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The Brit’s Guide to Coachella

Any Brits going to Coachella might be in for an interesting time. Coachella is not like the festivals we have here in England!

It’s still wonderful, weird, I’d totally recommend you go and an all round good time but I just feel there are some important differences that I should help you along with.

In my Brit’s Guide to Coachella you’ll find out what you should take, what to expect, what you’ll eat and drink and most importantly, whether you can smuggle it in. If you’re going all that way you want to make your Coachella adventure the greatest trip it could ever be. Honestly, read my guide to Coachella for everything you need to know to make it memorable.

The Brit’s Guide to Coachella

What is Coachella like?

Coachella is a huge music festival held in the Nevada Desert in the USA. It’s hugely popular now throughout the Western World thanks to the epic list of artists they have every year. And then these epic artists bring their friend and it ends up being one super cool party.

For the two weekends Coachella is held over pictures of the festivalgoers and artists are all over the celeb magazines. ‘Coachella’ Style is a big thing and what you wear can be just as important as what you see – if not more.

Drinking at Coachella

The festival is HAWT. It’s exciting, everyone is up for a party and the staff working there are really nice. Everyone says ‘Happy Coachella’ to each other and there are a lot of high fives going on. It’s a really lovely environment, until night falls and it all gets a bit messy.

Just as a warning, you get spotted drunk or otherwise intoxicated at Coachella, and you will be chucked out. They try to keep it classy here, and with the whole alcohol age limit thing, they have to be stricter.

Big brands come and sponsor tents and in the day you kinda hang around waiting for it all to cool down. Some people camp (like me) while others stay in nearby hotels in Palm Springs and just come in to look fabulous.

Where to stay for Coachella?

I camped when I went to Coachella, but it’s not for everyone. As I say, it was hot. But the great thing was we were just by the entrance and could easily come back to the tent in the day to chill. It also meant to annoying and crowded (I presume) transport. We could see the front gate from our tent so knew when it was going to open and could just saunter over.

Camping at Coachella is great fun, but I’d definitely recommend you take notice of my camping advice for Coachella to really make the most of it. And so you’re ready for the heat and desert conditions.

One of the differences with Coachella compared to the British field festivals you might be more used to is the fact you can stay in a hotel. Lush!

If you do want to stay in a hotel, like many others do – definitely all the people who look good – then you should check out my accommodation guide for Coachella Festival. Whether you want an air stream, a hotel, and apartment, you want it as cheap as possible or as close as possible, then take a look. I update the list with the latest availability whenever I can.

You never know who they artists will bring on stage with them though at Coachella, so make sure to go and see the headliners. I’m sure Childish Gambino will be amazing!

What is camping like at Coachella?

Camping at Coachella is basic, but also some of the best camping I’ve ever experienced at a festival. The difference is that you can camp with your car in the same parking space, which means you don’t have to carry all your stuff for miles, there’s some structure to the campsite and you can easily find your tent at the end of the night. It also means you can keep all your clothes and stuff in the car, so your tent is just for sleeping.

The set ups people had for camping at Coachella were just insane. It was like people had bought their whole living rooms with them – fridges and sofas and everything. People used their cars for air con, made friends with people next to them and everyone just had enough space and so was jolly lovely to each other.

I’ve got loads of advice on camping at Coachella in this blog post. Don’t think you can camp at Coachella without it!

What’s the food like at Coachella?

It’s weird because I definitely ate when I was at Coachella, but I just don’t remember it being a big deal. Now I look online and I see they have a whole food village but I must’ve missed that.

If you want a great food guide to Coachella, then check out this post on the food from 2018 Coachella from Melissa Harrison on Buzzfeed.

And if you want some ideas on food to take to Coachella then take a look at my list of the best foods to take to festivals if you want to prepare.

Coachella for British people

When is Coachella?

Coachella runs on two consecutive weekends. I’ve done some research into this and it’s basically because it costs so much to get everything into the desert, and the demand was there, so they just thought why the hell not?

In 2019 the Coachella dates are April 12-14 + 19-21. Tickets went on sale on January 4th and have probably sold out by now but why not take a look at the official Coachella website here.

What are the rules on drinking at Coachella?

One of the things I found strangest about Coachella was the fact that obviously, being America, under 21s can’t drink. I was 28 at the time and so obviously well clear of the limits.

This meant the main arena was kinda divided up into under and over 21s so it wasn’t as nice an experience to get a drink, as it is at British festivals.

It also meant that if you’re over 21 and you want to get a drink every day you had to queue at the ticket office to get a coloured band. The bands would change colour and design every day to keep you on your toes.

You can find out more about drinking at Coachella in my blog post here.

Can I smuggle drink into Coachella?

Of all the festivals I’ve ever been to Coachella had the strictest rules on the gate. Girls were having to take their hair down and pull their bras forward, boys had to pull their boxers at the waistband and I just felt like there was no getting it in there.

Another reason why camping at Coachella is a great idea.

You could have lockers outside the grounds and there were lots of people drinking there. If you do want to try, and give it a go smuggling some booze into Coachella then I’ve got the internet’s favourite guide to how to smuggle booze into festivals right here.

How do you cope with the heat at Coachella?

Coachella is challenging. By the time I left I must’ve ingested so much sand it was heavy on my chest and I could barely walk round New York afterwards for breathing. One of my friends I went with had to have a week off work once he got home. Trust me, you need to wear your face scarf / protector thing to look after your respiratory system – the winds were just crazy.

I never wore one and it showed. It wasn’t a good idea.

I was ok in the day – lots of good sun lotion and our neighbours helped us to put up a tarpaulin to shield from the sun. I woke up early naturally too and there were showers. One of the best things they did have, which I’ve never seen at a British festival, is the ice. The ice man would come round on a trolley selling for a dollar.

I have lots more tips on coping with the heat at Coachella – just check out this post here.

Coachella for Brits

How do I get to Coachella?

Flights: you’ll need to fly to a nearby airport – the closest is Palm Springs, but why not make a road trip out of it?

Hire a car: and then hire a car for the ultimate Coachella road trip. If you’re camping you’ll definitely need a car but if you’re driving you might get away with it.

What’s the best route for a Coachella Road Trip?

We flew into San Francisco and hung around there for a few days before taking a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway ending at Palm Springs to pick up our supplies. Oh my god it was honestly just amazing. So many incredible points and amazing things to see along the way.

How do I get in to Coachella?

We arrived on the Thursday at Coachella – pretty much as soon as the gates opened. We were the super keenos among the first to get in.

If you’re flying all that way though I’d totally recommend making the most of the whole experience though and getting there when you can. Thursday was a pretty chill day at Coachella.

I definitely remember there being a Starbucks right near the entrance so use the toilets while you can!

Any advice for the Coachella essentials packing list?

Oh I have loads of Coachella packing tips for you!

So, very basically, and in like 100 words, pack for the heat, take sun lotion, bring loads of booze, and something to drink out of, bring a warm jacket, all the glitter and don’t be afraid to look ridiculous. Every one else will be in crochet. Pretty much guaranteed!

Also, check out these posts for more packing advice for Coachella.

READ MORE: Packing List for Coachella

Kit List for Coachella: The Walmart Haul

How much does Coachella cost?

  • Flight to California: £400
  • Coachella tickets: £330
  • Week of fun and booze: £250
  • Car camping: £50
  • Walmart haul for camping stuff: £100

– Starts from £1100

Why aren’t you going to Coachella?

Dunno! Get on it! Definitely a festival that changed my life!


Wednesday 30th of March 2022

Hi Vicky, all very helpful. Thank you! A few questions… How long was the drive from San Fran. Was it a pretty drive? I can’t find your list of suggested hotels etc? Am keen to stay in an airstream possibly. How can I find out about that please? My son is 19 but looks 21. How strict are they on underage drinking? Thx, Sue


Thursday 10th of January 2019

Good exhaustive list! I find festivals in Europe are always so different to the UK ones! Unless Kasabian are playing and bring a large UK crowd with them...

not as strict as the US though! ?


Friday 11th of January 2019

Definitely not! I couldn't believe the amount of people I saw get thrown out of Coachella, or at least taken away somewhere – doesn't happen at British festivals!