So I’m going to the 2013 Burning Man Festival!!! I’ve wanted to go to this festival for around 12 years and I’m finally getting around to doing it. As an Australian travelling to Burning Man in Nevada, it’s been an interesting experience planning and booking everything from the other side of the world so I really hope this information acts as a useful guide to save people stressing out about what they have to organise if they’re planning to travel to Burning Man Festival from Australia.
Some of the information listed below is advice I received from friends in order to book things in preparation for the festival so I can’t exactly report from personal experience yet as I haven’t been to the festival. Once I’ve been to Burning Man later in 2013, I’ll update this blog post with a ‘Part 2’ with verified information and tips for Aussies who plan on going to the festival.
And I’ve written part 2 of this post which contains more tips and info on my experience. You can read it here: Burning Man: The Journey from Australia to Nevada – Part 2
Burning Man ticket – $380
So you’re probably already familiar with the process to purchase a ticket. You basically pre-register for the individual sale online, you’ll receive confirmation that you’ve you’ve got access to the ‘Individual Sale’ via an email that contains a link and an access code. You’ll then get notified via email of the date the tickets go on sale so then you can jump online and buy your tickets.
Be warned though, that there can be a long wait to buy tickets online. I waited 3 and half hours to buy my tickets online. When the ticket sale goes live and you get on the Burning Man ticketing website to grab your tix, you get put in a virtual queue and you have to wait until you get to the front of that queue to buy your tickets. They may change this ticketing process in the future but this is how I had to purchase my tickets in 2013. If you miss out on the ticket sale, there is a marketplace the Burning Man have online where you sell your tickets at cost price if you don’t want to go. This is really great as it stops scalping and gives you a chance to buy a ticket if you missed out.
Also remember the time difference between America and Australia when the ticket sale goes live. Tickets went on sale at 12 noon (PST) in America on February 13th 2013 this year which meant that that time and date I had to go online in Australia to buy my tickets was actually February 14th, 7:00am due to the time difference. You can use this very handy time zone converter to work out dates and times if you plan to buy tickets to Burning Man in the future.
Theme Camp at Burning Man – $250
This is optional but was recommended to me by friends who went to Burning Man last year. It’s basically a camp site put together by organisers who operate separately to Burning Man where they provide music, food, showers and other random entertainment and fun. As you can imagine, staying at one of these camps saves you having to buy decent food to eat, you get use of showers which I’ve heard can be a necessity, especially with all the dust and heat at the festival – PLUS you get to camp with awesome people!
These camps are participatory, meaning that everyone is allocated tasks to do to help everyone out who is staying in the themed camp. You can find more information here: http://www.burningman.com/themecamps/. I’ll be staying at the Digital Apex Camp this year which I’ve heard is awesome. You can check out their Facebook page here where you find out more information about how to get involved with their camp.
Flights to L.A. – $1350 return from melbourne
I’m flying direct from Melbourne to L.A. and then getting a connecting flight to Reno, Nevada. Flights to L.A. from Australia usually go cheaper than $1350 but I didn’t particularly want to wait and try to get a sale fare. I booked my flights about 8 months in advance. I’m sure you could book your flights much closer to the festival but I wanted to lock everything in early on in the year.
Flights to Reno – $270 return from L.A.
When I land in L.A, I have a connecting flight to Reno that same day, about 3 hours later. Once again, you could get cheaper flights than $270 but I didn’t want to waste any time making all my plans for the trip so I booked the cheapest flights I could find at the time. You could always hire a van/car in L.A. and drive to Reno but I’m planning on getting to Reno as quick as I can so I can pick up my U-Haul van, get supplies and meet my friends.
Accommodation in Reno – $460 total for 2 nights before / 2 nights after the festival
As I’m landing in Reno 2 days before Burning Man kicks off, I’ve booked 2 nights accommodation at the Grand Sierra Resort Casino. There were much cheaper Hotels to stay at but I have some friends staying here also and it looks really central to the shops and the location of my U-Haul van pick-up point. I’ve also booked a 2 night stay at the same Hotel after Burning Man has finished as it looks like a nice place to chill out and clean off the dust after the festival is over.
Travel authorization to enter the U.S.A – $14
To enter the United States, you’ll need to go online and get electronic travel authorization through this website – https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/. It’s pretty easy to do but is a MUST if you want to enter America when you land at the airport. Once approved online, this authorizes you to travel to the United States; BUT as their website states: “Once completed, you are authorized to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. This does not guarantee admission to the United States; a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at a port of entry will have the final determination”.
So basically what it means is that you can still be denied entry to America when you land at the airport and try to go through customs. This is very unlikely to happen, unless of course they suspect you’ve done or are doing something illegal.
Travel insurance – Buy online from AAMI, RACV or any other insurer (approx: $100-$200)
Don’t be stupid, get travel insurance! Medical care and hospitals in America are very different to Australia and the cost for a short stay in hospital can be astronomical. So don’t take any chances and get travel insurance before you go to Burning Man. A lot people get injured at Burning Man each year so make sure you’re covered in case of an accident. It doesn’t cost much, maybe somewhere between $100 – $200 and it’s worth the piece of mind.
U-Haul Cargo Van Rental or Budget Rental Trucks – (approx $200 – $500 for 9 days rental plus mileage)
I considered hiring a car to drive to the festival from Reno but a friend recommended to me that hiring a van is the best option. A van provides a pretty comfortable place to sleep for seven days and it also provides much needed shelter from the elements with a bit of space to store your bike and other gear. It can get very hot during the day and very cold at night so having a van to sleep or chill out in can be a very handy luxury to have. If you’re thinking about sleeping in a tent then forget about it. The temperamental weather at Burning Man can be notoriously harsh – crazy dust storms, extreme heat during the day and freezing conditions at night make it not very ideal to sleep in a tent.
I considered renting a cargo van from U-Haul which was heaps cheaper than renting though Hertz or Avis but I’ve recently heard that U-Haul don’t like you taking their vehicles to Burning Man so I’ll have to investigate this further as I could be in a bit of a situation if I turn up to collect my van before the festival and they won’t hire it out to me. Another option I’m exploring is renting a cargo van or truck from Budget Trucks which I’ve heard don’t usually have a problem if you plan on taking their vehicle to Burning Man. Be quick though with reserving a vehicle though a rental company as they usually are all booked out well in advance of the festival. You would want to look at booking something 6-8 months before the festival, especially if you’re hiring it from Reno.
You can always rent an RV (Winnebago) Camper van which I’ve heard starts at around $3500 which isn’t exactly cheap but if you got the cash and there’s a few of you who want to chip in together and share an RV, it’s another accommodation option to consider. Be warned though: If the RV Rental company knows you’re going to be using the RV for Burning Man, they’ll usually jack up the price quite a lot.
International Drivers License – $34.50
If you’re renting a car to drive to Burning Man, you’ll most likely need an International Driving Permit. They’re quite easy to get and can be applied for at any Australia Post outlet or obtained in person from any RACV shop. You can find the form you need to fill out here on the RACV website. Once you’ve filled out the form, you need to provide a copy of your current drivers license and a recent passport size photo with the application form.
Bike Hire from Black Rock Bicycles – $100
The Burning Man site is absolutely massive! The festival area or ‘playa’ as it’s referred to is so expansive as it has to fit 50,000+ people on it that having a bike is a MUST to get around. It was suggested to me by a friend who has been previously to the festival that I should hire a bike from ‘Rats Bikes in Reno’. I originally hired a bike through Rats Bikes but he no one seems to be able to contact him in recent weeks so I decided to hire a bike through Black Rock Bicycles. There is a wide variety of bikes available, mostly mountain bikes and cruisers that have been used at the festival before.
All the bikes have extra-thick flat-resistant innertubes. The bike is $100 to hire and you have the option of hiring a light kit so you’re visible at night when riding around. Black Rock Bicycles is located in Reno so you can pick up the bike on your way there. Alternatively, I’ve been told you can always go to Walmart in Reno and buy a cheap bike if you didn’t want to hire one.
Also the Burning Man website suggests that if you’re planning on riding your bike around the festival at night then it’s an absolute MUST to be visible to others. There are heaps of other people riding and walking around so you want to make sure they can see you and you can see them. A friend suggested to me that I should buy some cheap front and rear bike night lights as well as some ‘EL Wire’ fluoro lights off eBay. These ‘EL Wire’ lights look pretty awesome and will also keep you visible at night.
UPDATE: Just an update on Rats Bikes. It appears he’s not contactable at the moment and quite a lot people have had trouble getting in touch with Rat’s regarding the bike they’ve hired (myself included). I’m not sure what’s happening with his bike rental business so I’ve opted to hire another bike through Black Rock Bicycles in Reno for $95 – http://www.blackrockbicycles.com/
There’s a few things you’ll need to take with you that are absolutely necessary in order to have an enjoyable time at Burning Man:
• Food & Drink: Apart from coffee and ice, there is nothing for sale at the festival; no food or beverages and no exchange of cash for services. Everything you need must come with you. If you’re staying at a themed camp then food and water are provided.
• Sunscreen: The sun at Burning Man is intense, very intense. Make sure you slip, slop, slap!
• Water: You’ll need enough water for a week, for drinking and washing. Six litres a person a day minimum. If you’re staying at a themed camp then showers and water are provided.
• Small gifts: There is a ‘free economy’ at Burning Man so taking small things such food or handmade gifts to give to other Burners acts as a positive gesture to encourage kindness and openess at the festival.
• You’ll also need an air mattress to sleep on, baby wipes which are a quick substitute for a shower, goggles to keep the dust out of your eyes and dust masks if the dust in the air gets a little too much for you, earplugs, some bright lights to go on your bike and last but not least, some crazy outfits and costumes to wear.
You can read ‘Part 2’ of this blog post here that talks about my my Burning Man experience and contains more info and tips.