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I’ve been to Glastonbury Festival several times and it’s one of the greatest and most spectacular shows on Earth! It’s one of the most popular and famous music festivals in the entire world and it just so happens to be on my doorstep (so to speak). This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date Glastonbury guide that you’ll find online!
I’ve just got back from Glastonbury as I’m writing this guide, and it was a scorcher this year! In the run-up to this year’s festival, I noticed hundreds of questions about various aspects of the festival from first-timers on social media. From toilets to cash machines, glitter to glamping, and wristbands to phone signal, this post will give you all of the best tips for Glastonbury Festival.
This article is aimed at Glastonbury first-timers who want to know exactly what to expect upon arrival through those magical gates! You’ll probably have hundreds of questions, most of which will be answered here! If you reach the end of this mega article and still have questions, make sure to drop a comment below and we’ll answer your question!
What is Glastonbury Festival?
Glastonbury Festival is a music festival that takes place every year (with the exception of a few fallow years) on Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset, South West England. The festival takes place during the last weekend in June, whilst the festival officially starts on the Friday, the gates open on the Wednesday making it a 5-day event.
The festival has over 250,000 attendees and it sells out every year. That includes ticket holders, vendors, staff, crew, volunteers, artists and everyone else involved in making a festival happen. When it comes to the music festival scene in the UK, Glastonbury really is a trend-setter.
Glastonbury Festival is the largest green field music festival in the world. In 2020, it celebrates its 50th Anniversary.
How to get Glastonbury Tickets
Getting tickets to Glastonbury Festival is a real challenge. Tickets go on sale near the beginning of October, but you must be registered in advance with your name, address and a photograph. When the tickets go on sale, they can only be purchased online and the website gets very busy, very quickly. It’s very lucky if you get the page to load at all.
There’s various strategies people use to maximise their chances of getting a golden ticket, but there’s way too much information to go into here, as this guide is about the festival itself. However, we have a very detailed post on how to get Glastonbury Tickets – check it out here!
Once you’re successful in securing your ticket, you’ll pay a £50 deposit and the rest of money is payable in the first week of April – it’s your responsibility to remember to pay off the balance. Tickets are posted by registered post in late May/early June.
How to get to Glastonbury without a Ticket
If you don’t want to buy a ticket, there are other ways of attending legitimately (no digging or fence-jumping required). For example:
Get a paid job
You can get a paid job with some of the various bar companies and vendors who will be at the festival. Be aware, you must be reliable, attend your designated shifts and work hard. These are a few companies who hire casual workers for Glastonbury:
- Festival Medical Services
- Workers Beer Company
- Market traders and food vendors (contact them directly via social media or in person)
There are many ways to volunteer at Glastonbury or other music festivals. It’s quite common for volunteers to pay a deposit (equivalent to the cost of a full price ticket) that is returned after the festival. This stops people signing up and then not doing their shifts. You’ll often get space in crew camping, showers and meals.
Try the following companies for volunteering opportunities:
Volunteers are expected to work hard during the festival. The festival wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for volunteers, so please don’t lead people on if you do sign up for a volunteering position. Treat it like a paid job, you need to be reliable, hard-working and dedicated.
Travelling to Glastonbury
Please try to consider the environment when travelling to Glastonbury Festival. Use public transport where you can. Companies like National Express put on extra busses and there are extra trains running too. If you are going by car, please share with others to reduce the carbon footprint of the festival!
Coach is the fastest and most efficient way of arriving to the festival. There’s a temporary bus station outside Gate A, and coach arrivals get priority in the queue.
Glastonbury and SeeTickets put on their own coach packages, or National Express and other coach operators will have services going from all over the UK to Glastonbury at reasonable prices.
Catching the train is also very efficient, although the closest train station, Castle Cary is actually a good few miles away. Fortunately, there are free shuttle busses running very frequently to and from Castle Cary station, provided by the festival. You will be taken to Gate A on arrival.
Here is a pretty cool timelapse of festival goers arriving at Castle Cary Station in Somerset.
You can of course drive to the festival. Expect to park a fair distance away, as stewards fill up the parking fields one at a time and some of the outer fields are fairly far from the festival, meaning a long walk. There’s no shuttle buses from the car parks to the gate. If you want to drive, you need to accept you could have a fair walk to the gate. Remember, buses and coaches drop you right at the entrance, so this is by far the preferred method of arrival.
Car parking costs £45 – £50 for the duration of the festival. You can buy your car parking pass in April, when you pay off your ticket balance or on the gate. It costs slightly more to buy at the gate.
Getting a lift
If you want to get a lift to Glastonbury Festival, your driver will not be able to drop you directly at the festival. Instead, they will need to drop you at Bath and West Showground, where you can jump on a free shuttle bus to the festival which will drop you right near Gate A.
There are shuttle buses running throughout the duration of the festival from Bath and West Showground. Also, they’re free!
If you’re that way inclined, you can cycle to the festival. There is a dedicated campsite especially for cyclists, plus, cycling is free and doesn’t pollute the air!
Arriving at Glastonbury Festival
Car parks generally open at 9pm on the Tuesday night. Coaches and shuttle buses will also arrive throughout the night. The festival gates open at 8am on Wednesday morning. Many people queue at the gates throughout the night, or sleep in their cars.
If you do this, there’s very little to do over night. There’s no entertainment provided, you can’t camp in the car park fields or in the queue itself, but there are toilets dotted around.
So if you’re queuing overnight, bring warm clothes, a chair, a blanket, food, water, waterproofs and an umbrella for the queue. Once the gates open, the queue will shuffle, stop, then move again. It can be very difficult in the queue with all your camping gear, so be prepared!
At the gate, a steward will check your ticket and photograph. Be prepared for questions if you’re wearing sunglasses, have changed your hairstyle or grown some facial hair. They will inspect your ticket thoroughly to ensure it belongs to you and that it’s a genuine ticket.
You will be given a fabric wristband that will be held in place with a metal clasp, pressed down with a crimper. Your half-ticket will be given back to you, you need to keep this with you during the festival.
Security and Bag Searches
You may get searched upon entry. It could be a cursory poke around inside one of your bags or it could be a complete search, unravelling your tent and sleeping bag and emptying out everything. You might not get searched at all! Not everyone is searched.
If you are chosen for a search, be calm and patient. You are given time to re-pack if you get a thorough search. Most searches are brief, they’re looking for glass bottles, explosives, fireworks and illegal drugs.
Many people take the risk and bring drugs into Glastonbury, if you are caught with it, it could be confiscated, you could be denied entry, or the worst case scenario is being handed over to the police and arrested. Be smart.
It’s not unheard of for glass bottles in the form of nail polish, foundation or the mirrors within makeup cases to be confiscated. Glass is not allowed in any form. It’s dangerous if it breaks, it could harm other people or wildlife. I’m sure you can live without a mirror for 5 days!
Camping at Glastonbury
Glastonbury is a large, sprawling festival. The camping areas are interlinked with the stages and other entertainment areas. Whilst there are designated camping areas which are clearly marked, there’s no separate arenas so to speak.
At Download, Reading or Leeds the festival itself is separate to the campsites. Glastonbury is not like that. The entire festival is your home for the week! So, you can carry your booze, food and cans wherever you like. You don’t get stopped and checked when you’re walking around the different areas.
Where to Camp
Finding a good camping spot at Glastonbury is a mission, simply because the best areas get filled up really quickly. If you look at a map of the festival site, you’ve probably noticed some of the prime camping spots. These include Park Home Ground, Pennard Hill, Kidney Mead and Big Ground. These fields fill up very quickly, usually by mid-morning after gates open on the Wednesday.
However, there is space for everyone to camp at Glastonbury, don’t worry about that. The fields to the west, such as Rivermead, Pylon Ground, South Park, Dairy, Paines and Darble will have some space if you’re arriving on Thursday.
Where to setup your camp depends on a lot of things;
- Which gate you arrive by
- How far away you’ve had to park
- What time you arrive
- Whether you want to party or want some peace
You shouldn’t worry about being camping a long distance from a particular stage or area. Glastonbury is effing huge. Wherever you camp, you’ll be far away from something. You’ll be doing so much walking during the week/weekend and you don’t want to spend a lot of time at your tent anyway!
The Glasto Earth guide has a detailed breakdown of all the different camping fields at Glastonbury, check it out!
For obvious reasons, try not to camp in one of these places:
- Next to a footpath
- Too close to the toilets
- At the bottom of a hill
Can I save space for my friends?
As I’ve already mentioned, space is at a premium. It will be very difficult to save a camping pitch in a field with thousands of other people arriving. If you absolutely must, then bring your friend’s tent and pitch it next to yours. If you’re arriving separately with separate tents then you will struggle to camp next to each other, unless you head to one of the quieter fields a bit further away.
Taking large gazebos and cordoning off large sections of the campsite for you and your friends is generally frowned upon. Campsite stewards may even ask you to remove your gazebo if space is at a premium. Glastonbury Festival actively ask people not to bring gazebos, it’s selfish and it takes up valuable camping space. Don’t be surprised to return to find someone has pitched a small tent beneath your gazebo either!
Other Camping Options
If you don’t want to camp in the large tent city of Glastonbury Festival, you can still enjoy the festival and stay there without having to buy lots of new camping gear!
Glastonbury has its own pre-pitched tents, these are perfectly straight and colourful rows of Scout tents in an area called Worthy View. You pay for a designated pre-pitched tent, or a Tipi. You also get access to showers and exclusive toilets if you stay in this area.
Despite being officially run by the festival, it is still technically “offsite” and “outside of the fence” meaning a slightly longer uphill walk back to your tent every night.
There are third-party companies that offer camping very near the Glastonbury site, such as The Love Fields. You can expect to pay a premium for these luxury off-site glamping options.
Caravans & Motor Homes
If you want to bring your caravan or motor home to Glastonbury, you can! But you’ll need the right kind of pass with your ticket. You can choose to park in one of two areas; creatively named ‘East’ and ‘West’, both are fairly far from the festival’s main action, with the West being slightly further away from the best of the late night fun. As you’ve probably guessed, they’re on opposite sides of the festival.
You can bring your own caravan or rent one for the week. If it’s a van that’s been converted, it needs to be fully fitted with a kitchen and/or bathroom. It can’t just be a mattress in the back of a transit. They’re pretty strict on this.
No, you can’t sleep in your car.
Food & drink
You can bring your own food and drink to Glastonbury, as much as you need. There’s absolutely no obligation to buy food and drink whilst you’re there. This includes alcohol, you can bring as much personal alcohol as you like, as long as it’s not in glass bottles.
You can also bring camping stoves, gas and small barbecues to cook your own food. This is a great way to save money as food and drink at the festival is quite expensive.
Expensive – but worth it! The food is amazing, there is a full choice of global cuisine and street food on offer. Most stalls are open from early in the morning until early the next morning.
You can get you regular hog roast, chips and ice cream. But you can also get Lebanese mezze, halloumi, curries, sushi, Indian street food, Crepes, Pad Thai, stir fries, and so much more!
Expect to pay £5-12 for a meal. Look for signs saying “food for a fiver” for the budget menu choices if you’re trying to save money. Also, expect to queue a bit. The places with the longer queues are often better!
New for 2019 – there is a fully stocked Co-Op supermarket on-site! They’re selling snacks, toiletries and a lunchtime meal deal for £5 (a sandwich/salad, snack and a drink). You can also get loo roll, sun cream, batteries, canned water, and other general supplies you might need. Good ol’ Co-Op!
Vegetarian & Vegan Food
Vegetarian and vegan options are plenty, there’s also plenty of traders catering for those with specific food allergies too. There’s no need to worry about whether your favourite food will be there, because it probably will be!
As of 2019, there is no single use plastic for sale on site. All drinks are served in a can or a compostable cup. You may bring your own plastic bottles with decanted booze, but you should try your best to align with festival’s ethos and bring as little disposable plastic as possible.
Drinking water is free from kiosks and taps on site – there are hundreds of them available. You should bring your own refillable water bottle with you to avoid creating extra waste! You will be able to buy canned water from the Co-Op or from food vendors if you want it ice cold!
As already mentioned, there is a Co-Op supermarket on-site at Glastonbury, selling meal-deals, drinks, ice and toiletries. There are loads of general stores dotted around, selling all sorts of random useful bits.
There will be plenty of cigarettes, tobacco, papers and lighter for sale. You’ll also find loads of camping supply shops selling tents, airbeds, chairs, sleeping bags, waterproofs, sun cream, plasters, wellies and anything else you need.
Basically, if you’ve forgotten something, you’ll be able to buy it there, so don’t worry!
Alongside this, there are also tonnes of vendors selling all sorts of interesting goodies. You’ll be able to buy clothes, hats, shoes, belts, bags, even furniture and homeware from all over the world. Larger items can be paid for and shipped to your house after the festival.
Most stores accept cards and cash.
Exploring the Festival
This section of the article gives a summary of the stages and different areas you can explore whilst at Glastonbury.
You could spend the entire festival at one main stage, or none at all and still see loads of crazy, interesting and entertaining things! Try to wander a bit and explore beyond what the main stages have to offer and keep your mind open.
You’ll most likely have a schedule, but don’t worry if you can’t stick to it for whatever reason! It’s impossible to see every single thing at the festival in just a week because it’s just so damn big!
Here’s an overview of the larger venues at Glastonbury…
This is the main stage you’ll see on the BBC when they show Glastonbury footage. In 2019, Stormzy, Kylie Minogue and The Cure were amongst its headliners.
The Other Stage
You’ll also find big name acts on The Other Stage. In recent years, Lewis Capaldi, Johnny Marr and The Chemical Brothers have performed on this stage.
John Peel Stage
One of the large tented stages at the festival. This stage is traditionally for up-and-coming new acts to perform. However, The Killers played a secret set there in 2017, and FatBoy Slim has also headlined this stage, so you never know who you could end up seeing!
The entire area around this stage is like a small festival within a festival! Check out the Rabbit Hole, Bimble Inn and Stonebridge Bar to get started! That’s before you’ve even caught an act on the Park Stage…
Acts such as Morcheeba, Bananarama and Frank Turner have recently performed on the Avalon Stage.
Chill out with some acoustic sets on this smaller main stage.
Other areas of Glastonbury Festival
Besides the main stages, there’s a lot more to Glastonbury Festival! The full name of the festival is Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. So there’s a lot more than just music on offer!
Find out what else the festival has to offer below.
New for 2019 – Glastonbury-on-Sea
Glastonbury-on-Sea is a new seaside themed area on a fully constructed pier overlooking the festival! 2019 happened to be a very hot and sunny year so it was well-fitting. Let’s see what it’s like during a muddy year!
New since 2017 – Cineramageddon
This new area is themed around an old fashioned American drive-in cinema! You can watch movies projected onto a huge screen from inside a collection of classic cars! This certainly gives you something to do if you disapprove of whoever’s on the main stages…
Green Peace Area
The Green Peace area is packed full of live music and entertainment! There’s even a skateboard ramp, a massive pirate ship and some really interesting interactive art installations.
Theatre & Circus Fields
Head over to the Theatre & Circus fields for some of the best theatrical and circus performers in the country show off their incredible skills!
Greenfields & Healing Fields
If you want to chill somewhere with fewer crowds and noise, the healing fields is the place to be! Most of the practitioners will perform treatments for a donation instead of a fixed fee.
The Greenfields area is where the heart of the festival is. Check it out and learn something new.
It was a fire breathing spider, it’s now a fire spouting crane. Head to the Arcadia field for some next-level pyrotechnics and plenty of late-night drum ‘n’ bass.
South East Corner
The South East Corner is the festival’s so-called Naughty Corner, with the stages and most of the venues open until 5-6am the next morning.
Anything goes in the South East Corner, you’ll rarely see footage of this calibre on the BBC, you’ll have to see it for yourself!
These areas get very busy at night, so busy in fact that the main entrance to the entire South East corner is blocked off, you’ll have to get in through Avalon after dark.
The South East Corner is split into different areas;
- Block 9
It also has several large-ish venues including:
- The Truth Stage
- NYC Downlow
- The Common
You’ll also find loads of tiny themed micro-venues which are only open for a few hours, very late at night. If you’re lucky enough to get inside one of them, you’re in for some very strange treats… Head for Shangri-la for the best of these micro-venues.
The Weather at Glastonbury
Glastonbury, just like anywhere else in the UK has changeable weather. It’s not uncommon for it to be freezing cold, boiling hot, sunny, cloudy, windy, raining and thundering all within one day. Yet, Glastonbury has a reputation for the M-word… mud! Yes, it can get very muddy, but the mud does often dry very quickly.
In Glastonbury’s 2016 festival, it was muddy right from the beginning. There was heavy rain for 3 weeks before it even started, the ground was badly churned up and it took lots of people 10+ hours to even get on site. On top of that, there were several heavy rain showers over the course of the festival. It was a very wet and muddy affair to say the least.
There were some periods of sun in 2016 when the mud started to dry, but I personally wished it’d stayed wet because it was like walking through setting clay and quick sand. Those of us who didn’t get their wellies stuck were lucky!
In 2017 and 2019, it didn’t rain at all and the ground was solid. When it’s very dry and hot, it gets very dusty.
You don’t know what the weather will be like next June so you’ll have to accept and embrace whatever’s thrown at you by Mother Nature! But, doing a sun dance next time you go outside won’t hurt. It pays to appease the Festival Gods.
Other Things you Need to Know
These are other things you need to know that didn’t really fit into any other section!
Programmes and guides
You’ll get a free programme upon entry in two versions. You get a large paper booklet and a smaller timetable on a fabric lanyard you can carry around with you. There’s also a fabric ‘bag for life’ available, sometimes this is free (sponsored by Yeo Valley dairy) and other times these cost £3.
There are two types of toilets inside the festival, port-a-loos are only found in the car parks! Glastonbury has long drops and compost toilets. Long drops are open-air metal cubicles on top of one large concrete pit. Composting toilets are elevated stalls above a plastic container that fills with waste, tissue and sawdust which is then turned into compost. There are disabled toilets as well.
Related: How to deal with festival toilets
Glastonbury Festival has an accessible campsite, viewing platforms at the main stages and disabled toilets. The festival is held on a large site with challenging ground conditions, yet the disabled access crew have been reviewed as ‘amazing’. There’s also facilities to store medicine in the fridge, but you have to contact the accessibility team at the festival to arrange support beforehand.
Families & kids
Glastonbury is a great place for families with kids! The only place where children are not allowed is the South East Corner area after 9pm (you wouldn’t want to bring your kids there anyway…) There’s even a dedicated family campsite and a kids area with loads of activities for littl’uns.
You’ll want to pack light, if that’s even possible. You’ll need to carry everything quite a long distance from the coach/car park to your campsite. It’s really hard work, no matter what the weather is doing. Don’t forget to pack for all seasons and bring extra socks! Click here to read our ultimate packing list for UK music festivals!
Related: Best Folding Festival Trolleys
The festival site is large, boggy and crowded. In a wet year, the ground suffers a lot and becomes very muddy, very quickly. However, with a bit of sun and a bit of wind, this can also dry up just as quickly. With it being wet and muddy, this makes getting around challenging. If it’s hot and sunny, there’s very little shade to be found in large, open farmland. What we’re trying to say is… you’ll be doing a lot of walking so bring good footwear. If you’re having the ‘wellies vs walking boots‘ debate, click here.
On the subject of getting around, what makes it just as challenging is the crowds. Glastonbury is a very crowded place in general. Expect bottlenecks on major thoroughfares, especially before or after a headliner or a secret act! If you’re planning to leave one stage and rush to another, it will take an extra 10-15 minutes due to the crowds.
Timetables and clashes
You can’t be in more than one place at the same time. There will be a lot of clashes and things you’ll miss. Unfortunately, that’s a fact with any festival. You’ll definitely enjoy yourself whether you’re watching some mythical Oasis reunion on the Pyramid Stage, a secret Radiohead set, taking part in laughter yoga, or watching some experimental drum circle parade. Glastonbury is a magical place, but it’s too big to see in just a week. Accept it. Enjoy it.
Mobile signal & charging
There’s no need to worry about signal. Companies such as EE put extra masts that boost the signal on all networks. They also provide phone charging but you’ll have to queue. You should invest in your own portable battery charger that’s big enough to last for the entire festival.
Cash machines (ATMs)
There are a few ATMs around the site, you may have to queue and have to pay a fee to use the machines. Most of the bars, food vendors and shops will accept cards and contact-less payments.
Rubbish, Bins & Recycling
There will be loads of bins everywhere! Use them! They’re clearly marked for cans and plastic, food waste and general waste. Please use them properly!
There are very limited options when it comes to showering at the festival. The Green Peace area have a few solar powered communal showers, as does the Kids Field. However, the luxury of showering is something that you’ll have to do without.
Some of the off-site glamping areas may have showers, as do the crew areas. It really doesn’t matter if you skip a shower for 5 days, honestly. You can have a flannel wash in your tent or use a portable camping solar shower if it really means that much to you. Please avoid wet wipes, they’re not biodegradable and they can’t be chucked down the toilets either!
Another option for those in desperate need of a shower is the ZooLoos – you’ll have to pay for a weekend pass to use their flushing toilets, proper showers, hair dryers and straighteners, but it’s worth it if you want to stay as fresh as a daisy! The ZooLoos are just outside of Gate D, so you’ll have to walk outside of the festival to access them.
There are free property lockups at Glastonbury that are open 24-hours a day. Despite them being free, giving a donation is strongly encouraged. The lockup service at Glastonbury is unique in that you can leave any sized item with them, folding trolleys, bicycles, buggies, all sorts! You can access you stuff at any time, so it’s perfect for leaving phones, cameras, money and other valuables in there for extra peace of mind.
Services on site
At the festival, you’ll also have access to the following services, if you need them:
- Medical and welfare
- Emergency medical
- Emergency dentist
- Patrolling security & stewards
- General stores
- Camping supply stores
- Supermarket (Co Op)
- Free firewood
- Cigarette & tobacco stores
- AA Breakdown assistance
If you see any ‘TBA’ slots in the line-up, that only means one thing… secret set! A lot of the time, these are not-so-secret as word spreads very quickly at the festival. Often, artists themselves give it away. Sometimes, acts from the main stages will do another, smaller set in a tiny venue. The Rabbit Hole in The Park is a good venue to catch a secret set from a big act!
If you really want to be in the know, follow @secretglasto on Twitter and turn on notifications, so you’ll get notified on your phone when they tweet the news of a secret set!
Glastonbury Festival has its own on-site radio station that broadcasts from the farm. You can tune in if you’re local or listen online. It broadcasts 24 hours per day until the festival is over! It’s also useful to get the most up-to-date traffic information when you’re arriving and leaving.
So, that’s it for our ultimate guide to Glastonbury Festival! What have we missed? Leave a comment and we’ll get back to as soon as possible!
Further Reading / More Info:
- How to get Glastonbury Tickets: Maximise your Chances with this advice
- The Complete Guide to UK Music Festivals
- Glasto Chat Facebook Group
- Best Music Festival Hacks
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