For many, Mexico is synonymous with sandy beaches, palm trees, and cocktails with salted rims. While that fantasy certainly exists within Mexico, it is pretty far removed from Mexico City.
One common mistake that travelers make when visiting Mexico is assuming that it’s always sunny and warm here. It is not. I learned that lesson the hard way. The first time I visited Mexico City it was sunny and warm, so I assumed it would be just as pleasant during my next visit. Not so.
The outfits that had served me so well during my August visit were not at all adequate for my January trip.
Whoops! …And, looking back… duh!
In order to ensure that you’re much more prepared for your trip than I was, I’m sharing exactly what to wear in Mexico City. This packing list will help you bring everything you need to stay comfortable and look your best while exploring Mexico’s capital.
- 1 Mexico City Street Style
- 2 Mexico City Climate
- 3 What To Pack For Mexico City
- 4 Mexico City Travel Tips
- Essential Travel Tips For Mexico
- Places to Visit in Downtown Mexico City
- Dreamy Day Trips From Mexico City
Mexico City Street Style
The street style in Mexico City isn’t too far removed from what you would expect to see in any other North American city. This means you probably won’t have to adjust your wardrobe preferences very much for your visit, which is always good news!
That said, since you’re traveling and likely doing a lot more in a day than you usually do, your apparel needs may be slightly different than back home. For one thing, you’re probably going to be doing a lot more walking than you do at home, so sensible shoes are non-negotiable.
Additionally, breathable, sweat-resistant fabrics are preferable, especially during the summer months when the weather is quite warm.
Finally, it’s good to remember that Mexico is predominantly Catholic, meaning locals tend to dress slightly more on the conservative side. This is especially true when it comes to visiting religious sites and formal settings like fine dining restaurants, etc. You probably won’t need to make any major adjustments to your usual wardrobe but just try to avoid wearing anything overly revealing when visiting cathedrals and other religious sites.
Mexico City Climate
Mexico City’s climate is typically pretty mild (which makes packing SO much easier!), with the average daily temperature usually hovering around 16-18 degrees Celsius (or, in the mid 60s for you Fahrenheit people). The days are usually warm and sunny (even in the rainy season) but because of the high altitude, the nights can be pretty chilly. Needless to say, layers are your best friend in Mexico City. During the warmer months a light cardigan will be sufficient if you find yourself in a chilly spot, but for winter months you’ll be glad to have a cozy jacket as well.
June through September is Mexico City’s rainy season. Often the precipitation lasts for only a few hours in the afternoon, leaving the rest of the day clear and perfect. But just because the rain showers are short lived doesn’t mean they aren’t intense. The phrase “when it rains it pours” definitely applies to Mexico City. On days when the rain is particularly persistent the streets may even become flooded making it difficult to get around in the city. If your Mexico City vacation falls during this time of year be sure to take a rain shell to keep yourself from being totally drenched.
The winter months can be quite chilly during the day but especially at night. This time of year is also extremely dry. My lips always end up chapped and my hands painfully dry and cracked. So, if you’re wondering what to bring to Mexico City between November and February, lip balm and hand lotion should be at the top of your list.
What To Pack For Mexico City
I’m a carry-on traveler 99% of the time, and I love my Osprey Farpoint 40 bag because it’s so light and compact. It can easily fit everything I need, usually with space left over. The frame is light and flexible and it’s easy to use the exterior straps to compress the bag when it’s not full. This pack is easy to maneuver on every type of transportation, from airplanes to taxis to buses. If you prefer, you can even conceal the backpack straps under a zippered cover and use the bag as a duffel.
If you happen to prefer a rolling suitcase it will serve you well for this trip. Mexico City’s sidewalks are quite wide and flat in most neighborhoods (a rarity in much of Mexico) so you shouldn’t have much trouble rolling your luggage from place to place. I’ve been eyeing this hard-shell Samsonite roller for a while.
When it comes to daypacks, the Osprey Daylite is my go-to. During my flight I carry my laptop, camera, and other electronics in this bag for easy access. Then, during the rest of my trip I use it as my daypack. Just like the Fairpoint, I love that this pack is lightweight, compact, and flexible. It’s small enough that it never really feels bulky the way some daypacks can when they are stuffed. At the same time, the Daylite is just big enough to fit all the essentials.
It’s REALLY easy to go overboard when packing toiletries, especially as a carry-on only traveler. TSA approved toiletry bottles are super handy when it comes to packing the essentials because not only are they the right size, but they’re all the same shape and come in a handy compact case that will protect your other items from leaks!
As for which exact toiletries to bring, obviously it’s largely up to personal preference, but following are the items that are absolutely essential for Mexico City, at least in my opinion.
- Hand lotion – Mexico City has a really dry climate and my skin always begins to react immediately. In order to save yourself from parched knuckles and hangnails, take a small bottle of lotion to keep your skin well-hydrated.
- Hand sanitizer – Public restrooms in Mexico aren’t always well stocked, so it’s best to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer wherever you go. Pick up the type with moisturizer in it to keep your hands from drying out any more than necessary.
- Moisturizing Lip Balm – Aside from being painful, chapped lips just aren’t the kind of look you want to rock in your travel photos. Keep lip balm on you at all times during your trip to Mexico City, trust me!
- Sunscreen – The sun can be punishing at high altitudes so don’t skimp on sun protection when visiting Mexico City.
If you’re a total minimalist when it comes to packing toiletries, you’ll be happy to learn that it’s pretty easy to purchase anything you might need upon arrival in Mexico. You can pick up the basics in a supermarket, an Oxxo convenience store, or one of the many pharmacy chains throughout the city– Farmacia del Ahorro or Farmacia de Guadalajara are two of the biggest.
Layers are always a good idea when trying to decide what to pack for Mexico City. Generally speaking, the city has a really pleasant climate but the temperature can fluctuate a lot between day and night. One minute it may be brisk and cloudy and the next the sun is beating down on you. Packing carefully is the key to your comfort. Following is what to pack for Mexico City based on my many visits to the city!
As a native of the Pacific Northwest, it’s deeply ingrained in me that one should never leave home without a rain jacket. This item is an absolute MUST for any visit to Mexico City during the summer (rainy) months, and a good-to-have for the rest of the year. This Columbia shell packs down into a tiny pouch and won’t take up any space in your bag. Even if you don’t experience any rain, this shell can make a great insulator on cold days! The fact that it comes in tons of great colors is a nice bonus!
Warm Outer Layer
Instead of packing a bulky jacket to keep warm, bring a lightweight thermal sweatshirt. It’s much more compact, and when paired with a scarf and/or layered on top of a couple of t-shirts, it should be sufficiently warm for Mexico City, even in the winter. If it’s really cold out, throw your rain shell over top for extra insulation.
A neutral colored cardigan is a super practical addition to any travel wardrobe, in my opinion. They are simultaneously dressy enough and casual enough to be worn pretty much anywhere you may go. At the same time, a cardigan will provide sun protection or extra warmth when needed.
For any trip, I rely on a selection of versatile t-shirts and blouses. Tees are great for layering or wearing independently while blouses can help dress up a casual outfit in a way that’s still comfortable and versatile. I usually bring a couple of neutral tank tops that I can wear on hot days, or layer under tees for extra warmth.
Packing light is SO much easier if you are a fan of wearing dresses. Thankfully the climate in Mexico City is very dress-friendly. During the cooler months a pair of thick tights will add some extra warmth. I personally love sundresses like this one because they’re really comfortable and look cute and composed in photos!
I’m pretty much the ultimate jeans and t-shirt girl, so I never go anywhere without my comfiest pair. If you’re a denim devotee then definitely pack yours. Jeans will definitely help you blend in with the locals, plus they’ll keep you warm on chilly days.
Leggings or Sweats
It’s always wise to bring at least one pair of comfy lounge pants. I usually pack sweats or leggings to wear on the plane and in the evenings when I’m lounging around my hotel or AirBnB. Yoga pants are a practical choice because they’re also great to wear on active days.
It’s never a bad idea to throw in a pair of extra cozy socks among the other pairs you pack. If you visit Mexico City during the winter months these will help keep your feet (and therefore the rest of you) nice and toasty! I also like to wear them on the plane for extra warmth! I usually bring these Darn Tough socks everywhere I go. They’re really warm yet breathable and soft. They also have a lifetime warranty against holes!
Comfortable walking shoes
You’re bound to do a really significant amount of walking during your trip to Mexico City… I mean, even the museums are massive! Needless to say, comfortable shoes are essential. I love this pair of Toms because they’re cute and practical. Just make sure you break them in BEFORE you leave.
Sandals will help keep your feet nice and cool on hot days, but because you’re bound to be walking so much, make sure you choose comfy ones. I’m a fan of these Sanuks because they have cushioned soles and the fabric straps is soft and comfortable.
- Travel Scarf – A scarf is a really practical addition to your Mexico City packing list. It’s a stylish way to add an extra layer to any outfit! This particular scarf even has a hidden pocket to discreetly stash valuables during your travels! I don’t own this particular scarf but I’ll definitely be adding it to my travel wardrobe soon.
- Microfiber Towel – I never go anywhere without my travel towel. Even when I’m headed somewhere that is sure to provide a towel, sometimes it’s just nice to have my own… It’s really compact, super soft, and dries really quickly. It even comes with its own stuff sack which makes it really easy to pack.
- Crossbody Bag – When visiting Mexico City I prefer to carry a purse rather than a daypack in most cases. One reason being that many attractions make you check your daypack but not a purse. Checking your daypack doesn’t cost anything (except for time), I just hate the hassle of dealing with the queue! A small or medium crossbody bag is just the right size to carry the essentials without adding too much bulk. The fold-over top also helps deter potential pickpockets which is a nice plus.
- Water Bottle – It’s really important to stay hydrated in Mexico City’s dry climate and carrying a water bottle is a good way to ensure that you do. In Mexico the tap water isn’t drinkable so most people just buy single use bottles. Instead, do the environment a favor and bring your own reusable water bottle! This Lifestraw bottle can even filter the tap water and make it safe to drink!
- Travel hair dryer – This is a bit of a luxury item that I really only pack if I happen to have extra space in my bag. In the winter months when it’s quite cold in Mexico City, venturing out with wet hair can add extra chill factor (plus it just doesn’t look or feel good). I love this folding hair dryer because it takes up minimal space and still works really well!
- Packable Sun Hat – Remember, the sun is a little extra harsh at Mexico City’s high altitude. A foldable sun hat like this one offers extra sun protection to ensure you don’t suffer from exposure to the elements. Nobody wants to look like a lobster in their vacation photos!
I never leave home without my Kindle these days. I love that you can fit hundreds of books on such a compact device! I never have to worry about running out of reading material! It also has great battery life so unless you’re on a particularly lengthy trip, you likely don’t even need to pack a charger. Also, the newest version of the Paperwhite is waterproof! Don’t forget to download your Mexico City guidebook on it for quick reference.
Mexico City Guide Book
Guide books can be a handy reference during your travels, but lugging one around is a bit of a drag. Instead of a traditional print copy, download a Kindle version of your guidebook so you can access it easily from your phone or Kindle device during your travels!
A portable battery pack is a really handy edition to your Mexico City packing list. After all, there’s nothing worse than your camera running out of battery in the middle of your adventures! With a battery like this you’ll always have easy access to power if your devices run low.
Mexico City Travel Tips
Now that we’ve covered what to wear in Mexico City, I thought I’d share a few tips to help your visit go smoothly.
Beware of Altitude Sickness
Mexico City’s elevation is over 7000 feet and it can be quite a shock to your system, especially if you are arriving from sea level. Couple that with the fact that the air quality is quite poor, and you’ve got a recipe for a migraine (at least in my case).
I usually get a severe headache immediately upon arrival (maybe I’m just really sensitive?), which makes adventuring kind of a struggle. So, just in case you’re anything like me, I recommend that you keep your first day in Mexico City pretty light to give your body time to adjust. You’ll feel better much sooner if you actually give yourself time to rest!
My favorite form of transportation in Mexico City is Uber. It’s safe, it’s reliable, and it’s easy to order one even if you don’t really understand where you are or where you’re going. It also usually works out to be about the same price as a taxi.
Other transportation options in Mexico City include:
- Taxis – Most of them will use a meter, but there are different rates for daytime versus night time.
- Metro – The underground subway system is super cheap (6 pesos to be exact) but it can be uncomfortably crowded during peak travel times.
- Metrobus – This is a rapid transit system that covers various parts of Mexico City. It’s basically an extension of the subway system, just above ground. It also costs 6 pesos per ride, or your can purchase a prepaid card that allows you to access Metrobus, the subway and ecobike as well. Learn more on the metrobus website.
A Note on Theft
As in just about any other big city, petty theft is common in Mexico City. With this in mind, try not to flaunt any valuables. Leave expensive jewelry or watches at home for safe keeping. Also, be sure to keep your purse and pockets zipped to deter pickpockets. I always wear a crossbody purse when I travel and I like the type with a foldover top (like this one), because it is much more challenging for anyone to open it without me noticing. You may also want to bring a money belt or bra pouch to stow extra cash and/or credit cards. That way you’ll always have backup funds and ID in the event that your wallet is lost or stolen.
If you need to wash your clothes at any point, lavanderías are usually really easy to find in residential neighborhoods, BUT you have limited control over how they will treat your clothes. Basically, you should just assume everything is washed on hot and dried on high. I err on the side of caution and hand wash anything that needs a delicate wash cycle.
If you do use a lavanderia make a list of everything you take in just to be sure you get everything back. I’ve never had any items lost, but most lavanderias tend to handle a large volume of customers and it’s not hard to imagine something being misplaced.
Will your travels be taking you to Mexico City in the near future? Check out these related posts to prep for your trip!
- What to See in Mexico City’s Historic Center
- Fun Day Trips From Mexico City
- Travel Tips For Visiting Mexico
- Simple Spanish For Mexico
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