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Fact: Getting Tickets To Burning Man Sucks

The process of getting a ticket to Burning Man is, hand's down, the absolute worst part of going to Burning Man. It is a pain. It is a hassle. It can be confusing and it can definitely be discouraging. So here's what we are going to do! First we are going to break down all the many different ways you can get a ticket, and then - if that doesn't do the trick - we're gonna have a nice little conversation about all of this below that. Sound good? Good. Now let's you and me break down the ways you can get a ticket like this lady crushes a melon with her legs:

Nine Ways To Get Tickets To Burning Man

What: 1. Rich people sales! (aka Pre-Sale/Leonardo da Vinci Art Tickets)
Because some people have a lot more money than us (maybe? I don't know your finances). And for better or worse the Burning Man Organization sells $990 and $1,200 tickets to them before they sell tickets to anybody else. Sigh.
Where: These tickets, like all official Burning Man Ticket sales, are made available via registration through Burning Man's Burner Profile system. And the super expensive ones are still available. Just look on the bottom right of your Burner Profile. More info on these sales are e-mailed to you after registration.
When: February 17, 2016 at 12pm PDT
What: 2. Directed Group Sales
After the rich get their cake but before the plebs dine, Burning Man sells some regular priced ($390) tickets to select, returning, Burning Man theme camps to make sure that the flavor of the city doesn't go too sour.
Where: Directed Group tickets are made available, after invitation, via registration through Burning Man's Burner Profile system. More info on the sale is e-mailed to you after registration.
When: March 9, 2016 at 12pm PDT
What: 3. Main Sale
The single least fun thing about the entire Burning Man experience. The annual running of the Burners when everyone and their dog seems to vie for a limited number of $390 tickets. Only fun if you score one (or two).
Where: Main Sale tickets are sold after registration through Burning Man's Burner Profile system. To be eligible to buy a ticket you MUST register before the sale. More info on the sale is e-mailed to you after registration.
When: Registration is from 12pm PDT March 16-18, 2016
Main Sale starts at 12pm PDT, Wednesday, March 23, 2016
What: 4. Low Income Ticket Program
Every year Burning Man sets aside a limited number of $190 tickets for those who qualify and fill out the necessary paperwork. More info here!
Where: There is a special section of the Burner Profiles just for this.
When: Applications for Low Income Tickets start Wednesday, March 2, 2016 and are accepted until all the tickets have been allotted.
What: 5. STEP (Secure Ticket Exchange Program)
Burners don't like scalpers. So Burning Man set up its own program to allow ticketed folks to resell their tickets safely (and with no mark-up) to unticketed folks. It is unclear how well this actually works but it is always worth a shot!
Where: Take a wild guess! That's right, once again you sign up for this via Burning Man's Burner Profile system. More info on the sale is e-mailed to you after registration.
When: Ticket sellers can sign up from April 13, 2016 to July 17, 2016 if they can no longer use their tickets (note: you should work with the Ticket Fairy if you can no longer use your ticket and we will match you up with another melon looking for a ticket).
Ticket buyers can start signing up at 12pm PDT on Wednesday, April 27, 2016. Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you should sign up as soon as possible. STEP closes at 12pm PDT on July 22, 2016.
What: 6. Insecure Ticket Exchanges (not recommended)
Once tickets are sent out (in mid-June) folks don't just sell tickets via STEP, they also sell them in all the usual ways with all the usual caveats. These means can certainly work but they can also be real nail-biters. We'll talk about a few ways to reduce the stress (and be a good Burner) further down.
Where: Y'know, Craigslist, Stubhub, AOL chat rooms, the men's room of a lesbian bar in Louisville, wherever.
When: The minute the Main Sale is over people, sometimes bad people sometimes not, start selling marked-up tickets online. We wouldn't trust any of them until tickets are actually out in the mail though (starting mid-June).
What: 7. Ask Around!
Ask your friends! Ask your moms! Ask that adorable tiny dog that just popped out of a box of blankets sitting on top of the bar you just walked into in Seoul. Let them know that what you want, more than anything in the world, is a ticket to That Thing In The Desert. You'll be shocked how many tickets this method pulls out of the woodwork.
Where: Anywhere in the default world.
When: ASAP
What: 8. The Burning Melon Ticket Fairy
Because sometimes asking friends/family/bar animals doesn't work out. That's when you turn to your camp. And while the Burning Melon camp's personal Ticket Fairy can not in any way promise that he can find you a ticket (he's a fairy, not magic!), he does keep his ear close, close, close to the ground and is always looking to help match a melon in need with a melon with an extra a ticket.
Where: In the melon patch. (aka email from the Ticket Fairy)
When: When it happens.
What: 9. OMG Sale
Like manna from Heaven, less than a month before the Man burns an extra 1,000 $390 tickets are released into the wild for those who believe. Oh-em-gee!
Where: This is another official sale, so once again you sign up for it via Burning Man's Burner Profile system.
When: OMG Sale registration opens 12pm PDT, Wednesday, July 27, 2016
OMG Sale registration closes 12pm PDT, Friday, July 29, 2016
OMG Sale starts 12pm PDT, Wednesday, August 3, 2016

I Still Need A Ticket Though!

Ok, ok, that list is all well and good but I still have questions! Yeah? That's fair, questions are great. Shoot!

Well I didn't get a ticket in the Main Sale and I'm stressed! Aw, don't be stressed. You look great today! Your hair looks fabulous! And the fact that you are here, reading about Melons tells me that you are making some excellent life choices.

Yeah, but I still don't have a ticket! I know, but that's ok. Did you see all the ways you can still get a ticket we listed above? You still have lots of options.

I did, I did. But I want a ticket now! What do I do? Chill the fuck out. By far the least pleasant part of the Burning Man experience is the actual obtaining of the tickets to Burning Man. By the time the General Ticket Sale arrives, so many people want to go to That Thing In The Desert that there simply aren't enough tickets for everybody. Which makes the endless waiting on the digital lines, the fretting over registration dates versus sale dates, and reading people's humblebrags on the tweetbooks after you didn't get actually get a ticket yourself, so very not awesome. 
Right! That's why I'm asking! I know, but here's the thing: over the course of the year there are actually quite a few ways to get tickets to Burning Man (see above!) and though it is hard for most people to believe, by the time August rolls around there are often quite a few tickets out there. For serious! Things happen! People get jobs! People lose jobs! People get married! People get divorced! People make little people! People decide that what they really want to do is teach dental hygiene on the island of Una Una in the Gulf of Tomini! Life in the Default World happens, is what we're saying. And if you want to get a ticket, well, you just need to internalize those Ten Principles and get a little radically self-reliant. 

Really? Really. If you really want to go the playa, just keep on acting like you are going to be going. Keep on looking for tickets. Keep on hustling. It's gonna work out! By the time of the actual Burn there are often quite a few extras floating out there.

What's The Deal With Vehicle Passes?

Ok, so what's the deal with the vehicle passes they sell with tickets? Do I need one? That's a good question! As a way to reduce traffic and the time it takes to get in and out of Black Rock City, Burning Man in the past few years has limited the number of cars allowed onto the playa by only allowing in ones with vehicle passes. Do you need one though? That unfortunately is something you can only answer if you know how you are getting to the playa. If you don't know the answer to that (i.e. you don't think you'll be driving your own car in) then you probably don't need one. Worse comes to worse and you suddenly find that you are driving in and you can most likely get yourself a vehicle pass closer to the burn on the secondary market (or ask the Ticket Fairy, he probably knows someone looking to unload one).

Should I Buy Tickets On Secondary Markets?

I'm glad you mentioned secondary markets. How much is too much to pay for a ticket on the secondary market? This is a tricky, tricky question. The official answer is anything above face value. Burners (Melons included) highly discourage scalping and of buying/selling tickets for anything above face value. Still, it does happen. And who are we to judge. But let's not talk about it. Ok?

Ok, but let's say it is a ticket being resold at face value, how do I know if I'm buying a real ticket from some cat in a back alley? That's a good question and one members of the XVC will happily talk to you about in a private chat.

What Do I Do With An Extra Ticket?

So I can't make it to the burn any more and now I have an extra ticket? What should I do with it? Aw, so sorry you to hear you won't be able to make it to the Burn this year. Don't worry though, it was always better next year! In the meantime there are definitely quite a few Melons who would love to take that ticket off your hands (did you see the above questions?!?). Seriously, just shoot a line over to the Burning Melon Ticket Fairy (you've got his e-mail already and he's all over our Facebook group) or the Melon XVC (executive-vision-committee@googlegroups.com) and they'll happily set you up with somebody who will buy it off of you at cost. Just think how happy you will make them!

Are There Any Other Ways To Get Tickets You Didn't Mention?

Actually, in 2016 at least, there are? For at least this year Burning Man has also decided to release 500 "Burner Express Plus" tickets which are available at cost only to Burners who take the Burner Express Bus. The tickets, which you don't need to register for in advance, will be sold through your Burner Profile on July 13 and will be waiting for those lucky few who get them when they get on the bus (at which point you'll pay for them). This is a new kind of ticket for 2016, so details about it are scare but you can learn more here.

Want to read much, much more about Tickets? The official Burning Man Tickets Page covers a lot of this in even more depth!