La Tomatina is a festival held in Bunol, Spain on the last Wednesday of August each year. It’s the world’s biggest food fight where thousands of people fill the streets to throw tomatoes at each other. This year the event was ticketed which meant only 20,000 people were allowed to attend in comparison to the 50,000 people who attended last year. This was a more comfortable approach as it meant there was plenty of room to move around without feeling crowded.
Still though, it was pretty intense, so here’s my survival guide to help get you through.
1. Old clothing is a must
Prior to the festivals I received an email from the tour company I was doing La Tomatina with detailing that it is likely our clothes were going to get ruined and ripped off during the fight. They explained that we should wear clothing that we would be happy to throw out after the fight. This frightened my friend and I a little bit, what were we getting ourselves into? But to be completely honest this isn’t how it is. Yes you should definitely wear old clothing or clothes that you do not mind throwing away but your clothing can be salvaged after about two washes. All of my clothing managed to stay in one piece, no ripping was involved. Although, I did see one guy with a ripped top but he did rip this off himself in a hulk like motion; it was very entertaining.
2. Invest in goggles
My best friend who attended the festival with me wears contact lenses and is virtually blind without them. She didn’t bring goggles with her, however, lucky for her there are many stallholders selling goggles in the streets of Bunol. Within a few minutes of the fight her goggles managed to break leaving me to donate my goggles to her so she could see and not be stuck in the corner until the fight was over. The moral of this story is this: the goggles were poor quality, so before the fight, pay a little extra money and invest in a decent pair, even if you don’t wear contact lenses. Tomato in the eye is very unpleasant and it also means that you have more access to the tomatoes while everyone else is standing there rubbing them out of their eyes.
3. Wear sturdy shoes and a hat
For the fight I rounded up a few things I was willing to throw from my suitcase and the others I purchased cheaply which included a black pair of canvas shoes. To be honest canvas trainers were not great because instantly your feet get saturated and stay that way all day long, so if you can get a sturdy pair of boots or trainers I would highly recommend it to keep your feet from being soaked all day long. Wearing a hat is so handy as when the tomatoes are dropped on your head it means less of an impact but it also means less tomato to get out of your hair when you get home. They were also good for helping to block the tomato when it is flying right at your forehead.
4. Bring a spare pair of everything
As mentioned previously, the majority, if not all of your clothing, will be ruined from the fight. Make sure to bring spare clothing with you which you can usually leave on the bus you came on. Also they will not let you back onto the bus to town with any form of tomato on your being… even in your hair. I learnt this when I went to get back onto the bus in fresh clothing only for the bus driver to tell me to pick the tomato out of my hair. That wasn’t going to happen; tomato was everywhere and was well and truly stuck in there. So I wrapped a towel around my head and got onto that bus. So make sure to bring two towels, one to wipe yourself down and one to wrap around your head in case your bus driver is as mean as mine.
5. If you go by bus, remember where the pick-up point is
After the fight there are thousands of people who are either partying away or frantically trying to get out of the street. So don’t do what my friend and I did and forget where our bus was going to park because they all look the same. Bunol is quite far out from Valencia, where the majority of people stay, and because you cannot take anything with you we had no phone which meant no maps and no money which meant we would be stranded if we missed the bus. We frantically ran around for over an hour trying to find our bus to of course find it in the only place we didn’t look, so make sure you take note of where your bus is picking you up.
6. Have a decent shampoo ready
To say you will be covered in tomato is an understatement. Now if you are lucky to have long hair, tie it up. If tied up some parts of your hair are hidden so when a bucket of tomatoes gets tipped on your head it will be easier to get out then if it was down. It took me seven shampoos, and two conditions with endless brushing to get all the tomato pieces out of my hair… it was not pleasant but still completely worth it. So make sure you have a full bottle of shampoo and a decent one that isn’t going to damage your hair after you have washed it seven times.
7. Make friends
There are thousands of people who attend Bunol for La Tomatina and they all have the same aim…. to throw as many tomatoes as they can at each other and that will include you, so nobody is safe. My friend and I managed to make friends with two lovely guys from Dubai who became our shields; hiding behind two very tall men was an ideal situation when tomatoes were being thrown at our heads. And to be honest it is so much fun squashing tomatoes in your friend’s faces.
Last but not least…
8. Pass the ham
This was repeatedly mentioned on the bus into Bunol but now I understand why. At around 10am the festivities begin with anybody and everybody trying to climb a greased pole to reach a leg of ham hanging from the top. Once somebody reaches the ham the tomato fight begins. Now the street that the fight takes place on is very long. The reason you should pass the ham is that everybody crowds closer to the pole so if you are further up the street you are more likely to get amongst the fight and get access to as many tomatoes as possible whereas if you are behind the pole there is a chance you will not see a single tomato.
And that’s it! I hope this helps make your La Tomatina experience as awesome as mine. Just let me know in the comments section below if you have any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.