If you think that you need to have a wallet heavily-filled with bucks to travel the world and have fun, think again! Although money is an important part of getting to places, and sometimes helps to have better fun, it’s not always the case. There are many ways to travel the world on a tight budget, and when it comes to fun, nothing beats free activity in a big crowd. Am I right? If so, let me share with you some festivals around the world that cost nothing to attend that you may never have heard of, but will give you priceless memories.
Several countries in the world celebrate Lunar New Year, but no other country better captures the festive atmosphere of this centuries-old tradition than China. Having lived in China, I can attest to the fact that celebrating Chinese New Year is a memorable experience for a foreigner.
Chinese New Year falls on a different day each year, and it’s the time when Chinese people go back to see their families, wherever they are in the world. It’s like Christmas, but without religion, and with way more food to eat. During a week leading to the actual Spring Festival, and a week after it ends, most of the people are off work in China. That gives them plenty of time to organize colourful spectacles on the streets, often featuring dragons! Most of the streets are decorated with red lanterns and fortune couplets.
Of course, other countries with strong Chinese communities like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore also have festive celebrations. In Hong Kong, enjoy the Chinese New Year Parade, fireworks, and dragon dances, which are performed for days almost everywhere you go.
More popularly known as the Festival of Colours, this beautifully hued festival goes back to ancient Indian times, and is celebrated in spring, to welcome the season of hope and joy.
Many travel websites rave about this festival, and is one of travellers’ favourite things to do in India. Imagine a crowd of people smearing and showering coloured powder all over each other, partying, dancing, and having fun. What would you look like after you get painted all over your body by strangers? At the end of the day, the streets are filled with people covered with colourful dyes from head to toes. It is a breath-taking scene, especially if you can be part of this picture.
Up Helly Aa Festival-Scotland
Just by the very name of this festival, you know right away that this will be a blast. Up Helly Aa is a festival held in Lerwick, Shetland Islands in Scotland. It falls between the months of January and February, celebrating the end of the Yule season (don’t ask me what’s Yule season, just Google it).
This robust and fun festival is held right in the middle of winter for 24 hours, where the usually quiet town of Lerwick is filled with revellers – mostly costumed, torch-wielding Vikings. The highlights are the morning procession, where a thousand men parade with flaming torches dressed in costumes, and the burning of the boat, which is arranged in concentric circles on the town square. Following a yell from the jarl, all parade participants will hurl their flaming torches on the boat. Now, don’t tell me you don’t want to do that at least once in your lifetime.
The sound of rock music fills the air and fills up your soul during the Woodstock festival, one of the best festivals in the world that you never heard of. Held in a little town of Kostrzyn, this festival is totally free.
In my opinion, going on a world travel tour is not complete without attending this festival, where your senses will be filled to capacity with infectious music, lots of revelling, dancing, and drinking.
Mardi Gras-New Orleans Louisiana,USA
This world-famous festival is every fun-loving person’s dream: a colourful parade led by world-famous celebrities and personalities, creatively designed and over-the-top costumes, and a party atmosphere that embraces the welcoming and hospitable spirit of the south.
No other festival in America compares to Mardi Gras, and every single year millions of people flock into the streets, wanting to get in on the action. Mardi Gras tradition is all about purple, green, and gold beads given by virtually every stranger that you meet in the city, eating great food, listening and dancing to music, watching the parades, and catching all the beads and trinkets that parade revellers throw in the air.
Songkran Water Festival–Thailand
Thailand is a great country with very friendly and gentle people, always ready to greet you with a smile. They have a very unique festival that is celebrated in April, during the Thai New Year festival.
If you like to be soaked in water, then the Songkran Water Festival is for you. Held during one of the hottest months in the country, the festival is actually a great relief from the heat.
Imagine being drenched, splashed, or sprayed with water in the streets of Bangkok, or observing the more sedate traditions in the temples. The people of Thailand splash water on each other in order to wish them a year of abundant blessings.
San Fermin Festival – Spain
Perhaps San Fermin Festival does not ring a bell, but “the running of the bulls” sure does. This world-renowned festival held on the cobblestoned streets of Pamplona, Spain is a centuries-old tradition.
Every year, thousands of revellers dress in traditional white costumes with red handkerchiefs tied around their necks. On July 6th, the town hall is filled with visitors as the celebration kicks off with “el chupinazo”, a rocket that is launched high into the air.
The exhilarating thrill of running after the bulls (or rather away from the bull) is not the only activity during this 9-day festival. It is actually a religious celebration, marked by music, fireworks, events, dancing, and singing throughout the city.
La Tomatina – Buñol, Spain
One of the best festivals in the world is La Tomatina, and this is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart. It is a great festival to attend for those who love adventure and having lots of fun. Are you brave enough to join a city-wide food fight?
La Tomatina festival is simply one big tomato fight on the streets of Buñol, Spain. The food fight is done in light-hearted fun, only for entertainment purposes.
Held annually in August, this giant food fight celebrates one of the core produces in the area: tomatoes. In the end, the slippery and saucy streets are filled with revellers sliding, slipping and bathing in a sea of red. If you want to be part of a giant spaghetti Bolognese, come to this crazy and great festival.
What are you waiting for?
Going to festivals is perhaps the ultimate world travel experience. During a festival, you get an actual glimpse of a country’s culture and you also meet a lot of interesting people. Some of the best trips I ever had were spent enjoying a festival where I could learn about local customs and traditions. Additionally, the majority of them are absolutely free so now you have no more excuses to stay in your home!