Now first off I need to say that on another blog called Bruised Passports is a really good guide to also read that was written a few years ago which we found very useful. I’m writing this new guide as an expanded, updated info source/point of view on this really unique festival 🙂
I also need to back up their comment that this festival is not for the faint hearted! You will get absolutely squashed (not unlike the tomatoes) from all directions by the thousands of strangers pressed around you and you will get tomato on pretty much every inch of your body (including in your ears, eyes and all through your hair!) So keep this in mind before trying to talk yourself or anyone else in to it going to Tomatina.
How long ahead to start planning:
WAY ahead is my answer if you definitely want to go and you also want to minimise your expenses on festival tickets, accommodation and flights. For example we were already struggling to find reasonably-priced accommodation for 2 people in Valencia in MARCH! We only ended up booking our festival tickets later in early May (at which point the cheap €10 festival entry only tickets were starting to run out but more expensive package deals were still available right up to the day before).
Ticket options (& getting to Bunol from Valencia):
The official website for Tomatina (contrary to the other blog guide) is actually LaTomatina.info which is set up by the Bunol Town Council. This website has a great list of authorised dealers of Tomatina tickets. We bought ours through the main authorised dealer Spaintastic. This list is important because there are a lot of unauthorised dealers as well which look very professional like LaTomatina.es so best to keep to the official list to avoid potentially fake tickets!
This authorised dealer list is also worth checking out because lots of different companies do Tomatina Packages that include transportation, accommodation, t-shirts, food etc. Popular options seemed to be Topdeck, Fanatics and Busabout which we saw a lot of Aussies and Kiwis on. Fanatics had the coolest t-shirt designs this year
But for a minimum spend option we reccomend just getting a cheap and cheerful ticket just for festival entry (€10 as of 2015) and then either booking yourself a train or bus from Valencia to Bunol. We opted for the early bus at 5:30AM which was €29 each return and took about 45mins. The later bus leaves at 7:30AM which could be cutting things a bit fine if you don’t already have a wristband but you have give it a go!
Getting to Valencia (and on to your next destination):
If you’re coming from overseas it’s quite possible you’ll be coming from London which has direct flights to Valencia from London Stansted with Ryan Air. We booked in early June (for Aug 24) and paid £134.62 for two (so around £67.31 per person) one-way with carry-on only. SkyScanner is a great website to check out all of your flight options.
Otherwise there’s always alternatives to flying. The Spanish train system Renfe lets you book up to a month in advance (at the time of writing), there are busses from Madrid or Barcelona, or you can check out some car-share options like BlaBlaCar or Liftshare. We find GoEuro a great way to compare our public transport options to then compare with car-share ones.
TIP: Whatever option you end up choosing we reccomend arriving at least 1-2 days before the festival and giving yourself a day off afterwards. It’s good to consider whether or not you want to go to the pre and after parties, if you’re leaving enough time afterwards to recover and if you’ll also have enough time to explore beautiful Valencia which we really reccomend. A great way to do this in a short timeframe is a free walking tour.
In Bunol (where the festival is held) if you’re lucky/fast enough:
No hostels there (yet) as far as I can tell and I have just counted 2 Airbnb listing in/near the city so you’ll most likely need to look to Valencia instead. Perks of staying in Bunol itself would be that you would have somewhere to leave your stuff and clean up after (instead of being hosed down in the street with everyone else) and you won’t have to bus in crazy early from Valencia but that’s pretty much it.
Hostels are pretty plentiful but by the time we looked around in March they were pretty pricey for just a bunk. We found Airbnb to be the better option for us. It’s often cheaper if you’re traveling as a couple or group. We found a private room for 2 people in the very centre of town for NZ$48.50 per night to give a comparison.
Getting to Bunol from Valencia:
- by car – I don’t think finding a park would be difficult
- train – look this up beforehand because the train website Renfe is quite confusing
- by return bus either organised separately through Spaintastic or as part of a package through them or another authorised dealer
Any of these options are fine but we suggest you research this well beforehand to avoid stressing out about it the night before. We opted for the stand-alone return bus ticket through Spaintastic (€29 per person)
Tomatina outfit prep: (Please insert the word “cheap”, “old” or “ridiculously easy to wash totally clean with a garden hose”) in front of all items listed below because it’s highly likely you’ll be throwing everything away afterwards, trust me):
- White t-shirt #tradition – old togs/swimwear or a sports bra is a good option underneath unless you’re planning to be an exhibitionist when the tomatoes and water start sloshing around 😉
- shoes – jandals/flipflops/sandals, whatever you want to call them are a no-go unless you have strong tape (yup, we saw whole groups of clever Japanese taping up and it seemed to work pretty well). I survived ok in my stylin pull-on Crocs sandals but there was the odd slippery moment. Best option would probably be cheap, disposable karate shoes which Dave opted for and was very happy with
- plastic drawstring bag for your stuff – we picked ours up very cheaply at a shoe store. These are great with your stuff safely wrapped away (from tomato juice and pickpockets) in a few layers of plastic bags inside. You can also store your bags for a fee at a few places but we don’t know how reliable and easy to find this these will be year to year
Our Outfit Costs:
H&M Valencia – €35.95 for 2x t-shirts, 2x shorts, 1x karate shoes
Shoe store – €4 for 2x cheap plastic drawstring bags
- festival ticket/wristband
- sunscreen (you will burn because you’ll be in the sun for AGES until the tomatoes arrive at 11am (unless the ham is reached up the greased pole in which case it starts earlier. Click here if you have no idea why I’m suddenly talking about ham!)
- comb/hairbrush – unless you want acidic tomato pulp conditioner all the way back to Valencia
- snacks – because sometimes you won’t be able to move and nothing’s happening yet
- waterproof camera
- cash for drinks & food – €5 was the going rate for 1L or Sangria or a plate of paella. Some places accepted card but a lot of stores were serving outside of peoples houses so we reccomend cash over card (nearby ATM’s also get covered up to protect them before the tomatoes arrive)
- plastic bags – I’d say at least x 3 to wrap and re-wrap things like your phone, wallet, keys, change of clothes, return bus ticket etc
- Water in a disposable bottle (note that the screw-on lid might be taken from you by security on your way in. I guess its a safety measure. For this reason it’s best not to bring anything sentimental)
- Goggles- optional. We didn’t use any and we saw lots of people with them just around their necks. You can buy some from street vendors there so don’t go splashing out in Valencia for expensive ones that you’ll probably lose/break/throw away
PRE-FESTIVAL PARTY & AFTER PARTY
ON THE DAY:
You’ll either arrive with a wristband already (if you’ve purchased your festival entrance through a package) or a paper ticket which you’ll need to exchange for a wrist band. All the more reason to come early if this is you. If you’ve arrived by bus just follow the crowed and you’ll be guided to a ticket booth. If you arrive another way just find a hopefully friendly, English speaking person in a Tomotina staff t-shirt.
Once you’re down in Bunol itself, if you’re there early you’ll need to wait at one of the entry points which can be seen on the map. These opened for us at about 7:30AM. The “fight zone” is basically just a long street in the centre of town. At around the middle is a square where the greased pole is put up at around 10AM. This is where you want to find an early spot if you want the full Tomatina festival experience, greased-pole showdown and all but it will be VERY crowded. It’s best to stay away from here if you want some breathing room. But wherever you choose we really reccomend staying far away from the (high powered) water hoses as these are worse than any tomatoes!
At 11AM the trucks will start coming past (around 5-6 spaced out over the hour). Be careful not to be too close to them or to the walls as everyone will be trying to push back. There’ll be people in the back of the truck throwing tomatoes and the truck will also leave a pile behind and there will be a massive session of tomatoes flying everywhere until they turn to mush and the next truck arrives! Awesome right?!
At 12 the siren sounds, the tomato throwing stops and everyone start sloshing towards the exit points once they’ve finished making tomato angels in the juice slush for their facebook profiles.
TIP! Now’s a great time to bring out those empty topless drink bottles that you have and get them filled up with water to clean yourself off. There’s lots of lovely Bunol citizens around with hoses but there’s also 20,000+ festival goers so having a bottle handy is super helpful.
After this it’s back on the bus/car/train and it’s siesta time! #loveSpain
P.S. if you have children you may find it helpful to know that there’s a mini Children’s Tomatina festival for children aged 4-14 a few days before the main festival begins!
Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions or comments! I’m always happy to help!