What do the Day of the Dead symbols mean? I decipher them in this guide.
Day of the Dead (or Dia de Muertos) is one of the most unique Mexican traditions, a vibrant and symbolic celebration of death. The Mexicans embrace death and believe that it’s a natural part of life, to be acknowledged and remembered with love and respect. Rather than mourning death, Day of the Dead is about celebrating the lives of those who have passed away.
Families create ofrendas (offerings) and altars adorned with marigold flowers, candles, sugar skulls, and the favorite foods of their deceased loved ones. People visit cemeteries to clean and decorate graves, sharing stories and music while honoring the departed. Face painting as calacas (skeletons) is common, and parades with festive costumes and elaborate floats add to the lively atmosphere.
There are so many Dia de los Muertos symbols — every single item on the altar and in cemeteries represents something and has a meaning. I’m going to share what I’ve learned from living in Mexico and celebrating Day of the Dead here. Take a deep dive into what all these Day of the Dead symbols represent.
Table of Contents
- Day of the Dead Symbols
- 1. Ofrendas : Altar Offerings
- 2. Panteon : Visiting the Cemetery
- Book a Group Tour
- Night Tours
- 3. Cempasúchil : Day of the Dead Flowers
- 4. Cresta de Gallo: Symbol of Life & Death
- 5. Pan de Muerto : Day of the Dead Bread
- 6. Calaveras de Azúcar : Sugar Skulls
- 7. Copal : The Aroma of Day of the Dead
- 8. Atole and Champurrado : Hot Drinks
- 9. Calacas : Skeleton Figurines
- 10. La Catrina : Artistic symbol
- 11. Alebrijes : Day of the Dead Creatures
- 12. Xoloitzcuiintli: Guardians of the Dead
- 13. Mariposa : Monarch Butterflies
- 14. Comparsa : Day of the Dead Parades
- 15. Tapetes de Arena : Sand Tapestries
- Things to Know About Day of the Dead
- Mexico Travel Guide
Day of the Dead Symbols
1. Ofrendas : Altar Offerings
Most families in Mexico will set up an altar at home in honor of loved ones who have passed on. The altar usually includes photos of deceased family members, their favorite food, candles, copal incense, sugar skulls and marigold flowers. It’s believed that when the dead come back to Earth, they’re hungry and thirsty from the long journey.
The altars are usually layered: the top tier contains photos of the remembered deceased as well as religious statues; the second tier will be where they place the ofrendas such as bottles of tequila, mezcal, or atole and the deceased’s favorite food. The third tier will be lit up with candles, and some people add a washbasin and a towel so the spirits may refresh themselves upon arrival at the altar.
In Mexico City and Oaxaca (which are some of the best places to celebrate Day of the Dead), you’ll also see giant altars in main squares, parks, museums, restaurants and businesses. In Mexico City, you can find the most impressive ones at Museo de Arte Popular, Casa Azul (Frida Kahlo’s home) and Alameda Central.
Common Items Found on Altars
- Marigold Flowers (Cempasúchil): The vibrant orange marigold petals are believed to guide the spirits of the deceased to the altar with their bright color and strong scent.
- Candles: Candles, often in the shape of skulls, are used to light the way for the spirits and represent the element of fire.
- Copal: Burning incense, typically copal resin, purifies the air and is believed to help spirits find their way to the altar.
- Water: A pitcher or glass of water quenches the thirst of the spirits after their journey from the afterlife.
- Salt: Salt purifies and cleanses the spirits. It’s often placed in a small dish or in the shape of a cross on the altar.
- Papel Picado: Colorful paper cutouts that represent the fragility of life and the connection between the living and the dead.
- Sugar Skulls: Decorative sugar skulls represent deceased loved ones and are often personalized with their names.
- Pan de Muerto: A sweet bread decorated with bone-shaped pieces of dough, representing the circle of life and death.
- Foods and Drinks: Offerings of the deceased’s favorite foods and beverages, such as fruits, tamales, mole, atole, and more.
- Photos and Mementos: Photographs of the deceased, along with personal items and mementos that were meaningful to them.
- Toys and Trinkets: Toys and trinkets, especially for deceased children, are included to bring joy and comfort to their spirits.
- Crosses and Religious Symbols: Religious symbols like crosses and images of saints may be placed on the altar to provide spiritual guidance.
- Candles in the Shape of a Cross: These candles symbolize the cardinal points and help guide the spirits.
- Crosses Made of Ashes: Ashes may be used to create crosses or other patterns on the altar, representing the cycle of life and death.
2. Panteon : Visiting the Cemetery
It is at the cemetery where families come together on Dia de Muertos to share stories, and show their enduring love and respect for those who have passed away. During Day of the Dead, the cemetery is a visually striking and deeply meaningful display of the Mexicans’ cultural beliefs.
Many of the graves are lavishly decorated with a variety of symbolic elements to welcome the returning spirits. A popular Day of the Dead symbol, papel picado, is usually hung above the graves; these colorful tissue paper banners with intricate designs and cutouts add a festive touch. Photographs of the deceased are placed on the grave as a way to remember and honor their lives. Families often include items that were important to the deceased, such as their favorite foods, drinks and personal belongings.
Some families write letters or messages to the deceased, expressing their love, memories, and wishes. Sharing stories about the deceased is one of the most loved Day of the Dead traditions.
The Liveliest cemeteries at Day of the Dead
- Oaxaca: The Panteon General is an easily accessible one from the center, but the most famous cemetery in Oaxaca is in Santa Cruz Xococotlán. Panteon Xoxo (15 minutes away) has vibrant Day of the Dead celebrations, with a fairground and huge stage set up outside and performances taking place from 8pm onwards.
- Mexico City: The most famous cemetery is San Andres Mixquic, said to be the inspiration behind the movie, Coco. However, it takes around 2 hours to get to Mixquic from Mexico City. And with the huge crowds that pour into Mixquic, it can be very difficult to get an Uber to return to Mexico City. The most convenient way to get there is to join a tour.
- Janitzio Island: There is just one small cemetery on Janitzio. In the early evening, locals from surrounding areas canoe over to the island, it’s a moving sight. There’s a big party at the top of the conical shaped island, around the statue of José María Morelos, is one big party. Food stalls, bars and more are erected around here.
- Merida: Hanal Pixan starts at the Cementerio General de Mérida. During the parade, you’ll hear music and see thousands of people dressed up in traditional attire with their faces painted as skulls.
Book a Group Tour
Do you prefer to have a guide? Check out this 7-day Oaxaca Day of the Dead tour by National Geographic.
Or do you prefer to travel independently and just join a night tour with a guide to visit cemeteries and get a better understanding of Day of Dead customs?
3. Cempasúchil : Day of the Dead Flowers
Marigold flowers are also known as “flor de Muerto” (Spanish for flower of the dead) and play a central role in Day of the Dead traditions. Cempasúchil symbolizes the beauty and fragility of life.
Prized for their bright coloring and potent fragrance, marigolds are thought to guide the spirits to the living world with their vibrant colors and strong scent. Their petals are often laid out as walkways for the dead to find their way on earth so they may be reunited with their loved ones. Nowadays, you won’t see any altar without marigold flowers.
Where to See Cempasúchil Fields
Just outside of Oaxaca, you can visit marigold farms before they are harvested for Day of the Dead. We went to the Cultivos del Viejo farm in Zimatlán del Alvarez, a 45-minute drive from Oaxaca centro. The plantation accepts donations if you’d to come in and walk in the fields (just be respectful).
In Mexico City, there’s also a Cempasúchil Festival along Paseo de la Reforma that showcases the iconic marigold flowers. It usually takes place a week before Day of the Dead begins, as the flowers are usually all sold by the time the festivities begin.
4. Cresta de Gallo: Symbol of Life & Death
Another Day of the Dead symbol often found on altars is the unique Cresta de Gallo flower, also known as “Cockscomb” in English. Usually harvested during the Day of the Dead season, this distinctive flower is characterized by its vibrant, velvety, and intricate blossoms that resemble a rooster’s comb.
The rich, blood-red color of the Cresta de Gallo is symbolic of life and death. Its appearance is thought to represent the essence of life, as well as the connection between the living and the deceased. In Mexican culture, the color red often signifies love, passion, and the vitality of the human spirit.
Some believe that the Cresta de Gallo has the power to guide the spirits of the deceased back to the world of the living during the Day of the Dead. Its bright and intricate appearance is thought to act as a beacon, helping the spirits find their way to the ofrendas (altars) and the homes of their loved ones. You’ll also be able to see a lot of them at the Cultivos del Viejo farm in Zimatlán del Alvarez, Oaxaca.
5. Pan de Muerto : Day of the Dead Bread
This is a sweet and festive bread that is one of the most well-loved Day of the Dead symbols. You’ll often see it used as a decoration on altars and graves. There are several varieties of pan de muertos in Mexico. The most well-known is decorated with a bone-like formation across the top and covered with sugar.
Pan de muerto is slightly sweet and flavored with ingredients like orange blossom water or anise. It’s best enjoyed with hot chocolate or coffee. You’ll find pan de muerto literally everywhere at Day of the Dead: in the markets, at bakeries, in cafes and at fairs.
Pan de Muerto in Oaxaca
Pan de muerto in Oaxaca is very different though; it’s round and made of yolk, topped with a candy face figurine (representing the departed souls) and sesame seeds. The main characteristic of this bread is the faces and figures of alfeñique (a type of molded sugar confection) that’s placed inside the bread.
Unlike in other parts of Mexico where the pan de muerto is consumed only in the months of October and November, it is consumed all year round in Oaxaca. The only thing that changes is that on these dates it is decorated with figurine faces that represent the souls of the deceased.
6. Calaveras de Azúcar : Sugar Skulls
Sugar skulls are the quintessential Day of the Dead treat. They are not only delicious and decorative but they also carry symbolic significance. They represent the cycle of life and death and serve as a way to remember and honor deceased loved ones during the Day of the Dead festivities.
Originally introduced by Italian Catholic missionaries in the 1600s, sugar art started taking root here thanks to the abundance of sugarcane in the country. These days, they are made out of granulated sugar and water, then shaped by silicone sugar skull molds. These skulls are often inscribed with the names of the departed, using colored royal icing.
7. Copal : The Aroma of Day of the Dead
Copal, a type of tree resin, is commonly found on altars and used throughout the Day of the Dead festivities. It represents one of the four elements —earth, water, fire, and air— which are important in indigenous cosmology. Copal symbolizes the element of air due to the smoke it produces when burned. The four elements are believed to be essential for life and are incorporated into many indigenous ceremonies.
The aroma and the smoke from burning copal are also thought to attract and please the spirits, encouraging them to visit their earthly families. Families perform rituals with copal as a way to communicate with the spirits and express their love and respect for the departed.
8. Atole and Champurrado : Hot Drinks
Having been around since the Aztec era, Atole is a warm, thick beverage made from masa (corn dough), water or milk, and sweeteners like cinnamon and vanilla. Champurrado is a variation of atole that includes chocolate. It is thicker than regular hot chocolate because it’s prepared with masa de maíz (corn flour).
These drinks offer a soothing indulgence during the Day of the Dead celebrations, as it usually gets chilly during this time of the year. These preHispanic drinks provide a taste of warmth and tradition.
9. Calacas : Skeleton Figurines
Calacas are figurines of cheerful, lively, and festive skeletons. They are a means of honoring and remembering the deceased in a joyful and celebratory manner. Rather than mourning death, Day of the Dead is about celebrating the lives of those who have passed away. Calacas serve as a reminder that death is a natural part of the human experience.
Artisans and families often craft calacas from various materials, including paper mache, clay, sugar, and more. And the calacas are usually portrayed engaged in various everyday activities, such as dancing, playing music, cooking, and more. Over the years, these artistic creations have become part of the ofrendas and other decorations.
During Day of the Dead, you’ll find all kinds of calacas dressed in regal and traditional Mexican dresses and styles, on display in Guadalajara’s main artery, Avenida Chapultepec.
10. La Catrina : Artistic symbol
Everywhere you go during Day of the Dead in Mexico, you’ll see paintings, figures and people made up and dressed like her — La Catrina, an elegantly dressed female skeleton adorned in European clothing and often depicted wearing a wide-brimmed hat, has become a symbol of Dia de Muertos.
The classy skeletal lady was first created by Jose Guadalupe Posada, a political cartoonist and illustrator who used his art to comment on social issues. In 1910, Posada created an etching titled “La Catrina”, as a satirical commentary on the Mexican upper class’s emulation of European customs. The message was that, regardless of their social status, all people are equal in the face of death.
The image of La Catrina gained further prominence when Mexican muralist Diego Rivera included La Catrina in his famous work “Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central” (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central). In Rivera’s mural, La Catrina is depicted walking alongside other historical figures, capturing the idea that death is an inevitable part of life. Read more about the Day of the Dead Catrina.
Where to see a Catrina Parade
Today, La Catrina is a beloved figure often depicted in Day of the Dead celebrations through art, crafts, and costumes, serving as a beautiful and meaningful representation of the interconnectedness of life and death. It has become one of the most important Day of the Dead symbols.
Each year, hundreds of people dress up as Catrinas and descend on the zócalo in Mexico City to take part in the Catrina parade. Attendees paint their faces in the typical style of the Catrina skull, complete with colorful accents around the eyes and cheeks, and dress in outfits appropriate for the occasion. We also saw a Catrina contest in Coyoacan, the southern suburbs of Mexico City.
Is it Respectful to Get the Catrina Facepaint?
Many people will get their faces painted in the Catrina style at Dia de los Muertos. I checked with many locals, and they confirmed that it’s not rude/disrespectful to wear face-painting in the cemeteries either.
There are tons of makeup artists with temporary stands everywhere in Oaxaca and Mexico City. A face paint costs around 100 – 150 MXN ($5-7.5) and takes 10-20 minutes. They usually have a book of designs to choose from, or you can show them what you want on your phone.
To complete the look, you can also get flower crown headbands from these street vendors. Most are inexpensive, at around 100-200 MXN ($5-10). If you want to buy them online before your trip, Amazon has a few options.
11. Alebrijes : Day of the Dead Creatures
Alebrijes are vibrant and fantastical Mexican folk art sculptures that represent creatures from the underworld. These Mexican spirit animals are often imaginative combinations of different animals, resulting in surreal and visually captivating forms. They hold deep cultural significance and have become emblematic of Mexican folk art.
Alebrijes were originally created by Pedro Linares López, a Mexican artist and artisan from Mexico City. In the 1930s, Pedro fell ill and, during his illness, experienced vivid and surreal dreams in which he saw a strange place resembling a forest. In this forest, he encountered animals that transformed into fantastical creatures with extraordinary features and vibrant colors These creatures communicated with him, and upon his recovery, Pedro felt compelled to recreate them.
Pedro started sculpting these creatures from cardboard and papier-mâché, giving life to the beings he saw in his dreams. He called them “alebrijes,” a term he coined for these surreal and imaginative creations. While Mexican alebrijes aren’t traditionally a part of Dia de Muertos celebrations, they have now made their way into the festivities and become popular Day of the Dead symbols.
Where to See Alebrijes Figures
A massive alebrije parade takes place in Mexico City for Day of the Dead every year. It starts from the Zocalo, continuing along Avenida 5 de Mayo, then Paseo de la Reforma, ending at the Angel de la Independencia. Once the parade is over, you can see the alebrijes on display on Paseo de la Reforma.
The main atrium of the Museo de Arte Popular will also play host to a colorful and ornate ofrenda from 22 October to 6 November. The museum is devoted to the weird and wonderful folk art traditions of Mexico and it has a massive collection of alebrije sculptures.
12. Xoloitzcuiintli: Guardians of the Dead
The Xoloitzcuintli, also known as the Xolo or Mexican Hairless Dog, is a distinctive and ancient breed indigenous to Mexico. It’s recognized for its hairless appearance, although there is a coated variety as well. Within Mexican culture, the Xoloitzcuintli holds a special place in various indigenous traditions, particularly during the Day of the Dead.
The Mesoamericans believed that the Xoloitzcuintli had the ability to guide the souls of the deceased to the afterlife, assisting them in finding their way to Mictlán, the realm of the dead. Xolos were considered protective guardians. Sometimes, Xolos were buried with the deceased as companions on their journey.
A popular Day of the Dead symbol especially for kids, the Xoloitzcuintli figurine is often placed on ofrendas (altars) or near the graves of their loved ones. This symbolized the protection and guidance these dogs offered to the spirits returning during the holiday.
13. Mariposa : Monarch Butterflies
The word “mariposa,” which means butterfly in Spanish, is often used as a poetic term for the soul in Mexican culture, further connecting the butterfly to the spiritual realm. Monarchs migrate to Mexico from North America each year, arriving in large numbers in late October and early November. As the arrival of monarch butterflies in Mexico coincides with the beginning of Day of the Dead in Mexico, the butterflies have become a natural and symbol of this special time of the year.
In ancient Aztec beliefs, it was thought that the souls of deceased warriors who had fallen in battle would be reborn as butterflies. Monarch butterflies undergo a remarkable transformation during their life cycle, from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis and finally to butterfly. This metamorphosis is seen as a symbol of the journey of the soul and the transformative nature of death.
This idea of souls taking the form of butterflies carries over into modern Mexican traditions, including Day of the Dead. Till today, Mexicans believe that these butterflies represent the spirits of deceased loved ones returning to visit the living during this time.
14. Comparsa : Day of the Dead Parades
A comparsa is a lively and colorful parade or procession that is an integral part of Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. These parades feature participants dressed in elaborate costumes and makeup, dancing, singing, and playing music as they move through the streets. The origins of comparsas can be traced back to both indigenous Mesoamerican traditions and European influences.
A muerteada on the other hand is a traditional dance and performance unique to the Oaxaca Day of the Dead celebrations. It’s rooted in Oaxacan indigenous traditions and reflects the rich cultural diversity of the region. Muertadas usually involve participants dressing as calacas (skeletons) and dancing to traditional music in the streets. Sometimes you’ll even find participants carrying a tall wooden structure (castillo) filled with spinning fireworks creating a dazzling pyrotechnic display.
Where to See Comparsas & Muertadas
- Mexico City: Mexico City hosts some of the most elaborate and widely attended Day of the Dead parades and comparsas. The main parade, known as the “Desfile de Día de los Muertos,” features enormous floats, colorful costumes, and thousands of spectators. Read my Day of the Dead Mexico City guide for details on dates and location.
- Oaxaca: Muerteada performances are a prominent feature of the Day of the Dead celebrations in Oaxaca. You’ll see them throughout the day in the historic center (especially around the Templo de Santo Domingo) from 31Oct to 2 Nov. There’ll also be many muertadas happening in the neighborhoods of Jalatlaco and Xochimilco.
- Janitzio, Michoacán: The island of Janitzio in Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, is famous for its Day of the Dead comparsas. Visitors can witness the unique spectacle of candlelit boats, mariachi bands, and traditional dances during the festivities on the island.
15. Tapetes de Arena : Sand Tapestries
During the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico, you’ll also notice many tapetes de arena”or sand tapestries on display. These colorful artworks are beautiful formations made with colored sand, seeds, flower petals, and other natural materials.
Just like altars and ofrendas, sand tapestries are offerings to honor deceased loved ones. They symbolize the ephemeral nature of life and the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. The tradition is believed to have originated from ancient Mesoamerican rituals where flowers, seeds, and other natural materials were used to create decorative patterns as offerings to the gods and spirits. They are a visual and symbolic representation of the festive and spiritual aspects of the holiday.
Where to see Tapetes de Arena
Plaza de la Danza in Oaxaca City is a great spot to see massive tapetes de arena on display. At the end of the Day of the Dead celebrations, judges will decide which sand carpet is the winner of the competition. The Magna Comparsa ends here at Plaza de la Danza, making it an important spot for the Oaxaca Day of the Dead festivities.
The villages in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca have a long history of celebrating the dead with colorful tapetes de arena. They represent a path for the spirits to find their way from the cemetery back to their family’s home. Depending on the town, they are created nine days, forty days, and one year after the death of a loved one. The most famous ones are found in Zaachila, along Calle Coquiza which leads from the cemetery to the church.
Things to Know About Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead is NOT Halloween!
If there’s one thing you need to know about Dia de los Muertos — it is not Mexican Halloween. Deeply rooted in indigenous culture, Day of the Dead traditions have origins that trace back thousands of years. The celebration has a strong connection to pre-Columbian cultures like the Aztecs, Maya, and Purépecha.
Halloween, on the other hand, has its roots in Celtic and European pagan traditions. It originated in the Gaelic festival of Samhain, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It has evolved into a more commercialized holiday, emphasizing on silly costumes, going to parties and trick or treating.
That said, Mexicans (usually the younger generation) do celebrate Halloween and tend to dress up in ghoulish costumes on 31 October. Kids also go trick-or-treating and get candy. But Halloween is definitely not as celebrated as Day of the Dead in Mexico.
It Gets Busy in Mexico at Day of the Dead
In recent years, more and more travelers are flocking to Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebrations. Being able to witness and join in the festivities is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I honestly think it’s the best time to visit Mexico.
However, this means that airfares and hotel prices are higher than ever, and accommodation gets fully booked months in advance. You’ll also need to prepare for the overwhelming amount of tourists wherever you go. Oaxaca in particular was packed with foreigners when we visited in 2022.
Dress Appropriately for Day of the Dead in Mexico
As mentioned, Dia de los Muertos is not the Mexican Halloween — please leave your sexy nurse or superhero costumes at home! Most people wear black dresses or simple floral dresses. You can find beautiful Mexican embroidered dresses in local markets for cheap (US$10-15).
Keep in mind that at this time of the year, it gets chilly in the evenings in many cities like Oaxaca and Mexico City. It will be dry and warm during the day, but the temperature drops once the sun sets. So pack jeans and a sweater or light jacket for night time.
Be Respectful at Cemeteries
During Day of the Dead in Mexico, cemeteries are filled with people gathering, singing and celebrating their departed loved ones. The atmosphere is incredible: people huddle in blankets, sipping tequila, and telling stories amidst candlelight and burning incense. Outside the cemetery, you will find street food carts, games stores, and a carnival-like atmosphere.
Even though the atmosphere in the cemeteries are lively and festive, remember to be respectful. Don’t touch any of the graves or displays, and don’t sit on them. Watch where you walk and make sure you’re not stepping on a tombstone.
Mexico Travel Guide
Whether you are traveling Mexico for a year or a week, I always recommend travelers to buy travel insurance. You never know what will happen, plus you’ll get compensated for things like flight cancellations, delays, loss of luggage and other incidents. Read my travel insurance guide.
Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date.
Book a Day of the Dead Tour
Celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico is extremely fun, but it can also get extremely hectic and intense. If you’re not a confident traveler or you don’t do well in crowded places, your best bet is to book a group tour. They will take care of the logistics and the local guide can give you a great overview of Dia de Muertos traditions.
We didn’t book a tour, and we went to all the events and cemeteries mentioned in this article ourselves. It was easy taking Uber around. But for solo travelers who don’t speak Spanish, it might be wise (and more fun!) to join a group.
Here are some Day of the Dead tours available:
- 28Oct – 3Nov: Dead of the Dead Tour by G Adventures — For a full experience, join this Dia de los Muertos Oaxaca tour for 7 days and experience all the events I mentioned above with a guide and small group.
- 31 Oct: Day of the Dead Tour in Oaxaca — Prefer just a day tour? This daytrip lets you join in a family celebration and brings you to the town of San Agustin Etla.
- 1 Nov: Day of the Dead Tour in Oaxaca — This tour brings you to Jalatlaco and three different cemeteries, including the famous one in Xoxocotlan.
- 1 Nov: Day of the Dead Tour in Mexico City — This tour brings you to a cemetery (not Mixquic) and takes you on a trajinera (gondola) through the Xochimilco canals.
- 2 Nov: Mixquic Day of the Dead Celebration from Mexico City — This longer tour takes you to Mixquic and back, and allows plenty of time to experience Mixquic’s festivities.
Is It Safe to Visit Mexico for Day of the Dead?
It can get crowded in many parts of Mexico during Day of the Dead; but as long as you’re on your guard, you will be fine. Be on the alert while in crowded areas or when joining in a comparsa (mini parade), especially at night. My husband, daughter and I all never felt unsafe celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico City and Oaxaca.
But I have heard of friends getting robbed while drinking on the streets in Oaxaca. Things like that do happen, so keep your wits about you. Always make sure to keep your belongings close to you, bring minimal cash with us, and stay in a group. Avoid seedy areas or please don’t get drunk on the streets if you’re alone.
How to Stay Connected in Mexico
To get internet on the go, I recommend getting an eSIM before traveling. With a Mexico eSIM (digital SIM card), you can toss out your physical cards and simply activate it on your phone through an app. I have bought many eSIMs on Airalo and they have all worked perfectly. Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store. Check out Airalo’s Mexican eSIMs.
You can also get a SIM card at the airport upon arrival or at any OXXO shop in Mexico. A SIM card itself costs between 29 and 149 pesos (around $1-6 USD). You can get 3GB of data valid for 30 days on the sin limite plan (unlimited) for 200 pesos (~8 USD.) That will also give you unlimited calls, texts, and most social media within North America.Read my guide on how to get a SIM card in Mexico.
Final Tips for Celebrating Day of the Dead
- Book your hotels early and reserve Day of the Dead group tours in advance as it’s a very busy time of the year.
- Be respectful of the Day of the Dead celebrations. Have fun and join in the celebrations, but don’t get drunk or high on the streets.
- Dia de Muertos is not a version of Halloween, so please do not wear sexy nurse or superhero costumes.
- Do not touch ofrendas or anything you see on an altar, it’s disrespectful.
- Tourists are welcome to visit the cemeteries during Day of the Dead, but please do not touch anything on the altars or sit on tombstones.
- Avoid taking photos of people, or ask for permission before taking. Do not use flash at night.
- Cash is king in Mexico, so carry cash with you at all times. Only nice restaurants and hotels will accept cards.
More on Day of the Dead Traditions
I hope that reading this has given you a clearer idea on Dia de Muertos symbols and what they mean. If you’re gearing up for a trip to Mexico for Day of the Dead, here is my detailed guide.
I have also written specific posts on celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico City and Oaxaca Dia de Muerto celebrations, including schedules of events, specific places to visit, and restaurants to try. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments field below.
For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:
- My Guide to Celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico
- Best Places to Celebrate Day of the Dead
- Day of the Dead in Mexico City
- Day of the Dead in Oaxaca
- What Are Alebrijes?
- Who is the Day of the Dead Catrina?
- Mexico Holidays and Traditions
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!
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