A First Timers Guide to Coachella

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Hella Coachella! When I tell people from home that I’ve been to Coachella, almost everyone is super excited and intrigued to know more about the Californian festival which looks like a sunny desert dream from the insta posts we’ve all seen year after year. Was it hard to get tickets? Did you see any celebs? Isn’t it really expensive? Where did you stay?

I’ve been lucky enough to bag tickets twice in 2016 and again this year and although I’m no festival expert, planning a festival abroad takes a bit more planning. For anyone contemplating trying to get hold of the tickets said to be rarer than gold dust, I thought I’d give a few tips on planning the trip if you’re flying from abroad and general information I get asked about Coachella.

Before you go…

Weekend One or Two?

Coachella is set over two weekends in April, Weekend One and Weekend Two both lasting 3 days Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Both weekends have an identical line up but have different surprise acts.

In 2016, Weekend One were surprised with a set from Kanye West, Rhianna joined Calvin Harris and Snoop Dog joined NWA on stage, for Weekend Two (which we were at), we didn’t get Kanye or Rhianna but Dr Dre joined NWA on stage which was amazing BUT we did feel like the first weekend had more surprises.

This year the surprises for both weekends were on a par in my eyes, this year Weekend Two got Destinys Child, Jay Z, Khalid all during Beyoncé’s set, Dr Dre and 50 Cent joined Eminem and Ariana Grande joined Kygo on stage.

Getting tickets

The first step is pretty simple – Sign up for the email alerts! After being mesmerised by the Snapchat story back in 2015, that’s when I signed up and if it wasn’t for that fabulous little email reminder hitting my inbox the following January then I would of completely forgotten.

There are two ticket sales, the first being in June and the remainder going on sale in January. If you bag tickets in the first sale then you can pay monthly at no extra cost so this is what I did this year and it was around 60 a month (fluctuating depending on the exchange rate) but in 2016 we got our tickets in January and all of it needs to be paid up in full.

Like any festival be ready and waiting for the ticket sales to go live. Both hears when I have tried, its been pretty easy, I have a suspicion that maybe foreign IP addresses are given a bit of priority as I’ve bagged tickets within 30 mins of release. Make sure you know the type of tickets you want as you’re only given a small amount of time to complete the sale and can only buy TWO tickets per order.

Types of tickets

Off the top of my head there are quite a few ticket options making it a little confusing when you come to decide which ticket you want. I’ve listed some options below but for official ticket information check out the Coachella website here.

Camping

Obviously includes camping. If you’re coming from another country like I was, this just did not make any sense to fly over with camping gear but if you want the full experience I’m sure its super fun to camp – just a lot of hassle!

Car camping

Camping with a car or mini van, I’ve heard this is the best way to camp as you have a way of charging your phone and storing more baggage or you can even sleep in your car.

Wristband with Shuttle pass

Includes a shuttle pass bus which stops at loads of surrounding areas including Palm Springs, La Quinta, Palm Desert etc. This is what I’ve done both times and it’s super easy and gives you the flexibility to stay in the comfort of a hotel or condo and not worry about how you’re getting to/from the festival everyday.

VIP

In addition to faster entry and less queuing at the gate, there are designated VIP areas like the Rose Gardens and bar areas with better views of the main stage. I’ve heard they have more shaded areas, cosy seating areas and fancier cocktails/food stands and you may even see a celeb! If you can afford it then it seems like a good option to make you experience extra special.

Hotel Packages

The whole package including a shuttle pass and accommodation in a local hotel in surrounding areas like Palm Desert, La Quinta, Palm Springs etc.

Wristband

Just the wrist band and you need to book you accommodation and transport. Coachella is based in the Indio desert and has limited accommodation within walking distance but you can add on a shuttle pass at a later date if you realise you need it.

Dollar Dollar bills

The number one question I get asked is how much Coachella tickets are. In 2016 with the exchange rate being in our favour, it cost around £350 for the tickets with a shuttle pass. In 2018 the price in USD seemed to of risen by around $50 and the exchange rate was not in our favour so they cost around £400 for the same shuttle ticket.

Sleep

Accommodation is surprisingly more affordable than I thought. Both times we’ve booked condo’s and have paid under £50 per person per night with a group of 4/5 of us.

This year I loved where we stayed, it was on a golf course in Palm Desert with amazing views, a courtyard that looked onto the course with outdoor seating and a BBQ, huge living area and spacious bedrooms. We booked through Fairway Vacation Rentals which I totally recommend as having a nice condo with amazing views made our experience.

Fly, Drive, Bus?

There is an airport in Palm Springs which one of our friends flew into this year but it is more expensive as it’s a small airport. Both years I have flown into LAX, hired a car and driven to Palm Springs.

We stayed in Palm Desert for 5 nights and some days we didn’t leave for Coachella until 2/3pm, so having a car gave us the freedom to go for brunch, do food shopping and just generally explore the area so I would 100% recommend having a car as it was a god send. Driving from LA is an experience not to be missed, with jaw dropping views, it takes around 3 hours with some weird yet wonderful stop off points – Stop at Baker of you fancy seeing the Worlds largest thermometer!?

There are shuttle buses from LAX but I think the time scales are pretty limited so if you wanted to stay in the area for a few days before/after it may be more difficult using buses.

Coachella Tips

Ok so you’ve got the tickets, planned the trip and it’s just around the corner. Here are some handy tips for the actual festival days that will make your life a lot easier!

Pick up your wrist band early

If you aren’t getting this delivered to your home address (which I suggest doing if you can, it’s worth the shipping cost) Try to pick up your bands the day before. The queues can be massive and there’s nothing worse than sweating your make up and glitter boobs off before you’ve even made it through the gates.

Register your wristband via the app too – this year on day 3 I got turned away at the gates and had to stand in another queue for an hour because my wristband wasn’t registered – FUMING as we missed a few acts because of it – don’t make the same mistake!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

An obvious one and not to sound like a nagging mum but us brits abroad in 2016 made the mistake of going too hard in the 35 degree heat drinking cocktails on Day One and avoiding water to avoid wasting the precious alcohol that cost us a bomb – big mistake. One of us got sunstroke and had to leave before the main act. Buy a water at every opportunity to carry around or better still I saw loads of people with Camelbaks bags like this one with the strawers so they’re an option if you don’t mind sacrificing you’re Coachella outfit.

Pack a Jacket/Jumper/Scarf

Not only does a layer become handy to sit on during the day, whilst seeking shade but it can get chilly at night and on the shuttle on the way home so pack an extra layer if you have space even if it is a lightweight kimono.

Be prepared for the sandstorms/dust

We ignored this in 2016 and ended up with a face full of sand which wasn’t a good look. This year it wasn’t as windy however, it would get dusty and doubled up as a little blanket to sit on.

I came for the food

Beyoncé you were great but my highlight on Saturday night was the loaded crab fries… The food game is strong at Coachella! We were so excited to discover how amazing the array of food was and found it hard to choose each day. Definitely factor in some eating to make the most of it, we chowed down on lobster tacos, crab fries, Pork Belly bowls and banging burgs.

Drinks

Obviously you should be saying Hell Yes H20 when we’re talking Coachella heat but when the sun goes down and you want to get merry the alcoholic drinks are expensive at Coachella *sob*. Wine is $12, Beer is $10 and cocktails are $14 but completely watered down with ice so a bit of a rip off. A plus side to this is that you don’t come across many crazy drunk people at all which is one of the cool things about Coachella making it a very chilled festival compared to back home.

If you want to be sneaky definitely invest in something to sneak alcohol in, we used little squidy sachets which I hid in my outfit (classy bird) that got through fine. Security is tight though, they fully search your bags and make you take any jackets off, we also saw them smelling suncream bottles so they’re catching on to this trick.

Its Super Chilled

Picture a UK festival… I usually imagine, wellies, camping, mud, drinks, likelihood of seeing someone too drunk to stand everywhere you turn… 100%? Annnnd a 100% possibility of coming out wet whether it be from rain or other liquid substances (ew). However always having a banging time ofcourse.

Not that I’m dissing a UK festival at all but Coachella is nothing like this. It’s super chilled, I’ve never had a drink thrown over me, the toilets are actually pretty clean with 90% chance of toilet roll and its guaranteed sun – which is both a blessing and a curse. Basically its not all about getting so off your face that you can’t remember half of it.

There’s more to it than the music too with amazing art work and experiences throughout the festival. Definitely take some time to actually walk around and take it all in. Its a completely different experience to any UK festival I’ve been to and probably a festival I would suggest going to if you aren’t into the festival scene back home but also a must if you are into the festival scene (if that makes any sense at all!?).

Stay Shady

SPF, hats, shade and water are essential. I read sooo many blogs about this and like most of us brits abroad I was quite casual about it but after the affects day one had on one of my friends (refer to Hydrate!), we regularly found shaded areas to chill at as it gets seriously hot so in between acts try to seek shade and hydrate.

Plan your day

Luckily its not a huge festival in terms of size, you can walk from the one side to the other within 15 mins depending on crowds making it easy to float from stage to stage. In the day it’s a lot less crowded as most people seem to arrive after 5pm, however for the big acts later on at night, it proves more difficult to move around so it is worth getting to the right stage around 30 mins before to bag a good spot.

Both years I’ve missed going on the Ferris wheel and doing some of the experiences so definitely take some time out in the day to experience these too!

Outfits

Ah the hours of scouring the internet for the perfect coachie outfit was one of my favourite past times. Although I was on a travellers budget this year I still attempted to put together some OTT outfits as anything goes at Coachella – there’s nothing I love more than an excuse to wear something you wouldn’t normally and slap glitter on your face.

But if you aren’t going for the fashion, it really doesn’t matter either, surprisingly it’s not all glam and boho vibes everywhere you turn like I first expected. Yes there are the girls that go all out but on the other end of the spectrum there are festival go-ers who are just wearing a simple tee and shorts who are just there for a good time. Basically wear whatever you want!

My only clothing tips are:

  • Wear comfy shoes
  • Sunglasses are a must
  • Have a bandana and hat
  • Avoid any clothing that’s going to make you too hot in the day – we saw a gal rocking a fur jacket in the 30+ degree heat…
  • Bring a layer (or borrow that gals totally extra fur jacket) for the evening, although I didn’t always bring a layer and I was fine
  • A good sized bag is super handy to store your water bottle, hat, bandana and SPF etc.

I have LOVED Coachella both years but nothing beats the first time you walk into those festival gates. I can’t tell people enough how amazing the whole experience is so if you want to go just go for it, get signed up to those emails and plan the trip of a lifetime around one of the best festivals in the world!

A x

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