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Packing Guidance for Mexico

This guidance is designed to describe appropriate clothing, the cultural context where you will be living and working, and the professional expectations of your workplace.

As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on checked baggage.

In general, most items you will need are available in country and locally acquired items are often the best at helping you integrate into your community. However, locally available items may not be the brands, quality, prices, or sizes you are used to. Bringing some key items from home might make your transition to service more comfortable.

This guidance has been compiled by Peace Corps staff and Volunteers and is based on their experience. Use this information as an informal guide as you make your own packing list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect packing list!

This packing guidance is designed to help you think through different categories of items and consider what you might want to bring, considering work expectations, cultural considerations, and your own personal preferences.

The climate of central Mexican is quite variable due to differences in topography, but in general it is semi-arid to temperate with dry winters. Temperatures can range from mid-90’s on summer days to mid-30’s on winter nights. There is a rainy season from June to October, but the rest of the year tends to be dry. Temperature changes throughout the day can be extreme, especially in the winter, and so layering is a good strategy year-round. It is important to note that it can freeze in this part of Mexico, and houses are not heated.

Peace Corps Mexico provides the following items:

  • Rapid antigen test for COVID-19 self-test
  • A mosquito net
  • A medical kit with over-the-counter medications and supplies for disease prevention and the management of common, uncomplicated medical problems, such as: ibuprofen, antifungal cream, sunblock, insect repellent, dental floss, condoms, and Band-Aids. Standard multi-vitamin preparations may be provided if requested.
  • Feminine hygiene for all menstruating Volunteers; these can be provided by the Health Unit or you may choose to receive a supplemental living allowance to purchase products on the local market.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take:

  • Pets
  • Weapons
  • Explosives
  • Radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted)
  • Drones
  • Automobiles or motorcycles
  • Flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers
  • Valuables such as precious jewelry or family heirlooms

Drugs

Do not bring any drug that has not been authorized by the Peace Corps for medical purposes without prior consultation with Office of Health Services Pre-Service. This includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Illicit drugs, including marijuana and related products such as CBD and herbal substances such as kratom, are prohibited during Peace Corps service, even if they are legal in your home of residence. If you use, possess, or distribute illicit drugs, you will be administratively separated from service.

Your personal appearance can greatly influence how you are viewed by Mexicans; it can affect your integration into the community and how effective you will be as a Volunteer. It is important that you observe local norms and adapt your dress and appearance accordingly. Volunteers should strive to present a first impression of professionalism.

Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation.

General

Most Volunteers have access to a laundromat, or to a washing machine and hang their clothes to dry. In a semiarid climate, your clothes should dry within 3 hours. To keep your clothes in good condition you may choose to wash white or delicate clothes by hand, and it could be a challenge to line-dry heavy-weight clothing during the rainy season.

Temperatures in Central Mexico can vary by more than 30 degrees (F) during the day. The best strategy is to pack for layering. Light wool or other socks, 2 layers of fleece/sweater/jacket, and a raincoat that can double as a wind breaker should be enough to get you through the winter.

Other suggestions are:

  • Bring enough clothes to wash once a week, and to last a few extra days if your laundry routine is delayed.
  • Avoid clothes that require dry-cleaning or extensive ironing.
  • Avoid white or colors that stain or discolor easily.
  • Clothes should be clean and free of damage.
  • Favor clothing that is breathable for hot weather and that dries quickly.
  • Don’t bring any clothes you would miss if they were to be ruined.
  • Don’t feel you need to bring enough clothes to last for two years. You can find clothing and other items in Querétaro, including at Walmart, Costco, Sam's Club, malls, and thrift stores. You may also make purchases through Amazon Mexico, but be aware that the prices are higher than in the US.

Clothing for pre-service training (PST)

The 10-week PST takes place at the Peace Corps office, and you will be expected to adapt to office norms. Appropriate attire consists of business casual unless there will be a special activity or guest. Nice jeans (without rips or discoloring) may be worn on Fridays. Business casual does not include shorts (of any length), short skirts, spaghetti-string tops, crop tops, sneakers/tennis shoes, or athletic sandals.

Clothing for special occasions

You will need more fashionable attire for special occasions, such as the swearing-in ceremony at the end of PST, weddings, graduations, or other special events in your site. Bring at least one business or formal outfit (nice dress and slacks/blouse, or sport/suit jacket with button-down shirt) and appropriate shoes.

Work clothing

The clothing you will need depends on your sector and specific work assignment. In general, be sure your clothes are professional and comfortable for higher temperatures in the summer and longer walking distances. It is better to be slightly overdressed than under dressed.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) program:

  • TEFL Volunteers work at public universities, and what clothing is considered appropriate may vary from casual to business casual.
  • Bring clothes that you can easily mix and match such as 3 pairs of slacks/pants and a variety of business casual tops/shirts.
  • Professors at some universities tend to wear jeans, so you may want to bring a few nice pair.

Climate Change Awareness and Action (CCAA) program:

  • Work assignments can cover a range of settings, from fieldwork to primary and/or secondary schools.
  • For work outdoors, Mexicans tend to wear long sleeves (perhaps over a t-shirt) and long pants for sun protection, even when hot.
  • You will need well-made outdoor clothes: jeans or work pants, boots, hat, etc.
  • Appropriate clothing in schools ranges from casual (jeans with a nice, button-down shirt) to business casual. If there is a dress code for students and/or teachers, you will want to dress accordingly.

Peace Corps Response program:

  • Because job assignments for Peace Corps Response Volunteers vary greatly, clothing requirements will depend on the specific job description and Counterpart agency. In most cases a Response Volunteer will be in a university, research center, or other office setting, and clothing needs will be similar as those for TEFL Volunteers.

Leisure and recreational Clothing

You will live with a host family during training and for the first 3 months in your site. Clothing considerations include:

  • The culture of Mexico is that people "pop by" relatively frequently, so you may have unexpected company and will want to dress accordingly.
  • Casual clothing (leggings with t-shirt, jeans, sweat clothes) are acceptable at home.
  • For some families shorts or tank tops at home are acceptable, but not for all families. Dress modestly and be aware that shorts are not commonly worn outside of the home except for exercise.
  • It is generally not acceptable to wear socks or be barefoot in the house, so you will need slides, flip-flops, or sandals.
  • Floors may be concrete and cold, so you may want slippers.
  • Houses aren’t heated, so you will want warm sleepwear for the winter.

Some common recreational activities and recommended clothing are:

  • Exercise/sports/walking/running: athletic clothes; shorts, leggings or sweats; t-shirt or tank top; running or other athletic shoes.
  • Hiking: hiking boots, long pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect from insects/sun, and a hat.
  • Swimming (in site or when traveling): modest swimwear.
  • Other leisure/recreational activities include visiting thrift stores or the local market, visiting cultural sites, attending creative classes, cooking, or going out to eat; these don’t require special clothing, but footwear should be comfortable for walking and able to be used in the dirt.

You will do a lot of walking in Mexico so keep that in mind, not only for footwear but also for protection from sun and rain. You may want to bring a strong, portable umbrella.

Footwear is available and relatively inexpensive in Mexico; however, it tends to be of lower quality. Brand name footwear is available but costs more than in the US. Artisanal leather sandals and huaraches are inexpensive and of good quality. It is important to note that women’s shoes larger than US 8, and men’s shoes larger than US 12, are harder to find.

Specific recommendations regarding footwear are:

  • You will do a lot of walking in Mexico, so will want to have shoes that are durable and comfortable.
  • Having separate walking/long distance/recreational shoes and work shoes will help your work shoes stay clean and last longer.
  • You may wish to have two pairs of athletic shoes to alternate so they last longer.
  • Athletic sandals should not be used in the workplace.
  • It may be useful to have a variety of shoes ranging from closed-toe sandals, low heels, boots that can be dressed up or down, professional shoes that are comfortable for walking, etc.
  • You will need house shoes such as flip-flops, sandals, tennis shoes, and slippers for winter.
  • If you would like good cleats for soccer or hiking, it is recommended that you bring them.

You should bring a three-month supply of any prescription and/or over the counter medications you use that are authorized/approved by the Peace Corps.

Note: Prior to service, Peace Corps supplies all volunteers with a medical kit containing basic, over-the-counter medications, as well as multivitamins.

See a detailed list of items included in the medical kit.

The medical unit will replenish prescriptions after the initial three-month training.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs (of the current prescription) with you. Contact lens use will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

See additional guidance from the Office of Medical Services.

You should bring your Covid vaccination record, yellow WHO immunization card (if you have one), and any immunization records that were not recorded or provided to Peace Corps in your physical exam form.

Don't bring more toiletries than what will last you for the first week or two. You can get almost anything you need in Mexico relatively inexpensively, including some familiar brands. Exceptions could be if you have a specific, niche brand that you require (sunscreen, skincare, shampoo, etc.), a favorite brand of make-up, or special products for color-treated or textured hair.

Electricity

Mexico’s electricity is 127V, which is compatible with equipment from the US. Power plugs and outlets are the 2-pronged flat type or the 3-pronged grounded type, so you should not need a converter or adapter. One difficulty could be if you have anything requiring high wattage, such as some hair dryers.

Personal devices

Volunteers who have brought their smart phones, laptops, or tablets have found them helpful. Peace Corps Mexico uses a blended learning methodology where many learning experiences are self-directed eLearning courses accessed using a computer or tablet. Additionally, Volunteers use electronic devices to monitor and report their work throughout service.

If you bring a US phone, ensure that it is unlocked so that you can use the SIM Card that Peace Corps Mexico will provide. Your local cell phone number will be the primary means that we and community members will contact you. If you want to keep your original number, your phone should preferably be able to hold 2 SIM Cards.

To support and protect your equipment, Volunteers suggest an extension cord/surge protector (rooms may have only one outlet) and a reusable portable charger.

Electronic supplies are available in Mexico but are generally more expensive than in the US. It is advisable to purchase insurance for your US electronic devices. However, you should ensure that the warranty applies outside of the US.

Based on your interests and personal preferences there may be additional items you will want to consider bringing with you. Below is a description of the common activities Volunteers engage in and what different Volunteers have said they enjoy having and may be hard to find in country. Note: these items are not required or even recommended, but might be nice to have.

  • Some Volunteers find that they are even more active in a variety of sports or recreational activities in Mexico than they were in the US and wish they had brought more athletic clothing and footwear, including water shoes.
  • Some convenience items you could consider are a small to medium daypack for work or leisure, an insulated water bottle, a rechargeable head lamp, or a coin purse.
  • Think about things that bring you comfort, like your favorite teas or hobby items, and photos of family and friends. You may wish to consider earplugs and eye masks for sleeping, or a sleeping bag to stay warm on winter nights in an unheated house.
  • Lastly, you might want to think of things to share with your host family and friends, such as a map of the US or other materials to show where you are from. You may wish to bring a small gift for your host family.