Tips for Burners Traveling From Abroad
Are you traveling from outside of the US to Burning Man? Make sure you read this post, it may save you LOTS of headache.
The Burning Man Community LOVES International Burners. Usually half of the Burners at the camps we stay at, are from abroad. Coming in from other countries to Burning Man brings a few challenges that U.S. based Burners don't have to deal with. Here are some tips to make it easier.
LEAVE NO TRACE! LEAVE NO TRACE!
The biggest complaint most Burners have about international burners, is that they just leave their shit behind and think someone will clean it up. Don't be that international burner. Whatever you bring to the Playa, YOU MUST TAKE BACK WITH YOU! This means you can't leave your tent or bike or any other MOOP behind, not even your water. READ ABOUT HOW NOT TO MOOP! In that regard we have some tips here to help you reduce the stuff you may need to bring, an then back out again as a International Burner.
Also make sure to read our article on What to do Before and After Burning Man to get tips on waste disposal and other tips.
NO VISA, NO BURN
The US has really been cracking down on it's border controls and immigration. Even if you didn't need to get a tourist visa to enter the states in the past, the chances are that has changed. Make sure you register for a Tourist Visa (B-2 Visa) either online or at a local US embassy. You will have to goto a local US embassy for an interview before you receive your visa. IMPORTANT!!! DO NOT SAY YOU ARE GOING TO BURNING MAN!!! I know of many people who have been turned away from Visitor Visas and even at Immigration at the US Airport because they said they were traveling to Burning Man. Make sure you give yourself a few months for for your visa process. To get a better estimate there is an Appointment Wait Time Calculator that shows estimated times for different cities.
At the border be prepared for immigration to check your social media accounts. Best to not publish selfies saying. "I'm off to the burn" just in case. Share all the pics when you come back, but be a freak'n ninja about going...
JOIN A CAMP
When you are traveling from abroad, you do not have the luxury of piling everything you might need into a car and driving to the Burn. You will be limited to 1 large luggage and 1 carry-on depending on your airline. Instead of trying to pick up a stove, shower setup, shade strucutres and all the things you need to camp, it's better to join a camp. Many camps have some camp dues that you will pay, but they provide you with an infrastructure that you coudn't pack in your bag. Many camps are equipeed with kitchens, showers, toilets, communal areas, shaded tent areas and more, depending on the size. Plus you get to meet so many amazing people in your camp, they will become your burner family, moms, dads, brothers and sisters.
To find a camp there are a couple of places to check.
- Ask your friends if anyone has been to Burning Man if they know of camps.
- Check Spark Community to see if there are any camps looking for more members.
- Check facebook for any local Burning Man groups. A lot of times local burners pull together to get a camp.
- Looking for some cool camps? Here is a great post on 12 useful camps at Burning Man
ASK FRIENDS IF THEY HAVE GEAR TO BORROW
If you look in your network, you may be surprised to find that there are either friends, or friends of friends that are long time burners. These folks tend to have entire camps stored at storage facilities. They usually do not go every year, and often will let friends use the gear, rather than not. Ask around your friends, and you may be pleasantly surprised. Remember to throughly clean and wash the gear you use before storing it back. Make sure everything has been dried out as well. Coming to find your tent and sleeping gear is all moldy is no fun, and not cool.
RENT YOUR GEAR AND REDUCE MOOP
There are a number of places you can rent tents, RVs and other camping gear. If you only plan on coming once, try to rent, rather than buy and dump. Buying and dumping doesn't really go with the Leave No Trace principal of Burning Man. Here are a few places to check for renting your gear.
- Experiencegear.com has perfect camp kits with tents, sleeping bags, lights and more. Just rent a kit per day and ship it back after you clean off the playa dust. They can ship your kit directly to your hotel. USE PROMOCODE BURNTIP TO GET 15% OFF
- REI Some of the stores have rental gear. However you need to call the store before hand as there is no way currently to rent online. They do have used gear which you can get online. So at least that recycles something.
CHECK LOCAL SECOND HAND SHOPS
Second hand shops are the best place to go a forage for Burning Man Gear. A quick google search will tell you the best locations where ever you are entering from. Everything from camping gear to outrageous outfits can be found at many second hand shops. For instance, Las Vegas second hand shops have an amazing collection of clothes from all the different shows that have been put on. Drag queens, magicians and flamboyant circus costumes can be found for cheap. Old rugs, lamps, chests are other great finds at the second hand shop. If you are going with a car or RV, make sure to buy old bedsheets to cover the interior. It reduces the amount of cleanup needed after the burn. If you are looking for pieces of carpet to put down on top of tarp for a nice floor under your shade structure, ask carpet shops if they have any pieces they are dumping. Often there are stains on the carpets, but who cares on the playa.
BUY ONLINE, SHIP TO THE STATES
To reduce the amount of bags you have to carry through the Airport, try and order your gear online, and have it sent to an address in the US. If you plan on staying at a friends, ask if you can ship online purchases there. You can also ask your AirBNB host or Hotel to hold packages for you sent from online sellers. Try to buy everything in one order so you reduce the amount of packaging and plastic.
RENT A BIKE ON THE PLAYA
You can rent a bike and get it right at one of the camps on the playa. No need to try and carry one in, buy one at a shop. Just pick it up when you hit the festival. We recommend Playa Bike Repair and Hammer and Cyclery. If you want to get a bike already in Reno, you can also check out Black Rock Bicycles and Reno Bike Project.
RENT AN RV WITH A GROUP
The number one problem International Burners struggle with is leave no trace. How do you source and entire camp, and then get rid off it without causing environmental impact? This is one reason why a lot of international burners choose to come together for an RV rental. It removes a lot of the hassle of buying tents, cookers, shade structures and a campsite, and turns it into an AirBNB on wheels. You can fit up to 8 people or more in some RVs. However even with an RV make sure you check the tips for reducing your imprint and leave no trace on the playa, and be familiar with the Burning Man RV Guidelines.
RV Rental sites
- Ourdoorsy is a site that owners rent their RVs, trailers and mobile homes.
- AirBNB also has a number of RV rentals on the site.
- Motorhome International has a number of RVs for rental.
- RV Share is another site that has a number of vehichles available for Burning Man.
- Camper Travel Usa has a number of different sizes in Reno, depending on your groups needs.
- Motorhome Republic has a good post with some more links to RV rental sites if you are finding yourself lost.
COME AGAIN? STORE YOUR GEAR LOCALLY
After a couple years, we began storing our Burner Gear in the US. There are a number of storage facilities in Reno, Vegas, San Francisco or wherever you may be coming in from the most. Join together with some other burners and get a storage unit to hold your tents, bikes, coolers and beds until the next burn. If you do it with a couple people, it might cost you about $150 a year. Cheaper than buying bikes and tents and lights and gear every year. If you have friends or family with a garage that you can store it at, even better. Make sure to get them some nice gifts for letting you store your dusty gear.
DONATE YOUR GEAR TO HOMELESS
So you decided you're never coming back to Burning Man and want to git rid off your stuff? In come the Karma Collectors. They collect your tent and other campsite gear to donate to the homeless. That's MUCH better than throwing your gear away in the dumpster. What a waste.
DONATE TO SECOND HAND SHOPS
There are also a number of salvation armies and thrift stores which you can donate your gear at. They take everything from bikes, tents, sleeping bags, food etc. Check the article What to do Before and After Burning Man.
Make sure to check the return policy at the stores you are shopping at. Most of the time, you can get 100% your money back on the stuff you purchase. This is important, because not everything you buy will stand the test of the playa. For instance, REI is an amazing outdoor shop where we buy most of our camp gear. They have a 100% lifetime satisfaction guarantee with everything you buy at REI as a member. Membership is free. There have been a number of times we have bought tents, sleeping bags, lights and other gear from REI, and returned it after Burning Man. It took a couple of times to figure out what gear was good, and what gear was useless on the playa. We only returned the gear that didn't work out for our needs on the playa. Some items broke to easily with the elements or didn't work, etc.
Please do not abuse these store policies to "buy and dump return" your gear. That's not in alignment with the principles of Burning Man. Every year we see new burners, buy a bunch of Chinese junk to throw it in a dumpster on the way out. They give us burners a bad name. The same with store returns. If the policy is abused, stores will stop selling to burners. Please make sure to clean your gear before returning or donating.
CHEAP FLIGHT & HOTEL TIPS
There is something to be said about the cheap international flights to Las Vegas and Reno. Often these come with a great hotel and car rental package deals. As long as you don't gamble your money away at the casinos, these can be pretty good deals. It is a good idea to book a hotel on your day of arrival to the states, and the day you leave, just to give you some time to adjust and not miss your flight. In the past we've found checkfelix.com to be a great site for finding flights and deals, however it is in German.
Make sure to book your flight a few days before and a few days after the Burn. It will take you at least a day to get in, and then back out of Burning Man to any civilization. Having a couple days before lets you do some shopping at the grocery store and salvation army to check the last bits off your gear checklist. It's also important to get rid of some jet lag before driving so you avoid accidents. Coming back you will need time to clean your gear and store it. Also, give yourself some time to adjust before a long drive.
There are a lot of great deals to be found with hotels using HotelTonight app. Generally this service has found us great last minute deals on hotels when leaving the playa on our return journey.
AIRBNB is another great service which is great if you have a large group. You can rent an apartment, or studio for a few days before or after the burn. You can also take a few days after to check the surrounding area.
There are amazing parks from Lake Tahoe to Sequoia National park that are great to visit, not to mention The Grand Canyon. Find a great place to clean, and decompress for a couple of days.
GRAB IT FROM THE PLANE!
You know those bags that they have in front of you on the plane, just in case you feel sick? Make sure to grab them off the plane, and stash them for Burning MAn. They make the perfect MOOP bags (trash bags). More than once a fellow companion has fallen ill to the ingestion of some substance. At that moment those vomit bags from the airline are a godsend to make sure you don't loose your shit all over the playa, or some camp's bar. They are free, grab as few and give them out as gifts if you like.
Another great item I always 'borrow' is the nice little pillows from those international flights. A couple together make that tent air mattress bed just a bit more comfy. On the way back, you simply leave it on your airline seat, and no one is the wiser. Free pillow! It also works for the blankets, but they can get pretty dusty.... :)
KEEP YOUR PASSPORT SAFE
Don't take your passport out with you to show as an ID at bars at burning man. Make a few photocopies instead, and leave that passport safe in your travel bag. It should never get any playa dust on it. I have found more than one passport, lying in the dust in the middle of the playa. Not having your passport usually means, no go home... Leave it where it will be safe.
GETTING TO THE BURN
There are a number of ways to get to the airport and the burn. Here are a few tips:
- Check out the rideshare boards for people looking to carpool. http://rideshare.burningman.com
- Check your Regional Contact for listings of people going to share a ride with. http://regionals.burningman.org
- Use Burner Express to grab a bus or airplane ride fro Reno and San Francisco to the Playa. https://burnerexpress.burningman.org/
CHECK OUT SOME REGIONALS
There are a number Burning Man events going on all over the world. Goto a BM event near you to meet with folks who are also traveling to other burns. This is a great place to find fellow travelers. Some groups will travel better than others, so just see who you click with. Check out our BM Events Calendar to see if there is something going on near you.
POSTCARDS FROM THE BURN
You can send postcards internationally from the playa. There is a post office located at 3 o'clock plaza and 9 o'clock plaza. Make sure to buy some stamps when you arrive at the airport. Sending a postcard internationally takes a few, and the post office will love the extra stamps as a gift.
Do you have tips for international burners? Let us know in the comments.