Unless you're a regular at fruit-throwing festivals, chances are you've never been to anything like the Tomatina Tomato Fight before. These tips come from personal experience of the Tomatina Tomato Fight festival, along with additional suggestions from other participants.
When and Where
Since 2013, the government in Buñol (where Tomatina takes place), has introduced an entry fee.
- Tomatina 2018 - August 29
- Tomatina 2019 - August 28
- Tomatina 2020 - August 26
What Happens There?
- 11 pm (the night before) - Locals and tourists take to the streets for a night of drinking.
- 6 am (on the morning of Tomatina) - The first train leaves Valencia with visitors for the tomato fight.
- 9 am (approx) - The Ham Up a Greasy Pole is erected, just a little up the street from the town hall (Ayuntamiento).
- 11 am - The Tomatina Tomato Fight begins. This is what everyone's been waiting for! The fight lasts for exactly one hour.
- 12 pm - A horn sounds to signal the end of the Tomatina Tomato Fight. Everyone must stop throwing tomatoes at this point. The police will intervene if you refuse to stop.
Unless you decide to party all night in Buñol (sometimes known as Bunyol), which is certainly an option as there will be bars open throughout the night, you will need to get from Valencia to Buñol on the morning of Tomatina.
How to Visit
You have a few different options for accommodations the night before the tomato fight.
Stay the Night in Valencia
This is the most popular choice, but beds and rooms fill up fast, particularly in youth hostels.
If you can't find a bed in Valencia, sleeping on the bus or train is a good option - and it is the cheapest too. But you need to make sure your bus or train arrives on time.
Party All Night in Buñol
Another popular option. Much like at the Pamplona Bull Run at the San Fermin festival, people often stay up all night drinking. It's a long night - as the tomato fight doesn't take place until 11 am the next day, you need to be really sure you're prepared for it. Valencia is very warm in the summer, even at 4 am, so it shouldn't be too difficult to sleep somewhere in the open air.
Try Your Luck With Private Accommodation in Buñol
Buñol residents are wise to the bucks they can make from renting out spare rooms in their houses and apartments to travelers coming to their village. Locals gather around the train station in Buñol offering their rooms. This is a good option, though there is no guarantee that you'll find anywhere.
Go on an Organized Tomatina Tour
There are several companies organizing Tomatina guided tours. They are a lot more expensive than planning the trip yourself, but at least it will all be taken care of for you.
If you don't need accommodation and food and just want to make sure you get to the tomato fight on time, this day tour is for you. Meet the crew at the designated time and place in Valencia and they will whisk you to the scene of the fight with other revelers. There's then an after-party you can join.
- Busabout - Busabout is the kings of festival travel. Their tour offers an expert guide, post-party, the entrance fee, return coach from Valencia to Buñol, an afternoon at the beach a t-shirt and shower cap!
- thisisValencia - This local tour company offers transport to and from Buñol, paella lunch (with unlimited beer), the entrance fee, a t-shirt, and goggles.
- Stoke Travel - This tour by a smaller independent travel company, isn't strictly a 'one-day' tour as you have to camp with them. They offer transport to and from Buñol, guide, beach camping, breakfast and dinner and unlimited beer or sangria.
Three, Four or Five-Day Tomatina Tour
Several tour companies offer medium-length Tomatina tours.
What All These Tours Offer
All of these tours at the very least offer:
- Accommodation (either camping, in a dorm at a hostel or a private room at a hostel or hotel)
- Bus to Tomatina and back
- A guide to help you get the most out of the festival
- Entry ticket to the festival
- Pre- and/or post-parties
Tips for Getting the Most out of Tomatina
Try to get to Valencia train station for 6:30 am. If you get the 7 am train, you'll be in Buñol for 7:45 am and at the scene of the Tomatina Tomato Fight just after 8 am. The crowds at this point are only just starting to gather, so you can get a good vantage point for the Ham Up a Greasy Pole. If you arrive any later than this, you'll struggle to get close to the action.
The line for the ticket office shouldn't be too long at this time, but if it is, buy your ticket from the ticket machine. Try to bring coins - the machine does take notes, but you can't guarantee it will be working. Unfortunately, you can't buy your tickets in advance.
At 12 noon exactly, the horn sounds the end of the tomato fight. Respect those around you and stop throwing tomatoes. You've had the liberty of having a food fight in the street without being arrested, now is the time to get back to the real world. If you enjoyed it so much, come back next year!
The police will usher you along back towards the train station. If you are staying in Buñol just go with the flow until you are out of the dense crowds and make your way back when you get a chance.
Take advantage of the Buñol residents who shower you with water from their hoses. You will not be allowed on the train back to Valencia if you are still covered in tomato and you will be forced to join the long line for the shower outside the station. The train security will also prevent you from bringing alcohol on the train with you, so don't buy a big liter of beer just before you get to the station if you want to get going quickly.
Dangers to Watch out For
There isn't much you can do about any of the following, other than keeping your wits about you. Things to watch out for include:
- Slippery floors.
- Pushing and shoving. If one person falls, many others around them fall too, much like at a rock concert.
- Being crushed when the trucks come past to dump the tomatoes. When you see it coming, try to see a place to escape. If you can't escape, stand with your side facing the truck - it reduces the feeling of being crushed.
- The very rare occurrences of men using scissors to cut girls' clothes off. This is extremely uncommon, but it does happen.
- Pickpockets. Again, this is rare. You shouldn't be carrying anything of value anyway, as it will get lost regardless of whether there are pickpockets or not.
Everyone needs to be aware of the dangers, but that doesn't mean that the Tomatina Tomato Fight is unsafe. Considering the large numbers of people and the fact that this is a fight, it all passes off largely without any problems.
What Clothes to Wear
- Old clothes that you don't mind getting damaged.
- White t-shirt*. Ok, this might not be the best for washing your clothes, but you'll never get the stains out anyway. White is far more photogenic - it's much better to say "This t-shirt was white when it started" than "Yes, I am covered in tomatoes but you can't see it because I'm dressed in black". As town councilor for Parties, Fairs, Culture and Sports Pilar Garrigues said after the festival, "Here one comes dressed in white and should leave in red if they had a good time".
- *You must be wearing a t-shirt to get back on the train. As disgusting as this might sound, if you do lose your t-shirt, there will be enough of them lying around to get a replacement for the way back.
- Girls should wear a sports bra to protect their modesty. Full-body swimming costumes are even better.
- Flip flops or loose sandals are a big no. Open-toed sandals with straps are the best if you want to wash them and wear them again, but you're going to want protection against stamping feet! Buy a cheap pair of shoes or wear an old pair you are going to throw away.
- No jewelry, hats, sunglasses, keys, cell phones, etc. Whatever you bring - be prepared to lose it!
There is no need to bring a change of clothes with you to the Tomatina event itself. Getting a cold shower from one of the many residents who spray their hoses onto the tomato-soaked revelers is enough to get you clean enough to board the train and the warm Valencia sun will dry you off quickly.
What to Bring
The bottom line regarding what to bring to the Tomatina Tomato fight is bringing as little as possible! With the amount of pushing and pulling going on, you are bound to lose something or have it get damaged. That is not to mention the effect the tomatoes will have on wallets, paper money, etc (as well as the slight possibility of pickpockets).
- A return ticket to Valencia.
- Enough money to buy a replacement ticket to Valencia in case you lose the first one.
Carry your money and ticket in separate plastic bags (like the ones you get your fruit and vegetables in at the grocery store) or buy a proper plastic zip-up bag. Try to bring coins rather than bills, as coins don't dissolve in tomato!
- Breakfast. There are very few opportunities to take breakfast if you intend on arriving early, either in Valencia or Buñol.
- Tissues for the bathroom.
- Waterproof camera, although you can buy them there (see below). Read more on waterproof cameras at Tomatina.
- Money for non-essentials.
- A Swiss army knife, for cutting the ham from the greasy pole.
- A sense of humor! There will be something that will really bug you, but take it with a pinch of salt. At least you aren't being chased by a herd of bulls.
How to Waterproof Your Camera, DIY style
None of these methods are perfect, but if you don't have the time or the money to invest in one of the above options, this will be your only choice.
- Wrap your camera in plastic wrap. You will almost definitely need to cut a hole in it for the lens. The more creative of you might want to fix a sheet of glass over the lens, thus protecting it completely.
- Wrap your camera in a clear plastic bag like those you get your fruit and vegetables in at a grocery store. Wrap it in two bags - better safe than sorry. Again, you might want to cut a hole in the bags for the lens.
- For a bigger camera with a large round lens, a large plastic shopping bag with a round hole cut into it for the lens works well to cover the front of the camera, minus the lens, of course. The back is left exposed, but by putting your head inside the shopping bag, you can still access the controls on the back.
- A normal disposable camera, one that comes sealed in a cellophane plastic bag, and simply don't take it out of the plastic! Make a hole for the lens and the viewfinder and you have a waterproof camera at a fraction of the cost of the waterproof ones they sell on the street in Buñol.
If you do decide to take your camera with you to the Tomatina Tomato Fight, good luck - you'll need it. For most, taking a camera creates more problems than it's worth, but if you just have to get shots of this incredible festival, it is by no means impossible.