I’ve been living in and traveling around Mexico now for almost a year. I feel like I can finally help you with figuring out what to wear in Mexico. Packing for a trip across an entire country, especially one as large as this one, is seriously daunting. Hopefully, this post is helpful and you don’t make the terrible, terrible packing mistakes that I’ve made when you travel to Mexico.
Weather in Mexico
First, let’s talk about the weather. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting and what region you’re going to will determine whether it’s going to be hot, ridiculously hot, or so damn hot you don’t even go outside (jk, it’s not hot in Mexico City year ’round!).
If you’re planning a trip to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum or anywhere in the Yucatan region, be prepared for warm weather. In the winter it can still reach temperatures of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit (20-25 Celcius). But the evenings are a bit cooler. If you go in the shoulder periods of Spring and Fall, it will be even warmer and the humidity will be waiting for you. I accidentally went to Tulum in August once. We won’t talk about it.
Heading North, West or South? It won’t be quite as humid as the Yucatan, unless you’re headed to Chiapas (it’s a jungle, so it will definitely be as humid there). I don’t find the dry heat quite as awful as the humidity and your clothes don’t stick to you in the same uncomfortable way. If you head there in winter, early Spring or late Fall, be prepared for cooler evenings.
Heading to my beloved Mexico City? The weather is utter perfection all year (I’m not biased or anything). Spring and Fall are a really nice 75 degrees Fahrenheit (about 23 C) during the day and a relaxing 65-70 at night (18-20 C). Summer, which basically starts in May, is slightly hotter during the day with a bit of humidity, but the rain hits around 5 or 6pm and it cools right down. Winter can see lows of 60 during the day and maybe 50 at night.
What to Wear in Mexico as a Woman
Okay, now that you know the temperatures we can chat about what to wear in Mexico as a female traveler. Most of the beach areas in the country are totally laid back. You don’t have to worry about wearing short-shorts or bikinis basically anywhere. Whenever I’m in the Yucatan I fit in with all of the other tourists with a bikini top and jean shorts wherever I go. As you head inland, the country becomes more conservative and women cover up a bit more.
I’ve noticed this to be more the case in the bigger cities like Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Guadalajara than in places along the coast. I hardly see women my age or older in shorts or dresses. Even on crazy hot days, most women are in jeans and t-shirts (sometimes even with a jacket over the top!).
That being said, there’s nothing disrespectful about wearing shorts as a women or even showing off a bit of cleavage. I’ve had discussions with a lot of Mexican girlfriends and they all agree, they dress more conservatively because they don’t want the attention that wearing those clothes often gets them.
Mexico machismo is strong. The thing that I’ve noticed as a foreigner though, is that I get whistles whether I’m wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top or a long sleeve shirt and jeans. So I generally just wear what I want now, especially if I’m going out with a group or with Luke. If I’m just going into the city by myself, I’ll probably think a bit more about what I’m going to wear.
To be clear, this isn’t a SAFETY issue, this is an issue with feeling uncomfortable being gawked at or wolf-whistled (just like I have been in London, New York, Sydney and elsewhere). I have never felt unsafe when I am exploring this country, whether I’m on my own or with friends.
What to Pack for Mexico
Whether you’re just going for an all-inclusive trip to the beach or you’re going on an all-out tour of the country, this packing list for Mexico should help make sure you remember all the important things and that you leave the unnecessary stuff behind.
A Kindle was by far the best purchase I made before moving to Mexico. If you are going to spend any prolonged amount of time here and you want to read books, you’ll probably want to get yourself a Kindle. After a year of living and traveling around Mexico, I have stumbled upon approximately ONE English bookshop. I used to go into every bookstore that I passed just to see if they had an English section. Of all of the times that I did that, I found an English section once. It had four English books that I’d never heard of. They were $20 each.
The original style of Kindle without the backlight is so cheap compared to any other e-reader at the minute (I’ve been price comparing to buy one for Luke). Save yourself the hassle and the expense by taking one with you to ensure you’ll be able to read whenever you want.
The lighter and looser the better. Bring short sleeves and tank tops in abundance. No matter where you go in the country it’s likely to be hot. I love really loose fitting linen t-shirts in really light neutral colors. Not only do the light colors keep my cooler from the glaring sun, but I know that I can pair them with any bottoms.
Crop tops are a popular trend at the moment in Mexico (as with most places I assume), so don’t be afraid that you’ll be out of place wearing one when you’re traveling here.
You’ll be able to find some beautiful cotton embroidered t-shirts on your travels around Mexico. They are a really nice weight and can add a pop of color to your travel wardrobe.
I’m a jean shorts addict. I usually just make my own out of old jeans. In fact, the three pairs I currently own have all been made from jeans that I was about to get rid of. They go with everything and they’re loose enough to wear in the sweltering heat.
I do not advise packing any heavy-weighted or tight shorts. They will cling even more to you in the humidity of Mexico and you’ll either end up not wearing them or being so totally uncomfortable that you’ll wish you weren’t wearing them. Opt for loose-fitting shorts that allow you to move and don’t cling too much to the thigh.
I wear skirts a lot more than shorts here simply because they keep me cooler. I can pair my lightweight shirts with them in lots of different ways and feel a lot more put together, especially if I’m not near the beach. My favorite styles are mini and midi length since I’m super short, but maxi skirts are a great option for the constantly changing weather if you’re into that style.
I also recommend skirts that aren’t too flowy since there is basically always a breeze. Whether you’re near the coast or not there is a constant light wind and if you’re wearing a skirt or dress that is really lightweight you’ll be constantly holding it down. Stick to stiffer fabrics when you’re packing for your trip to Mexico.
Is there anything easier to wear than a dress? Women are so lucky that we can literally have this one thing we can put on and be totally and completely dressed AND look cute without even really trying. I love packing dresses for any trip, but especially for trips around Mexico.
I usually opt for tank-top or t-shirt dresses that I can belt. I bring a few different belts with me so that when I wear the same dress again I can change up the accessories and feel like I’m wearing a totally different outfit.
Keep your eyes out for fun and colorful dresses at markets around Mexico. I’ve found some of my favorites at little stands around the country.
There are times when you’ll want to wear pants, or at least pack a few pairs of tights to go with your dresses and skirts. In winter, the evenings can drop to a chilly temperature and I usually opted for jeans to stay warm. This is especially true if you’re traveling through mountain areas in Mexico like Mexico City, Puebla, or San Miguel de Allende.
In addition to pants, you’ll also definitely want to pack either a light jacket or a sweater for evenings. I still haven’t been anywhere in Mexico where I was absolutely freezing and a light jacket served me well even through winter here in Mexico City.
If you’re heading to the coast during the Spring, Summer or Fall, I really don’t think that you’ll need one at all. I brought one with me on our recent trip around the Yucatan, and the only time I wore it was when we arrived back in Mexico City. If you want to take one just in case, you won’t need anything more than a light cardigan.
If you’re traveling around Mexico, you’ll definitely want to bring a bathing suit. I usually pack two or three for a two-week trip. It means if one is still wet the next day I have at least one more to put on.
Be cautious with the sun in Mexico, it is very strong. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and aloe vera just in case. I always recommend natural sunscreens to people since they are the best for our skin and if you plan on doing any swimming with turtles or around reefs, the natural stuff is best for them as well. These are my favorites:
- Josie Maran SPF 47 – this one is a bit of a splurge but it is so freaking luxurious. It’s made with argan oil and I only use it on my face since it is not at all oily and is all natural.
- Badger SPF 30 – This is a really great all-natural sunscreen that is really reasonably priced and I use regularly. It’s good for your skin and the environment!
Most hotels that you stay at will probably have towels, but I’ve found that most don’t really like you to take them to the beach. Sarongs are the lightest and easiest things, in my opinion, to pack and carry around as a beach blanket. I usually end up using them as a dress or skirt. They also make great blankets on planes and buses. They are just overall a great investment. I bought mine in Bali about six years ago and it’s still going strong!
You can always buy a hat when you arrive (there are so many great hat shops around – I bought the one above at a market in Mexico City for $4), but either way, I really recommend having one. The sun is really strong and sunstroke is no joke. If you plan on spending any time exploring Chichen Itza or other ruins you’ll be completely exposed to the sun for several hours. A hat is a massive savior.
I have about three pairs of shoes that I rotate on my travels through Mexico. If I’m going anywhere near the beach or somewhere really hot, I wear my Rainbow Sandals. They are by far the best flip-flops I have ever owned. They’re made of all leather and have arch support. They’re so comfortable to walk in and if they get wet they dry pretty quickly. They come in all different colors and never get slippery when you’re sweating your butt off in the Mexican heat. I’ve even converted Luke in a Rainbow advocate. I’ve even gone hiking in these babies! We buy a new pair about once a year and I don’t think we’ll be buying another brand of flip-flops for a long, long while.
I also love a pair of brogues or cute leather shoes to wear when we go to cities. The best I’ve ever owned are this pair from Clarks. They go with absolutely everything, I can walk in them all day long, and they look cute and put together if we end up at a bar or restaurant in the evenings.
The third is a cute pair of sneakers that I can wear with shorts or with a dress. While I love me a pair of converse and think they’re really cute with basically anything, I’ve been leaning more towards the Stan Smith Adidas sneakers lately, especially with all of these cute colors and patterns they have now. Both look great with dresses, jeans, or shorts and a t-shirt.
I love a bit of costume jewelry. I love big chunky rings and clanky bracelets and big earrings. I have one piece of jewelry with me that maybe isn’t crazy expensive, but means a lot to me and I wear it every day (can you spot it in the photos?). I’m never worried about losing it or having it stolen. If you have jewelry that is really expensive or that you’re worried about losing, leave it at home.
There are so many great markets around Mexico and they are all filled with really fun and beautiful pieces of jewelry for crazy cheap. Pack a bit of jewelry to spice up your outfits and definitely do some shopping at the markets if you want to take home a few souvenirs.
I always travel with a small bag of makeup. I love bold lipsticks and always pack a few to brighten up my outfits. Even if I’m just going to the beach with a book and a bikini I think it’s fun to wear pink or orange lipstick. Mine all have SPF in them too, so they’re protecting me as an added bonus!
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever read from one of my favorite bloggers, This Battered Suitcase, was that if you wear it at home, why not wear it when you travel? If you like to wear powder, foundation, lipstick, eyeliner or anything else when you’re at home, then why not bring it and wear it on vacation? Especially if it makes you feel good.
The only thing I would warn is that the heat and humidity often makes a lot of foundations and eye makeup nearly impossible to wear. Plan accordingly.
I usually bring two purses when I travel. One for the beach that I don’t mind getting a bit dirty, sandy or wet. It’s usually just a big tote bag that I can throw my sarong, kindle, keys and money into. If it has a zipper that’s probably best.
The second bag I bring is usually a cross-body bag. Over the years of traveling, I’ve grown to love and trust the good old cross-body bag. I can keep it close to me, it’s very hard to do a snatch-and-grab with a bag that is literally wrapped around my body. My current one has a zip and then an additional flap over it as well, so it’s pretty difficult for pick-pockets. This bag is generally smaller and is just for phone, camera, and money.
My favorites in the past have been the Michael Kors Jet Setter bag and the Coach Courier cross-body bags, but you can always pick up really fun ones along your travels. Not only are they practical, but they make for really nice souvenirs once you’re home.
What Not to Pack for Mexico
- A towel. I have stayed at AirBnB places, hostels, and boutique hotels around Mexico and every single place has given us towels. They’re bulky and don’t dry quickly and you just don’t need to bring one.
- Anything super fancy. Mexico is a really casual place for the most part. I hardly ever wear heels, especially in beach towns. When I brought heels to Tulum I felt like a total idiot. Definitely, pack what you feel comfortable in and dress up if you want, but don’t feel like you have to bring anything over the top. Even at higher end bars in Mexico City Luke wears stylish sneakers and we’ve never been turned away like we used to be in Sydney or New York.
Planning a trip around Mexico? I’ve been living and traveling around the country for a year and have TONS of post on the blog about Mexico. Head over to the Mexico section of the blog or send me an email ([email protected]) with any Mexico questions you have! I’d love to help!
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