s library at my fingertips. Literally. Plus, with Kindle Unlimited, most the Lonely Planet guides are free! You don’t need a Kindle to take advantage of Kindle Unlimited though, the app is free on phones, tablets, and computers.
Next: What to Pack for Mexico City
Wondering what to wear in Mexico City?
You NEED layers. The mornings (and nights) are so much cooler than the afternoons. You could do a complete outfit change if you’re not prepared with a stashable sweater, and maybe even a scarf and gloves (depending on the season of your visit).
Mexico City feels fairly conservative in terms of clothing, with most people dressing quite modestly and in dark colors. Neon pink tops (unless you’re looking at me), cleavage, and short-shorts are rare in public.
Actually, shorts in general just aren’t common in Mexico City, or central Mexico in general. Especially if you’ll be visiting churches and public buildings, you’ll want to dress respectfully, both for your own comfort and out of consideration for the local culture.
Sorry fellas, this next section is specifically for the ladies. You could definitely adapt it for a masculine wardrobe, though!
What to Wear in Mexico City Packing List
PERFECT For a 3 Day Weekend (Add a few more items for 1 Week)
MEXICO CITY OUTERWEAR
Mexico City is NOT the same weather as Cancun (surprisingly common misconception). It gets COLD most nights in most seasons, so you’ll definitely want at least one coat that can be dressed up.
Boots that are comfortable to walk in
Flats – I’ll always be partial to NUDE flats. They’re a game changer, just try ’em.
MEXICO CITY CLOTHING
1 flowy sweater, easy to roll up and stash in your bag if it gets hot (pictured comes in a bunch of colors)
1 or 2 pair of pants (I like skinny jeans with a bit of stretch or my new travel fave: Canadian-designed, ethically-manufactured dressy sweatpants)
1 or 2 dark blouses (one should be sleeveless and dress-up-able if possible)
1 or 2 long dark t-shirts or tunics (that can be dressed up)
Leggings (to wear with a longer tshirt or blouse)
1 dress (I’m really loving my maxi dress)
Chrysalis Cardi 8 Way Multipurpose Dress/Shirt/Shawl/Scarf – my absolute favorite piece of travel clothing, it’s also responsibly sourced and produced in Canada by Encircled
MEXICO CITY ACCESSORIES
Heavy scarf (though I replace this with the Chrysalis Cardi multipurpose piece worn as a scarf)
Light silk scarf
Stud earrings (the pictured ones are cruelty-free crystal pearls from Swarovski, and cheap!)
Day bag (the pictured Travelon bag is anti-theft and slash-proof)
*I’m not advising that you change your own personal style. However, when I travel somewhere, I like to adapt a bit to the local fashion flavor – not only does it challenge me to be creative, but I feel like less of a tourist and more of a local. I already stand out most places I go, with pale eyes and white-blonde hair. I like to do all that I can to blend in a bit more*
Optional: Athletic Top, Shorts, and Shoes (I do really enjoy my Vibram soles and they’re easy tp [acl) if hiking or taking a day trip to the pyramids outside Mexico City
Finally: What to Pack for Mexico City
Why are toiletries last? Well, because they’re so easy to replace in Mexico City if you forget your stash. There are even a few Lush stores scattered around town (YAY)!
Carry-On Toiletry Bottles
I ONLY travel with carry-on luggage as a serious rule. It saves money, it saves a ton of time (no waiting at the baggage carousel, so you can hightail it to immigration and beat the pack by a long shot), and it keeps me from overpacking. If I travel with any liquid toiletries, though, I always make sure to put them in a carry-on sized tube. These ones are leak proof and cute.
At home, I always use I Love Juicy by Lush. Conveniently, the 100ml bottles are TSA travel approved, so I also bring them for trips. If I’m packing super light or super tight (and I’m worried about a spill), I’ll throw in a solid shampoo bar instead. I also like Lush for this, especially the Godiva bar. If you haven’t tried solid shampoo, you need to. Life changing and better for the environment.
I’ve switched back and forth between Veganese (it’s been said that it smells like dog shampoo) and American Cream. When I travel, I usually bring a solid conditioner bar (I like the Big Solid Conditioner from Lush), because I go through a lot of conditioner, and it tends to leak more than shampoo. Don’t know why.
I could never justify the expense of shaving cream. You’ll know I’ve hit it big and am straight up balling out when you find a can of shaving cream in my shower (it’ll never happen). I’m a regular ol’ bar soap kinda girl, but I do splurge every now and then on body wash, but only if it is Lush Yuzu and Cocoa body wash. Seriously, ANYTHING in that scent, I’d buy it.
I like to go with the higher end of the cheap side of the spectrum. And, did you know that most women’s products are marked up 25% more than the equivalent products marketed for men? Go ahead and buy that green “men’s” razor, the only real difference is the price.
Have you considered going cruelty-free? It’s really not as hard as you might think, and more companies are making the switch to cruelty-free with increased pressure from consumers. Join us, and choose mascara that hasn’t been plunged into the eye of a puppy, lipstick that hasn’t been forced down the throat of a mouse, for no good reason.
I used to use NYX, which is cruelty free, but I found out they’re owned by L’oreal, which definitely isn’t. Any recommendations on a totally cruelty-free brand (bonus points if it uses safe ingredients)? PLEASE let me know! Until then, I have zero specific recommendations for you. In general, I travel with waterproof eyeliner and mascara, a bit of eyeshadow, and maybe blush. That’s it.
Wondering where to stay in Mexico City? Agoda has the widest range of options, at the best prices. Plus, you earn points for free stays on every booking!
**This post contains affiliate links. By purchasing from one of the links, JoyAndJourney will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.**
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Wondering what to DO in Mexico City? Check out my top recommendations for an amazing visit here, or check out Viator for the best-priced, best-quality tours and activities. Airbnb Experiences also has some cool options (adding more all the time).
Want more on Mexico City? Check out all my posts here
Anything I forgot to pack? What is your must-have packing item?
I love this! It’s so useful! I’m going to be in Puebla next month and I’ll be there for ten days. How do you recommend I avoid paying for checked luggage and long wait? I usually subscribe to the ‘carry-on only’ lifestyle, but it’s ten whole days this time. I usually do no more than four days for my carry-on. Do you know of any restrictions on size of purses, maybe?
Hi Yas! Happy it was helpful, and welcome to Puebla – it’s where I live now! Email me if you need any suggestions 🙂
The “personal item” size restriction will be dependent on your airline, I find emailing them usually gets a quick response (unless it’s Copa, don’t hold your breath). I always use my slash proof bag (shown above) as my carryon item and usually put my Kindle, passport, money, small notebook, and camera(s) in there.
I’d recommend packing only what you can fit in your carryon. I either travel with a 40L Kelly backpack or a carry-on maximum duffel, whether I’m traveling for a few days or a few months. For 10 days in Puebla, I’d pack the same as what’s shown in this Mexico City packing list, but maybe add an extra dress (or whatever your clothing preference is) and some yoga pants/workout top if you’re planning on getting your sweat on. Roll everything tightly, as that’ll get you more room.
My general packing list for one week to several month trips is here. One note though, skip the shorts unless they’re for the gym. For whatever reason, basically no one wears shorts in Puebla aside from tourists… except my husband. If you see someone wearing shorts, it’s probably my husband. No joke.
Let me know if you need any help!
This is very helpful! Thank you! I’m planning a long stay in Mexico City in February/March and I will only have a carry on. At that time of year, do you suggest the boots/flats combo? I’ve read a lot of articles and the suggestions range quite a bit from sandals to boots and from coats/layers to light shirts/maxi dresses. Any advice on how to dress in February/March would be greatly appreciated!
I think in Mexico City, you can’t go wrong with flats, ever, no matter the month. I’ll also be there in March (mid-March), and I’ll be packing boots, flats, and lots of layers (mainly pants, leggings, and dresses/tunic tops to go over, along with a cardigan and trench coat). In general, I think Mexicans tend to wear clothes on the colder end of the spectrum (I never, ever see anyone wearing shorts in Central Mexico, and the crowds are usually wearing hats and gloves when I’m wearing a spring jacket, but then again I was born in Michigan), so if you want to blend in that’s another consideration. Even if it feels warm when you leave your Airbnb/hotel/house, bring a cardigan. The weather changes quickly.
It’s cool but dry at that time of year. For March, the temp ranges from 45-75F (not sure if you’re American like me or not but I still can’t do Celsius hahaha) and generally has the lowest precipitation of the year. The colder end of the range will be at night.
It’s almost always sunny, and you’re still at a higher elevation, so even if it feels cold/cool – wear that sunscreen!
Thanks for your help! I really appreciate it. It’s great to be able to talk to someone that lives there.
My boyfriend and I are digital nomads (originally from NYC). I’m trying my hardest to get used to Celsius, haha. We were planning to spend 7 weeks in Central Mexico in February/March and were thinking to split it the time between Mexico City, Puebla, San Miguel de Allende, and Guanajuato. Are there any places that we are missing that we should definitely see? Is there an ideal amount of time to spend in each city? We don’t want to accidentally spend a month in a place that could have been a weekend or vise versa.
Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende are the most expensive of the four (both have the highest rents/hotel costs in the country), so depending on your budget that may factor into things. If it were me, I would spend the most amount of time in Mexico City (there is SO much to do: you could spend your entire 7 weeks there and still run out of time for all the incredible parks, shows, restaurants, museums, etc). From there depending on your interests: SMA has a lot of expats and expat culture, Guanajuato is the smallest, Puebla is known for its food. An itinerary is so personal, I know some people could spend weeks in Puebla, others are set in a weekend.
Are you making time for Oaxaca? I would definitely factor that in (it’s about a 4-hour bus ride from Puebla).
Thanks so much for your advice! This is very helpful. I will make sure to add some time for Oaxaca!
You’re so welcome! Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions at any point 🙂
Love your blog! So helpful AND you’ve introduced me to Encircled clothing (i.e. for the multi-style Chrysalis dress etc…)–thanks!!! Leaving for Mexico City, Puebla & Taxco in 2 days for just 1 week for a group tour. Bringing brown ankle boots (almond toe), flats, Adidas classic sneakers, and a pair of copper 3″ heels for most evenings/dinners/outings. Carry-on and all my day outfits can be switched to evening with a simple change of layer (e.g. shell jacket for a blazer) or addition of some simple accessories. I need to drop a pair of shoes! Any suggestions? I’m presently unsure between black ballet flats vs copper heels since I feel heels dress up everything (bringing a simple black sheath dress and dark skinny jeans as choice for nights). Thanks in advance!
You are so nice! Thanks for making my day 🙂 Encircled is the best and their customer service ROCKS!
I would advise: choose what you love. If you’re a total heels girl and that’s how you feel beautiful, rock the heels. I’ve only worn heels once (in over 2 years of living in Mexico) and I’ve never felt underdressed in flats. Typically, there’s at least a bit of walking involved in any night out (from dinner to drinks, from hotel to dinner, etc etc) and I am not a walking-well-in-heels woman, I feel comfiest and most “me” in flats. You could always message your tour leader and ask if you’re going to be at fancy, heels-suggested dinners? They’d probably have a better idea of what’s appropriate for your specific venues. My guess would be that you don’t NEED the heels, but regardless, if you’re a heels lady, do it!!
Great blog post – thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. One question related to what to wear for a man. I’m not sure if you’ll know but I’m having very little success finding answers online but your blog seems very complete and knowledgeable so I’m hoping you have a thought to share. I’m planning a trip to CDMX that includes attending an opera (I know, I know it sounds snobby but I’ve heard that Palacio de Bellas Artes is amazing and the tickets are so inexpensive). My question: Should I wear a suit and tie? I feel that shorts and jeans are out simply based on it being a nighttime event and wanting to be respectful of the culture.
Oh gosh, I am so sorry but I really don’t know. I would say definitely not shorts (aside from the beach/resort towns, Mexican men never wear shorts. You won’t see them in Central Mexico, including Mexico City, except on tourists/expats), and probably not jeans for the opera.
You could get away with nice dress slacks and a buttoned-shirt, if you don’t want to go full-on suit, I would guess? In general, Mexicans tend to be much dressier than Americans (not sure where you’re coming from?).
Thank you for this blog! My friends and I are going to Mexico to visit my family, we are staying in Mexico City for three days and Hidalgo for three days. We are from the U.S. While in Mexico City we are thinking about going to the post office, belles artes, museum of anthropology, Frida Kahlo museum, and from Hidalgo, we would go to Puebla City. I’ve heard of San Miguel de Allende, Taxco Guerrero, Guanajuato, Nevado de Toluca but I’m not sure which out of all are our best options to maximize our time there and be able to visit with a lot of family. We want to soak up culture and mix it up with other interesting things to do, not exactly touristy things.
Also, we are wondering if it is okay to wear “workout clothes” out and about or would that make us stand out?
Is is safe to go to clubs in Mexico City by ourselves? We are thinking jazz, reggae, hip hop/r&b.
Thank you!!!! 🙂
Hi Juanita! I’m so sorry and I don’t know how I missed this. I’m guessing you’ve already gone on your trip but just in case…
out of the other cities you mentioned, I would recommend Guanajuato (do you mean the state of Guerrero? It’s not very safe right now, outside of Acapulco). San Miguel de Allende is also beautiful but very touristy and expat-y. Taxco is great for jewelry, and Nevado de Toluca is great if you’re into hiking!
People don’t typically wear workout clothes out and about, except for in the parks and at gyms. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but you may stand out as a tourist, especially in museums and restaurants.
Yes, it’s safe to go to clubs! Please be sure to use uber (not a street taxi), especially at night.
How About in Polanco or Condesa? I am a male and like wearing nice jeans and trainers, with polos or nice fitting t-shirts.
Will that look be too casual for Polanco? Is Condesa more casual?
Polanco is a touch more formal (especially the nice restaurants) and Condesa is a bit more casual/hipster for the most part, but what you’ve suggested is totally fine for anywhere. The main recommendation in Mexico City is not to wear shorts – or athletic wear (sweatpants etc), unless you’re going to the gym or the park – unless you want to look like a tourist/foreigner. Which isn’t the end of the world and totally a manner of personal preference (my husband wears shorts without fail, pretty much 24/7, when he’s not working because he doesn’t care). I just really like to blend in 🙂
Jeans and any kind of shirt, especially a nice fitted tee or polo, is perfect.
I absolutely love the LUSH brand, but if you were wondering about other cruelty-free brands (some of them are also vegan), these are the ones I’ve been using (although prepare to pay up a bit more for these): TARTE is my go-to makeup brand for everything (available at Sephora). When I’m short on budget, I go a bit lower end (pharmacy) like E.L.F, Marcelle or Nude by Nature. I also love Besame and the Bodyshop. Check out online – a lot of brands have updated their ways to be cruelty-free and it’s growing. 🙂
Also, heading to Mexico in two weeks and your list is fantastic! I had not thought about bringing moisturizer because of the dry air – adding that to my suitcase! And I did NOT know they do a second screening of your luggage after you’ve landed, WTF? I am bringing only a carry-on, but I will make sure to tell my boyfriend to not put any valuables into his checked-in bag!!
Thanks a mil!
Thank you SO much for these recommendations! And I’m glad my recommendations could help 🙂 hope you have a blast in Mexico City!
I just ran across your post when researching what to pack for travel to Mexico. Thank you so much! This information was really thorough and helpful!! Also, for totally cruelty-free AND safe skincare and makeup, have you checked out Beautycounter? They are Leaping Bunny certified, and have extremely rigorous safety standards. You can check it out here if interested!: https://www.beautycounter.com/kathrynherbst. I’m a consultant and am happy to answer questions if you have any. Thanks again for your travel insight!!