What to Take on Trip to Mexico
Mexico, with its close proximity to the United States, is a popular place for vacationing Americans and travelers from around the world. The most popular places in Mexico are the beaches and towns on the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel and Cabo San Lucas. When packing for a trip to these sunny locations or to other places in Mexico, it is important to pack with attention to the heat, cultural standards of respect and type of activities you will be doing. Keep in mind that packing light will make your trip more comfortable; pack only what you can easily carry by yourself to make buses and local transport easier to navigate.
When traveling to Mexico, pack any prescription and over-the-counter medications in their original, labeled packages to avoid confiscation at the border or airport. Mexico is infamous for its water quality; in case of accidental ingestion, be sure to pack an anti-diarrhea medicine like Immodium to slow diarrhea enough to allow you to make it through a flight or bus ride. For safety, pack a small bottle of iodine tablets and use them to purify water that you think might be suspect. Buy short-term travel insurance if your health coverage does not extend to international travel, and remember to pack your insurance card.
Many tourists to Mexico head for the Yucatan Peninsula, where the sun is strong and hot. In popular tourist areas like Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, it is usually acceptable to wear traditional swim wear and more revealing clothing. In other parts of the country, particularly rural areas, dress tends to be more modest and less revealing. If you will be straying from popular tourist areas, pack lightweight clothing in light colors to beat the heat, and avoid short shorts or plunging necklines. Women in particular will experience an even higher level of harassment from men on the street when wearing clothing that doesn't cover enough skin. Evenings in Mexico can get cold, so bring a light jacket or sweater. If you plan to visit the interior mountains of Mexico, bring warmer clothes to combat the lower temperatures at high altitudes.
In much of Mexico, it is difficult to find English-language books and magazines. Bring your own from home, and head to a hostel book exchange to swap for a new one when you've finished. For practical travel information and suggestions, pack a guidebook, which will help prepare you for transportation, hotel options and getting to and around new cities. Most guidebooks also include safety information that is invaluable in knowing what areas to avoid.
In many tourist areas of Mexico, petty crime can be a serious concern. For travel in dangerous areas, bring a money belt, which is worn under your clothing and carries passports, cash and credit cards; money belts are particularly useful on long-distance, overnight buses. If you will be staying in hostels, bring a padlock to secure your belongings in a locker. Female travelers who will be in Mexico alone should consider bringing a purse-sized pepper spray to defend against too-aggressive local men, as well as a whistle to attract attention or cause a distraction.
One of the most useful things you can bring to Mexico is a pair of inexpensive flip-flops. They can be used as shower shoes, on the beach, on quick trips to the bathroom at night and for countless other times when you'd rather not expose your feet to questionable carpets or tiles. Unless you plan to visit many upscale resorts or restaurants, leave the fancy high heels or loafers at home; a nice pair of sandals will usually suffice for dinners and with dresses. In addition, Mexico's sidewalk and road quality is often questionable, and it is likely that expensive shoes will get dirty or ruined. Bring comfortable walking shoes for hiking, exploring towns and visiting Mayan ruins.
Mexico uses the same outlet style and power voltage as the United States. If you plan to bring a laptop, cell phone or camera charger, bring a small surge protector to guard against sudden power spikes; this is particularly important for travel to rural areas with unstable power supplies. In older hotels, you may have trouble finding an outlet with three holes; bring small adaptors, available for purchase at most hardware stores, that will allow you to plug in your three-prong devices.
Travelers to Mexico should pack basic items like sunscreen, shampoo and other toiletries. While these items are readily available in popular tourist destinations, you may have difficulty finding a quality replacement in more rural areas. Bring an umbrella or poncho for travel in the rainy season, and consider packing a small clothesline to dry swimsuits and other damp items in the humid Mexican weather.