Sunday 21 July 2013

La tomatina survival guide

The last Wednesday of August is the day of one of my favourite things to tick off my experience list; The Tomato Festival in Spain.  In preparation we researched everything we could but generally found no where that gave solid answers to what we were after.  From me to you, every question we had before the big day.

Where is best to stay the night before?

The festival is actually in a small town called Bunol which is just outside of Valencia.  Between 4 of us, we rented an apartment for a week in central Valencia right by the "plaza de toros" (the bullring) which is next to a train station.  A good spot to be if you plan to do more than just the festival.  The train station is not the main one for Bunol and it does require a change over, but there are definite advantages to this.  You can only book your ticket a certain amount of time before it departs (I can't remember how long this is but you definitely could not book them the night before!) and the queue at this station for the booking machines would have been significantly shorter than at the main station.   

How do you get there and what time should you leave?

We got to our station for 5am and booked our tickets for the first train to Bunol.  Seems a little extreme for a festival that starts at 11am but by 6am the station was heaving with people and the queues for the ticket machines were ridiculous.  I dread to think how many people didn't actually manage to make it to the festival.  From here we had to walk down the road to catch a metro to the main station.  The queues at the main station were extreme and as we had bought our tickets already we just walked (ran with arms waving in the air) straight passed the queues and onto the next train to Bunol.  It's plain sailing from there. 

Do I really need goggles?

I originally decided on wearing goggles and then very quickly changed my mind on the impact of the first tomato.  There are a few reasons for this:

1. Getting hit in the face definitely hurts more when wearing goggles.   
2. Every splatter of a tomato requires at least 10 seconds of cleaning before you can see again.
3. I am pretty sure people aimed for me more purely because I was wearing goggles.

Yes the build up of tomato acid in your eyes does start to get a bit sore but a flush of water fixes it straight away.  Carry a bottle (plastic!) of water with you or just wait for the locals to get their hose pipes out at the end.

What should I wear?

Old clothes.  My white shirt is still slightly yellow but my denim shorts, a year later, are completely fine.  I wore denim with the thinking that they wouldn't be able to be ripped off.  Most importantly, wear secure fitting shoes.  There were a truck load of shoes and flip flops on the side of the road at the end.  I wore my wet shoes from coasteering which were perfect.  Just keep in mind that your feet will get trodden on.

What else should I take?

Nothing! Well as little as possible.  I tried wrapping my train ticket and some money in a plastic sleeve and it still ended up sodden.  If you have a proper waterproof phone pouch or something similar then use it.  Money for drinks and the best BBQ food at the end is a must.  BBQ's line the whole route back to the train station so don't bother queuing for the first few that you see.  If you have to take bags with you then there are paid "cloak rooms" if required. 

Is it really as rough as people say?

No!  I spent far to long worrying about this after reading things online.  Everyone was in a proper festival spirit.  I absolutely loved chatting to people and drinking their cold sangria.  I didn't feel threatened at all (nor did the two girls I was with) and I didn't witness any shirt ripping as I read online.  You will get pushed around a little but I came out with no bumps, scrapes or bruises. 

Anything else to note?

The best place to be when you are there is near the meat post.  But if you get there early enough, the post wouldn't even be up yet.  Ask around, it's in a square quite far into your walk from the station.

My waterproof and shockproof camera was in its element.

As the tomatoes start to bake into your skin under the midday sun, it will itch.  You will have the best shower ever and it was totally worth having our own apartment to go back to. 

Valencia has a good 3 or 4 days worth of stuff to do in it.  read my blog on Spain for more information on stuff to do.  Enjoy it!  :o)

(Sorry for any spelling mistakes! I'm rushing as I leave for Vietnam tomorrow and don't get back before the festival!! :o))



  1. What a great blog, i am searching in google from couple of days” but did not find any great way, but my search came to an end after visiting your blog.!!!Do you have any more related blogs or ideas related to like your this blog, it will help me in my further research work…Will keep following your blogs…

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    1. Thank you very much. I hope you enjoyed your trip! This is my only blog I am afraid. I do not think anyone else is writing on national dishes around the world. Thanks again. Berny. :o)