April 2015 we set off for California and Coachella – which proved to be two amazing weeks. Coachella was all we ever dreamed of with sophisticated daytime pool parties, great music at the gorgeous festival grounds and amazing people!
We’ve gathered that quite a few of you would like to head to Coachella yourselves (which we completely understand), so here’s our guide to all you need to know about one of the world’s biggest music and art festivals.
Tickets (GA, VIP, Shuttle)
Deciding to go to Coachella shouldn’t be a tough choice, deciding which type of ticket to get, however, might be a tougher one. There are mainly two types of tickets: General admission (GA) and VIP.
A GA ticket gives you access to the festival grounds and free parking. VIP passes additionally allows you into two VIP areas (adjecent to the main Coachella stage and the Sahara stage). Many of those with VIP passes choose to spend most of their time in these areas due to a more relaxed amotsphere with shaded areas, fancy food and drink vendors and of course the people. If most of your friends have VIP passes, or you just want a more comfortable festival experience, we suggest you get one as well!
In terms of shuttle passes, we really don’t think it’s worth it. Parking on the festival grounds is free and ample even if you arrive in the afternoon, and it is not very far to walk from the parking to the festival entrance (contrary to what people will tell you). There are also taxis and an Uber lounge. We got a shuttle pass and took the bus one day – turned out to be an expensive bus ride!
We would also highly recommend getting a locker where you can keep things during the festival. Not having to carry around all sorts of things you might be bringing in 30+ degrees is a luxury. Lockers must be booked in advance (see the Coachella website for more info) as they are suuuper popular.
As no pro cameras are allowed in (with a detachable lense that is), we brought a disposable one – along with iPhones ofc
Coachella isn’t like other festivals in many ways: one of them is that camping is far from essential. We don’t suggest camping when you go there, instead we recommend finding a place to rent. There are four main areas you could stay in.
Palm Springs which might seem far away with its 45 mins drive from the festival grounds, however there are many pool parties here during the day so it makes it conventient if day time parties is your scene (why wouldn’t it be tbh!). This is where we stayed and we had no problem getting to and from the festival grounds at any time. There is also Palm Desert and La Quinta, which are both slightly closer to the festival grounds (about 25 and 15 mins drive), but they are also more popular in terms of price and availability. And of course there is Indio, which is where Coachella takes place. Staying in Indio means you might be able to be within walking distance to the festival, which is obviously very handy.
In order to be able to choose between these locations (or just find a place to stay in general) you have to start preparing early. Preferably half a year in advance, or even earlier – best time would be at the same time as you get your tickets in the May pre-sale. Check AirBnB for houses, flats and shared accomodation. Remember to read the description carefully as special fares usually apply during the Coachella weekends.
Though the fashion seems to be getting just as much attention as the music at Coachella, there is nothing too crazy fashion wise. As is the case for most festivals, the main theme is hippie chic/boho (and the amount of clothing you wear is highly optional…). Seen as Coachella is in the desert, it is extremely hot during the day and slightly chillier during the evening, so we suggest you bring a light jumper.
A top tip is networking. Before, during and after: network, network, network. Having some good connections is worth a lot. At least it got us backstage for late night pizza and champagne with Robert Pattinson, FKA Twigs and Katy Perry.
Our second top tips would be to arrive late. We know there are many good artists playing during the day, but in that heat staying there from start to finish is simply impossible. Instead we suggest you spend your time with a drink by the pool instead, which brings us to the next part.
DAY: POOL PARTIES:
One of the reasons why you might not want to camp at Coachella, is that combining daytime pool parties with the afternoon/evening at the festival requires a lot in terms of feeling fresh and looking your best.
Enjoyng a drink at the Refinery and A-OK Paradiso pool party with DJ sets from among other Alexa Chung, Myles Hendrik & Ana Calderon
We also checked out the Vestal Village party at a private estate in Thermal, close to the festival
There are so many different pool parties to choose from every day at Coachella – one day we ended up going to three different ones as we couldn’t decide on just one. Common for them is cool DJ sets, a fun vibe, paps (smile!) and a pool where you can escape the heat. However, they do also differ in many respects, so make sure you check these things out before you go: Some of them will have open bars (you heard right, have all the cocktails you want!) and some even free food (which tend to be of high quality), clothes, flash tattoos and other accessories.
The kind of invitation you receive matter as well, as the GA list might not get you much whereas the VIP can have separate areas, bar and food. In general, the open RSVP parties are more crowded and less fun than the more intimate ‘Invite Only’ ones (here’s where your networking skills matter!). Also at the pool parties, bikinis and swimming in the pool is acceptable at some of them but not all – we recommend having a bikini and a spare set of underwear in your car just in case.
Relaxing in the with a glass of champagne at the Music Lounge party at the Ingleside Inn
Picture in OC Weekly (see ‘Press‘ for a link to the article)
Pool party at Frederick Loewe’s (fabulous) private estate hosted by Sabo Skirt with surprise DJ set by Leigh Lezark
AFTERNOON/EVENING: FESTIVAL TIME:
Hopefully you’ll be feeling refreshed, full and light-headed from the pool parties, in time to head to the main attraction: the festival itself.
First, the practicalities. It’ll be a lot of walking and standing, so comfortable shoes is an absolute must. We highly discourage sandals and heels. Also remember to bring that light jumper for the evening, and print out your receipt for the locker that you booked in advance.
Second, it’s a long day so you probably want some refreshments at some point. The food varies a lot in quality, from the pizza which really isn’t great to delicious dumplings or fresh juices. As mentioned before, there are separate 21+ drinking aeras with food, WiFi (which is very slow) and plenty of seating. Food generally costs between $8-15, a drink will set you back $10-15 and they charge $2 for a bottle of water (but there are free refill stations scattered around the festival grounds, so bring an empty bottle).
When it comes to the music (that’s what we’re all there for, right?) be aware that for smaller artists it’s a good idea to arrive about 15 mins before they go on stage, whereas for headliners you’d want to allow at least an hour (unless of course you have an artist or backstage pass). Also, the three smaller stages are close to each other which is super conventient as it makes it easy to move between shows – which meant that we managed to catch a lot more artists then we initially expected.
Some last useful advice: 1) The toilets at the festival vary a lot in standard. Make sure you check out the different ones on the first day (try to find the water closets). 2) Don’t rely on texting your friends as the signal is really bad/non-existing – iMessage/FB is better if you have internet. If not, decide on a meeting place in advance in case you lose each other (yes mummy).
Yeah, it’s Monday morning and Coachella passed way too quickly. Actully, it’s more like mid-day by the time you wake up and decide to drive back to LA. We realised we weren’t the only ones. What took us 2 hours on the way to Coachella took us about 5 hours on Monday. We either suggest you drive back really early or wait till the evening. Alternatively, you can fly from Palm Springs to Vegas instead and spend a few days there.
Thanks for this year Coachella. We hope to be back next year!