La Tomatina Survival Guide Bunol, Spain is the location of the infamous tomato fight. It’s about half an hour drive due west of Valencia, which for those who have never visited the region, is on the east coast of Spain. Most people stay in Valencia when going to La Tomatina, but a few get one of the coveted spots to stay in Bunol. So that being said, how do you get from Valencia to Bunol? Well there are several ways, take a train, bus, or rent a car. If you are part of a guided tour that is taking you to the festival they should arrange transportation. Otherwise, taking the bus or train is optimal, as it will cost just a few euros. A couple of stipulations about these two means of transportation, if you have to wear shoes and a shirt while on board, and you have to be able to hang on to your fare money through out the tomato fight. I’ll say it now and again later, there is a very high chance that you will have your shirt ripped off you or lose a shoe or both. Renting a car negates all of those disadvantages but it’s more expensive. However, if you split it 5 ways between a couple of friend or other travelers you may meet, the cost is not that bad after the split but still more expensive. Also, remember Valencia has an odd lay out to the streets, especially if you are from the US. Roundabouts are used for most intersections. You need someone to navigate for you and even then it maybe confusing if you are not familiar with the city. Once you get there in a car you will need to find a place to park, you may want to park kind of far out to help with getting out of Bunols quicker when you want to leave. The great thing about a car is you can put your food, water, clothes, money, towels, etc inside. Next step is the walk down to the festival. There is a little bit of a walk to where the tomato fight is held. It’s not bad, though coming back will be harder. There is an intersection where the food, drink and merchandise vendors end and you’ll take a left down a big hill. You’ll walk and walk and walk, just follow other people! On the way back the locals will usually have hoses ready to help wash off tomato. Remember to share, as everyone else is covered with tomato too. Be prepared There are some things you’ll want on hand and a couple things you need to do. You’ll want to be able to throw away everything that you are wearing after you return to the hotel, shirt, shoes, shorts, socks, underwear. Your best bet is prepare before you ever get on the plane to Spain. A ratty pair of gym shorts and t-shirt are ideal, some old sneakers that are on there last leg. Make sure that you pack enough underwear and socks that you won’t mind throwing away a pair. If you don’t have any of this go to a charity shop and buy something cheap. You’ll also want some eye protection. I recommend swim goggles, something that does not have too big lenses and won’t come off very easy. Also you may want to document the event with pictures but don’t bring a digital camera unless you want it broken – bring a waterproof disposable camera. The Tradition What the heck are they doing? You may ask what does this picture have to do with La Tomatina? And you’ll probably have to read this twice to make sure that you’re not seeing things. Before the tomato fight starts a large wooden pole (like a telephone pole) is heavily greased and cured ham is placed at the top. Once this greasy pole is raised people try to climb up it to get the ham down. When the ham is down the tomato fight is allowed to start. If the ham is still up there by a certain time, the tomato fight starts anyway. This pole is not easy to climb, it has about half an inch to an inch thick grease top to bottom. It’s also tall, I saw six or seven layers of people standing on each others shoulders and not reach the bottom of the ham. It’s a weird experience to climb over people to climb a greased pole to get at a ham. Important Tip Rip or cut the collar of your shirt before the tomato fight starts. The reason why is that it is not uncommon for your shirt to get ripped off of you and the collar is the strongest part of the shirt. By cutting or ripping the collar will allow your shirt to tear away easier. You don’t want to have a chaffed ring around your neck from someone grabbing your shirt and yanking you around in it, you want it to come off easy. The areas There are different areas to be during La Tomatina. Where you enter the tomato fighting area is the first area, it’s also the last area to get tomatoes because the trucks come from the other direction, but it still gets a lot of tomatoes when they do get down there. The next area is the water area. There is a raised cage that has big water hoses, and the locals man the hoses. This is the middle area and where you’ll probably get your shirt ripped off. If you walk in front of the cage, guys will rip off your shirt tie it in a knot, then soak it in water and throw it at someone. You don’t want to get hit with one of these knotted wet shirts, it’s like getting hit with a rock. A little farther down the street is the third and final area where the trucks enter. There is a low spot in the street over here where the tomato soup will gather and you can almost swim in it. A few other odd thoughts about planning a trip to La Tomatina You will need to clean yourself afterward. You will need showers, plural, it will take more than one to get clean. I can’t imagine that there are many hotel/hostels that don’t offer a shower or tub, but I would also look for one that has a pool. I remember that I still smelled like tomato after two showers and then I got into the pool for a while and that seemed to get rid of most of the odor. Respect the place your staying and take an extra shower before you hop into the pool. Take some vitamins the couple days prior to the tomato fight. Tomatoes are good for you but a huge tomato fight is not. I recall not feeling great the following day after my first Tomatina and wound up buying vitamins because I didn’t want to get sick. There is some good food made by the locals and sold at the festival; I recommend the paella. There are also other souvenirs that are sold, t-shirts and the like. Be sure to budget this in if it interests you. Rules The only rule is smash the tomato before you throw it. Also avoid using the tiny green tomatoes – they hurt because they don’t smash easily. Hopefully I’ve prepared you and not scared you! You’ll always remember the festival as it is ridiculously fun so you really should try to go. It happens near the end of each August.