It All Starts With a Ticket: How to Get Burning Man Tickets

The base of the Man at Burning Man. How to get Burning Man tickets.
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Like many other gatherings of culture, arts, and music, this week-long city in the desert requires a ticket to attend. If you’ve ever begun to research the process of obtaining Burning Man tickets, there’s a good chance you were just a little confused about the process.

Burning Man is not a music festival, and as such, the process of buying a ticket to attend is unlike other festivals out there. It’s not as simple as showing up on the sale day and hoping for the best. There are more than five different ways you can get a ticket to Burning Man. Each way requires having a Burner profile on the Burning Man website and pre-registering for the sale. 

There are rules and stipulations for each different sale. Participating in one sale will generally prevent you from participating in another, so it’s best to understand the differences between the sales and know which one you need to be prepared for. 

There are also a whole bunch of dates you need to be aware of. There are dates for registering for a sale and different dates the sales take place on. If you fail to register for the sale in time, you will not be able to participate. Always refer to the official Burning Man tickets page for the most accurate and up-to-date information. 

In this post, I’ll break down the different ticket sales and types of tickets you can (try) to buy to attend Burning Man, in the order they occur. Keep in mind, that not each type of ticket will be available to you. Before you attempt any sale, you must have your Burner Profile setup.  

First Burning Man Tickets Sale: Directed Group Sale (DGS)

There’s a slim chance this sale is relevant to you if you have never been to Burning Man before. The Directed Group Sale contains the most amount of tickets. However, this sale is only for members of theme camps that have attended in previous years, as well as mutant vehicle and art support camps. Theme camps must be in good standing with the Burning Man organization to eligible for DGS tickets. 

This means the theme camp left no trace after the event, had good levels of interactivity, and were overall a good asset to their neighborhood. If a theme camp remains in good standing, they will be awarded a certain amount of DGS tickets relative to their size. Not every member of the camp will get a DGS ticket. It is up to the camp lead to decide how they will divide up their ticket allotment. 

DGS tickets are offered to theme camps to ensure they have enough core members with guaranteed tickets, so they have enough hands on deck to provide their setup and interactivity. For this reason, unless you are really “in” with a theme camp or art project who really need you there, you will likely not be getting an invite to buy a DGS ticket. Don’t fret! There are more options available to you.

2020 Dates: Invites go out February 13th – 21st
Sale: February 26th – 28th
Price: $475.00 + fees

Low-Income Ticket Program

Burning Man sets aside around 4500 tickets at a reduced cost for people who otherwise may not be able to attend, due to financial reasons. These are known as Low-Income tickets. Being awarded a Low-Income ticket is only possible via an online application.

There are no set guidelines as to what constitutes “low income”. The team that reviews the applications take many factors into consideration. These factors include income, the city you live in, the cost of living, debt, currency exchange rate, and any other expenses you may have.

The application for the Low-Income program is found in your Burner profile. The application involves providing a breakdown of your monthly expenses, an outline of your financial need, and two pieces of documentation to support your claims (paystubs, loan statements, tax returns, etc.). 

Besides the financial questions, they want to know why you want to attend Burning Man, what it means to you, and how you plan on contributing to the community. Remember, there should be no spectators at Burning Man, only participants. 

Once you submit your application, you will receive a confirmation email. It normally takes eight to twelve weeks to hear back about the status of your application. Applications are reviewed on a first-come/first-serve basis, so try to get your application submitted as soon as possible. If you are approved for a Low-Income ticket, you will receive a link to purchase your ticket in July. Low-Income tickets can only be held at Will Call at the Box Office. There is no way to have them shipped.

2020 Dates: Applications open February 12th –  April 15th (or until maximum applications are received)
Price: $210.00 + fees

FOMO Sale

The FOMO Sale will take place before the main sale, and will include 4000 tickets. The tickets in this sale cost $1400USD. The idea is for people to buy tickets at the highest price point that they can afford. The high price of the FOMO tickets helps to offset the cost of the low-income tickets.

If you can afford it, you are pretty much guaranteed to be able to purchase a FOMO ticket when they go on sale. They do not tend to sell out too quickly. Keep in mind, if you purchase a ticket in this sale, you will not be able to participate in the Main Sale.

Registration is required for the FOMO sale as well, done through your Burner profile.

2020 Dates: Registration: March 11th – 13th
Sale: March 18th, 12:00pm PST
Price: $1400.00 + fees

two people inside the "Love" sculpture by Laura Kimpton at Burning Man

Main Sale

Ahh the Main Sale. The bane of so many Burners’ existence. The reason why DGS tickets are such a hot commodity. 

The Burning Man Main Sale is notoriously hard to get tickets in. The Main Sale is for everyone who is not a core part of a theme or art support camp, and who cannot afford the FOMO tickets, yet don’t necessarily have the financial need for Low-Income tickets. The truth is, the demand for Burning Man tickets far outweighs the supply available. Pair that with technical issues that seem to occur every year, and the odds of actually being able to buy tickets in this sale are quite slim. 

Despite their best efforts, it seems that the Burning Man org has not yet been able to figure out a sound solution for their ticket sales: from server errors to broken links and missing buttons, credit card processing issues, and everything in-between. You can read about the debacles of past Main Sales on Reddit. Fair warning: it’s quite stress-inducing! 

That said, there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting a ticket in this sale. 

Tips for Getting Tickets in the Main Sale:

  • You MUST be registered for the sale via your Burner profile. Ensure you do this in the timeframe listed below. Every year, I see people who completely miss out on the sale because they forget to register. 
  • Remember, the sale begins at 12:00pm PST! Make sure you have the correct timezone conversion if you aren’t in PST.
  • When the sale day comes, ensure you have a good two hours (or even more) open to participate in the sale. It is a long and drawn-out process. You will not be in and out with tickets within a few minutes (unless you are extremely lucky). 
  • Ensure your laptop is charged or that your computer is in good working order. Make sure you are connected to a strong wifi or internet source.
  • As soon as noon PST hits, make sure you are in the sale. The process may be different this year, but in past years you were sent a link via email to join the sale. If you clicked the link early, you were put into a virtual waiting room until noon.
  • Have your credit card details ready. You can only use a credit card with YOUR name on it.
  • If the sale is “sold out” – don’t give up! Tickets often get re-released into the pool due to issues others may be having with their purchase. Keep refreshing and you may just get lucky.
  • Have patience and know that it will be a long and stressful sale.
  • Finally, don’t panic if you don’t get tickets. There are still options for you.

If you do manage to get tickets in the Main Sale – hurray! You are incredibly lucky. There are different options for shipping your tickets, or you can have them held at Will Call at the Box Office. Tickets are sent out later in the summer, along with your Survival Guide.

2020 Dates: Registration: April 1st – 3rd
Sale: April 8th 12:00pm PST
Price: $475.00 + fees

SECURE TICKET EXCHANGE PROGRAM (STEP)

If you don’t manage to get tickets in any of the previous sales, the Secure Ticket Exchange Program (STEP) is the next option for you. While the odds of attaining a ticket here are slim, it’s always worthwhile to try anyways. 

With STEP, people who have tickets they no longer need can securely sell them to a buyer who has registered for the program. There won’t be thousands of tickets available in STEP. Most people with extra tickets end up selling them to people in their local Burner communities, but tickets do trickle through.

People in need of tickets can register for STEP on the day it opens (2020 STEP dates have yet to be announced). Since it is first-come-first-serve, you need to register AS SOON the link goes live. 

Those who register within the first minute of STEP opening usually get a ticket. Anything later than that and your chances are pretty non-existent. Eventually, you will see posts on Reddit when people begin to receive STEP tickets. People usually check the time stamp of their confirmation email and compare it to others to get a rough idea of where in the queue they may be. 

If awarded a ticket through STEP, you will receive an email letting you know so. There is usually a window of a couple of days to purchase your tickets. If you do not purchase the tickets at this time, they go to the next person in the queue. 

OMG Sale

The OMG Sale is the final official Burning Man tickets sale before the main event. This is a last-chance effort to secure tickets without having to go to third parties. The OMG sale is quite similar to the Main Sale in that demand for tickets is far heavier than the supply. Just like the previous sales, you must register for the sale through your Burner Profile. If you were successful in buying tickets in any prior sale, you will not be able to participate in OMG Sale. 

The OMG Sale happens pretty late. Essentially, you need to be committed to going to Buring Man at this point. You should already have travel arrangements like flights or rental cars booked, and you should already have an RV reserved or a spot in a camp if you are going that direction. It can be stressful to book all these arrangements without a ticket. However, people who really want to go to Burning Man will always find a way to make it happen. 

2020 Dates: Registration: July 29th – 31st
Sale: August 5th 12:00pm PST
Price: $550.00 + fees

Burner Express Bus + Ticket

This is a lesser-known way of getting a ticket, but it can be an option for you. In an effort to reduce vehicle traffic, Burning Man introduced the Burner Express Bus. These are coach buses that travel to and from Black Rock City from different points like Reno and San Francisco.

If you are joining a camp and don’t need to take your own vehicle in, the Burner Express is a good option for you. Last year, 1500 tickets were made available to people who signed up for the bus. It may be worth looking into if you have no other ticket options.

VEHICLE PASSES

If you plan on arriving into Black Rock City in a vehicle, as the majority of people do, you will need to ensure someone from your group purchases a vehicle pass. You only need one pass per vehicle, not per person. Each ticket sale offers the opportunity to purchase a vehicle pass along with your tickets.

You can coordinate with your group to figure out who will purchase the pass, and then split the cost after. If you end up with an extra vehicle pass, you can always sell it later. If everyone in your group forgets to purchase a vehicle pass, they are pretty easy to come by on the re-sale market later in the summer. 

Price: $140.00 + fees

SHIPPING / WILL CALL

There are two options available to receive your tickets once purchased. You can have them shipped or have them held at Will Call at the Box Office. Both options cost extra. The shipping cost will vary depending on your shipping location ($25.00 – $30.00). The Will Call fee is a flat $15.00. 

If you choose to have your tickets shipped, you will receive a package in the mail in the early summer. The package will include your tickets, your Survival Guide, a vehicle pass if you bought one, and a little surprise too!

With Will Call, your tickets will be held at the Box Office. The Box Office is located near the end of Gate Road, before the Searchers and Greeters. You can pick up your tickets and vehicle pass from the Box Office. In the past few years, the Box Office has been very efficient and you shouldn’t have to wait in line for too long. Make sure to have a piece of valid photo ID on you when picking up your tickets. 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU DON’T GET TICKETS

Although there are many different ways to get Burning Man tickets, the harsh reality is that there is a chance you will not be successful in any of the sales. If this happens, don’t give up! As I mentioned before, anyone who truly wants to go to Burning Man will find a way to go.

Viagogo, StubHub, eBay, etc

The most important thing to remember is to be very wary of the re-sale market. You will notice hundreds of tickets available on Viagogo, Stubhub, eBay, etc within hours of the sale occurring. You will also notice the exorbitant prices of these tickets. There are two things very wrong here.

The first is that these sellers likely don’t have tickets themselves. They will post that they have tickets, and when they fail to obtain them, will cancel on you and provide you a refund. By this point, it will probably be late in the summer and your chances of finding a ticket are close to none. Second, selling tickets for more than face value is a huge no-no within the Burning Man community. Any ticket being sold for more than face value is in direct violation of the terms and conditions. If the ticket gets reported, the Buring Man org will void the ticket with no notice.

This means you can show up to the gate with a void ticket, and you will not be allowed in. Don’t let this happen to you. DO NOT support the shady re-sale market.

Legitimate Ticket Re-sale

With that said, valid ticket re-selling outside of STEP is still possible. In local Burner communities, people sell their tickets to other burners all the time. There are very real occasions when people buy tickets early on, then realize they can no longer make it, or their partner had to cancel, or whatever else the case may be. These tickets usually go to campmates or friends in need first, then to the larger local burner community. 

If you do manage to find a ticket through another person, keep a couple of things in mind. Make sure they have a physical ticket or see if they can transfer the ticket into your name if they haven’t been shipped yet. Always try to meet in person, and cross-reference the barcode of the ticket to the current list of voided tickets. Remember, do not pay more than face value for the ticket (although true burners will not charge more than face value).

You might be wondering how to even find a legitimate third-party ticket. The best advice here is to be active in your local burner community. Join their Facebook group, attend meetups and events, see if anyone needs help on their art project or fundraiser, and so on.

We’ve had luck in the past by being the first to respond to ticket sales posts in our local Facebook group. There won’t be many tickets for sale at first, but as the burn approaches, you will see a few more tickets become available. Just be on the ball, prepare to have some patience, and a ticket will come to you.

Don't Give up

Getting Burning Man tickets is not an easy process. In some ways, it helps to weed out those who may not truly be prepared or committed to attend the burn. The biggest takeaway here should be to understand the different ticket sales, and be prepared!

Create your Burner profile ahead of time, make sure you know the dates you need to register by, show up to the sales, or submit your Low-Income application early. Even then, you aren’t guaranteed to get a ticket. So that’s when you need to look to the resale market. Don’t fall for overpriced tickets online. Be involved with your local Burner community, and be vigilant. If it’s meant to be, you will always find a ticket to Burning Man.

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