Does the idea of shopping in Mexico make you want to choose our southern neighbor for your next vacation? First-time visitors to Mexico are often struck by the kaleidoscopic colors and markets and the wide range of things to buy throughout the country.
Honeymoon couples can uncover a wide selection of affordable decorative items and souvenirs to enliven a new home. Return guests often focus on acquiring specific items to grow their collections.
Whether you’re planning your honeymoon, your first trip to Mexico, or your fiftieth, these shopping tips can help you focus on items to treasure long after you say adios.
Choice Shopping Locations in Mexico
In the major cities of Mexico, an array of upscale designer boutiques, galleries, and American-style shopping malls vie for your pesos. But why buy a famous brand in Mexico that you can just as easily find at home or online?
Government-operated Fonart shops deal in quality Mexican-made crafts. They're ideal for those who are most comfortable paying fixed prices when shopping rather than bargaining for handmade items. Better hotels in resort areas stock their shops with well-edited collections of local goods (their prices are usually non-negotiable).
Local crafts and folk art certain to catch your eye include metalwork, papier-mâché, hand-blown glass, pottery, and furniture. Dedicated crafts centers, such as Mexico City’s Mercado de Artesanías, are convenient places to survey what’s widely available. At those places, it is fine to haggle with vendors by counter-offering with a price 50 percent of what they initially propose — and then good-naturedly settle somewhere in between.
The best bargains are likely to be found at Mexico's roadside stalls and in rustic markets that dazzle the senses with sights, sounds, and smells. Every town (and most neighborhoods) has at least one indoor market, as well as a fresh-air component on the street. Exceptional ones are located in areas with major Indian populations such as Oaxaca, Puebla, and Chiapas.
When’s the ideal time to go shopping? Before major holiday times, street markets reflect the coming excitement. You’ll know it’s closing on Easter with the appearance of decorative toys, masks, and figures. Skulls and skeletons emerge before Days of the Dead — and newlyweds and other romantics with a sense of humor or the macabre should consider collecting bride and groom skeletons, which come in many different sizes. Pre-Christmas, countless versions of the Nativity are put on display.
Objects of Desire
Shopping for Pottery in Mexico
From humble earthenware pots to items used in ceremonial rituals, Mexican pottery reflects ancient techniques and modern skills. Connoisseurs of collectible blue-and-white Talavera tiles and ceramics head for Uriarte for the largest selection.
Shopping for Silver in Mexico
While Taxco alone has several hundred shops designing and selling silver, the shiny metal is ubiquitous throughout the country. Quality-conscious buyers look for the .925 stamp indicating that an item is sterling. Lower-priced articles are made from plated or alpaca alloy silver (a metal alloy).
Shopping for Textiles in Mexico
Traditional embroidered garments include sashes, shawls, blouses, and dresses. Complete an outfit with a leather bag, belt, and huarache sandals. To decorate a home, consider shopping for brightly colored hand-woven rugs and blankets.
Shopping for Day of the Dead Crafts in Mexico
Although it may appear to be Mexico's version of Halloween, Day of the Dead is celebrated to honor spirits that have passed on. Ceremonial masks, figurines, and even candy designed around skulls and skeletons are considered prime collectibles for those with a ghoulish bent.
Shopping for Fun in Mexico
What child wouldn’t love a birthday piñata? How about a sombrero that you can later pin to your wall as decoration? Spice up an adult party with salsa and merengue CDs. And don’t forget to tote home tequila (añejo is best).
Mexico Shopping Tips
Stores are open 9:30 am to 8 pm, Monday through Saturday. But go early to street markets, which close around 2 or 3 pm to avoid the hottest time of the day. Sunday shopping is generally limited to tourist areas and malls.
Independent sellers deal in cash; large ones take well-known credit cards. Some may charge a percentage for the convenience of using plastic, so use cash to save on purchases.
Whether you plan ahead and bring an extra piece of luggage or pick up one south of the border, you’re likely to come home from Mexico with an armful of souvenirs — as well as a heart full of memories.
Get a Tax Refund on Purchases
Ask if VAT tax has been added to your bill and hold onto your receipts. If you spend more than 1200 pesos at an approved merchant, you may be entitled to a tourist tax or VAT refund and get money back when you leave.
Shopping in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta has transformed itself from a sleepy seaside village into a major resort town that maintains the look of Old Mexico. Along its cobblestone streets, white-stucco buildings — with red roofs and bright flowers spilling from balconies — overlook golden Pacific Coast beaches and blue-green waves.
Malecón, Puerto Vallarta’s broad waterfront, features a boardwalk lined with restaurants, outdoor cafés, and places that scoop scrumptious ice cream. Savor a cone while you browse the area’s fine array of shops.
Plaza Malecón offers the best selection. Look for easy, breezy cotton-gauze resort wear at María de Guadalajara. At Sierra Madre, choose from ecologically themed gifts, clothing, and art work.
The indoor/outdoor Mercado Municipal, Vallarta’s largest craft market, encompasses a city block alongside the Cuale River. Expect to find a wide selection of pottery, lacquerware, embroidered clothing, masks, mirrors, wood carvings, and hand-dyed rugs there.
Since many creative people are drawn to live in Puerto Vallarta, shoppers are also likely to encounter one-of-a-kind items around the city.
Well-known artist and sculptor Sergio Bustamante, for example, who works in bronze, ceramic, and papier mâché fashioning large, fanciful animals, shows his original creations at the Paseo Díaz Ordaz and Juárez galleries in Puerto Vallarta.