Festival Survival Guide - Top Tips for the UK Music Festival Season

Best Strategies and Safeguards for Hassle-Free Music Festival Fun

A girl crowd surfs with the help of her friends
••• Louis Debenham / Getty Images

The Glastonbury Music Festival at the end of June may be the biggest summer music festival in the UK but it isn't the only one. In fact, there are hundreds of  summer music festivals in the UK and Ireland (more every year it seems). There are opportunities to get down, get dirty (literally) and get it on, in muddy fields, on sandy beaches, in city parks or in grassy meadows all over the place. Huge, excessive and brilliant fun, they can leave you with a big hangover in more ways than one.

Come prepared and you can avoid the pitfalls. These top survival tips will help.

How to Survive the UK's Summer Music Festivals

  1. Get Over Yourself Face up to the fact that you will:
    • have to relax about your personal space requirements
    • let you standards of personal hygiene slip a little
    • stand in line for hours to use incredibly smelly toilets. Relax, no one ever died of plague or caught cholera from using a music festival portapotty.
    • pay over the odds for everything from a bottle of water to a souvenir T-shirt
    • see people partaking of recreational chemicals - legal and illegal
    • see at least one fat old hippy get naked or be tempted to get naked yourself.
    If all that sounds a bit over the top for you, watch the festival video, otherwise, get over yourself and have a good time.
  2. Settle In The best and biggest festivals always involve camping. If this is your first festival, put aside any ideas you have about waking up to birdsong and the smell of fresh air and greenery. Except that you might use a sleeping bag and tent, festival camping bears almost no relation to ordinary leisure camping. Keep these pointers in mind for stress free festival camping.
    • Arrive early for the best choice of pitches
    • Pitch your tent within sight of landmarks you'll remember and that will still be visible when you wake up to a field covered in thousands of other tents.
    • Choose a spot as far away from the toilets as you can because it won't be long before they stink to high heaven.
    • Check out these Top Tips for Hassle-Free Festival Camping
  1. Be Prepared It may be hot, sunny and dry or chilly and wet - though in the UK it's likely to be a little bit of both. There will probably be ATMs or cash dispensers but the lines for them will be miles long, they'll be miles away from everything else and they'll probably run out of money by the middle of the first day.
    Check out this list of things to bring to a music festival to be prepared.
  1. Leave it Home Don't bring more than you need and never leave things you can't afford to lose in your tent. Keep valuables, like money and photo IDs on your person, even if it means wearing a naff passport holder thingy under your shirt.
  2. Carry a cheap camera Of course you'll want pictures of the event. But do you want to carry a heavy, digital SLR around your neck for the whole festival? If you put it down somewhere, you risk never seeing it again. If you'd rather not drain your iPhone battery with picture taking, invest in a cheap pocket digital or, even better, a couple of disposable film cameras. Kodak's Fun Flash camera, comes in packs of five, with each camera capable of shooting 39 pictures. 
  3. Just Say No Recreational drugs will be everywhere - and so will the cops. Festivals are prime territory for law enforcement officials to nab petty dealers. Even if you normally indulge, at festivals just say no.
  4. Watch Your Drinking Alcohol - beer, wine, cider and perry - is usually available at UK music festivals. If you are visiting from North America, you'll find the legal age for alcohol consumption is much younger in the UK than you are used to. You can legally buy alcohol at a pub or bar from age 18 and you can buy and consume alcohol in a restaurant that serves food from the age of 16. The point is, if you are not used to uninhibited drinking, you can easily overdo it, exposing yourself to stranger danger, not to mention a nasty hangover. Take it slow and just remember, if there is head banging at a festival, wouldn't you rather it be on stage than in your head?
  1. Stay safe
    • Keep in touch with your friends via your mobile phones, check in every now and then and arrange rendezvous in advance. Stick together with a group and tell your friends where you expect to be and when.
    • Don't wander off into dark corners of the crowd on your own.
    • Be careful what you drink and who you accept drink from. Bottles at festivals are famously receptacles for all sorts of unpleasant waste. And no matter how warm and friendly the crowd seems, rapes at festivals are not unheard of - you never know what's in a drink accepted from a stranger.