There is a wide variety of places to shop in Mexico to satisfy your basic needs. Where I am, there are quite a few malls and large shopping complexes which tend to have everything from American clothing outlets to pet supply shops, to furniture stores. We have super stores such as Wal-Mart, Mega, and Soriana. We have department stores like Liverpool and Sears. We have warehouse stores like Sams and City Club. Also, home repair and tools stores such as Home Depot. Every corner has its little tienda, each neighborhood its mercado, and usually a weekly pop-up market to boot. When the mercado feels like too much of a walk, there is usually someone selling fresh produce out of their truck somewhere between here and there. There are also smaller, specialized vendors all over the place. During my time here, I have developed a shopping strategy.
- Wal-Mart for health and beauty and hard to find items–such as all beef hot dogs, chimichurri salsa, and ham not made from poultry. Usually once or twice a month.
- Department stores are used very rarely by us, usually for a larger purchase (such as electronics or furniture). So far, we have yet to actually buy from one, but have used it for price comparison to establish a baseline for finding good deals at other, smaller stores.
- Sams for dog food, toilet paper, and harder to find cheeses (like my beloved bacon cheddar). Once a month.
- Bodega Aurrera for the weekly non-produce shopping needs.
- Mercado del Abastos. This market is huge, busy, and meant to be shopped by those looking to buy in bulk. It is cheaper than any other mercado, but you generally have to buy more than you can use before it goes bad. The best way to shop this is to agree with friends to split what is bought. We buy and then split with family and friends when we cannot talk the vendor down on the amount.
- My corner tienda is for when we forget small, normal items or run out before the weekend when we go shopping. It is good for basics like toilet paper, milk, and eggs as well as drinks and snacks. This is the only location we buy our bottled water from (we use a water dispenser).
- Small, individualized vendors are a big plus to living here. When we run out of tortillas, I can get them hand-made within a three-minute walk from the house. If I am wanting something sweet, I can get fresh-baked donuts or even hand-made chocolates and the corner bakery. On a hot day I can get a shaved ice made on the patio of someone’s house. I can refresh myself in the morning at the local juice bar. I can do this and more without going more than four blocks from my home.
- We do not eat out a lot, but the options are plentiful. If I want a big meal quickly and cheaply, I can choose from about seven different comida corridas near my home. Depending on the time of day, there are tamale, taco, burger, burrito, tlacoyo, quesadilla, torta, fruit cup, and elote vendors near my home to get something quick and (relatively) small. When I am in the mood for the atmosphere of home, we can drive to American style restaurants–or even actual American restaurants. And it is pretty easy to locate different types of cuisine; I have a favorite Lebanese, Japanese, and Chinese restaurant here and know of other types that I have simply not visited yet.
There are some things that are different about shopping here. Depending on where you are shopping, be ready for a vendor to try to charge you extra–the infamous “gringo tax”. While you are safe from this at stores where prices are listed, it is a good idea to be cautious of it in mercados, small stores or stands, and at ferias. The more time you live here, the more you will learn about the reasonable price for things; this will allow you to set your limit and stick to it.
When shopping in a dense area, such as a mercado or feria, be prepared for pushy vendors. I have been screamed at, pushed/pulled, and had people step in front of me to stop me from moving just to get me into their store/tent/restaurant, etc. This isn’t something to get offended by, but you need to be prepared to brush them off and keep moving.
Another thing to be ready for when at mercados and ferias is to be identified by whatever your most distinguishing features are. When I am out in public, I have several identities: guerita, gringita, and gordita. Basically, blondie/whitey, American, and fatty. Don’t get upset, it is normal and the person doing it does not see it as being offensive at all.
If you are looking for products from home, many can be found at a variety of stores but you will need to shop around to locate them. I get dill pickles at Wal-Mart, buffalo sauce at Mega, cheddar cheese at Sams, and BBQ sauce at ISSTE. If you live near a Trico, you will find many products from all over the world, but should be prepared to pay a high price.
When you are unable to find a non-food product here at all or not at a reasonable price, eBay is a good place to look. I have a hard time finding the make-up I like, which I have found on eBay from people who are willing to ship to Mexico; I can also locate clothing in my size and in the brands I prefer. There are certain precautions you must take when using eBay; check the reputation of the seller, make certain the product is not counterfeit, and check to make sure it is okay to import the specific product into the country/if there are special taxes that you will be charged.
Websites that Ship to Mexico
- Layne Bryant
Questions for my Readers
Where do you find the best deals in your area?
Have you ordered from these sites and had them ship to Mexico?
What other sites do you know of that ship to Mexico?
Any specific eBay sellers you recommend?