THE LAYOUT OF THE BULLRING
The Bullring is divided into three tiers. There is the "Tendido" which is the section closest to the arena, There is the "Grada" or Terrace, which is the middle section, and there is the "Andanada", which is the upper section. Each of these three tiers rings round the whole stadium which is further divided into a "sun" half and a "shade" half.
The cheapest seating is found on the upper tier. This is where the "Peñas" gather on the "sunny side of the ring. The terrace is more expensive but also more peaceful, even on the "sunny" side. The "tendido" is the most expensive section of the ring. Here, the real fans tend to sit, as far away as possible from the "frivolous attitudes" of the "Peñas" which have been already described before.
OFFICIAL DISTRIBUTION OF TICKETS
Most of the seats in the bullring belong to members who pay an annual fee and who automatically receive their tickets each year to cover the seven consecutive days of bullfights. This membership is automatically renewed each year and most of them pass from father to son so that even for the local people there is a waiting-list that practically only opens on the death of a member. "The Peñas" also have lifelong membership which allows them to receive tickets in bulk so that, for example, the seating that they occupy on the sunny side of the ring is totally booked out by them each year. Only 10% of the total tickets are officially on sale - and this happens only because they are legally required to do so. This 10% of tickets are sold the day before each bullfight at special box offices just in front of the bullring and which open at nine o´clock in the evening.
So, in theory, if you are prepared to queue up, you can get tickets in this way. In fact, what tends to happen is, the black marketeers tend to control the queue to a great extent. They take up position hours before the box-office opens and buy up a large portion of these entrance tickets so that they can resell them at a higher price.
Only four tickets per person are issued, but even this doesn´t usually hinder the black marketeers, as they employ friends and relations to control the queue and to buy up as many tickets as they can. The reality is that someone, after spending a lot of time queueing up, can find that the sold-out sign is put up before he even gets to the window. You can find more information about the official distribution of tickets in the Feria del Toro website.
BLACK MARKET TICKETS
What´s the answer ? Perhaps, the easiest thing to do is, to forget your pride and pay up, even if you have to pay nearly double. This practise is illegal of course, but not very strictly enforced. And, if it were, would only affect the seller, not the buyer. So there is nothing to worry about in that sense.
These ticket touts can be found all round the perifery of the bullring from the morning of the bullfight and right up to the last moment in the afternoon just before the bullfights begin. They are usually collected round the end of Estafeta Street and the corral which leads into the ring.
If you decide to buy one of these tickets, first make sure you know what kind of seating you want, so that you can be clear about what you want to buy. Then look for your tout. They tend to be an unmistakable class of person, whatever part of the world you live in, and to ensure we are being politically correct people, we won´t go into details here. There isn´t much point either in hustling from one to the other. Put one of those puzzled looks on your face as if you are looking for something, and you will soon be approached by one of them. (having at least a smattering of Spanish would be a help here - this class of person doesn´t usually tend to excel in languages!).
Advises for buying BLACK MARKET TICKETS
- It´s also useful to be up on the current price of these tickets. Prices can vary highly from day to day. They are a good deal more expensive at weekends when there is a large influx of people. The popularity of the different bullfighters is also another important factor. Check out which bullfighters are on the programme for that particular day. With a bit of luck a mid-week ticket should be quite a bit cheaper than a week-end ticket. It´s difficult to say just how much you would have to pay. You can expect to have to pay at least the double without taking into consideration the extra factors such as week-end tickets, special demands, particular bull-fighters, etc. The official price is stamped on each ticket so check it before you make an offer to the tout. You will also see the number of the entrance door on the ticket, as well as the section number and the seat number. You can enter the stadium through any of the gates, but there is a check at the entrance to your section and this is when it is necessary to have your ticket to be allowed through.- Check the date on the ticket. (You could run the risk of being offered an unsold ticket from the previous day´s fight, which is now totally valueless.)
- You can bargain with the tout (in fact, if you are a foreigner, he will be particularily hard at bargaining with you.) and keep in mind the question of whether your seat is in the sun or in the shade - as we have pointed out earlier, a seat in the shade is considerably more valuable.
- Another important factor is the time that you buy the ticket. The closer it is to the opening of the bull-fight (6.30 in the afternoon), the cheaper the value of the ticket since the tout will be desperate to get rid of the ticket before it becomes too late to sell it. If you risk waiting till the last moment, there is a good chance to getting the ticket at it´s face value. But if you wait too long, you run the risk of missing the first bull. (late arrivals will only be admitted after each bull is killed). There is an added risk if you have a ticket among the "Peñas"- even though your seat is numbered, someone may already be sitting on it (perhaps because some friends are there) and it may be difficult to move them.
There is another source for available tickets, a good deal less "professional" than the ticket touts. Not everybody wants to go every day to see each bullfight, even though they have their member´s ticket to do so. Particularily among the "Peñas" some of the people need to take a day off from the hectic pace now and again. You may see a group heading for the ring and they often have an extra ticket or two when one of their friends drop out at the last moment. If someone asks them for one of these unused tickets then they will usually sell it at face value. It´s all a matter of keeping your eyes open and watching for them as these friends often arrange to meet up somewhere close to the ring. And then you have to be lucky enough to be the first to ask them for a ticket.
This method is employed by the local people and it usually works more than you might expect. It´s a question of hustling from group to group at the last moment. A good hustling place tends to be in Amaya street just in front of the bullring.
If it´s any consolation, the bullfights are usually even more enjoyable when you have hassle for the tickets in this way.