What to pack for Mexico City, hmm? Well, obviously three bikinis and your “suns out, guns out” muscle tee because Mexico, right? Psych! It’s that kind of naïveté, I mean ego, that makes traveling the world a real adventure, I mean shitshow.
If you’ve never been to Mexico City, I can tell you right now that what you should actually pack is probably not what you think you should pack. Leave behind your thongs, your beer bongs, and your beach sarongs and bring along your light jackets, your ibuprofen packets, and, a sports bra? Yeah, go ahead and pack it.
This post was originally published in April 2018 but has been completely updated for 2020.
What to pack for Mexico City
Mexico, the country, is mucho, mucho grande and Mexico, the city, is pretty close to the center of it. No beaches, no turquoise water, no body shots. (Probably?) Also, Mexico City is 7,382 feet above sea level and though you’re closer to the sun, yes, for some reason it’s always colder up there. Thanks for nothing, physics.
Lacking the white sandy beaches and tropical temps you may associate with “Mexico,” what to pack for Mexico City is more along the lines of what you’d pack for a trip to a cosmopolitan metropolitan like New York City or Rome.
In this post I’ll cover all of what to pack for Mexico City—after two trips in less than six months I’ve almost figured it out; third time’s the charm, muchachos—and let you know what you’re better off just buying there, dispel some ridiculous rumors, and tell some haters to go suck it, so read on!
What to pack for Mexico City: Apparel
Okay, so Mexico City may not have the tropical, Caribbean climate one might associate with Mexico but it does know a thing or two about Kate Middleton-levels of consistency and pleasantness. Clearly, it’s never a bad time to visit Mexico City.
What to pack for Mexico City: Tops
Yes, you’re going to want to pack tops to wear. Remember, this is not Spring Break Cancun circa 1998. I’m not going to tell you what tops to bring because I don’t know you all that well nor your preferences for above-the-waist clothing.
I won’t tell you to pack tank tops—what if you’re oddly self-conscious about your shoulders or hairy armpits? I won’t tell you to pack a nice blouse—because what if you don’t like polyester and ruffles? Not to mention, I never say the word ‘blouse’ when I’m not pretending to be a character from Golden Girls. What I will tell you is what I, myself, packed and give you some tips as to why.
I was in Mexico for a total of eight days that included both Mexico City and 2 days in San Miguel de Allende. You may or may not need as many items as I packed, obviously.
Because I got my armpit hair removed via laser so tank tops all day, I say! I tend to gravitate towards solid colored, super basic, comfortable tank tops mostly from Old Navy because I’m the laziest shopper (and dresser for that matter) who prefers her clothing in the single-digit price range.
For sleeping in, wearing on the bus trips, and the one I wore on the plane to and fro.
A couple of “nicer” shirts
Maybe you’d call them “blouses”; maybe you aren’t in the midst of your golden years? Mexico City isn’t all street food and roadside cantinas–you may find yourself needing to look clean and decent for dinner one night. (I’ve since upgraded and now I get all my “nice” clothes from Lulus. See? Maturity.)
If you’ll be visiting Teotihuacan, you’ll most definitely need to dress like you’re headed to yoga or SoulCycle. The sun is hot at Teotihuacan and climbing those pyramids is no joke. I’m talkin’ treadmill incline level 50.
A thin, long-sleeved shirt
I wore this to the pyramids, mostly tied around my waist because as the sun rises, so does the temperature, and so does my intolerance of being even slightly uncomfortable.
A light sweater
One I can wear with anything. Actually, I don’t know if that’s true because my knowledge of fashion is about as deep as a paper cut on the scale of life-threatening flesh wounds but let’s just say I do wear it with everything.
Tips for packing tops for Mexico City
Stick to light layers
Look at those temps: High highs + low lows. Not only that, the shade is often 15+ degrees cooler than in the sun.
You’ll be going from sun to shade to sun again, from inside to outside and back, shopping under market tents, eating outside at cafés because the weather is so nice but still having to sit in the shade, climbing pyramids under a hot sun but still having to head out before sunrise, and heading up to the windy tops of towers/hills/castles/restaurants.
My entire few days in Mexico City was literally just a medley of my trademark pulling on and yanking off various items of clothing.
Don’t forget a sweater/jacket
I know I just said this but don’t let the word’s “Mexico”, “summer”, or “high of 81° and sunny” cloud the fact it’s still going to hover around 50°F as soon as the sun sets. 50°F is teeth-chattering territory in my world.
What to pack for Mexico City: Bottoms
Yup, you’ll need bottoms too. Now, the internet will tell you not to wear shorts in Mexico City. It’s true that shorts aren’t popular among Mexico City locals but, I think it’s blatantly obvious I’m not a Mexico City local.
(Embarrassing white girl dance moves, can’t pronounce Herradura, screams and takes a picture of every donkey she sees.) I wasn’t born with the kind of thick skin that allows for climbing ancient pyramids in 80° hot sunny weather in skinny jeans. Therefore: shorts, it is. I’m not trying to blend in; I’m simply trying to not die.
Important note: This post is not sponsored by Old Navy or Target. That being said, almost everything in this picture too is from one of the two. I didn’t even know this about myself until this very minute.
For dining out, for extended periods of time spent in the shade, for basically anything after the sun has gone down. With or without holes.
Fancy pants + flowy linen pants
For those times you want to attempt to look “nice” but still want the feeling of being in your pajamas. Which is basically every time I enter the public domain.
You might like
Have your Mexico City itinerary planned out yet? Check out my guide to spending 3 days in Mexico City – it’s got tons of helpful, need-to-know tips!
For literally every second of the day that I’m not out in public.
For bus rides and airplane trips when I need to curl up in a tiny ball and sleep until I get there.
A maxi skirt
Because I actually tried this time. I also wore this for about an hour of my entire trip–that’s not worth the amount of space it took up in my suitcase. Pack responsibly, people!
Because I’m gonna give my Spanglish and the camera around my neck that shouts to the Mexican masses I’m obviously a tourist a rest for a change and let my pale legs do all the talking. It’s hot in the sun in the middle of the day, I regret nothing.
Tips for packing bottoms for Mexico City
You do you, girl
If you wanna wear shorts, wear shorts. Strangers’ legs are certainly not what I was looking at while I was touring Mexico City and I can’t imagine anyone gave a damn about mine either. Focus on being comfortable and not dying a heat-related death.
Pack just a few bottoms you can get the most use out of
The flowy linen pants, the maxi skirt, and the fancy pants were all worn just one time, and not even for a whole day. Like, for just one activity. I could’ve done without all three of those actually. Fancy waste of suitcase space.
What to pack for Mexico City: Underwear
Please, please bring underwear. And a bra. And, if you’re visiting Teotihuacan, a sports bra. Like I said, a trip to Teotihuacan could very well be a fitness class you pay for each month but never attend.
Maybe I’ll start one here in Boston… I’ll put you in a 100°F room under high-powered heat lamps and make you run steps for four straight hours while a Mexican man runs besides you and tries to sell you a heavy serape. I’ll make a gold mine!
What to do in Mexico City
Checking out the pyramids of Teotihuacan is just one of the awesome things to do in Mexico City. For more, check out my guide to must-do Mexico City experiences for the best trip ever! It covers so much variety.
What apparel to leave behind
Anything you’re going to wear just one time
Especially if it takes up a lot of space. See above.
Things that are white
Neither the white shorts nor the white pants nor the white shirt came home white. Instead they came home stained in bright colors from the paint of the Xochimilco boat and dirt from me just hanging out in places with a lot of dirt, the way I do.
Anything that says “Make America Great Again”
Unless you’re a jerk and want everyone to know it.
What apparel to just buy there
The only reason I brought a cute Mexican camisa to Mexico with me is because I bought it there on my last trip. Obviously, this is something you should just buy when you get there. Preferably from an old woman who speaks no English and sells you the largest one she’s got.
What to pack for Mexico City: Shoes
When packing shoes for travel I always, always, always try to choose pairs I can get the most use out of. Like, a one-pair trip is my ultimate dream. I don’t always succeed at this, but I always try to. That counts for something right? This isn’t a heart transplant.
But as much as I’d like to get by with just one pair of shoes, I know what a dumb-ass plan that is. With the amount of walking we do as fast travelers, it’s important to bring at least two pairs to avoid mind-numbing foot pain, blisters, and looking like a hobo.
Shoes to pack for Mexico City
I travel with a pair of Converse almost exclusively. They’re comfortable, go with almost anything, and pack up real slim. You probably travel with something a little less “angsty teenager,” but you get my drift. If not, shop here for Converse on Amazon or buy on Zappos.
Because maybe you don’t want to wear sneakers with your fancy pants?
I’ve never liked Birkenstocks or cared at all about buying any. I mean, what is this, Lilith Fair? And then, like an outside force was controlling my body, perhaps the ghost of Natalie Merchant who I don’t think is actually dead afterall, I slipped my feet into a pair of Birken-knock-offs called White Mountain and it was the most comfortable pair of sandals I’ve ever worn.
You can buy them here on Amazon along with that 2-disc Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music CD set you’ve been eyeing. I may not be Golden Girls old, but I’m definitely grew up wanting a pair of Lisa Loeb glasses old.
Don’t forget socks–if you bring sneakers, that is. If you bring only sandals, don’t you dare bring socks! I know you’re a tourist and proud of it but it doesn’t need to be tragically obvious from as far away as Jupiter. Get your made-for-Converse socks here on Amazon or buy on Zappos.
What shoes I wish I’d packed for Mexico City
I grossly underestimated the exertion I’d face at Teotihuacan when deciding what to pack for Mexico City. I thought a pair of Converse would do. Instead, do they did not.
I mean, they were fine enough, but I wished the whole time that I’d brought my hiking boots. (Mostly to kick in the faces of the guys selling the toys that sound like angry jaguars. You’ll understand this soon enough.)
Those pyramids are no joke and really shouldn’t be climbed in anything less than what you’d climb a regular ol’ mountain in. I feel like maybe somebody should make a sign?
If you’ve got other outdoor adventures in Mexico ahead (volcano hiking, cliff rappelling, jungle trekking), you need to bring these. Not pictured are my trusty Oboz Bridger BDRY hiking boots–get them here on Amazon or buy them on Zappos!
Solely to wear around your rental homes / hotels / hostels. I can’t stand to have dirty feet and the floors of the places I stayed in Mexico were never clean. So I wore my socks around and those, too, did not come home their original color.
If you don’t have a thousand pairs of Old Navy flip-flops at your house, you’re unAmerican. Or just grab some flip-flops on Amazon while you’re shopping for hypoallergenic pillowcases and Milk-Bones.
What shoes to leave behind
When it comes to packing shoes for travel, I focus on comfort more than anything else. Which is why I won’t be bringing my “something nicer” Ralph Laurens on my next trip.
Leave behind all things that aren’t the most comfortable shoes you own. If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend about 16 hours a day walking around, climbing up and down monuments, and white-girl salsa dancing in them. You want to be able to wake up and do it all again the next day, right?
What to pack for Mexico City: Accessories and Misc.
What accessories to pack for Mexico City
For the love of
God Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of the sun. I have about 14,562 baseball caps in my house but do I ever remember to pack one? No. Okay, fine. That’s a lie.
When deciding what to pack for Mexico City and every other city on Planet Earth, the thought to pack a hat always crosses my mind, immediately followed by: “Nah, I won’t wear it.” So do I ever bring one? No. Do I regret that every single time? Yes.
The sun at Teotihuacan is serious and I ended up caving and buying a hat in San Miguel de Allende anyway. Now I own 14,562 baseball caps + 1 straw old man fedora. Something simple like this one will make all the difference.
Mexico City may not be the beach but you’re still that much closer to the equator. Not to mention, 7,382 feet closer to the sun. You can’t go wrong with these polarized classics.
I’m a guidebook junkie and prefer the Rough Guide to Mexico that’s good for the whole country. I like to take side trips from Mexico City as well and everything is covered in this one book.
There’s also: Lonely Planet Mexico and Moon Mexico City if you’re into those brands instead. Fodor’s has yet to get their heads in the game.
Culture Smart! Guidebooks
And for something a little different, pick up Culture Smart! Mexico. Culture Smart! guidebooks focus solely on a country’s customs and local culture. These little books have everything you need to know about tipping culture, attitudes towards foreigners, money and government, and so much more! I always read one before visiting a new country. Read my full Culture Smart! review here.
I love the Lonely Planet phrasebooks! They’re perfect for short trips when you just need to know the basics (+ what exactly you’re eating). They offer Spanish, Latin American Spanish, and even Mexican Spanish. They’re small enough to fit in your purse or your husband’s pocket, let’s keep it real here.
Book for entertainment
I also bring books along to read on the airplanes and buses and in bed and yes, I prefer actual paper reading materials. Be like me and check out Amazon’s best-selling books or be better than me and get yourself a Kindle.
I brought along a backpack-ish purse to use during the day when I need a vessel for my camera + layers of clothing to be yanked on and off, and a smaller one to use at night when I’m already wearing all the clothes I need.
Because I’m terrified to not have food with me at all times. I buy Coconut Chocolate Chip Clif Bars because they’re the only ones I can find without almonds. (I’m allergic to almonds–a fact that makes more sense of this paragraph.)
In Mexico City, just like in Europe, I seem to always amass a collection of coins resembling a Scrooge McDuck money vault. Having a change purse around would make dealing with this and not wasting money so much easier. OMG remember these? I must get one. Get this 3-pack and send me one, ‘k?
Mexico City is so loud at night and I swear to God there isn’t a wall in Mexico thicker than a dryer sheet. Earplugs are a must.
What accessories to leave behind
That’s right, baller. For the love of Ahuiateteo (the Aztec gods of bling), don’t be the flashy, bejeweled tourist who gets robbed or pick-pocketed then goes back home telling everyone how dangerous Mexico is. We have mainstream media for that!
What to pack for Mexico City: Electronics
What goes in this category varies by trip. When I packed for Belize I had twice as much, because I was doing five times as many mountain/jungle/underwater activities and needed the complementary GoPro arsenal. For this trip I brought my laptop and an arsenal of travel bloggers, which I don’t always do.
What electronics to pack for Mexico City
Camera and lenses
Mexico City is unbelievably photogenic–don’t be the person who brings just a cell phone on his/her trips as a recording device. You’re doing all the people from high school who stalk you on Facebook a real disservice, you know.
I’m obsessed with my mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, my wide angle 12-40mm lens, and my zoom 40-150mm lens. For photo examples and more on this camera and these lenses, check out my post on the best travel photographer gear for time-budget travelers.
The best tripod for travel! It’s super lightweight and folds up tight for being shoved into any kind of bag. Plus, you can use it almost anywhere: the legs wrap around poles, tree branches, signs, or can stand on their own.
It’s perfect for those of us who don’t want to lug heavy photography equipment (that we don’t know how to use) around and who may need to take our own pictures of ourselves every now and then. I have the Joby Gorillapod SLR Zoom which really just means it’s made for cameras bigger than your fist.
They do also have them for point-and-shoots, GoPros, smartphones, and even magnetic ones… in case you want to capture the cool stuff you’re doing in your kitchen.
Cell phone and charger
I mean, really. Is there a chance you’re not going to pack your cell phone? No. But for the love of Fios, the Verizon god of high-speed internet and cable, don’t forget your charger! I personally smartphone with a Google Pixel 3 XL and it’s the greatest piece of electronics I’ve ever purchased. Say what you want about iPhones or Galaxies or turning nouns into verbs–nothing beats the Google Pixel.
After getting robbed in Italy, traveling with my laptop is my least favorite thing just after being there to experience someone’s first time through an airport security line (but travel blogging being what it is, sometimes I have to bring it).
I finally decided I needed a “travel laptop” to bring that will allow me to work on the road but won’t contain my whole life’s photos and work that I don’t backup often enough. This way, should I get my computer stolen, my life won’t be ruined. Again. No, I’m still not over the great train robbery of 2012.
Though I use a MacBook Pro on the regular, I travel with the HP Chromebook 14. It’s super lightweight (“Thank you, Jesus!” — My Back), takes up barely any space in my bag, and has all the basics I need while I’m gone. It’s nothing fancy but it gets the job done. That job, of course, being “available for theft.”
You can never have too many SD cards! Keeping up with them is another story.
Fitbit and charger
I wear my FitBit every day and I especially love it for when I travel. I have the simple FitBit Alta and love it as a watch and for keeping track of how much walking gets done on my trips. I’m hoping it will negate all the time spent sitting on my ass as a career blogger.
Unlike in Belize, you can actually fix your hair and look presentable in Mexico City. I have the world’s straightest hair so I bring my curling iron everywhere on the off-chance there’s anything less than 80% humidity. I also keep it super simple with the Conair 1.25-inch that costs less than a latte and lasts about 15 years longer than one.
I never travel with a hairdryer… that is, until I visited Mexico City. It’s not hard to find hairdryers in Europe, even if they do look more like vacuum hoses ready to suck you into a 5th dimension, but the same can’t be said for anything south of the border.
And if traveling with a hairdryer makes me “high maintenance,” then high maintenance be I. I use this tiny, adorable, but super-powered one and couldn’t be happier with it. It takes up barely any space and lacks none of the power of a full-size.
Pair of headphones
For watching airplane movies and literally nothing else. You probably have twelve pairs of these things floating around your house, am I right amigo?
What electronics to leave behind
Unless you’re from outside North America, you won’t need an outlet adaptor when visiting Mexico City. The outlets in Mexico are the same ones we use here in the United States and Canada. All of North America is the same. Yes, Mexico is part of North America.
What electronics to just buy there
Nothing. Just go ahead and bring this all with you. But they do have Walmart so you can totally (probably) get some more SD cards if you need them…
What to pack for Mexico City: bathroom items
You’re an adult human; chances are I don’t need to tell you what kind of personal hygiene items to bring on a trip with you. But I’m still gonna.
What bathroom items to pack
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, cosmetics, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, whatever else you use that I don’t need to know about. However, there are some special considerations for what to pack for Mexico City.
Bar of soap
Spoiled little princess traveler that I am, I’m used to my accommodations supplying small bars of soap with which to wash myself. Such was not the case in Mexico where none of my hostels/hotels had soap. Instead, on my first trip to Mexico City I had to buy a bar of soap at the market along with my beer and Volkswagen-sized loaf of Pan de Muerto. This time, I brought my own soap and saved the time and money.
A pumice stone
After a day of walking around Mexico City (and in sandals at that) my feet were rough and dirty, to say the absolute least and keep some of the mystery alive. A pumice stone was the one thing I wish I’d packed more than anything. They don’t take up much space, they weigh practically nothing, and they’re the only way to really get your feet clean after a travel day.
SPF lip balm
Sun Bum SPF 30 lip balm because equator + elevation + sun + summer.
What bathroom items to leave behind
Your arsenal of beauty products
The goal here is to arrive in Mexico City with just a carry-on. No one wants to bring their hair oils and heat protectants and full-size pump lotions more than I do, but I advise you to leave it all behind. It’s not worth checking a bag. Except the hairdryer. You’re for sure going to need that.
What bathroom items to just buy there
Sometimes, when I travel, I just seriously wanna slap myself. Did I really think I was going to survive a week in Mexico on 2 oz. of sunscreen? Loco! Of course, I got sunburned. Of course, I ended up buying a full-sized bottle of sunscreen halfway through my trip.
I wish I could go back, not even fool with the tiny bottle, and just stop at the pharmacy as soon as I get there. #lifehack #duh #youeediot
Same goes for body lotion. My teeny-tiny TSA-approved bottle of Aveno was absolutely useless. I really shouldn’t have bothered. A week’s-worth of dry, sunburned skin was not worth the literal $1 I saved by not just buying a full-sized bottle when I got there.
If you read my post on 17 things that shocked me on my first trip to Mexico, you’ll know that Viagra (et al.) is sold, not just over-the-counter, but right there on top of the counter between the lighters and the Life Savers.
I’m just sayin’… if you need it, get it where it’s not considered a controlled substance that requires a prescription. [insert fact that I’m not a licensed physician here and maybe don’t take medical advice from me?]
What to pack for Mexico City: for special events
Day of the Dead gear
I’ve written an entire post on how to dress for Day of the Dead and you can find that here ⇣⇣⇣
How to dress for Day of the Dead
If you’ll be celebrating Día de los Muertos in Mexico, check out my complete guide on how to dress for Day of the Dead (for both men and women). It covers what to wear (and where to buy it), makeup tips, DIY flower crowns, how to do it all respectfully, and much more!
Also in my ’17 things’ article I talk about the altitude sickness that often comes with a trip to Mexico City. On my first trip, it took me by surprise. On my second, I took control of this situation and made Mexico City’s elevation my bitch.
To follow in my footsteps, you’re going to need mucho ibuprofen to keep the headaches at bay. I took two an hour before I landed and again during the first couple of days when I felt a headache coming on. (I also hydrated like a mf’er and worked on improving my cardiovascular health in between trips, just FYI.)
I consider myself extremely lucky as I’ve never gotten sick in Mexico, but I don’t think I’m in the majority.
Visiting Mexico is known to come with certain “risks” so if you’re prone to any of these, pack what you know you need. I was trying to get through this section without having to using the term “explosive diarrhea” but I do want to be clear that’s what I’m talking about.
I pop some Tums or Pepto Bismol anytime something feels *off* but, shit happens, and you might need to bring along some Imodium AD as well. Remember that time you tried airplane curry somewhere over the Atlantic? That didn’t end well for you.
When I asked my friend Amanda, who recently visited Peru and Machu Picchu, how she dealt with the altitude sickness, she mentioned a lot of the people she was traveling with brought along Gatorade chews.
She said their demeanors before and after eating them were like day and night. That they started feeling woozy, ate them, and perked right up. She actually said the difference was shocking. I am absolutely bringing these next time.
Don’t drink the water in Mexico City–but you already knew that, right? While I’m there (out of a crippling fear of explosive diarrhea), I drink bottled water with the religious zealotry of a Times Square Bible pusher or the High Sparrow–whichever one frightens you more.
I consume tons of it and, I swear to the Old Gods and the New, that it pains my earth-loving heart. At home, I have a refillable water bottle I tote everywhere but in Mexico, finding acceptable drinking water with which to refill it is not easy. However, if you’re the type who just can’t bring his/herself to buy loads of plastic water bottles while in Mexico, I have another recommendation.
All my travel buddies in Mexico used the SteriPen Ultra UV Water Purifier and none of them died. This weird piece of equipment uses UV light to kill anything in the water that could then kill your bowels. It works in just seconds, is rechargeable, and can ultimately purify 15,000 liters of water. I watched it happen myself. I don’t get it, but it works. A gift from above, no doubt.
Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong when you travel. World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
What else to just buy there
A pharmacy is never far away in Mexico City; you should be able to find what you need and it’s probably much, much cheaper than you’re used to.
Make note of the generic names of medications since they’ll probably be called something different down there. Viagra’s the same though.
How to pack for Mexico City
If you haven’t jumped on the packing cube bandwagon yet, I worry about your mental state. Finally ordering a set of packing cubes was the best travel decision I’ve ever made. And I’ve made some great ones (I’m looking at you, driving across Italy without a map or cellphone).
They’re perfect for simplifying the packing process and for generally keeping your life together, especially if you’re not always DTF–down to fold. I use the 5-piece TravelWise Packing Cube System, and so should you. Your travel life will be better for it, I promise.
Heading to Mexico City? Read reviews on TripAdvisor or book your room now!
What else have I written about Mexico City? See these posts.
Want more of my recommended gear? Check out my travel resources page.
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