La Tomatina, the world’s biggest tomato fight, is held just outside of Valencia, Spain each year. We were there in 2010 and recorded this podcast immediately afterwards to give you the best impressions of what it was like, what to expect, and how to prepare for the madness that is La Tomatina.
Before La Tomatina
1. Find accommodation
Book your accommodation for La Tomatina as far in advance as possible. If you’re couchsurfing, send your requests at least two months in advance, but even then you’d be lucky to find a place.
Hostels put up their prices, and some require you to book for four days – two nights before the event and two nights after. Check the prices and also look at hotels – they might be cheaper than inflated hostel prices.
There isn’t a lot of accommodation in Buñol itself, so you’ll probably be looking in Valencia. If you’re planning on catching the train, have a look at where the train stops en-route to Buñol from Valencia and see if there’s accommodation in those towns.
2. Book your tickets there and away
Once you have your accommodation, look into transport. There are budget flights to Valencia, and getting to the city from the airport is easy – just catch the metro for about €3 each. Trains and buses also arrive from international and Spanish cities, and will drop you in the centre of the city. Make sure you have your ticket away as well, if you try to buy it the day after La Tomatina you might find yourself stuck in Valencia for a day or two.
3. Read up on current information
Do a bit of background reading to get yourself into the mood. See if there are any changes to the rules and get an idea of how many people are expected. Try here.
4. Plan what you’re going to wear
Your clothes will be soaked and possibly ripped, so don’t wear anything you’re particularly attached to. Goggles are a great idea to protect your eyes, and if you usually wear glasses, get disposable contacts if at all possible. It’s a good idea to take some eyedrops with you as well.
Wear a t-shirt that you’re happy to lose, shorts with a zip pocket, lace-up shoes (not flip flops unless you don’t like them very much), and a sports bra if you’re a girl.
5. Waterproof your camera
If you really need to take your camera, waterproof it well – just a ziplock bag is not enough. There are lots of articles on the internet showing you how to do this.
6. Don’t have a big night the night before
The night before La Tomatina is traditionally a big drinking night, but you really don’t want to feel delicate in a crowd of 50,000 people. Have a glass or two then hit the sack before midnight, because you’ve got to get up really early the next day.
On the day
1. Transport to the event
Go to Valencia San Isidre station, on the metron green line (5) and the yellow line (1). It’s in zone A so if you’re staying in the centre it’s cheap to get there. The Renfe train station is just across the road from the metro stop, you don’t need directions.
Trains run about every half hour, but don’t worry about finding the schedule – you won’t be able to anyway! When you arrive, there will probably be a crowd of people already waiting at the bottom of the steps, unless you are super early, so knowing the schedule is pointless – you’ll get on the train when you get on the train.
Buy your ticket in advance if you can, and definitely get a return. In 2010 it was €4.70 from Valencia to Buñol.
2. Get there early
The later you arrive, the less action you’ll see. You’ll have the best chance of a good spot if you arrive in Buñol at around 8am, which means you have to be at the train station in Valencia at 6.30, and you’ll probably have to leave your accommodation at 6am. It’s early, but it’s worth it. If you show up at 10am, you won’t really experience La Tomatina. Take some food with you to eat on the train.
3. Buy water before you get in the crowd
There’s lots of stalls along the route down to the square where you can buy water. Buy 500mls or a litre per person to get you through to 11am – don’t buy too much or you might need to go to the toilet. Security guards will remove the lids of the bottles, so you’re better having fewer bottles.
4. Find the ham
Work your way through the crowd (slowly) until you can see the greasy pole with the ham on the top. This is the centre of the action, and watching people climbe the pole is something to do while you wait for 11am to roll around.
5. Relax and enjoy it
Don’t stress out, and try to have a good time, even if you’re being pushed around. Remember – you’re at La Tomatina, how awesome is that? Let people past you, especially if they are looking unwell.
6. Don’t drink too much
All along the route down to the square are stalls selling beer, wine, and sangria. Limit yourself to one before the event – it’ll be really hot and the alcohol will go to your head faster. You really don’t want to faint, puke, or be so drunk you can’t remember La Tomatina. Do your drinking afterwards.
7. Don’t try to leave
Unless you’re feeling really unwell, don’t try to leave until the horn sounds. Just relax and enjoy it. The crowds will thin after the final horn.
After La Tomatina
1. Move with the crowd
After the horn goes, everyone will start moving back up towards the train station. Move with the crowd, don’t try to go in a different direction. Once you get back on the hill road, the crowds will thin out and you’ll be able to stop and buy drinks and food.
2. Get up the hill as soon as possible
You need to decide if you want to stay and eat and drink in Buñol, or leave as soon as possible. It’s probably better to get on an earlier train so that you don’t have to wait forever. So get up the hill as soon as you can.
3. Rinse off
Don’t try to get on the train covered with tomato. There are showers near the station, get in line for those as soon as you’re up the hill. Locals with hoses will be scattered along the route back to the station, and it’s refreshing but doesn’t work as well as the showers.
4. Get on the train and away
Hop on the train back to Valencia, wash off properly and celebrate with a drink.