The basics

Many travelers are festival-goers and may even base their entire trip around attending a musical concert or event. Festivals have also become major travel destinations in their own right with some towns swelling their population ranks substantially during an annual event. For example Birdsville in outback Queensland increases from 100 to 6000 for the outback races and in Mali deserted sand dunes host thousands during the Festival in the Desert. Special transport or tours are generally offered during festivals to make the destinations easier to reach if they aren’t on the beaten track. Given the popularity of some festivals, attending them can sometimes seem like a difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be given a bit of inside knowledge.

Options for beginners

Beginner festival-goers should probably concentrate on just getting to a festival to experience the general vibes, then work out what you did and didn’t like for the next trip. If it’s your first time in the festival seat don’t go too far afield on your first trip. For example don’t trudge out to the Tuareg and Wodaabe marriage festival in Niger. Stick closer to home and you’ll find a lot of easier, equally fun things to do. However if you’re not sure how you might handle crowds, long days of pounding music, mud and rain; then go for a day instead of buying a week pass. And book yourself into a hotel the first time around rather than settling on a campsite.

If you’re trying to get to grips with the schedule and deciding what to do, don’t be overwhelmed. Pick out who you’re most keen to catch and accept that you won’t be able to see all and do all you’d like to.

Options for advanced

Advanced festival-goers will want to take in the most weird and wonderful events on the planet and be as involved as possible. Destinations for the advanced could include the glacial slopes of Peru, the outback desert of Charleville in Australia to watch some yabbies in action or the land diving in Vanuatu. In a lot of festivals you can actually take part. For example in Rio join a samba school, in India or Nepal buy your own firecrackers and lights for Diwali or Holi and in Cannes you can see the films yourself.

Similarly advanced festival-goers will probably be happy to rough it camping on-site or even sleeping out wherever a bed may be found. If you have a bit of experience you’ll know how much crowd and hassle you can handle. If you’re a real die hard you’ll probably want to get in on the after parties. These are often free but the trick is finding out where and when they are and how to get in. Join a social network like MySpace or Facebook to buddy up with some industry insiders.