How to Get to the Tomatina Festival in Bunol, Spain
La Tomatina is a famous festival that takes place in a small town called Buñol, just outside the city of Valencia, Spain. The festival occurs each year on the last Wednesday of August. The main part of the festival involves large dump trucks filled with tomatoes squeezing into the town square thus inciting what has become known as the 'World's Largest Food Fight'. Recent popularity has led to increased crowds and more difficult travel arrangements, but this guide will help to give some insightful tips and information about the best and cheapest ways to get to the festival.
Getting to Valencia
As you are probably aware, the main launching point for the Tomatina is the city of Valencia in the South Eastern portion of Spain. Flights to Valencia from other European cities are quite affordable and are available from a variety of low cost providers such as Ryanair and Vueling. From London, Easyjet and Ryanair operate non-stop flights. From the U.S., Delta operates a non-stop flight from JFK airport in New York City to Valencia. Otherwise, Barcelona and Madrid serve as good waypoints towards your final destination in Valencia.
Getting to Buñol
Buñol is situated about 40 km outside of Valencia. Once in Valencia, there are numerous options available for getting to Buñol.
Trains leave Valencia’s main railway station about every hour starting from 6:30 or so in the morning. The schedules for the trains can be found at renfe.com. Although the train is convenient, the trip can take almost an hour and the departures are relatively infrequent. Also, the town square of Buñol is a pretty long walk from the Buñol train station. You will surely be accompanied by plenty of rowdy revelers on your train ride to Buñol. Signs on the sidewalks of Valencia (pictured below) lead you to train that will take you to Buñol.
By Hostel Bus
Another option is to take a bus provided by a Hostel. Some Valencia hostels provide bus transportation to the Tomatina. If you are able to book such a hostel, you will be able to jump on their bus at little or no cost. Alternatively, some hostels allow you to pay to take their bus even if you are not staying at that hostel. This usually costs around 10 to 15 euro. While this is convenient, it is important to keep in mind that return trips from Buñol to the hostel may be infrequent and in some cases limited to one trip. So if you happen to miss your bus amidst all the drunken revelry, you could be in for a difficult afternoon; made even more difficult by the fact that you are far from sober and covered in tomato puree. Even if you are able to manage to summon a taxi to Buñol, chances are the driver will not want to take a passenger that is covered from head to toe in tomato pulp like the reveler pictured below.
While it may come as a surprise, the best means for getting to the Tomatina may be by rental car. Numerous rental car agencies operate out of Valencia’s Airport and Valencia’s Train Station. Renting a car in Valencia for 24 or 48 hours can be relatively cheap. If you are 25 or older and can drive a manual transmission, a car can be rented for a little over $100 (~80 euro) for 48 hours. Although gas is relatively expensive in Spain, the round-trip to Buñol is not far enough to require more than a quarter tank of gas.
The A3 goes pretty much directly to the town of Buñol. Upon getting off the highway at exit 322 there is surprisingly little traffic. Although driving directly into the center of town is prohibited on the day of the festival, there are plenty of free street parking spots along Avenue de Vicente Biasco Ibanez (picture below), which is the main road into town. You are able to drive pretty much all the way up to Plaza de Rivero roundabout before hitting a road block. If you arrive around 8 or so, you should be able to find parking. However, it is advisable to arrive earlier in order to guarantee parking.
There are several notable advantages to driving to the Tomatina. First, you are able to stay somewhere outside of the city of Valencia the night before the festival. Although hotels in Buñol are difficult to find and quite expensive, there are numerous other small towns with cheap hotels along the A3 from Valencia. By staying at such a hotel, you are ensuring that you get a sufficient amount of sleep before the physically demanding Tomatina festival, whereas the hostels in Valencia and Buñol tend to start the party the night before the festival and stay up all night until 10 A.M. This is a beginner’s mistake as your lack of sleep will inevitably catch up to you during the festival.
Moreover, by having a car, you are able to sleep an extra couple of hours. Having to be at the train station at 5:30 A.M. can be quite a difficult task and napping on the train is pretty much impossible given the amount of partygoers present. Another advantage to having a car in Buñol is that you can leave whenever you want. As fun as the festival is, the after party tends to become extremely rowdy and results in an increased incidence of violence. After a long morning drinking, at some point in the afternoon you will decide that you have had enough and want to leave. However, you will be forced to wait for your train or bus with thousands of other hung over partiers.
Finally and most importantly, by having a car you can lock up your valuables as well as keep a change of clothes in the car. As discussed, the influx of crowds of drunken tourists into a normally quiet town predictably leads to increased crime. Pickpocketing is rampant during the festival. Some revelers will even go so far as to rip off your shoes and shirt. Although they have other motives in mind when they commit such an act against a female, when they rip off a males clothing, it is most likely so that they can steal that article of clothing. Which leads me to my next point, you will inevitably want to change out of your wet, smelly clothes after the festival is over. Having a change of clothes waiting in the car will allow you to continue the party and be comfortable.
Of course, it should be mentioned that the one major disadvantage to having a car is that the driver will have to stay sober in order to drive back to the hotel after the festival. While you should never drink and drive anywhere, getting a DUI in a foreign country can have additional consequences. More importantly, it is dangerous enough to navigate Spain’s motorways when coming from the U.S. or U.K. Driving under the influence in Spain can be deadly.
In summation, I don’t mean to be a party pooper in writing this article; I am merely bringing to light the practical considerations that should be pondered before attending the Tomatina. I hope that these tips can be found to be informative and useful.