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So, you’ve thought about where to live in Mexico, how to live in Mexico and pondered extensively over the questions ‘is Mexico a good place to live?’ and ‘should I move to Mexico?’ (Answer to both: yes.) However, you haven’t really thought about what to pack for Mexico.
Tip: step away from the swimwear and shorts.
Basically, if you’re thinking of moving to Mexico and are stuffing that suitcase full of bikinis and sandals then stop right there and read the hell out of this guide to all the stuff you really DO need to bring with you, thank you very much, and all the extraneous crap you can just bin/burn/donate, or in my case, leave at your parents’ house. Trust me on this one as I’ve lived in Mexico for two years now and I was a bloody awful packer when I first moved to Mexico. In fact, I’ve made these mistakes many times over and, for that exact reason, there’s no good reason why you should too. I might not be able to tell you how to move to Mexico, but I can definitely tell you what to bring.
On that reassuring note, here are the essential items to pack (and the unnecessary shit to leave behind) if you’re planning a move to Mexico or an extended stay living in Mexico.
MOVING TO MEXICO? HERE’S WHAT TO PACK
A COAT OR JACKET WITH INSIDE POCKETS
This is one that every other ‘what to pack for Mexico’ guide probably omits, but it’s easily the best thing I brought with me. With inside pockets, I can safely stash all my valuables (purse, phone, etc) without worrying what would happen if my bag was stolen. While it’s obviously not foolproof, it adds that extra level of a security in a country with notoriously high rates of pickpocketing and mugging. I recommend some kind of squishy puffa jacket (mine was from Primark, but it sadly doesn’t have a hood, whereas this one has a hood and inside pockets) that can easily be stuffed into a bag, because if you use the metro, you’ll swing between hot and cold all day long and want something easy to carry around with you.
SHOES THAT AREN’T SANDALS
If you’re moving to a beach town like Puerto Vallarta or Playa del Carmen, by all means pack sandals to your heart’s content. However, if you’re planning on being in a city like Mexico City, Monterrey or Guadalajara you’ll need something more substantial. Anyone who’s made the mistake of wearing flimsy beach shoes in a city can tell you just how quickly and how frighteningly dirty your feet get. Not to mention the amount of hard, dry skin that seemingly appears out of nowhere. Long story short, living in Mexico City ain’t no beach, so bring a decent pair of lightweight, comfy Nikes (I swear by mine now, even if the first wear did shred my ankle).
On a similar note, one reader recommended that you pack wellies (full disclosure: I don’t even own wellies in the UK), and to be fair it’s a really great shout given that you’re heading to a country known for having a brutal rainy season. This is especially relevant in Mexico City, where localized flooding is common and metro stations regularly get swamped. I would recommend going for a mid-calf pair, like these Joules wellies, or even just a simple rubber ankle boot. For any Americans moving to Mexico reading this post, I’m talking about rubber boots you use in the rain, and for any Canadians moving to Mexico, I’m talking about rain boots.
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Many people (myself included) go a bit shopping mad when they’re about to move abroad (or go on holiday) but you really need to just pack your ‘everyday’ wardrobe with a few minor adjustments. If you know you’re relocating to a coastal destination where the weather is typically humid all year round, pack a few more pairs of sandals (I love my nerdy, Velcro Tevas and I wish I had reason to own Birkenstocks), shorts and strappy tops, but remember that you’ll also start to acclimatise quickly.
Similarly, if you’re heading to somewhere like Mexico City, don’t ditch all your woolly jumpers and thick socks because it can get chilly of a morning and evening in the capital.
If you’re moving to Monterrey, Mexico, or anywhere in the extreme north of the country, well you’re basically fucked anyway because the weather is temperamental as hell and you’ll need practically anything and everything from beachwear to winter coats.
JUMPERS, SWEATERS AND ANYTHING WARM
When moving abroad, it’s tempting to think you’re just going on an extended, paperwork filled holiday, but the reality of the matter is that you’ll acclimatise fairly quickly and be left shivering in shorts and bikinis in the middle of a chilly city if you’re not careful. From my experience, places like San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, San Cristobal de las Casas, Oaxaca and Guanajuato (as well as places in the north of the country, like Monterrey), often have pretty damn cold winters. Bring a couple more jumpers than you think you might need and that should do the trick. I recommend one cosy woolly one, at least one hooded sweatshirt and one plain jumper.
I love a good pair of durable M&S knickers, so I always make sure to have a ton of them with me at any given moment. Same goes for decent bras. This is the kind of shit you don’t want to compromise on, so make sure you stock up on your favourite brands before moving to Mexico. Similarly, socks are bizarrely expensive and pretty shit quality in most places, so bring plenty of those too.
If you’re a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf, whether it’s a hijab, shayla, al amira, khimar, chador, niqab or burka, bring them with you. According to one reader, they’re hard to come by and expensive in predominantly Catholic Mexico.
BELOVED BRAND MAKE-UP + SKINCARE PRODUCTS
Some brands are a snip to find in Mexico, while others are trickier to locate. If you’re really wed to your skincare routine and favourite liquid eyeliner, consider bringing enough supplies over with you.
I personally don’t have a make-up or skincare routine, but I do use Mac lipsticks and can confirm that you’ll definitely find them here if you live in Mexico City or Monterrey. I don’t know about anywhere else.
I had a snazzy razor and bikini line trimmer that I brought with me to Mexico and when I finally dulled down the razor, I headed to the supermarket for a new refill. Lo and behold, they didn’t stock the right brand and I had to buy a new one outright. Long story short, if you have a sentimental/ financial attachment to your current razor, stock the fuck up on refills before you leave.
FOOD + DRINK FROM HOME
Tea is the big one for me, the one thing I have to have in Mexico at all times. Black tea here is either shite or nowhere to be found, and considering I get through around five cups a day, the space a big ol’ box of Yorkshire Teabags takes up in my luggage is worth it. Plus, I’ve been through the horrors of double squeezing each teabag and, gasp, limiting myself to one cup a day when my stash got low and, to clarify, I do not recommend.
If you’re not big on tea though (heathen), bring any culinary comforts you know you’ll want to eat at some point; think Cadbury’s chocolate, or Tim Tams and Vegemite. If you’re moving to Mexico from Canada, you might want real maple syrup. And if you’re living in Mexico as an American? You’ll likely be fine, as many parts of Mexico are like little America anyway.
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However, home comforts go beyond food and are also things you should make room for in your suitcase. I personally recommend anything colourful (think pom poms or bunting, especially if you want to pretend you’re living in the Great British Bake Off tent), but remember that the caveat with this is…don’t go overboard. Mexico is one of the best places for artesanías in the world, especially in southern states like Oaxaca and Chiapas, so only bring a few vibrant items to brighten up the place and then go shopping mad when you find the cheap Mexican markets. (The cost of living in Mexico is generally cheaper in the south.) For what it’s worth, I found that even just bringing my quirky jewellery holder made my bedside table (stool) look a bit homelier.
Home comforts like this are things that are often shoved aside in favour of too many strappy tops and toiletries. But, in the long run, the toiletries will run out and the strappy tops will never see the light of day. Meanwhile, you’re left with a bare ass room that shows little to no personality. Pack wisely, sheeple.
There’s nothing that spruces up a place quicker than some photos from home. And no, don’t bother bringing bulky frames. Just get some shiny new photos printed off before you leave and blutack them around the place. Or, if you’ve moved up a notch from student living style decoration, invest in some cheap photo frames in Mexico.
Aside from photos, posters are the best way to cheaply fill up empty wall space, whether temporarily or for the duration of your stay. Plus, they weigh next to nothing and fold down flat. How about a scratch off travel map? Or a Mexico poster? Or even just a quirky print of the city you’re moving to? The options are endless and it will make any space look instantly more welcoming.
BOOKS (ESPECIALLY IN LANGUAGES OTHER THAN SPANISH)
This is one people will argue to the death about, but if you’re a book fiend and relocating to Mexico long-term (maybe you’re planning to retire in Mexico), you’re probably going to want to bring some books with you, ESPECIALLY if those books are in a language other than English. While I’ve found it pretty easy to find English language books, others haven’t had the same luck, and they are admittedly really pricey. So, whittle it down to your favourite, must-read list and pack those for your move to Mexico.
This goes doubly if you’re native language is one that’s obscure or lesser-spoken. For example, I can vouch for the fact that finding Catalan books here is nigh on impossible, so I imagine it’s the same for other languages beyond, say, French, Portuguese and English. Consider yourself warned, bookworms.
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Go on, treat yourself. Moving to Mexico with a dog probably complicates matters a bit (as does moving to Mexico with pets as a whole), but you can’t leave the poor guys behind.
Yes, I am including this in Home Comforts, although it could quite easily have been in Practical Products. You should bring your sex toys to Mexico, mainly because 1) if you leave them at home your mum might find them and 2) they’re really fucking expensive. But seriously, bring a good vibrator. In the stress of relocation, you’ll thank yourself later. For what it’s worth, I swear by this one and I also recommend Meg Cale’s post on Dopes on the Road about travelling with sex toys.
ONE ADAPTOR + AN EXTENSION CABLE
Don’t bring an adaptor for every appliance that doesn’t have a Mexican plug; instead, bring one adaptor (this mega universal one looks amazing, as does this one) and hook up an extension cable. It saves the hassle and you can maximise space in potentially small accommodation scenarios. Alternatively, just invest a couple of quid in a teeny tiny plug that has a USB fitting on one side and the Mexican plug on the other, then use that for your chargers.
When it comes to laptop cables, I’d investigate getting one with a Mexican plug fitting, if only because it’s super annoying to cart round both a laptop charger cable and a bulky adaptor all the time.
OK, this may be a controversial one, but if you’re from the UK like me, the glorious land of free universal healthcare and only paying around eight quid for whatever prescription you need, the idea of going to Mexico and potentially forking out a lot more isn’t pleasant if you need some long-term antibiotics or have a monthly prescription to fill. (I say potentially, cos generic drugs here can often be cheap too.)
Even so, I recommend speaking to your GP in the UK and seeing if they can advance you some of your medication, saving you money and the hassle of finding somewhere that will prescribe the stuff you need.
If you live in the US, on the other hand, wait ‘til you emigrate to Mexico and take your fill of cheaper medications and medical care, you poor bastards.
Hot tip: If you suffer from eczema, apparently the topical creams are very hard to find here in Mexico, so bring plenty of Eucerin or Eurax with you.
If you treasure posters and photos, and want to be able to instantly brighten up your room when you arrive, then you must take blutack. It just does not exist in Mexico. (OK, it apparently does, but it’s really hard to find.)
ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS + MULTIPLE COPIES
For many everyday things in Mexico (like opening a bank account, spending money on a debit or credit card and renting a flat) you, obviously, need to have original documents and multiple forms of ID to prove you are who you say you are.
What’s more, if you want to study abroad in Mexico then you’re definitely going to need the original copies of your grades and graduation certificates, no matter how much your mum wants you to leave it all behind so she can frame it and put it on the kitchen fridge. Put your foot down.
Therefore, I recommend compiling a handy folder full of all the documentation you’ll need to live in Mexico, including vaccination records and optician’s prescriptions, if applicable. Bring anything grade and graduation related too, and, if things are in English, don’t forget to get a translated and notarised version too. Yay, bureaucracy! Oh, and bring a shit load of copies (both black and white and colour) of everything too, because Mexicans just love to ask you for unnecessary photocopies of things and then never use them.
MOVING TO MEXICO? HERE’S WHAT TO LEAVE
Obviously discount this advice if you’re moving to a coastal town, but even then you’ll acclimatise to the local weather and dress sense far faster than you think and bitterly regret not packing a jumper or two. Plus, it helps you like more like a local and less like a tourist if you stick to the good old jeans and t-shirt combo.
I’ve dealt with this before, but *spoiler* you can readily buy tampons in Mexico, in the big cities and towns at least (although pads are still more popular). So, don’t be deceived and leave the menstrual products behind, as you’ll find everything you need in Walmart, Soriana or any other Mexican store. Yes, they are expensive, but they’re expensive everywhere! #patriarchy
Sidenote: Many have told me that unless you like Tampax, consider bringing your preferred brand with you, although I’ve seen brands like Kotex in supermarket, so if you’re moving to Mexico City you’ll be fine. Alternatively, do the environment a solid and invest in a Mooncup or Diva cup.
Similarly, and contrary to popular belief, Mexico isn’t a third world country and you can in fact buy stuff there, the aforementioned tampons included. Maybe take a toothbrush, some deodorant and your favoured perfume (shoutout to Applejuice from Zara!), so you can at least feel clean and fresh while in transit and immediately after arriving. But flannels? Soap? Shampoo, even? Just pick it up when you arrive.
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Get the fuck out. I think it’s honestly only acceptable to bring unnecessary items like pillows if you’ve got the money to ship stuff over. And, honestly, if you can afford international shipping to Mexico, you can probably just afford to buy yourself a lot of the stuff outright when you arrive. I know, I know, there’s a home comfort and ease factor involved but still…if you’re packing pillows for an international move, step back and question your life choices.
Why? Why would you even consider taking pots and pans and kitchen utensils to Mexico? I don’t understand. Leave them the eff behind and treat yourself to some brand spanking new cutlery when you arrive.
As an aside, if you’ve been wondering how much does it cost to move to Mexico, and you’re thinking of bringing cast iron pots and pans, you can go ahead and add a zero to whatever figure it is you’ve conjured up. That shit is heavyyyy.
Buy some when you arrive you weirdo. Literally, all towels do is add unnecessary bulk to your suitcase (and you’re probably already worryingly close to your weight limit anyway…or, you know, wildly over it, like I was), so leave your ratty old bathroom rags behind and treat yourself to some new ones from literally any supermarket or homeware store.
Sooo, in order to get a well-rounded selection of products and suggestions on this post, I put up a status in a few foreigners in Mexico groups (which are mainly filled with Americans living in Mexico City, to be fair), to see what other people who had moved here decided to bring with them. Honestly, some of the answers I received were mainly inexplicable to me and I’ve realised that many people who move to Mexico have a bewildering love affair with their pots and pans. At least five separate people told me that that is what they would 100% bring with them again if they could. As you may have read above, I…do not agree with that madness. HOWEVER, I barely cook and mine was a temporary move to Mexico. I guessss if you know you’re here for the long haul, bringing your cast iron treasures is probably worth paying through the nose for shipping. What do I know? Use your best judgment on that one.
Anyway, I thought that for the sake of transparency, I would include an unfiltered list of all the suggestions (unless, like wellies and headscarves, I deemed them worthy enough to include in the Pack and Leave sections above).
If you have anywhere approaching big feet, for both men and women, then bringing shoes with you is a must. I have size 8 UK feet and, to be fair, I bought my Nike Roshe Runs online and had my mum bring them over. They didn’t even go to that size in the model I wanted in Mexico City’s Nike Factory store.
‘What is it like to live in Mexico City?’
‘Awful, they don’t even have Q Tips!’
Said no one, ever. You can buy them here, don’t worry.
Yes, those little cubes of sugary goodness you add to your morning espresso. You do you. Sidenote: I aspire to be someone who uses sugar lumps.
Apparently, if you love soft black licorice, you won’t find it in Mexico. Bring a stash from home.
I’m a book freak, so I’ll lug heavy paperbacks with me wherever I go (see above). I’m even planning on taking a couple travelling with me, despite the fact that we plan on using hand luggage only. (I’m mad.) However, someone suggested the far saner notion that you just bring ebooks instead, and save on space and weight. Meh, if you’re not a book purist, go for it. I use this cheap ereader, but Kindles remain king for many people.
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No, I’m not joking. One poster said he found they were much cheaper in the US (can’t speak for other countries) and that he recommends bringing them with him to Mexico. Apparently, a circular saw was of particular value to him. Crucial for building your own furniture apparently, but as someone from the UK (with no interest in building my own furniture), I can’t see why this would be worth the hassle to bring. I suppose if you’re moving to Mexico with no money and plans to set up a woodworking business, bringing power tools makes sense. Again, assess your needs.
Think TVs and mobile phones. The commenter who suggested this said they brought a TV with them and regularly upgraded their devices in the US rather than Mexico. I don’t know where I stand on this one, because yep, electronics are generally pricier here and you’re less likely to find bargain basement deals, but unless you’re from the US (and therefore close to the border), I can’t see how you can justify bringing a god damn TV with you. For laptops and phones though, go nuts.
Sidenote: I upgraded my laptop recently, and I did it in Mexico, for a price of 7000 pesos. For a brand new Lenovo Yoga where I’m from, it would have cost me roughly the same price, to be fair.
I’m quoting this one verbatim: ‘A teeny weeny taser, just enough charge to move people out of the way on the street while walking’. I doubt this is legal, but by all means go ahead.
Sidenote: I would recommend bringing a keyring sized can of pepper spray with you though, but remember to pack it in your checked luggage otherwise that shit is getting confiscated at the airport.
A useful suggestion from a fellow ex-Guadalajara resident. I’ve never had need for a penknife in my life, but if you’re the outdoorsy kind, it might be useful. I would say you can probably buy one in Mexico too though.
‘What do I need to move to Mexico?’, I thought to myself as I packed my suitcase. ‘I know! Stain remover spray.’ Bring if you’re excessively worried about making a mess in Mexico.
If you’re moving to Mexico with kids, I have it on good authority that things like pushchairs and car seats are expensive here in Mexico. Consider shipping some of the big ticket, everyday use items from your home country when you move to Mexico instead.
So, that’s my honest, tried and tested rundown of what to pack to move to Mexico and what to leave the hell behind. Do you agree or disagree with anything on this list? What would you add to it? Let me know in the comments!