(Sorry for all the list posts, I promise I'll mix things up soon!!)
In the middle of the Danube which runs through Budapest, Hungary, is the Sziget Festival: The Island of Freedom. Running for a full 7 days, the festival features a whole range of acts, from big names, local bands, circus, art installations, food. Not only this, but as none of the main acts start before 4pm, you have the whole day to either explore the festival site or hop on a metro and ride into Budapest. With the Sziget City Pass, you don’t have to pay, and you get one free Spa trip (which is the best way to feel clean after days of grime).
As enjoyable as the whole experience was, and as great as it is to say I’ve seen acts such as Bastille, Jake Bugg, La Roux and have danced to Milkshake by Kelis, Baggy Trousers by Madness and Hey Ya by Outkast, there were lots of things I think the festival could have improved on.
1) The festival site uses a numbering system for each of their festival days rather than the dates, (for example, the festival site is open on day -3). However, they don’t make this clear which days are which. For example, they say the festival runs from Monday 11th till Monday 18th, which would imply that the 11th was Day 1. However, the festival technically opens on the Wednesday, making that day 1 and Monday day -1. This needs to be made clearer on the website when you buy the tickets, as I believed my ticket (valid for day -1) would let me onsite on the Sunday – forcing me to pay a moving in fee for arriving early.
2) It also states it runs from the 11th till the 18th, implying that the last act will be on the 18th and the site closes on the 19th. In the small print, it actually states that the site has to be cleared by 10am on the 18th. My flight out wasn’t till the 19th, meaning I was stuck in Budapest for the day and most of the night (not that this was such a terrible thing, but it wasn’t made clear at the time of purchase).
3) The bag check system needs to be improved. We queued for upwards of half an hour each time we re-entered the festival. All bag check desks need to be open at all times, and the number of desks needs to be increased (and/or there should be a separate lane, decided at wristband check, for those without bags).
4) To avoid people smuggling drink, the price of spirits on the island needs to be more in line with the price of shop bought spirits. For example, you could buy a bottle of Vodka (50cl) for 1400 HUF, and they were selling Vodka Soda’s for upwards of 1300 HUF. Even beers, whilst only 650 HUF, were still hugely inflated from the shop price of 160-200 (ish) HUF.
5) The number of showers need to be doubled at the very least. I had to queue for at least forty five minutes for the showers, even at ‘off-peak’ times (after midday), almost every single day.
6) As all camping is on the festival site, there needs to be a decibel limit after midnight. Not everyone wants to stay up till 6am every night of the festival, particularly as sound checks start as early as 9am. Either this, or there needs to be a separate ‘quiet zone’ (other than the family camping).
7) When you have big screens use them to show what is on stage, rather than just the Sziget logo. The A38 tent has a huge screen which actually blocks the stage, and all you could see was the logo.
8) Improve the maps around the campsite. Almost none of them actually had a ‘you are here’ point on them, and often things were on the opposite side of the path than the map indicated.
9) Indicate in each colour area which area you are in. For example, put yellow crosses on all the trees in the yellow zone, red in the red etc. Unless you are next to one of the big attractions it is impossible to tell which zone you are in.
10) The airport needs to have enough City Pass Wristbands. I was forced to pay for a taxi as they had run out and the paper document alone doesn’t count.
All this being said, I would really recommend going to this festival. All of the acts I saw were incredible and for the most part I had a great time. If you went to Sziget or have been in the past, let me know if you agree with what I've said - you can tweet me @VickiMaitland or leave a comment below!