How Burning Man Works

Want to Go?

Everyone is welcome at Black Rock City, but "radical inclusion" isn't free. The not-for-profit Burning Man festival does charge for its experience, and in 2011, the festival sold out for the first time [source: Jones].

Tickets may be available "at the door," but they're first-come first-served, so it's a risk. Party-goers may also sell extra tickets at the event, and they may be cheaper than face value, but counting on that is a risk as well. Those who go that route may be driving hours into the remote Nevada desert only to be turned away.

In 2013, low-income tickets ran $190, and standard ones $380. Early buyers pay much more -- $650 in 2012 [source: Burning Man]. Ticket sales start in December with the more-expensive early sale and continue until will call closes.

A few other things to know before you go:

  • Black Rock City is in the desert. Burning Man's setting is hot, dry and at a high elevation, and dehydration is always a risk. Burning Man does not provide water. Burners should bring, at minimum, 1 gallon (4 liters) of drinking water per person per day, and another half-gallon (2 liters) per day for bathing and washing dishes and clothes. The city features portable toilets. Some sort of shade structure for homes is a good idea, too, along with a whole lot of sunscreen.
  • The desert gets cold at night. While days are hot, temperatures can drop significantly when the sun goes down, so warmer clothing (and sleep setups) will be needed at night.
  • The playa is dark. Aside from the festival's ritual lanterns and light provided by art installations or stuff burning, lighting the dark to avoid injury and collision (art installations can be small and hard to see at night) is up to the Burners. Headlamps for venturing out and LED string lights for living structures are encouraged.

Finally, and perhaps most important (except for the water -- that's more important), is the Burning Man commandment: Know thy ability to adapt. First-timers should put some thought into which Burning Man experience is right for him or her. And be realistic. The festival is not for the meek, and one week may be a bit much for an introduction. Some discomfort is normal and to be expected -- it may even be good. But starting small (staying just a few days is fine) can help make the festival experience a positive one for those who aren't entirely sure they're the Burner type. Whatever that is.

Radical self-expression can take some practice. The city will spring up again next summer.

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