Turtle swimming off the Caribbean coast in Mexico

The Ultimate Packing List for Mexico (Exactly What You Need to Bring)

Your plane tickets are bought, your hotel is booked, and now all that’s left is to figure out the perfect packing list for Mexico.

Mexico is an incredibly diverse country with many regions and climates, and so if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of packing for your trip to Mexico, that’s totally understandable. There’s just so much to consider!

Fortunately, no matter where you’re planning to do in Mexico – visiting the beach, city, mountains or desert — there is a specific packing list for you.

I recently spent over a month traveling in Mexico and learned very quickly what in my backpack was extremely useful, and which items were dead weight.

So, to help you pack only the most useful items, this packing guide for Mexico will cover clothing customs, packing lists for different scenarios, what not to bring, and (of course) my recommended Mexico packing list!

But, before we get into the nitty-gritty of what to bring, let’s first consider the climate:

What Are the Different Climates in Mexico?

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Kukulkan pyramid in Chichen Itza at sunset, Mexico

Due to the Tropic of Cancer dividing Mexico into Temperate and Tropical zones, the climate of Mexico is quite varied across the board. In fact, they have seven unique climates – so your precise packing list for Mexico is definitely going to depend a bit on where in Mexico you plan to travel!

For the sake of brevity, I’ve lumped the climates into three main groups, based on the uniqueness of each.

Packing for the specific climate and season in which you visit Mexico is essential in keeping you comfortable and prepared on your trip. In fact, adjusting to the climate is one of our most important travel tips for Mexico.

So let’s break down the climate in Mexico’s three main geographic regions:

Mexico Climate #1 – Coastal Climate

Mexico has several different coastlines. In the East, you have beautiful peaceful destinations like Tulum’s beaches, plus a strip of coast along the Gulf (though fewer people travel there). The western Pacific coast is a bit more rugged.

Both have distinct dry and wet seasons, so let’s break down how to pack for Mexico for each:

Rainy Season on Mexico’s Coasts

Whether you head east or west, you can expect the Mexican coast to be hot and humid.

However, visiting between May and October means you’ll be traveling in the rainy season, during which time you can expect higher humidity and temperatures than in the winter. That can make exploring Mayan ruins in Tulum or Chichen Itza a bit of a challenge if you’re not dressed properly.

While daily rains are normal during this season, they usually only last for a short amount of time.

It’s important to remember that the rainy season also means hurricane season. While the chance of encountering a hurricane is slim, it’s still something to keep in mind if you travel to the coast in summer.

In this season, pack light clothing so that you don’t overheat.

And don’t forget your travel umbrella!

Dry Season on Mexico’s Coasts

On the opposite end of the stick to Mexico’s rainy season is the dry season. The dry season runs from November through April and generally coincides with tourism high time.

The temperatures during this season tend to still be warm, but with less humidity.

How to pack for Mexico

Mexico Climate #2 – Desert

Much of Northern Mexico, consisting of areas such as Baja California, Western Sonora, and Central Plateau, experience a desert climate.

This climate can further be classified into arid and semi-arid.

In this climate, there is often sweltering dry heat during the day and chilly temperatures at night. If you experience this area during the winter, you can even expect frost.

Mexico Climate #3 – Mountains

Due to the high elevation, mountainous inland regions tend to be much more temperate than their coastal and desert counterparts.

In areas such as Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende, it’s even common to experience freezing temperatures in the winter.

Packing List for Mexico – Beaches

Packing list for Mexico's beaches
Mexico’s beaches are gorgeous

Waterproof Phone Case

Rice should be for eating, not for having to stick your phone in after a plunk in the ocean. This universal waterproof phone case is perfect for keeping your phone safe and dry.

Dry Bag

Speaking of keeping your stuff dry, packing along a dry bag is essential for any water-based activities you do. This one by Earth Pak is my personal go-to!

2-3 Swimsuits

2-3 Swimsuits – Chances are, if you go to the beach, you’ll be needing a swimsuit. Bring along two or three so you always have a dry one. These men’s trunks and this women’s suit have been tried and tested.

Quick Drying Towel

Microfiber towels are perfect for the beach and a must for any Mexico packing list. While they feel a bit weird, you’ll never have to stuff a soggy one into your bag.

Reef Safe Sunscreen

Sunscreen at the beach is a given, but in order to protect the Mexican coral reefs from toxic chemicals and potential bleaching, packing the reef-safe kind is a must.

This goes for swimming in cenotes too!

Sunhat or Ball Cap

A ball cap is an essential item no matter where you travel. However, if sun hats are more your thing, then this panama hat should do the trick.

Beach Coverup

For the ladies out there, or for anyone feeling especially stylish, a beach coverup is a great thing to add to your packing list for Mexico for warding off a burn when not in the water.

Long-Sleeved Rash Guard

For when you’re in the water, a rash guard will help protect your skin. O’Neill makes excellent rash guards in both men’s and women’s styles.

Leave-in Conditioner

People with long hair can attest, salt-water does nothing for silky locks. This coconut leave-in conditioner is perfect for keeping your tresses healthy after a dip in the ocean.

Sea-bands

If you’re at all prone to seasickness, then I highly recommend packing along some sea-bands.  

Water shoes

Whether you’re walking in the ocean, taking a tour through a cave, or swimming at a cenote, water shoes are always a smart thing to pack.

Underwater Camera

The diversity of Mexico’s shores is incredible – in particular, the Yucatan features one of the largest coral reefs in the world. To capture these spectacular underwater moments, bring along an underwater action camera.

What to Pack for Mexico’s Cities

Mexico Packing List Guide

Money Belt

If you’re walking around larger cities with cash or other small valuables, I recommend keeping the bulk of it either back at your accommodation or on your body via a money belt.

Slash-Proof Bag

Whether you opt for a cross-body bag or backpack, make your day bag in the city slash-proof. Chances are this will just be an extra precaution, but it’s great for peace of mind and deters pickpockets.

Travel Insurance for Mexico

You never want anything to go wrong on vacation, but it does happen.

That’s why no Mexico packing list is complete without travel insurance for Mexico. You can compare different travel insurance policies (some for as little as a dollar or two a day) over at this nifty site.

Mexico Packing List for Desert Vacations

Coba ruins Mexico
The famous Coba ruins near Tulum

Light Jacket

Believe it or not, your packing list for Mexico should definitely include a jacket if you’re in the mountains or cities.

As mentioned above, the Mexican desert can get chilly in the evenings. I have this light jacket from Columbia and it has never failed me.

Hat & Gloves

More items fit for chilly nights, you won’t regret a hat and gloves.

Sodium Replacement Powder

On the flip side, the desert in Mexico can get super hot during the day. To keep you hydrated and full of electrolytes, I recommend bringing some sodium replacement powder.

Light Clothing

Also for the hot days, I recommend stuffing your backpack with shorts and t-shirts. If you’re worried about getting a sunburn, then get t-shirts a little longer in the arms.

Packing List for Mexico’s Mountains

What to Bring to Mexico

Layers

Evenings and winters in the Mexican mountains tend to get quite chilly. I recommend packing layers that you can add to or take off when the temperature calls for it.

Hiking Boots

These men’s and women’s hiking boots are highly rated.

If you’re in the mountains, chances are you’ll want to find some great views. To do this, I recommend bringing a quality pair of hiking boots and moisture-wicking socks.

Rain Jacket

In the event that it rains, this rain jacket will not only keep you dry, but it will also keep you insulated from any chills.

Items That Belong on All Packing Lists

Water in Mexico

Bug Spray or Mosquito-Repelling Wristbands

Mosquito-born illnesses are a real concern while in Mexico. Don’t risk getting bitten and bring along a bottle of bug spray and some wristbands.

Water purifier

Oftentimes (unless you’re staying on a resort) clean, drinkable water is hard to come by in Mexico. Instead of constantly relying on bottled water, invest in a Life Straw and some water purification tablets.

I have personally used these Aquatabs in Mexico and they worked perfectly.

Water Bottle

This 32oz Nalgene bottle also did me well in Mexico, and it’s a great eco-friendly thing to bring to Mexico.

Clothes

I recommend bringing along enough clothes for 7-10 days, and then simply doing laundry if you find yourself there longer. A few pairs of t-shirts and shorts should suffice, and be sure to bring along enough underwear to last at least a week.

If you tend to sweat a lot, then I recommend that your packing list for Mexico include light and airy, but dark-colored clothing.

Travel Pillow

If traveling to Mexico means a long flight, then a travel pillow is a must. The Trtl Pillow is super supportive and easy to travel with.

If you need a little help deciding which travel pillow to buy, then check out our article on the best travel pillows.

Umbrella

Mexico has a tendency to hit you with some unexpected, yet powerful, showers. The Rain Mate Umbrella is a lightweight option that will keep you dry when the rain comes.

For more options, check out our article on how to choose the best travel umbrella.

Tortuga Backpack

The Tortuga Setout backpack is perfect for travel. Not only is it affordable, it’s highly durable, weather-resistant, and comes in either 35L or 45 L options.

Daybag

For your daily essentials, the Osprey Daylite Daypack is perfect.

If you want to do a little extra research, check out our article on the best travel backpacks on the market.

First Aid Kit

Your packing list for Mexico should definitely include a good first aid kit, including bandages, alcohol wipes, salve, and tweezers. We highly recommend the first aid kits by MyMedic – which they specifically made to keep travelers healthy on the road. Make this a priority in your bag!

Toiletry Bag

I’ve been using this hanging toiletry bag for years. Remember to fill it with your toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, soap, face wash, contact solution, shampoo and conditioner, bug spray, and sunscreen.

That said, if you forget any of these things, you could easily purchase them in Mexico.

Pacsafe

A great thing to bring no matter where you travel, a pacsafe bag will store any of your valuables and secure it to an unmovable item in your accommodations.

Small Lock

For any hostel stays in Mexico, remember to bring a small lock so you can securely store your stuff in the provided lockers.

Flip Flops

Whether you’re at the beach or are just grossed out by your hostel shower, a pair of flip-flops like these is a must on every trip to Mexico.

LED Headlamp

I pack a headlamp every time I go on a trip for nighttime or caving activities. Don’t forget batteries!

Compression Bags

If you want to fit all your clothes into a small bag, then packing them in compression bags will do the trick.

External Charger

Even just a small charger you can carry around in your bag will ensure you always have cell phone juice.

What Shoes to Wear in Mexico

Valladolid Mexico
Valladolid Mexico

No packing list for Mexico would be complete without the proper shoes. But since shoes take up such a big space in your bag, let’s dive into which pairs you need to bring and which you can leave at home:

Shoes For Women

Running Shoes

I personally love these runners from Adidas. They’re perfect for walking around in cities or taking a leisurely hike.

Sandals

These Teva’s are comfortable and will last you for years. I wore them all the time in Mexico.

Shoes For Men

Running Shoes

Whether you’re a hiker, runner, or just out for a walk, these New Balance Men’s Running Shoes are perfect for everyday activities.

Sandals

If you travel to any of the hotter destinations in Mexico, you’ll be living in your sandals. These ones have a sturdy sole and are easy on the wallet.

How to Dress for Various Mexican Activities

What to pack for cenotes in Mexico
Sunbeams penetrating at Ik-Kil cenote inlet opening, Mexico

Museums

Mexican museums tend to be casual, so visiting them in your usual garb is just fine. Just keep in mind that they’re often air-conditioned; so if you tend to get chilly, wear a heavier shirt and long pants.

Beach / Pool

While walking around town in a bathing suit tends to be frowned upon in most areas of Mexico, you can wear your usual swimsuit from home while at the beach or pool.

Markets

The main tip for visiting markets in Mexico is to leave anything expensive or flashy back at your hotel. Markets in Mexico tend to be crowded and overwhelming, so you might be aware if a pickpocket sets their sights on you.

Historic Sites

While not a steadfast rule in Mexico, it’s always smart to dress a little more modestly while visiting historic or religious sites in Mexico. You won’t get shunned if you don’t, but it just shows respect.

Medications to Pack for Mexico

Hierve el Agua
Hierve el Agua, natural rock formations in the Mexican state of Oaxaca

Ibuprofen

A few tablets for just in case should do.

Dramamine

Along with the aforementioned sea bands, some emergency Dramamine is always a good idea for any ocean-based activities.

Charcoal Tablets

You never know when stomach issues will strike. Some activated charcoal tablets or general stomach medicine is always smart to have on hand.

Vaccinations

Not something to pack, but something to consider beforehand.

While not mandatory, it’s recommended to make sure you have your Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Typhoid vaccinations up to date before you travel to Mexico, but this is a conversation to have with your doctor.

What Not to Take to Mexico

Flashy Jewelry – In general, the dress code is very casual in Mexico. While, for the most part, you won’t have to worry about anyone stealing your jewelry off the street, flashing it around will only make you stand out as a tourist and subject you to some sales pitches.

Too Many Warm Clothes – Especially if you visit Mexico in the summer, bringing warm clothes will just be a burden in your backpack.

Take it from someone who brought a pair of jeans to the Yucatan in August – you won’t wear them.

Do You Need Travel Insurance for Mexico?

Scuba diving in Mexico

Whether or not you need travel insurance for Mexico depends on your situation.

If you don’t already have coverage for risky activities on your agenda such as SCUBA diving and kite surfing, then it’s worth looking into but, if not, you could get by with any existing coverage.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not you need insurance, then I suggest pricing out some options over at this site.

You might be surprised that you can find travel insurance for a relatively low price!

***

That’s it for our ultimate packing list for Mexico!

Packing correctly for Mexico will be essential in keeping you safe and comfortable on the road.

If you have any questions, ask away in the comments below!

If you’re going to be traveling in the Yucatan, then check out these guides to Tulum, Valladolid, and beyond:

Safe travels in Mexico!

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