A complete guide to attending Burning Man Festival, Black Rock City
Oh hey future burner! Is someone wanting to go to Burning Man?
The fact that you even clicked to open this blog post probably means you have a desire to explore Black Rock City for yourself and if you have a desire, I suggest you pursue it.
Apologise to your parents and your bank account for me. #sorrynotsorry
If you’re investigating what it takes to be a ‘burner’ and you want to know if you can make it happen, you are in the right place. In this post i’m going to give you a low down on the whole process, from planning to full execution.
There are many stages in the preparation for attending Burning Man and the whole thing is a bit of a mind field if you’ve never been before. Luckily for me I had the guidance of my Californian girlfriends who are veterans of this festival and guided me, quite literally, from start to finish. I honestly wouldn’t have booked my ticket otherwise, it’s not the kind of experience you want to turn up for clueless.
Burning Man requires a serious logistical attack.
Don’t you worry though – I’ve gotcha.
You may have already spotted my ‘Ultimate guide to packing and shopping for Burning Man‘ post which you can skip to if you simply want a Burning Man shopping list
Otherwise if you’re here and you’re absolutely freakin’ clueless with where to even start, let’s get going…
Step 1: Book your ticket (or try to anyway)
The Burning Man ticket release comes in a few different stages which you can see the details for on the official website here. Tickets for this magic land are, as you can imagine, in HIGH DEMAND and sell out pretty quick.
Before the tickets go on sale you must create a ‘burner profile’ which you can do here.
This gives you a profile with a log in that you must then use to access the ticket sales.
I bought my ticket for BM 2017 in the main sale which was on March 22nd 2017, so I assume it will be around a similar time in 2018. My ticket cost $425 and gave me general admission.
When purchasing your ticket you can buy max. 2 X tickets and 1 X vehicle pass.
Vehicle passes are $80 which you can split between the people you’re going with.
The ticket buying process was quite frustrating. I entered the website on the second it the tickets went out for sale and begun my attempt to purchase a golden ticket. The queue page was circling for about 40 minutes before it let me in to buy a ticket. When it finally did and I selected (1) from the general admission drop down it stated that tickets had sold out. As you can imagine my heart was racing and I was like WHAT.
Tip: Keep refreshing the page once you make it past the queue. I think as people drop tickets out of their basket and don’t proceed with payment, the tickets free up again to purchase. I must have refreshed continuously for about 2 minutes before I secured a ticket but i finally did. Don’t give up!
Tip: If you live in Europe, to avoid the ticket posting fee (I like to avoid any costs possible haha), you can opt to pick up your ticket from WillCall when you enter the festival. This is actually awesome because there’s no way you can lose your ticket in the 6 months leading up to the event. If you lose it? You’ll be watching Burning Man from social media updates.
Note: Tickets are non refundable but you can always sell them on and name changes are completely allowed.
If you don’t manage to get a ticket in general sale?
I think around 60% of the group I went with didn’t. It’s a long and stressful process. So many people buy tickets incase they want to go and then nearer the time things come up, they change their mind etc etc.
So, next options for tickets?
OMG sale at the end of July.
Note: If you didn’t purchase a vehicle pass when you bought your ticket in March, you have the opportunity to buy one here.
Next option for tickets? Buy one from someone.
Through August people sell Burning Man tickets left right and centre.
Tip: Source a friend in California that can pop a FB status up for you. It’s all about who you know.
Tip: Search #burningman #burningmantickets on fb and twitter to locate people selling tickets.
Step 2: Book your flights
Booked? Wonderful. Now it’s a done deal. Congratulations.
I flew from the UK to San Francisco with United and somehow bagged myself a round trip for £480 when I booked in June! Keep checking flights and get it booked to motivate your preparation.
Tip: The closest airport to Black Rock City is Reno. I personally road tripped from San Francisco and stopped overnight in Lake Tahoe to break up the journey. If you don’t want to hire a car or are coming alone there is a Burner Express bus that runs from Reno and SF to Black Rock City. Additional fees apply for taking bikes and you would need to purchase water in advance for pick up. More details here.
Your best bet is to rent a car and share it with your fellow burning buddies!
- Who are you going to Burning Man with?
This is something you’ll probably want to consider before you buy a ticket and is something you should consider wisely. Burning Man is a pretty unique and at times very intense experience and you want to be around people that have a similar vibe and are looking for a similar vibe to you.
- What are you going to sleep in, what is your home?
People stay in anything from 2 man tents to camper vans, yurts, full blown RV’s and well, we decided to rent a UHaul (American removals van) and sleep in the back of that.
One thing I will say (if future years are anything like 2017) is that it’s HOT. If you’re down to party at BM then chances are you will party right the way through the night and then sleep in the day ready to go again.
If you sleep in the day you’ll want shade for sure but will be CRAVING aircon.
I can confirm we won’t be getting a UHaul again for the simple reason it turned into a complete sauna by 9am every day. I recommend a Hexayurt and a generator for aircon all the way. Unless you can afford an RV, then do that.
- Think about being part of a big camp and perhaps enquire to join a themed camp…
It is definitely possible, you just have to choose one. If you get accepted onto a camp you will usually have to pay a contribution which goes towards the camp bar / offering / art car fuel or you will be asked to do a few shifts at the camp bar for example. It depends on the camp. We simply paid $90 each to be part of the Bounce camp.
Not all camps make themselves public and for a selection of them it’s case of a ‘who you know’. One of the guys I went with had met the owner of our camp ‘Bounce’ in South America a few months back and linked up! Check out the public camps you can get in contact with here.
I absolutely loved being part of a bigger squad and for the extra money, in the grand scheme of things, it was nothing and was so worth it. The bounce car was by far a top highlight for me and I went on it every single day!
- Start buying outfits…
As soon as you have bought your tickets and are getting plans into place, start getting creative! Honestly once you start shopping you’ll want everything so starting early spreads the cost out and gives you time to look and time for delivery / size swaps.
- Travel Insurance…
Make sure you have it!
Remember: Don’t take anything to Burning Man that you would be soul destroyed about if you lost / broke. The dust get everywhere including in-between buttons and inside camera lenses and shit goes down.
Tip: GoPro‘s are the perfect camera for the playa!
As it gets closer to the burn…
- Ensure you have everything on my ultimate packing list. Make sure you have done all those Amazon orders and purchased all of those LED lights!
- Check out where your friends are camping and make note incase you don’t get or want signal on the playa. You can use this awesome Facebook app to log in and pin where you are staying and then you and your Facebook friends will be able to find each other. Genuis!
A couple of days before you leave…
- Complete the mission that is the massive food shop (leave the water until you get to Reno if you’re road tripping in!)
- Pick up your bike if you’ve ordered one (or you can pick that up in Reno at a Walmart with your water too!)
- Pick up your rental vehicle if you’ve hired one
- Girlies get waxed – you’ll be living in hot pants, bikinis and heat so it’s the most comfortable and convenient option to go for!
- Check the weather and acquire any last minute essentials you need accordingly
- Make sure you have all medication you will need for the week if you need any!
En route to the playa…
(A lot of people stop off and leave pick ups for Reno as it’s the biggest and last town on the way)
- Pick up bikes at Walmart (I ordered my bike for $89 from Walmart and picked it up at Reno!)
- Pick up your water for the week (picking it up in Reno means you can travel lighter for the majority of the way and pick up water at the last possible location)
- About 40 minutes before you get to the playa there are some clever bunnies that have set up roadside stalls and are selling everything you’ve probably forgotten plus extra costumes. They aren’t actually too badly priced and yeah, this will be your last option to buy anything before you enter the burn!
On the playa…
I don’t want to tell you everything now do i. The mystery surrounding what actually goes on on the playa and the survival of it is half of the fun! Just know that I have you covered on preparation and i’ll see you on the other side!
When you leave…
As the Burning Man commandment states you shall ‘Leave No Trace’
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.
Tip: You cannot leave your bin bags at Black Rock City (under any circumstance) but as soon as you drive out of the festival there are trash drop offs where you can leave your bags for $5 each. If you’re willing to hold on to it longer then you’ll be able to hunt down something free / cheaper for sure.
Did I miss something? Do you have a question that I haven’t answered? I’d love to know! If you’re thinking it, i’m sure someone else is!
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