Visiting Burning Man festival from the UK

by Jun 7, 2022 | First published in 2016Festivals, USA

The way I met my husband was a little unorthodox so it only seemed fitting that we do something equally unusual for our honeymoon. We decided we’d visit the Burning Man festival! Attending Burning Man from the UK came with its difficulties but was surprisingly easier than I expected.

Note that I visited Burning Man in 2015. However, all details and prices have been updated in 2018.

Well, that was different…

6 months on from going to my first Burn and I’m still not sure what to make of the experience. Burning Man is a week-long festival that occurs once a year in Nevada’s Desert. Tens of thousands of people gather to create this temporary metropolis dedicated to “self-expression, art, self-reliance and community”.

There is no exchange of money, everything at the festival is ‘gifted’ meaning passed on for free, and everyone contributes something and must bring enough water and food to survive a week in the desert.

Every day there is a schedule of things planned including workshops, talks and performances. Almost everyone is dressed up or naked. There are huge pieces of art dotted around the deep Playa (the space beyond the man) and ‘art cars’ which are just impossible to describe.

The Man in Burning Man Festival
Art in Burning Man

Was it worth it?

I’m normally very quick to adapt to things so thought I would be fine but it took me a while to settle into Burning Man. It was tough being in the desert especially as the year we went there were endless sandstorms.

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The artwork for me was the highlight. Seeing the scale of the event, the sculptures and the epic ‘burn’ on the last night when it is all torched to the ground.

I loved the gifting idea and it really did work. I tried all sorts of cool experiences and money or expectations were never exchanged. You do have to be a bit careful with what you sign up to….there’s a serious shady side to Burning Man!

The downside

The thing I wasn’t so keen on was that it felt a bit forced sometimes. It’s a very white middle-class event pretending to be all accepting. I felt pretty out of place in my regular clothes though (dressing up just isn’t for me!).

So it was a week of highs and lows. And was certainly challenging at times. But was it worth it? Yes….I’m happy I went!

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Getting to Burning Man from the UK

Burning Man tickets are sold on a lottery and your chances are slim. If you have missed out on the lottery there is still a way to get tickets by travelling with Green Tortoise. They are the only organised group at Burning Man who are also allowed to arrange tickets. And really this is to help international travellers attend.

The price of this tour is $1,255 (updated 2018) per person. This excludes the $425 ticket to the festival (updated 2018).

Weighing up the costs

The cost of the tour includes….transport (from either San Fransisco or Reno), all your water and food for the week and a comfortable base at the festival with a shaded seated area (might not sound like much but you will really appreciate this!).

After working out the costs of going solo and paying sky-high prices for car hire, this option worked out cheaper and much more stress-free. Plus we were guaranteed a ticket without fighting in the lottery! AND you can buy a bike through them for the festival.

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How to get to Burning Man as a foreigner

Logistics of getting to Burning Man

We decided to travel from the UK to San Fransisco to extend our stay. We had 4 days before our Burning Man tour left. It’s a great city to explore and we appreciated having the time to get over our jetlag and to ease in slowly. It would’ve been quite intense heading straight to the festival.

During this time we stayed at the Green Tortoise in a private room. This made it easy on departure day and to also ask questions beforehand.

Another affordable option for San Fran accommodation is to use Airbnb.

There wasn’t much prep involved for the festival as the Green Tortoise covered most of the logistics. Most people choose to dress up but we didn’t bother. Really it was just a case of booking our flights and accommodation on either side of the festival.

How much does it cost to go to Burning Man from the UK

All these prices are per person, updated in 2018. Note that it doesn’t include equipment or the extra time we spent in San Fransisco.

Flight: $1200 (from the UK to San Fransisco. Note that you don’t have much flexibility as the festival has set dates. It is during an expensive time to travel so I recommend booking your flights early)
Green Tortoise Tour: $1,255
Burning Man Ticket: $425
Alcohol: $60 (brought from a supermarket on the way to the festival. The bus stops en route)
Bike: $100 (brought through Green Tortoise)

TOTAL: $3,040 (or £2,340)

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Top Tips for visiting Burning Man festival

  • Don’t forget the ski goggles and bring a couple of buffs for when it gets dusty
  • Sun protection is a big thing to bring a hat, plenty of sunscreen, glasses and SPF lip balm
  • If it is your first ‘burn’ you aren’t expected to gift anything so just enjoy the festival
  • It gets really cold as soon as the sun goes down. Bring loads of layers and warm clothing.
  • A week is a long time to be camping so make sure you bring a comfortable roll mat and tent. Obviously, if you are coming from the UK you will probably want something fairly lightweight as you will need to bring it on the plane.
  • Assume everything you take will get ruined and dusty. All our clothes were discoloured but the end.
  • Bring a waterproof pouch (like this one) for your phone and camera to keep the dust-out and the rain….yep, sometimes it rains!
  • Food and drink can’t be bought so you need to take it with you. Although Green Tortoise provide meals (and they are very good and large portions) it’s worth having a few snacks as well.
  • Bring a bottle with a large lid (a Nalgene is perfect) because in any bars you will need to have your own container and they need to be able to pour it in easily. In addition to an alcohol container, bring another bottle to fill with water for when you are exploring….you will get thirsty!
  • You will 100% want a bike. The site is huge. Make sure you bring a lock with you as well!!
  • Everyone will be giving you advice on what you should and shouldn’t be doing at the festival. Where you should go or how you should experience it. Just ignore them all and do what you want to do 🙂

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*Any women reading this?* I founded a women’s adventure community called Love Her Wild. Check out our private Facebook page and see what adventures we have coming up.