Moving to Mexico? Bring This, Not That

Some expats will advise you to get rid of everything before you move. Sell it. Gift it. Donate it. Trash it. They’ll reassure you that you can replace whatever you need once you get here, and save yourself boatloads in moving costs.

Others (often connecting to the moving biz) will tell you that it’s tragic to let your life possessions go for pennies on the dollar; and you’ll regret it when you realize that plenty of things you cherished and cast off are hard to buy south of the border.

If you’re like me and hold onto exotic mementos from global travels, photo albums, family heirlooms, or maybe a prized record collection – you will almost surely regret getting rid of these things in one fell swoop as part of your relocation plan. They’re part of your life story, part of your identity – and the kind of stuff you can’t get back once it’s gone.

Frankly, I was skeptical of the claims that “everything” is available for sale in Mexico. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The fact is – there’s not a lot you can’t buy here, assuming you are somewhat close to mid-sized city or larger.

To help better prepare for your move, let’s take a closer look at what’s tough to buy here (and you should consider bringing with you), and what can safely be left behind.

As an aside, we refer to the term Menaje de Casa multiple times in this post. The term simply means “household goods” in Spanish, but refers to a legal process put in place by the Mexican government that allows foreigners and Mexican citizens the right to import specific used personal items into Mexico duty-free, one time only. Because food is not allowed to be imported, it is not covered in this post.

 

What to Bring

Cutting-edge electronics. This is a really big category that includes laptops, monitors, printers, audio receivers, turntables, flat screen TVs, and newer mobile phone models. To a large extent, if you buy here you will find the selection much narrower, skewed to older models, and priced typically 30%+ more than up north.

Home textiles. High thread count sheets, and soft, large bath towels. There are plenty of cheap, low quality towels available at Soriana, and other hyper-markets. But if nice textiles are important to you, you’ll need to shell out at Palacio de Hierro, Zara Home, or Liverpool for these items. And selection will be more limited. There’s no equivalent of HomeGoods here in MX for deals on high quality linens!

Specialty kitchen tools. The basic stuff is readily available in street markets. More specialized items for serious home chefs can be difficult if not impossible to find, e.g. a garlic press, lemon press, mandolins, juicers, coffee bean grinders, paella pans. If you love to cook and own these types of gadgets, bring them!

Quality pots or pans. Again, there’s a decent selection of basics here, but no bargains on high quality cookware like Le Cruset or cast iron pans. Granted these are heavy items to ship, so it depends how attached you are to your cookware, and where you are moving.

pexels-photo-18280608-18280608.jpg

Small kitchen appliances like our countertop Breville convection oven cannot be found here. Juicers and air fryers are not my thing, but popular up north, and premium priced here, if you can find them at all.

Vacuum cleaners. Carpets are typically only found in wealthier Mexican households, so demand is low for vacuums. If you bring carpets, you should bring a vacuum as well.

Air purifier. In many cities across Mexico, air pollution can be a real problem. This is especially true in the dry season, when agricultural fires are intentionally set, and wildfires breakout, compounding the effects of industrial and auto pollution. I can practically guarantee that you will want one, and buying here is more expensive than up north.

Comfortable mattresses in U.S. sizes. There are lots of shops here selling mattresses, but comfort can be an issue. We tested many models before buying from Super Colchones. While the mattress they delivered was the same model, it felt like sleeping on a board for many months, though it has softened a little with time. I really miss the mattress I left back in the States!

For reference, a King size mattress purchased in Mexico is smaller (74.8” x 78.7”) than its US counterpart (76” x 80”). The difference isn’t a big deal – your US sheets will fit its Mexican counterpart in most cases, but it’s something to be aware of.

Modern furniture. In Mexico’s smaller towns and cities you see a lot of traditional-looking, dark wood furniture that’s often heavy, stiff and uncomfortable. If your taste leans modern, you’ll have trouble finding much unless you’re relocating to Mexico City, Guadalajara, or Monterrey.

modern sofa

Fortunately, these mega-cities host a plethora of cutting edge furniture shops with imports from Europe and the U.S. Additionally, you can find local artisans in Tonala, Tlaquepaque and the outer reaches of GDL doing custom builds.

Pricing can be better or worse than the U.S., it really depends on what you want. In addition, you will need to invest a decent amount of time — both shopping and waiting for your items to be delivered. I custom ordered a lovely Parota coffee table and sectional sofa from two different shops in Guadalajara, and while I am thrilled with both, the 4-6 week waits were difficult.

Personal care items & cosmetics. If you have favorite brands you’re loyal to that aren’t mass produced, it’s best to stock up before you move. In my case, Juice Beauty and RoC skin care products aren’t available in stores, only online where they cost double U.S. prices. That said, there are alternatives, and you may simply have to switch as time goes on. Daily wear contact lenses can also be a challenge, as Mexicans are more likely to use extended wear lenses.

Quality footwear. If you live by the beach then flip flops, sneakers and espadrilles will probably suffice. Not so in the central highland or big cities. U.S., Italian and Spanish footwear will be prohibitively expensive, and available in major cities only. Comfortable waterproof boots for rainy season can also be tricky to find.

Technical athletic footwear is available, but often more expensive than up north, with counterfeit goods another problem. Adidas tennis shoes cost me $100 here on sale from a reputable vendor, about the same as up north. Whereas my husband’s search for Adidas soccer cleats took him to three stores, because counterfeit shoes were more common than authentic Adidas. (And we’re not talking street markets. We found counterfeit Adidas shoes in upscale Plaza Patria. Only the luxury mall at Andares had the real deal.)

Technical sports equipment. These items are typically only sought out by rich Mexicans, and are priced accordingly. My Wilson Clash racquet costs 70% more here compared up to north. A can of tennis balls is ~ $9 USD. For those who like to hike, ski, and camp, there is nothing like REI in Mexico. The Decathalon sports chain doesn’t even come close. This affect us much, but performance bike gear is also difficult to find, and expensive when you do.

tennis gear

Performance sports apparel. Tennis clothes, sports bras, and yoga wear are tough. And while not impossible to find, you’ll likely need to buy online at considerably more than you pay up north. In street markets, you can assume it’s mostly counterfeit product.

Of particular note is good-fitting underwear (for women). Finding undergarments that aren’t matronly or overly sexualized is pretty tough. Nike and Adidas sports bras are expensive here. Patagonia products of any kind simply aren’t available. If you need these things for an active lifestyle, you’d better bring them.

Swimwear is the exception. Given all the beaches, there’s plenty of great swimwear and sun shirts for sale in Mexico.

Men’s and women’s apparel (non-sport). If you’re headed to a beach town, or your wardrobe consists mostly of shorts, flip flops and futbol jerseys, then this won’t be relevant to you. But in big cities like CDMX, Guadalajara, and Monterrey, people still dress up to go out, and to work. (at least in offices)

In big cities, shorts, t-shirts and flip flops don’t cut it, and immediately mark you as a tourist. My recommendation is to edit your wardrobe, but keep a few things appropriate for a business meeting or dinner out. Sizing is also smaller here, and dressy clothing is costly.

Premium pet food. Blue Buffalo was my cats’ brand in the U.S. Granted this is super premium cat food, with a 12 lb bag in the U.S. going for around $45 at Petco. Because Petco MX doesn’t carry it, I have been struggling to find them something comparable that won’t break the bank, as the same-size bag of Blue Buffalo on Amazon Mexico is priced at $1,663 pesos or ~ $97.50 USD. At those prices we’ve started incorporating human-grade food into their diet, since it’s so much cheaper.

Pet accessories. Dog collars, leashes, dog beds, PFDs, gates, etc. This stuff can be really expensive in Mexico. I’m embarrassed at how much we spent on a doggie gate at Home Depot. New business opportunity anyone?

cat carrier

English language books. If you’re a book lover, and aren’t a fan of reading everything on electronic devices, then it’s worth bring down some of your favorites as they will offer good company. Few shops carry new or used books in English, and those that do are quite pricey. In Guadalajara, we sadly just lost the one library that was well-stocked with English-language books in the American Society of Jalisco.

Music on vinyl. Yeah, this one’s a bit obscure. If you’re a total music head, be warned that the vinyl craze up north hasn’t taken hold here outside of a few urban pockets. If you want to listen to music on vinyl, only a handful of shops exist, and they’re super pricey.

Home safe. If you have valuables to safeguard and already own one, I’d suggest you bring it. (you must ship it empty and unlocked)

Specialty hardware. Hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, levels, and other measuring tools, are available at big chains like Home, and mom & pop hardware stores, but typically in less depth than up north. In our experience at Home Depot, prices are exorbitant compared to the U.S., and the service is pitiful. If you are DIY-er with high quality tools for home repairs, I say bring them.

cocktail tools

Fancy barware. If you like to throw parties, you’re going to have a lot more time for fiestas once you move to Mexico (and friends who will want to join you!). Unless you live near a handful of gourmet shops like La Europea or City Market in a major metro, don’t count on easily finding these tools (except glassware) for your bar cart once you get here.

NOTE: We don’t have children and cannot advise you on what kinds of things are worth bringing if you relocate with kids. Do your own due diligence if this applies to you.

 

What should you leave behind?

Tabletop items. Plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, silverware are easy to buy here. Plus, it’s an enormous pain to pack these things, and much of it could arrive broken by the time it arrives.

Basic cookware. Ordinary pots, pans, potholders, cutting boards, and knives can be purchased at Soriana, Walmart, or the big permanent markets like Mercado de Abastos. If you’re not fussy about your kitchen tools, i.e. you didn’t frequent Williams Sonoma up north, then they’re easily replaced here.

plates and mugs

Small electrics. Toasters, coffee makers, hairdryers, etc. are easy to find and competitively priced in Mexico.

Everyday kitchen supplies. Napkins, utensils, place mats, pitchers, water dispensers, vases, food storage containers, wood spoons, salt & pepper shakers, and so on. Kitchen supply stores are common in most cities of decent size. Street markets are also a great place to look for these items.

Medicines. Technically not allowed in your menaje de casa anyway, medicines are much less expensive in Mexico compared to the U.S., with many items available from pharmacies without a prescription, saving on time and expense. There are certainly a few exceptions, but for U.S. citizens, low cost medications is one of the great rewards of moving south of the border! That said, it’s a good idea to bring at least a 1-2 month supply for when you arrive.

Mexican art

Art of all kinds. Painting, sculpture, and crafts are of high quality and fun to shop for here. In Guadalajara, head to Tlaquepaque to for a wide array of options to liven up your new place.

Now if you own art you are very attached to, this is one of life’s great pleasures and by all means you should bring some of it with you.

Auto supplies. Mexico has AutoZone and various domestic chain stores that carry essential items for your car, truck or van.

Any furniture you aren’t emotionally attached to. Expensive to ship, and just not worth it. And don’t even think of shipping IKEA products as they won’t survive the trip.

Clay and ceramic pots for plants. Sooo much cheaper in Mexico.

Gardening tools. Plentiful and easy to find in big box stores and at some viveros.

gardening

Bikes. New or used bikes are easy to find via expat forums. Don’t expect to compete in the Tour de France with this stuff, but it will more that adequate for tooling around town.

Basic Cleaning tools. Brooms, mops, etc. are astonishingly cheap here.

Bulk Storage containers. Cheap and easy to buy once you get here.

Office supplies. Notebooks, folders, copy paper, pens, highlighters, staplers, etc. are super easy to find and very inexpensive.

To wrap this up… If you’re torn on what to bring and what to get rid of, I strongly suggest parking that stuff with relatives or in a storage facility for six months or so, in order to decide whether you really miss it and want it back, or can let it go with no regrets.

At the risk of stating the obvious, making an international move is one of the most stressful and challenging experiences a person can have. Do yourself a favor by eliminating all of the stuff that holds no personal value to you, isn’t essential to your health or well-being, and isn’t needed for living in a warm climate like Mexico. It will make things go much, much smoother.

Plus, I’m guessing that plenty of the items I’ve listed as difficult to find in Mexico won’t even apply to your situation or lifestyle. If that’s true, hooray! You can bring less.

And depending on the distance you’re traveling, it may still make more sense to buy some things here at a premium, rather than pay exorbitant prices to ship. Everyone’s situation is different, but at least now you have a better idea of what to expect.

About Live Well Mexico

My name is Dawn Stoner. In 2022, my family sold our house and half of our possessions, then relocated to Guadalajara, Mexico. We now live here full-time.

Since then, we’ve learned how to navigate the real estate market, deal with the Mexican bureaucracy, and manage our finances as expats… all while having a pretty fine time!

I created this blog to help newcomers solve the everyday challenges of living in Mexico, because it isn’t easy figuring all this out for yourself.

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