I'm going to try doing GLASTONBURY 2010. Difficulty: Never been to Europe, have no idea where to begin, kind of dumb. Help me make this beautiful dream a reality.
August 18, 2009 10:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to try doing GLASTONBURY 2010. Difficulty: Never been to Europe, have no idea where to begin, kind of dumb. Help me make this beautiful dream a reality.

I am a hardcore US music festival junkie. I try to hit up most of the major ones (and quite a few of the minor ones) every year. As next year is the 40th Glasto, I have decided to make a run at it.

This is a daunting prospect for me as I:

• Am 35 and have never been to Europe at all
• Havent yet got a passport
• Am sure there are a million details I have no idea about that I dont want to get dogpiled with when I'm two weeks from the festival

So, basically, where would one begin with trying to get their head around this kind of undertaking?

Further, how much time/expense/difficulty would it be for me to decide to hop on to the main continent for a few days and rail around a bit?

I am also looking for people with GLASTO-SPECIFIC knowledge and not just general Euro-Trip info.

Anyhoo, forgive my ignorance on this topic. I know I set the goalposts a bit broad, but all I can think to do to start is to throw myself blindly in to the water and learnt to swim from there.

Thanks!

P.S. I should mention that I travel pretty spartan and am not reliant on posh accommodations. A backpack and a hostel seem like they would be fine, but again, Ive never had that experience either.

Help? :)
posted by Senor Cardgage to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
firstly, have you seen that you have to register in advance for Glasto? And you can do that now already:
http://www.glastonburyregistration.co.uk/
and that this doesn't mean you have a ticket, it means you have a number to quote when the tickets go on sale which is not yet
posted by runincircles at 11:17 AM on August 18, 2009


Just jump in, it will be fine. UK weather is your only handicap ;-)

Guessing your're in the US -- allow plenty of time to get your passport, or pay lots extra to get it in two weeks.

Really, going to the UK from the US is trivially easy. Trains in the UK are an efficient way to get around; prices are much better if you book ahead (e.g. 20 UKP bought ahead vs 60 UKP if you purchase on the day).

UK car rental is much more costly than in the US. Driving on the other side of the road isn't really hard, but if you're only there a few days you probably shouldn't bother with a car. If you do, it's when you first set off that it's confusing (each time you set off you'll want to be on the wrong side, then quickly adjust.) Be extra careful stepping off the sidewalk, too.

Hotels etc are likewise more costly than in the US.

In general, cost-wise, reckon on one UK pound buying almost less than one US dollar -- things are cheap here in the US, not so in Europe.

I haven't been to Glastonbury so can't offer any specific advice there.
posted by anadem at 11:24 AM on August 18, 2009


I missed your comment about hostels -- there are lots in the UK, but it's ages since I used them. It used to be the case that you had to join the hostel association but that's probably out-of-date info.
posted by anadem at 11:28 AM on August 18, 2009


It depends where abouts in the US you're flying from, but Bristol airport is the closest major one to Glastonbury. I know there are flights there from New York.

From Bristol - or London - National Express runs coaches to and from the Glastonbury festival. It's probably the easiest way to get there, and it'll take you straight into the site. If you're not keen on coaches you'll have to get to Castle Cary by rail and get a taxi, which could end up costing a small fortune.

As you probably know, due to gatecrashers, Glastonbury now has a pretty tight security system which makes it about as hard to get in to the festival as it is to get into Britain. You'll need to email a passport photo to register for a ticket, and it looks like registration is already open. Seriously, don't try and get in without registering.

Other than that, good luck and happy camping! Which reminds me, you'll need a tent as well...
posted by hnnrs at 11:45 AM on August 18, 2009


First thing: You must go to Glastonbury. It is uniquely brilliant. Unless you are very poor or spectacularly unlucky it will be worth it. No other festival comes close in my experience.

You register for tickets here. Demand is greater than supply and you may not get one. Forget about getting in without a ticket. It used to be commonplace, but they now have very solid security and ID requirements.

Read all this stuff.

Get a tent. Make sure it is waterproof, or waterproof it. All of life's essentials are available at the festival, but they will cost more than if you bring them in yourself.

Do you want communications? There will be a place to recharge a mobile phone, and the reception should be solid (although there were capacity problems in some past years). CDMA phones don't work in Britain, and I imagine US GSM phones cost a bomb to use. You could get a cheap pay-as-you-go GSM card for an unlocked phone, or just buy a cheap phone.

I recommend going to Castle Cary by train. Then there's a free shuttle bus from the station. Book early. Be prepared for funny looks from people using the train for legitimate purposes...

If you decide to hire a car (expensive), you can drive and will eventually get stuck in festival traffic. The later you arrive the worse it will be, and you may have parking problems.

Arrive on Wednesday or Thursday if at all possible. There are no official events on those days, but half of what goes on at Glastonbury is unofficial - you will have a great time. If you wait longer, your camping spot will be very far from anything interesting.

I am reliably informed that drugs are widely tolerated. If you go to the stone circle you will receive any number of offers, and the police choose not to frequent that area. Obviously don't bring anything illegal into the festival (or the country).

Don't put a lock on your tent! It's an advertisment to thieves. You just have to accept there is a small risk of theft. Keep your passport with you. Hey, if you lose everything the Hare Krishnas will feed you two square meals for free! (This is not a bad option even without the robbery)

Wander randomly around the festival. All human life is here; be friendly. Listen to a genre you would never normally touch. Don't forget to see some performance art or comedy as well. Go to a rave. Stay up late and sleep in; you might want a sleep mask. A gospel choir will wake you on Sunday morning.

Finally: you must watch this movie. Message me if you need help obtaining it.

Re travelling around Europe: Travelling by train may be fun and rewarding, but planes are often cheaper (and faster, natch). Try Kayak but also consider budget airlines like easyJet.

Global travel is a crucial part of life and you need to remedy your lack of it as soon as possible. Glastonbury is a great place to start!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:52 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I went in 2005 and made all my arrangements while backpacking, so it is possible.

The most difficult part, originally, was getting tickets. In April, I sat in an internet cafe on the official site (glastonburyfestivals.co.uk) for more than 2 hours waiting for pages to load with no success. A friend emailed me a link to a third-party site (www.seetickets.com) and I had tickets reserved within 60 seconds. I have no idea why this worked or if it's still possible, but it gave me legit tickets for the same price as the official site.

The other complicating factor is that without a UK mailing address, the tickets had to be picked up at a third-party site in a town a fair distance from Glasto itself. It wasn't a problem with a car, but arranging train/bus travel to this town and then on to the site would have added an extra layer of complexity.

I do know there was public and private mass transit options to the site itself, but again as I had a ride I didn't pay much attention.

I definitely recommend making every effort to go. I had daydreamed about attending since I was a teenager and absolutely loved it. I would drop everything to go again in a second. There's a reason the festival sells out before even announcing the lineup.
posted by Adam_S at 11:53 AM on August 18, 2009


Hah, I linked to the wrong movie. I meant this one. I have no idea if the other one is good.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:58 AM on August 18, 2009


runincircles has it. You will need to register well in advance, including submitting a photo and so on. You will then have the opportunity to apply for ticket, which will be issued to you specifically. You will need to book the tickets before they announce the lineup - tickets always sell out before anyone knows all the bands who are playing.

I've been to Glasto, though not for a few years, and I've been to one US festival (Coachella). They are different. At Coachella, we stayed in a hotel about 40 minutes drive away, drove to the festival each day and went home at night. Forget about doing that at Glasto. You will need to camp there. So you will need a tent, or use a service such as Tangerine Fields: http://www.tangerinefields.co.uk/ who provide ready-pitched tents at festivals (I haven't used them so can't comment, but they were linked from the website of a festival that I'm going to).

Getting there: you could rent a car. But you'd be driving down very narrow country roads, filled with thousands of other cars. It will take a long, long time. The other option is to book a coach. You can do this in combination with your ticket, but you MUST be on the coach that you book - they will give you your ticket on the coach itself. Coaches leave from London and from other major cities.

This is my preferred method: book a very early coach back on the Monday: this will get you out of the festival quickly and easily. (Last time, I was home in London in bed listening to the radio report that there were two hour queues to get out of the festival site. Good for me, not for them).

There will be a good range of food and alcohol at the festival, at high but not outrageous prices. You will also be offered drugs. A lot. The quality is likely to be poor.

Be prepared for literally any weather. The two years I went were mostly sunny. The two years before, they had torrential rain and people got trench foot.

The toilets will be terrible, but tell yourself it's only for a few days. The long-drop style ones (seats over a trench) are better than the port-a-loo style ones. There is a shower in the family field. It is more like a giant locker room with water dripping from overhead buckets than a shower, but it's something. It's also unisex. Don't give a damn, no one else will.

The music will be great, and the people will generally be friendly and chilled. There used to be a lot of problems with theft and so on, but possibly those have died down now that it's harder to jump the fence.

If you want to sleep, pitch your tent well away from the stages (I favour a big field on a hill facing the Pyramid stage, it's a long walk but you're out of the way). The official music stops early (11 pm or so) but generally there are sound systems or other stages going through the night.

Go to the stone circle to watch the sun rise at least once.

[I'm sure this info is almost all still accurate - it does date from a few years ago, but hopefully someone who's been more recently can comment]
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:58 AM on August 18, 2009


In April, I sat in an internet cafe on the official site (glastonburyfestivals.co.uk) for more than 2 hours waiting for pages to load with no success.

The festival has gone through various ticket nightmares and has settled on a pre-registration system that seems to work well.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:59 AM on August 18, 2009


This is scary. But scary in that good way.

I have to do this. :)

thanks guys! Keep it comin'
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:05 PM on August 18, 2009


Be prepared for literally any weather.

This can't be over-emphasized. I woke up on the Friday morning of Glasto 2005 to my tent nearly horizontal because of the torrential rain and wind. After walking around for 3 days in mud and rain, my feet were absolutely mangled. People sell wellies on site at ridiculous prices; definitely bring your own.
posted by Adam_S at 12:08 PM on August 18, 2009


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94: "I recommend going to Castle Cary by train. Then there's a free shuttle bus from the station. Book early. Be prepared for funny looks from people using the train for legitimate purposes...

If you decide to hire a car (expensive), you can drive and will eventually get stuck in festival traffic. The later you arrive the worse it will be, and you may have parking problems.

Arrive on Wednesday or Thursday if at all possible. There are no official events on those days, but half of what goes on at Glastonbury is unofficial - you will have a great time. If you wait longer, your camping spot will be very far from anything interesting.
"

Actually, there are now official events on the Thursday of Glastonbury and it's well worth arriving as early as possible on the Wednesday. In fact, do whatever you can to get there on Wednesday morning. It will mean you avoid the traffic, the queues and you will be able to pitch your tent in a decent area. Several of the arts/non-music areas are open from Wednesday and they are just as good as the sick lineup itself so spend as much time as you can on the Wednesday and Thursday exploring the site and the weird and wonderful things you only ever find at Glasto.

When setting up your camp, avoid low ground, good places are over the railway track in front of the Other Stage up up the hill from the Pyramid. Your music preferences will probably determine which stages you want to be near.

Hiring a car is expensive but does have benefits. Only that was will you be able to bring in multiple crates of booze, big tents, gazebos and BBQs/other food. Of course, you'll have to carry it miles from the car parks but that just makes getting there more worthwhile. If you don't want to spend time in traffic, do not try and drive in on peak times - late afternoon Wednesday or Thursday. Leaving by car any time between about 10 am and 4 pm on the Monday runs the risk of being stuck in the car parks for hours.

If you prefer to use public transport (good!), get the coach rather than the train. It's got a better atmosphere, you don't have to switch at Castle Cary and you'll be dropped off right at the entrance. Make sure to buy crates before you get on board though as there's no easy way to get to an offie once your on site.

Infinite Jest: "I've been to Glasto, though not for a few years, and I've been to one US festival (Coachella). They are different. At Coachella, we stayed in a hotel about 40 minutes drive away, drove to the festival each day and went home at night. Forget about doing that at Glasto. You will need to camp there. So you will need a tent, or use a service such as Tangerine Fields: http://www.tangerinefields.co.uk/ who provide ready-pitched tents at festivals (I haven't used them so can't comment, but they were linked from the website of a festival that I'm going to).

That is not a proper festival. You miss out on at least half of the experience if you don't camp at the festival. This is even more true of Glastonbury. Plus, I can't imagine how tiring it would be trekking in and out of the site every day and not being able to pop back to your tent for a 3 am nap or a few more tins of cider.

The toilets will be terrible, but tell yourself it's only for a few days. The long-drop style ones (seats over a trench) are better than the port-a-loo style ones. There is a shower in the family field. It is more like a giant locker room with water dripping from overhead buckets than a shower, but it's something. It's also unisex. Don't give a damn, no one else will.

The toilets have been fine for the last few years. Horror stories are greatly exaggerated. Just stick to the long-drops and bring wet wipes. There are solar powered showers in the Greenpeace field as well as the Kids' Field.


Adam_S: "Be prepared for literally any weather.

This can't be over-emphasized. I woke up on the Friday morning of Glasto 2005 to my tent nearly horizontal because of the torrential rain and wind. After walking around for 3 days in mud and rain, my feet were absolutely mangled. People sell wellies on site at ridiculous prices; definitely bring your own.
"

+1 on this. If it's very muddy all sorts of sharp cans and nasties can be hidden in the quangmire so don't bank on being able to wing it barefoot for five days.

And bring at the very least a bunch of binbags. Preferably a waterproof poncho or proper raincoat.
posted by turkeyphant at 12:15 PM on August 18, 2009


You may have an issue with retrieving your ticket since (if memory serves) they won't mail it to you in the US. There's a collection point in Bristol, I think, which pushes you more firmly towards the option of flying to Bristol from Newark with Continental. National Express has a bus service from Bristol Temple Meads railway station to the site - I know it was £10 one-way on that bus to leave but can't remember the return fare (allow £20).

Go to the site as early as possible on Wednesday. Everybody else does so these days and any later than 3pm-ish you're not going to be able to pick your ideal tent spot. Since you asked, the ideal tent spot is on high ground near the farmhouse because if it starts pissing down you won't have any serious risk of being covered in a moving river of loose mud, and it's near the only regular flushing toilets on the site.

Bring:

* Cash - there are a few ATMs on site but they're only open some of the time and the queues are horrific. Get enough in Bristol to last you five days (I'd recommend at least £30 per day since beer's about £4 a go and you'll want to buy food and possibly other things as well)
* As small a tent as you can tolerate
* A sleeping bag and a mat to put under the sleeping bag (the ground is quite uneven and uncomfortable to sleep on)
* Wellies/galoshes
* A waterproof coat/kagoule thing
* A hat which can withstand rain and won't blow off your head if the weather sucks
* Toilet paper -- otherwise you'll have to find some on site for up to £2 a roll
* Plastic bin liners to store clothes, boots, toilet roll and toiletries, preferably including something large enough to put yourself and your sleeping bag into if your tent leaks
* 'Baggies' to wrap your passport (photo ID is required to match your photo-carrying ticket at the gate) and plane/bus tickets in. Don't leave those documents or your wallet in your tent; keep them on your person at all times. Consider some army-surplus trousers with zip pockets large enough to hold them - any above-the-waist clothing may well be removed by you in hot weather and misplaced.
* Antiseptic wipes and/or hand sanitising fluid, because you're never as near somewhere to wash your hands as you'd like, and the dirt on your hands is part-cowshit, and you would not BELIEVE the number of people who come down with some gastric issue or other because of hand hygiene.
* Might as well pack some Immodium and some Ibuprofen while you're at it because it's better to have it and not need it than the other thing.

And if you find yourself at Glastonbury and by luck it's the other kind of Glastonbury weather you'll need:

* Sunblock, and lots of it -- there's nowhere near enough adequate shelter
* Antihistamines. If you're in any way prone to hay fever you can bet that the enormous amount of fine dust that gets kicked up will set you off

You can bring booze in but only if it's in cans or plastic bottles - glass is strictly verboten and you'll have to abandon any you have at the gate. So that bottle of vodka will want decanting into a water bottle before you arrive.

Don't bring restricted drugs through security. The gate crews won't bother you but there's a nonzero chance you'll be randomly stopped by one of the great many coppers between the bus stops and the gate.

Read the programme as soon as you've pitched your tent and before you do anything else. It contains many pages of advice and directions on where to find the medical and welfare services if you need them (both are quite near where I suggested you should camp, above).

If it's hot, drink plenty of water - at least one 2L bottle or equivalent every day. There are some drinking water taps dotted around the place - but they are clearly marked as such and you should not drink water from taps which are not so marked.

Basically, be prepared, and you'll be perfectly fine.

My only real Punter Advice is not to get too worried about seeing what you thought you wanted to see in the programme. Transversing the site from top to bottom can take nearly two hours so get your bearings on the first day you're there for a feel of the sheer scale of the thing. There are 15 or more stages around the site - pick a few highlights, sure, but otherwise just go watch whatever you come across.

Do it, though. Everybody should be there at least once. I've done about twenty now...
posted by genghis at 1:01 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Turkeyplant: That is not a proper festival. You miss out on at least half of the experience if you don't camp at the festival. This is even more true of Glastonbury. Plus, I can't imagine how tiring it would be trekking in and out of the site every day and not being able to pop back to your tent for a 3 am nap or a few more tins of cider.

Oh, I fully agree. I was tagging along with some Americans, and that was how they did it. If memory serves, no-one was camping at Coachella; there were a lot of people in campervans, but no-one in tents. After a few Glastos and various other festivals here, it felt weird I tell you.

Glad to hear the toilets have improved. They were honestly very very bad when I was there.

I'm not sure about this general advice to fly to Bristol. Why not just travel from London? To get to Bristol you'd presumably have to change at Heathrow and fly anyway, so any time that you might save on travelling Bristol-Glasto rather than London-Glasto would be lost. Surely?

Oh, and Senor Cardgage: don't worry about going on your own (if you are). I went on my own the last time I went, and had a fantastic time, wandered around, met random people and hung out with them. You could also try the messageboards at efestivals.co.uk, both for info about the festival and to maybe meet up with people who will be going (I'm doing that for a festival I'm going to soon).
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:30 PM on August 18, 2009


To get to Bristol you'd presumably have to change at Heathrow and fly anyway
No, you can fly to and from Bristol from Newark. And it's cheaper to get to and from the site from there than it is from London.

Having checked now, they've changed the international ticket buying process in the last year and now will ship the ticket overseas so a trip to Bristol isn't actually required.

By all means fly back from London if you wish (or do London first, whatever). Shame to come over here and not visit. We're just being clear about the options.
posted by genghis at 2:19 PM on August 18, 2009


Don't bother with Glastonbury town - bit of a dump if you ask me.
posted by A189Nut at 3:18 PM on August 18, 2009


genghis: "Go to the site as early as possible on Wednesday. Everybody else does so these days and any later than 3pm-ish you're not going to be able to pick your ideal tent spot. Since you asked, the ideal tent spot is on high ground near the farmhouse because if it starts pissing down you won't have any serious risk of being covered in a moving river of loose mud, and it's near the only regular flushing toilets on the site.

As mentioned before, there's nothing wrong with the long drop toilets. I'd not recommend being near the farmhouse as it's a horrific trek up the hill whenever you want to pick up supplies/crash. Anywhere not on the lowest ground will be safe from flooding too (yes, I was there in 2005) - just avoid being at the bottom of the side of the Pyramid near the Guardian Lounge, the low ground between the Other Stage and Dance Village or down by the John Peel Stage.

* Toilet paper -- otherwise you'll have to find some on site for up to £2 a roll

Actually, there's usually thousands of free rolls at the entrances that last a few days. You can never have too much though so do stock up.

Don't bring restricted drugs through security. The gate crews won't bother you but there's a nonzero chance you'll be randomly stopped by one of the great many coppers between the bus stops and the gate.

Do be wary of the security of the gate. Like any festival, if you're smart you won't experience problems, but several people do get stopped on the way in. Contrary to your experience, I've never seen anyone get stopped by police (maybe if they were obnoxiously breathing spliff smoke into their faces they would) but they do get involved if the security have problems.

In general, apart from the ticket registration aspect, it's no different from any other festival. Except for being far more vast, more eclectic and more crazy. If you know how to pitch a tent, appreciate music and art, and enjoy yourself, you'll be fine.
posted by turkeyphant at 6:44 AM on August 22, 2009


« Older Where you find orangutang?   |   Am I fluent or what? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.