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Travel Tips

Why is Coachella So Expensive?

You look fresh, sexy and original, especially in that colorful one-piece you bought in Asia last year, and you can’t wait to show off your new threads at Coachella.

Or maybe you don’t care about appearance and just want to hear some good music and see what all the hype is about.

Regardless of why you’re attending Coachella, as you begin to book your ticket, lodging and airfare, you watch your hard-earned dollars go out the window faster than a roadrunner and think to yourself—Why is Coachella so damn expensive?

Below is a realistic approach on how much you'll spend—either as a solo traveler or by road tripping with your friends—so you can see it’s not just you who pays the high prices. We all do.

Your Beginning Fare

Does Coachella really crush you when it comes to finances? Those who frequent the famous music/art festival might agree, with prices gradually, yet predictably, rising over time. This year’s wristbands are no different, and hover around $400 USD for general admission and $1,000 for VIP.

Hover? Yes, because if you miss the deadline to buy tickets (which many people do), you can still find one sold through a third-party supplier, through your friends, anywhere really, so the prices will vary. The law of supply and demand holds true, with the price usually rising if you buy through alternative venues.

But think of it this way. Just one of this year’s bands, say Tame Impala, playing in Miami carries a price tag of $150 USD. If you pay three times that price for Coachella, and instead of one band, you see Tame Impala plus ONE HUNDRED MORE artists, not to mention lots of other things? Not so bad now, right?

Coachella Main Stage

Head Hits the Pillow

Next is your accommodation—and it goes beyond a big night of beer, pills and sleeping in the bushes. The desert can be rough, and you need a home base to keep your gear—such as passports, money and important documents—safe while you jam and party unencumbered.

Hotels prices in the Palm Desert rise at festival time. And why not? The Coachella droves are in town and they need a place to stay. There is no other option.

Many spots, which are usually $150 per night with breakfast included, are now $400+ per night with a 4-night minimum stay—both to keep hotel staffs’ duties to a minimum and to make sure the rooms are sold for the entire festival.

Many Coachella-goers team up to pay for hotel rooms or Airbnbs together. But as a solo traveler, how does that help you? Networking with other attendees for your weekend can help, whether by looking around on Facebook pages or asking other hometown friends—and maybe you can join another crew on their journey to save money (and hopefully it won’t be awkward). Or you can go a cheaper lodging route, such as camping.

Coachella Wristband

Camping For One

Have you ever gone on a camping trip ridiculously unprepared? Yeah, we have too. And although you’ll never forget that experience (and for good reason!) you don’t always want to sleep with no pillow or be devoured by mosquitos. When you instead prepare correctly, “roughing it” couldn’t be more wrong.

Unfortunately for camping here, especially if you are coming from overseas, the hassle of buying gear for only one weekend only to toss it because you need to travel on afterwards, feels wasteful. Yes, you can carry your new tent on the plane with you—but who does that?

Some of us still want to camp because it’s a Coachella rite of passage, not to mention easier on the wallet, and if you fit in that group, here are the items that can seriously improve your campsite:

  • An umbrella, canopy or some type of shade. The sun is brutal here. Why not give yourself a break from it for your health and peace of mind? You want something that can shade you and withstand the wind.
  • Camp chairs. There’s only so much sitting on the grass you can do before your butt turns green. A sturdy camp chair improves the classiness of your campsite, and keeps you out of the grass and dirt.
  • A tent. And not a 2-person tent, either. Go bigger. Better sizes are a 2-person tent for one person—so you can spread out—and a 3-4 person tent for a couple—to hold you and your gear comfortably.
  • Inflatable mattress + pillow. Party hard enough and you won’t need them, but they’re a nice luxury to have. And don’t forget the mattress pump!
  • Sleeping bag. Coachella is usually hot, but believe it or not, it does get cold sometimes, especially in the early morning. A warm sleeping bag is good to have on hand.
  • Coolers for drinks + food. We like to separate ours—one cooler for drinks and the other for food, because nothing sucks more than pulling out wet cheese. Load your drinks cooler with ice; keep your meal cooler, fresh and tidy.
  • A car or something you can lock your valuables in (and blast the air conditioner if the heat becomes unbearable).
  • A USB charger for your phone. You don’t want to be that unfortunate person sitting on the power point in the restroom, do you?
  • A mirror—because who doesn’t want to check out her outfit?

Or tag along with someone who already has the gear (like us!). And a few campgrounds, including the legendary Shadow Hills RV Resort, even rent gear for people who want to do things easy.

Coachella Camping Alone

What Time Do You Walk In?

This might be a surprise—or maybe not—but not everyone walks in the Coachella gates the moment they open each day. Maybe on Friday for the newbies—or if you have an opening band you want to see—but many, many more, the vast majority in fact, wait.

Even your friend showing up after 4 p.m.—for a variety of reasons such as traffic, an extra piña colada or a nap around the campsite because they’re hungover—is not unusual.

What does that mean for you? Probably more downtime around your campsite than you thought, so why not make it comfortable?

How do we handle it? First we make friends with other campers around us, as we begin to unpack our tarps and rope.

Why? Because when we ask politely, many groups are usually game to tie up tarps car to car—to create several shaded patios for all of us, where we can place chairs, coolers and cooking tables underneath, out of the sun.

The knots hold the tarps in place for the wind, and we are out of the direct heat, which is a blessing at high noon when other camps are frying like bacon. (Note: some camps bring canopies instead and you can too—just remember to tie them down with LOTS of weight and remove the top before going inside Coachella; otherwise your canopy will fly back to LA.)

We then unpack our tents, pillows and entertainment, pouring our first campsite drinks within 15 minutes.

French Toast All-Inclusive Camp Meal

Consider a spot with a pool, too—because a dip in the morning to rinse off the dust from the night before and to mingle with other solo and group festivalgoers over drinks—what beats that? A shower, I guess. Look for those, too.

And speaking of bacon—the food you can prepare at your campsite? Oh, my God. But more on that later.

There are many more things you can do, and your setup will eventually balance with trial and error. Just think about your weekend plans, what you enjoy and the natural elements you’ll face—which in Coachella’s case is sun, wind and heat—and plan your campsite from there.

Your camp’s size and cost will be different for each group.

And don’t forget that full-sized mirror so you can check yourself out. You know you want to.

Solo Female Camping at Coachella

How Others Fill Their Mornings

Mornings are your downtime at Coachella —to rest, recover, rejuvenate. You can nap in a hammock, float on your back in the pool or talk about the night before over a game of Uno. Or eat until you require a mandatory nap.

When your campsite or hotel is set up well, you are worry-free and can walk into Coachella refreshed.

But what else can you do? It doesn’t make sense to spend all this money and lounge around the campsite all day, no matter how comfortable it is.

Coachella Art Star 2018

Inside the gates there is plenty to do. But how do you approach it? Everyone is free to do what makes his or her heart patter, but our usual game plan goes something like this:

  • Day 1, we go in the early afternoon and look at everything, hear some good music and stay until the end (which we do every night)
  • Day 2, we go in EARLY and do the artwork and specialty tents—at all the spots where we spotted a line the night before
  • On Sunday, Day 3, we relax and party hard because we already did most of what we wanted, with no last-minute rushing around or waiting in long lines

Our plans, of course, change with the lineup, when the band times and stage schedules are announced a couple of days before Weekend 1.

And Coachella goes much faster than you think. What feels like two minutes goes by in an instant, and those art installations or tents you never saw will be gone for good after Sunday (except for a few which make it to Stagecoach). Golden Voice sets it up that way on purpose—the more things to do, the better.

You can do Coachella the same or different than us. We only want to give you an example. Making the most of your ticket price is different for everyone.

How to do Coachella Alone

All of these elements—your approach to each day, how much you refresh at your campsite or hotel and your overall happiness for the festival—will be centered around your accommodation (and your attitude).

How much you spend depends on how comfortable you want to be. Camping can be as cheap as $125 per person (a base rate) all the way to $9,500 for a weekend in a Safari Tent. It all depends on what style you are looking for, how many friends you are traveling with, your tolerance of discomfort and your budget.

Original Coachella Outfit Cost

Don Your Best Threads

Regardless of camping or hotel, people will be dressing up and spending money here. Wide-rimmed hats, draping skirts, sexy onesies, photo shoots with Instagram models instead of watching the music—you see it all. And we say go for it. You do you.

But the outfits are an expensive part not many think about. Luckily, most of the money is spent on your outfits before you arrive, so technically it doesn’t count, right?

A few outfit suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Avoid sandals. You WILL be walking all day. Not only that, you’ll be seeing crowded shows with thousands of people. Do you like your toenails?
  • Bag size: Which is best? It’s more about who you are, really. We like to go minimal, with a fanny pack containing our phone, some cash, cards and a small sunscreen. Others bring a backpack, store it in a Coachella locker, and go back and forth throughout the day.
  • Theft: Anything on your back is susceptible to crime. Wear a bag you can swing to the front of you during shows. Bad souls do exist.
  • Water: A challenge, perhaps, to pair this with your outfit, but it’s important. We like to carry a bottle separately; others like to wear a Camelback. After Day 1, you’ll know what fits you best.
  • Are you cold? You can go deeper into a crowded show to warm up. Are you hot? Stand under the misters or find a specialty attraction with air conditioning to cool off, such as the Heineken Tent.
  • Bandana and sunscreen: Most of the grounds are grass, but a few spots are dirt (dust). Something to cover your mouth is good at times, and sunscreen can be your best friend.
  • Leave your cumbersome electronics behind. It’s more potential for loss and, we think, keeps you from fully letting loose.
  • Wear sunglasses if you secretly enjoy stalking others.
  • And don’t stress! Many spend hours on their makeup only to watch it melt off their faces in the hot sun. It’s okay! In all reality, life goes on!

Wait—only a few paragraphs on fashion? Yes. You can fill in the blanks with other posts, like the lovely Annette’s Tips for Coachella.

Coachella Tour and Mexico

Can I Hitchhike?

Your wristband—check. Outfit—done. Lodging—good to go. Now you need to find a ride, which can be classified in two ways: One, as a ride from a major city such as Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco to Coachella, and two, as your transportation to and from the festival gates each day.

Your Ride from Los Angeles

For a solo Coachella traveler, there are a couple of options. You can ride the airport shuttle with the Coachella partner busses for $80, or you can meet people online and bum a ride. One is safer; the other is more adventurous.

When you hail a ride with other festivalgoers, check one of the many message boards. Just find the time you want to go, pick someone who doesn’t sound like a serial killer and enjoy yourself.

Just be ready to chip in for gas, and more is always better.

Or you can do a third option, what many groups of friends do, which is to rent a car.

Guns and Roses Coachella 2016

Tricks and Tips for Coachella Car Rental

Car rental companies in America can be sneaky. They charge a base price but tack on extra hidden fees. For instance, are you under the age of 25? Then you’ll probably pay more for your rental than someone over 25. Are you doing a one-way drive, from say, Los Angeles to Las Vegas? Then tack on another $250 for a one-way drop fee.

The rental car companies base your prices on liability and convenience. Each one has different rules that change throughout the busy season.

But on the other hand, with phones and technology at our fingertips, renting a car in America has never been easier. Check the prices on major booking sites such as Skyscanner and Kayak, factor in your gas prices, plus those extra, hidden fees—insurance, etc.—and if it fits in your budget, then go for it! (hint: Renting a car from the airport, instead of a downtown location, is almost always cheaper.)

Salvation Mountain Near Coachella

What Day Should I Arrive in Indio?

What is the best day to arrive in Indio? Hands down, Thursday. It’ll give you more time to calibrate, meet other groups or solo travelers and get to know the area before you walk into the hot, sweltering Coachella crowds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

And on the road, who knows what will happen? You could break down, find yourself in traffic or can just plain be late. It’d be a shame to miss out on Friday music because of a bad, unpredictable event like a plane delay.

Give yourself some breathing room; show up on Thursday.

Welcome to Coachella Tour

Coachella Shuttle Passes (Once You Are Here)

Stories of people waiting in traffic for hours are common. But with the shuttle pass, that rarely happens. The Empire Polo Club grounds are purposely set up for it. You pay your $80 fee, hop on the bus each day and ride for a half-hour—sometimes longer depending on what hotel or campsite you are coming from. No bad traffic, and it beats an Uber surcharge.

Many first-timers don’t understand the pace involved to be able to drink and party for twelve hours straight in the desert heat. Many forget to be healthy (or healthy enough—by drinking water, for example) and need to go home early. That is when a shuttle pass is golden.

Instead of cutting your festival short because your friend is dehydrated, you can instead kick him headfirst onto the shuttle bus, hand him a bottle of Gatorade and send him on his way. Is he a true friend? Then he will understand (and would do the same for you).

A couple of hours later you can crawl on the shuttle bus, too.

And if you get lost for the night or want to see a certain show? No problem—everyone in your group has a ride home. The shuttle bus is also a relief if your phone dies: just head for the parking lot; no technology needed.

Coachella Tour Solo Show

Get High

For those of you flying from outside of California—maybe Australia, Europe or the east coast—this section is for you. Those of us in California usually drive. It’s easier, and we already have everything set up for success such as tents, cooking stoves, mirrors and pool floaties—we just throw them into our cars and go. But for anyone else, especially internationals, you’re probably flying. And here’s where you’ll land.

Palm Springs Airport

Just as the hotel prices rise during Coachella in April, so do the airline ticket prices. And with Palm Springs being the closest airport, it usually has the biggest increase in fare. Not unbearable, but higher. Think of it as walking a fine line: you can choose a flight directly to Palm Springs (to save time), or buy a shuttle pass from LAX (to save money).

As an example, a one-way flight from San Francisco to Palm Springs two months before Weekend 2 is $250, instead of the usual $100.

LAX

Most of us fly into LAX instead—the main airport hub for Los Angeles—especially on a mass, international level fit for 250,000 travelers (the Coachella festival attendance). You might even meet other festivalgoers on your plane…but probably not.

Los Angeles is a world hub, and the incoming Coachella crowd is a pebble in a mountain range compared to the 150,000 travelers per day that go through LAX.

Regardless, LAX is easy, with many on-the-ground connections to Coachella. And don’t forget about Long Beach or Santa Ana, two more airports in the Los Angeles region you can check for prices.

How Much to Ride the Coachella Ferris Wheel

Get Lost Already

Are you making a road trip out of it? Great! How long you have will determine what airports you fly into, whether it’s San Francisco, Las Vegas or even Phoenix.

California is huge, with too many places and not enough time to see everything. Realistic planning is everything. Salvation Mountain, Potato Chip Rock and the Galleta Meadows Metal Sculptures are only a few of the MANY things you can see on your way to the desert.

We are from San Francisco and personally like to go day-drinking in Tijuana. We’ve done it for years. Call it unsafe or call it whatever you want—we still cross the border and have a good time.

And for anyone who doesn’t want to join, then don’t. Hang out in San Diego at the beaches and relax. We’ll return a few hours later tipsy, full of tacos and improved on our Spanish.

There are many airports near Coachella. Just figure out how long you’ll be in California, where you want to go and the costs involved, and if it’s worth it for you. Not many shuttles go from the smaller airports to Coachella, so prepare accordingly. You’ll probably need to rent a car or book a tour instead.


Phew. Are you still with us? The amount of information for Coachella is monumental. Really, especially if you are a first-timer and you are wondering how to approach the festival price-wise, hopefully we’re answering your questions. Now here comes the tasty part.


Coachella Tour Street Tacos

Bon Appétit

The meals at Coachella are outstanding. From vegan ramen to churros to outdoor barbeque—with prices large and larger. The fancier the place you eat at, the more you’ll pay.

Are you into quick food? Most of your eats are in the Indio Central Market, with 15+ restaurants where you can dine, drink and relax family-style at picnic tables. More food booths are near main stages—with a similar setup you’d see at a carnival…but upscale and delicious.

And just like at a carnival, your wallet will get punished if you let it.

What’s our game plan? We begin in the morning at our campsite by cooking a monster meal: vegetable-packed omelets, French toast with strawberries, stuffed sandwiches, roasted red potatoes—more food than we can possibly eat to create a base in our stomachs.

Then, between the beers and shows throughout the day, we munch on small plates in the venue (small, but still $12 for two tacos) to keep us going (and not ruin our buzz—one large meal in the heat, after beers, has potential to end our night early—so we take it easy).

We usually eat between shows around sunset, before the bigger bands come on, and before the huge lines form. Meat, vegan and specialty cocktails—it’s all here.

And lastly, when we return to our campsite at 2 a.m., we cook grilled-cheese sandwiches for anyone who is around and eat like koalas in a eucalyptus tree.

Coachella Neon Tube Art 2018

The point is you can create or pay for any meals that fit you—from gas station snacks to full-blown high-class catering inside the festival grounds.

As a rule of thumb: Coachella meals are expensive but easy, while meals at your campsite are cheaper but take effort. It’s all in your tolerance level and what your mouth waters for.

When we depart to return to Los Angeles, before our post-Coachella headaches kick in, we head for a greasy spoon Route-66-type diner for our victory (or defeat) meal, and budget beforehand so we can go all out on that, too. We also do stacks of In N Out Burgers if we feel it.

BRACKHAMPTON Coachella 2018

Where’d My Money Go?

Random Coachella expenses happen. You know, those spontaneous inspirations that seem like a good idea at the time—and hell, maybe they were; however, they usually leave your wallet empty? Yeah—those.

A Coachella T-shirt from the merchandise tent. Sampling California’s legal marijuana (you cannot bring any drugs into the festival grounds regardless of legality). Or, if you are invited into the Coachella secret bar, will you NOT buy a drink?

Don’t get us wrong; we’re not saying to mortgage your house for a meet-and-greet with Beyoncé, but if you do bring some extra cash with you, you can probably have more fun, whether you ride on Le Grande Wheel or buy those authentic Mexican chorizo tacos because screw it—you’ll diet later.

Like many legendary adventures, the more money you bring, the more opportunities might arise.

Coachella Tour 2018 Wire Sculpture

Harsh Reality of Coachella Prices

Over, under or somewhere in between. That is how your budget looks once the Coachella dust has settled and your bandanna is removed.

Just like traveling to anywhere else in the world, on the surface, Coachella seems like a certain price, but in reality, when you land here and immerse yourself in the atmosphere, you learn what the real prices are—much more than you thought, most likely. And it happens to all of us.

But everyone does Coachella differently. Some do an Airbnb with tons of friends, others split costs any way they can, and some don’t even drink (I hear some even go for the music). But for the majority of those who are going, who just want a memorable experience without needing to take out a loan—you are not alone in how you feel about the prices.

Travel by Yourself to Coachella

This is a Headache—I Think I’ll Sell My Coachella Ticket

If you read to the end of this, then you are truly interested in doing Coachella the best way possible. And sadly, many get rid of their tickets before going all-in and checking out all scenarios available, especially for a solo traveler without a group.

Which is why we offer our road trip.

You see, we came to Coachella as friends the first time, as a break from our crazy tour schedule in Yosemite—to get away from the nonsense. Not for a tour, but to unwind. But when others began to ask to join us, we faced a dilemma.

We didn’t want to be a “tour” here and bleed Coachella dry or be “those guys.” But we do believe in helping people—just how we wrote this article to help for your budgeting (or to pitch a tour—whatever you personally feel our motivation was).

The truth is, we want to help. And if we already have equipment, insurance, permits, and already do other legendary festivals such as Rednecks with Paychecks and Talladega—then why not offer a road trip to those beyond just our friends?

Indio View from Joshua Tree

So we said yes, and who cares what others say. Wanting to be a host in America—the right way, to people from other countries who are just like us—wins over the haters.

Trolls can say all they want, but we are open to all who want to do a road trip and don’t take themselves too seriously. You can be gay, straight, pretty, ugly—or pretty ugly. Just be nice to other people and be you.

And we know not many hate us when we’re passing out grilled cheese sandwiches at 2 a.m.

Friends on Road Trip Coachella Tour

That’s just one answer to your Coachella problemsand there are many, many more, way beyond our tiny company—for groups, luxury travelers, everyone really. All of us have those Coachella booking headaches.

So Why is Coachella So Expensive?

What is the summary of all of this? Nothing really. You can call it an educational piece to show others the true prices of what you’ll pay for Coachella or a pitch for a tour.

But hopefully, if you read through all these words—you can picture better the prices and what to expect.

But who cares? If you have the money, then spend it. If you need to save—then save. But before you ditch your Coachella ticket or plan a road trip with your friends, see what clever ideas you can come up with first.

And don’t forget that full-sized mirror!

Do you see anything we can improve on? Did we make you angry because we’re a corporate face talking about Coachella? Please send your hate mail or love letters to hello@orangeskyco.com. You can ask about our Weekend 2 tour, too.