Travel Ideas & Tips » How to Prepare Body and Mind for a Festival Get in touch

Somewhere inside us, we all move to a rhythm.

And centuries of celebration have made coming together part of our human DNA.

As much as we are all alike in this love for festivities, there are few clearer ways of finding out how we differ than the ways in which we all celebrate.

Chances are also good that you may find yourself up against a language barrier in the very moment when our cultures diverge the most and you can’t rely on what you know of the world to make sense of what is happening.

To Western eyes, Eswantini’s Reed Festival may look like a people gone mad or a sleazy, entirely outdated royal ritual if you don’t understand the context.

But there are also some aspects of an African or South American Festival that is no different to a Western Festival.

11 Hacks for Attending Culturally Diverse Festivals Around the World

  1. Bring a Practical Bag

From the weather to the weight and the security DO consider where the festival will take place, how long you will have to physically carry it, what you will definitely need to have with you and how secure the event will be.

Plan ahead to bring only essentials in a very comfortable and easily secured bag and leave your valuables behind.

  1. Be Sensible about Shoes

It is normal to stand for hours during celebrations right around the world. Make sure your shoes have been worn in, are super comfortable and provide extra support and protection against mud etc.

Also, bring a shoe sac that you can put your shoes in afterward to avoid getting everything you own dirty.

  1. Consider the Restroom Situation

Deep in the African bush, you might have to use the al fresco options and at Western festivals, long queues and rather sad restrooms are the norms.

Whatever you do – bring biodegradable wet wipes. And don’t wear a romper or a jumpsuit. Prior Preparation and all that…

PS: Purposely dehydrating yourself in preparation is always a terrible idea.

  1. Weather the Weather

Never, ever attend anything that you will be at for hours without sun and rain protection and a warm layer. If the festivities carry on into the night even the very hot parts of Africa can dish up plummeting temperatures. And keeping the sun off your skin is absolutely essential at any festival.

This is not the time to go for the glow… unless you fancy time receiving emergency heatstroke.

  1. Cash is Festival King

Even though electronic payment methods are becoming the norm Western festivals often operate on cash or charge extra for using cards or electronic payment methods. In the third world, it is cash all the way. You might not need any cash and offering cash for a photograph etc. might not be appropriate. If you are attending a festival that falls outside your usual cultural norm you need to do a lot of research or attend with a knowledgeable and reputable guide.

If you do bring cash carefully consider security and how that affects where you will carry it. (Please remember not to call it a  ‘fanny pack’ outside of America!)

  1. Water, Water, Water

If you are in any doubt about the availability of clean water, bring your own.

Even if you are not in doubt. Still, bring your own. (It might also be a good idea to also pack snacks.)

  1. Overstimulation control

Consider popping a couple of good quality earplugs in your bag. Sometimes you just need to step away (even if only mentally) from the crowd and the noise around you. Packing a blow-up pillow to sit on is also not the worst idea of the century.

  1. Charge!

Why would you need a phone in the middle of nowhere where the chance of finding a signal is terrible? Because if you rely on your phone for taking pictures a failing battery is not a good thing.

And phones are great for lighting up the dirt floor where you dropped something…

Bring a portable charger. (Or at least a torch.)

PS: Don’t rely entirely on your phone for communication at a festival.

  1. Extra Clothes

A Festival is like a three-year-old. Never underestimate the extent of mess (including bodily fluids) it can magically conjure out of nowhere and without any warning whatsoever.

If you can fit it in or leave it securely in the car/ game drive vehicle a second set of clothes may never be needed. Until it is really needed.

  1. Essential Medication

Because you are a grown up.

  1. Act Culturally Appropriate at All Times

Africa is not a country. Different rules apply in different cultures in different countries.

But as a rule, it is usually a great idea to

  • Always greet people in a friendly way
  • Show respect to elders
  • Not point at things or people
  • Touch food only with your right hand
  • Accept any gift with both hands
  • Accept bargaining is not about getting the best deal but is part of the process

And not to

  • Become alarmed at raised voices during a conversation
  • Expect everything to happen on time
  • Lose your temper
  • Wear skimpy clothes
  • Expect the same amount of personal space as you may find at home
  • Discuss politics
  • Take photos without asking
  • Approach any animals
  • Give gifts without finding out if it is appropriate (especially with children)

South America is not a country. Different rules apply in different cultures in different countries.

But as a rule, it is usually a great idea to

  • Accept any food and drink given as a gift (you may leave it on your plate but don’t say no)
  • Follow the lead and eat finger foods with your fingers (using cutlery may be considered funny and snobbish)
  • Say ‘Buen provecho’ or ‘Bom apetite’ before you start your meal
  • Practice patience and go with the flow
  • Learn a little Spanish/ Portuguese
  • Follow the lead in greetings (handshake/ kiss on the cheek etc.)
  • Speak softly
  • Accept bargaining is not about getting the best deal but is part of the process

And not to

  • Think the customer is always right (they aren’t in Latin America)
  • Arrive dirty and disheveled. It is considered very rude
  • Expect the same amount of personal space as you may find at home
  • Discuss politics
  • Show the tip of a thumb protruding between fingers of a closed fist and the American “OK” sign as they are both viewed as obscene in parts of Latin America.
  • Take photos without asking
  • Do not feed pet dogs. Rabies is a problem.
  • Give gifts without finding out if it is appropriate (especially with children)

A shortcut to remembering all these hacks and tips?

Find someone to do the heavy lifting for you!

A great Travel Designer will ensure that you are suitably prepared and that you are always accompanied by an incredibly knowledgeable guide.

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