Whether you're a hard-core house-head or just dipping your toe in the waters of techno, The BPM Festival is an absolute must for electronic music lovers. In addition, if you're after chilled-out bashes on the beach, with powder-soft sand underfoot, lush rainforests on one side and ancient Mayan ruins on the other, then The BPM Festival is for you. This isn't a place where people go for the scene or to be seen; you won't find many celebs or posers swanning around intent on being seen. No, this is where genuine music lovers go to catch old-school, legendary DJs rubbing shoulders with new and emerging talent, kicking out some of the best and newest sounds, splashed in subtropical sunshine and bathed in Mexican moonbeams.
The History of the BPM FestivalFor ten days, each January, The BPM Festival takes over the entire city of Playa del Carmen. It started out in 2008 as the brainchild of Craig Pettigrew and Phil Pulitano. Excited by what they'd seen in Ibiza, they wanted to launch something similar, but with a couple of big differences: they wanted it to be affordable and less commercial than its crowd-drawing cousin. Playa del Carmen provided them with low overheads and a stunning backdrop with unmatchable natural beauty. While the first outing only attracted around 5,000 party-goers, The BPM Festival has increased in size each year, and has now become one of the world's most exciting and important celebrations of electronic music.
Raves in Caves and Beats on BoatsWhat really sets The BPM Festival apart from its rave-centric relatives is its attitude. While you'll find enough mainstream acts to please those who just want to have a fun-filled festival, it's kept true to its roots as a platform for a huge variety of underground talent. New and emerging DJs and acts play in intimate settings, putting their twists on an evolving genre. Rather than grandstanding arena-sized gigs, you'll find raves in caves, beats on boats and bands on the sands. At the heart of it all is the music; if you prefer your electronica to be exciting and experimental, rather than regular and radio-friendly, then book your tickets now. The BPM Festival might not boast too many pyrotechnics or confetti-cannons but, when it comes to the setting and the soundscape, who needs the frills?
Top Tips for the BPM FestivalIf ten days of underground electronica and emerging house music ticks all the right boxes, then you're going to need to prepare in advance. In 2017, the crowd size was an estimated 60,000 strong and, if the festival keeps growing as it has done year-to-year, the number will just keep getting bigger. If you've not been before, then here are some top tips to make your time memorable, for all the right reasons.
Getting your TicketsAlthough the festival doesn't take place until January, tickets are usually on sale through The BPM's website during the August before. The website will also have a comprehensive list of who's playing what, where and when, so you can use the online box office to buy tickets for single gigs, if you've got a good idea of which shows you want to catch. If they haven't sold out, you can also buy tickets for shows ”on the door' but, given the number of attendees, buying them this way is a bit risky. Alternatively, if you want to see as much as possible but without carrying a pocketful of stubs, there's also the ”Festival Pass' option. This comes in the form of a bracelet which gets you in through the door of any gig you want to see. Festival passes are more expensive than buying individual tickets, but they do give you the freedom to catch different shows as and when you feel like it.
Getting to the GigsGetting to The BPM Festival is easy; the event is well organised and there's extra transport laid on specifically for the event. If you've opted to carry your Thomas Cook Cash Passport, this is where it'll come into its own. Once you've landed at Cancun International Airport, you can withdraw some cash from the nearest cash machine, safe in the knowledge that you'll have locked into the best exchange-rate possible. Armed with a pocketful of pesos, you can then jump on a bus, hire a cab or climb aboard a colectivo; one of the large vans that acts as a communal taxi. Thomas Cook Cash Passports are also ideal later on in the evening, particularly when you want to get back to your hotel, but find your feet are all danced out. If you've spent your cash, just ask your driver to swing by a cashpoint and you're good to go.
Keeping it ComfortableWhen it comes to deciding what to wear, the best advice is to keep it simple. Unlike the more industrial festivals, The BPM Festival isn't the place for designer clothes, glowing garlands of fake flowers, or weatherproof wellies; the crowd here is more interested in the music than wearing the latest festival fads. Wear clothes that are comfortable and suitable for the beach, as most of the time you're likely to be dancing rather than posing! So save yourself from blisters and chafing by opting for comfort rather than style.
Midnight Feasts and Late-night BarsIf you don't fancy packing a picnic or lugging around a bag full of food for a midnight feast, you'll find that plenty of the bars and restaurants stay open until the early hours. If you'd rather not be wandering around with a wallet full of notes, this is another example of your Cash Passport making itself useful. With all your holiday funds preloaded, you can keep an eye on exactly how much you're spending and not blow the budget or, if you find there's that special little something you've really got to have, you can add more funds online. As well as The BPM Festival, you'll find shows, gigs and events taking place throughout Playa del Carmen, 24hrs a day. For complete newbies, there are certain spots that you have to check out, including the Blue Parrot Club. This is Playa del Carmen's biggest, most prestigious and oldest club, where you”ll find some of the bigger names on the bill. For something more intimate, the Fusion Beach Club offers a laid-back vibe and stunning scenery.