Are you wondering how to respect cultural traditions and stay safe during your Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) trip to Mexico? Discover our useful travel tips to help you travel smarter.
What to know before you go to Mexico for Day of the Dead festivities
With the rich cultural traditions of Day of the Dead coming to life at the beginning of November, you might be planning a trip to Mexico. Once there, you'll likely see colourful costumes, enjoy delicious food, and hear local music – yes, it's a big celebration with a warm, welcoming vibe.
But remember, it's also an important celebration for the locals. Mexico’s Day of the Dead is a time for families and communities to come together to honour and remember their loved ones who have passed away, so it’s important for visitors to be respectful.
“Trouble can arise if tourists’ behaviours are seen as insulting or disrespectful to the locals or the traditions of the event,” said Frank Harrison, Cover-More Assist’s Regional Security Director Americas. “Because of this, it’s a good idea to follow a few basic rules to make sure you respect the local customs and stay safe.”
“If you approach the Day of the Dead celebrations with respect, understanding, and a genuine desire to learn, you can have a memorable and meaningful experience while honouring the traditions and beliefs of the local communities,” shared Harrison.
Ready to learn how to make your Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations a smoother experience that’s also steeped in history and culture?
Skip ahead to understand why you should:
- Aim to avoid large crowds.
- Watch out for traffic congestion.
- Be respectful of the local culture.
- Choose to participate in lower-risk activities.
- Remember to secure your belongings.
- Make smart decisions to help avoid incidents of violent crime.
6 safety travel tips for trips to Mexico for Day of the Dead celebrations
Safety tip #1: Aim to avoid large crowds.
During the Day of the Dead in Mexico, the country sees a massive influx of tourists and locals alike participating in the celebrations. Large crowds can sometimes become chaotic and may lead to situations such as getting lost, pickpocketing, or stampedes. Aim to stay alert, stay with your group, and have a plan for meeting up just in case you do get separated.
Safety tip #2: Watch out for traffic congestion.
The increased number of visitors can lead to significant traffic jams, particularly in and around popular celebration spots. This could cause delays in reaching your destination and could potentially lead to missed events. So, we recommend you plan your Day of the Dead travel schedule with buffer time for potential traffic delays and consider walking or using public transportation where feasible.
Safety tip #3: Be respectful of the local culture.
The Mexican Day of the Dead event is about remembering loved ones who have passed, rather than excessive drinking and rowdy behaviour. When visiting Mexico for the event, it’s smart to refrain from treating it as a Halloween-like holiday or a spectacle. Instead, try to participate thoughtfully in the ceremonies if invited or observe quietly from a distance.
Be mindful that graveyards are considered sacred spaces, so always be respectful while visiting. Also, remember to acknowledge the traditional clothing and face paintings as cultural expressions, rather than costume elements.
Asking for permission before taking photographs is an essential etiquette as well to protect participants’ privacy.
Our Cover-More App is a helpful tool for learning about cultural gestures to be aware of and other destination advice while you're in Mexico for your Day of the Dead trip. The app can also offer details like food and water safety tips and security alerts.
Safety tip #4: Choose to participate in lower-risk activities.
Some activities during the Mexican Day of the Dead – like visiting crowded cemeteries at night – may carry higher risks. Try to opt for daytime activities, smaller gatherings, or official guided tours to minimise risks.
Safety tip #5: Remember to secure your belongings.
With large crowds and the bustle of festivities, it's easy for pickpockets to take advantage of distracted tourists. Aim to use bags that close securely, avoid keeping valuables in easily accessible pockets, and always keep your belongings within sight.
Safety tip #6: Make smart decisions to help avoid incidents of violent crime.
While the Day of the Dead is generally a peaceful celebration, it's important to remember that some parts of Mexico can struggle with high rates of violent crime. Aim to be cautious when travelling outside of tourist areas, especially after dark, and always inform someone of your plans.
Celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico, safely
“Remember, the key to a safe and enjoyable trip is preparation and awareness,” said Harrison.
With these travel safety tips in mind, you can visit local cemeteries, experience an altar, and savour traditional foods to celebrate the Day of the Dead while avoiding foreseeable risks.
“Day of the Dead offers a unique opportunity to connect with Mexican culture on a deep level, and treating the celebration with respect helps to ensure the holiday is a joyful and enlightening experience for both locals and tourists.”
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