What to Pack for Mexico City (AND Bonus: What to Wear in Mexico City)

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 just 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 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-minukte 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

 

Spanish-English Dictionary

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.

Slashproof bag

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 (pictured to the left) which is perfect for my carry-on item on the plane and fits all my essentials.

 

Sunscreen

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.

Umbrella

Mexico City is pretty dry, especially when compared to my native state of Michigan, but every now and then a serious shower will strike. 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.

Ear Plugs

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.

Headphones

Especially if ear plugs aren’t your thing (I actually don’t really enjoy them, and use them only in crazy noisy circumstances), 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 pictured here are especially good for sleeping – no wires yanking out of your phone.

 

Lip Balm

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 works for men too (my husband loves Lush lip balm).

 

Moisturizer/Lotion

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 (again, I choose Lush Celestial for the face, and Lush Charity – which supports awesome causes – for the body).

Water Bottle

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!

Water Purifier

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.

Travel Safe

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
Electronics

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).

iPhone (or other phone with offline maps)

No matter what phone you bring, please don’t go waiving 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 always choose a certified refurbished phone (like the one shown) to save a TON of cash and get the same quality.

Camera

I am OBSESSED with my Nikon 1 AW1, which I got about 2 years ago now. It’s waterproof (you can even take it snorkeling) and shockproof, and works with 1 Nikkor lenses. Love. Love. Love. This thing is also super light and compact.

Memory Card

I got this one from my sister for a wedding gift (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)

Adapter

If you’re from the US, you do NOT need an adapter! Yay, one less thing to pack! 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)!

Kindle

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
Clothing

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. The only person in Central Mexico I know who wears shorts is my husband. 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

 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

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 FAVE: 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 absolutely favorite piece of travel clothing, it’s also responsibly sourced and produced in Canada

 

 MEXICO CITYACCESSORIES

Heavy scarf (replace this with the Chrysalis Cardi multipurpose piece)
Light silk scarf
Stud earrings (the pictured ones are cruelty-free crystal pearls from Swarovski, and cheap!)
Dangly earrings
Statement necklace
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*

Pajamas

Optional: Athletic Top, Shorts, and Shoes (I LOVE my Vibram soles) if hiking or taking a day trip to the pyramids outside Mexico City


 

Finally: What to Pack for Mexico City
Toiletries

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.

Shampoo

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.

Conditioner

I’ve switched back and forth between Veganese (I love it, but my husband thinks 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 used to go through so much conditioner (before I chopped my hair for Locks of Love), and it tends to leak more than shampoo. Don’t know why.

Soap

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.

Razor

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.

Makeup

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 cruelty free brand? 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! The latest deals:


 

 

**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

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2 Comments

  1. Yas
    July 13, 2017 / 8:07 am

    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?

    • July 13, 2017 / 11:37 am

      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!

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