So, you’ve decided that this will be the year that you cross Oktoberfest off your #bucketlist. Your ticket is booked, you’ve gathered your friends, and you’ve mentally prepared your liver for a fun weekend.
Oktoberfest an amazing festival that I believe everyone should experience once in their lifetime. There is nothing like it. But for first-timers, it can be very overwhelming and you might overlook some very important details. I’ll be honest with you, I had no idea what to expect.
So now that I have experienced my first Oktoberfest (and survived!), I’ve put together a short “survival guide” for anyone attending for the first time.
Surviving Oktoberfest: A Guide
Dress in the outfit:
You might be thinking to yourself, “Only tourists would wear a Lederhosen/Drindl!” WRONG. Everyone wears the traditional outfit at Oktoberfest. In fact, you will actually look out of place if you show up wearing street clothes. I know someone who showed up the first day, was embarrassed that they didn’t wear a Lederhosen and left to go buy one. It’s that serious.
So, splurge a little. (Oktoberfest isn’t exactly the event to try to save money anyway). You can buy them ahead of time online (skip the Party City/Halloween versions- you’ll get laughed at). Or, you can wait until you arrive in Munich to purchase one. There are many stores around the city that were selling both Lederhosen & Drindls between 30-80Euro.
Plus, being dress up really does make the event more fun!
Mix in a Radler (or two)
Oktoberfest is a marathon, not a sprint. I repeat, IT IS A MARATHON. We saw so many people who were wasted by noon and when you’re only there for a few days, you want to make the most out of it.
The beers at Oktoberfest are not only huge, but they are extremely strong. 2-3 of those things and you’ll be on your ass. And this is coming from my friends who are used to drinking beer.
My advice for prolonging the day? Order a Radler. A Radler is beer mixed with lemonade (similar to a Shandy if you’ve ever had one). They actually taste great! It’s annoying that it costs just as much as a full beer, I know, but you’ll thank me for it when you’re still on your feet at 3pm.
Also- order the chicken! It’s delicious.
Don’t Stand on the Table
…Unless you want to chug your entire beer. There is a long-standing tradition at Oktoberfest, that if you put your foot onto the table top, then you must chug your entire stein. Think you’re up for the challenge? Go to YouTube and search “Oktoberfest Fail”. Keep in mind that if you fail, you might get booed by a tent of over 6,000 people.
Be Good to your Waiter/Waitress
These people hold the keys to your Oktoberfest happiness, so be good to them. Keep in mind that they are not only working really long hours (9am-11pm every day!), but they also have to put up with wasted idiots like yourself. So, be generous when tipping. It’s not just a nice thing to do, but you’ll also get way better service!
Want to really get on their good side? Buy them a beer. I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure if they’re even allowed to drink while working. However, we had a waitress who was having a hell of a time dealing with a crew of DRUNK Italian men next to us. They were a fun group, but they kept breaking glasses and falling off their benches. She was less than thrilled about it. So, we bought her a stein, which she kept at our table, and she was beyond appreciative of the gesture.
A little goes a long way.
Designate a Group Meeting Spot:
Oktoberfest is HUGE. On busy weekend nights, they estimate over 80,000 people are in attendance. And there aren’t just beer tents. There is an entire fairground with carnival games, rides and places to eat. You add that type of atmosphere to a drinking event, and people are bound to get separated from each other. Add in bad cell reception and you have the perfect storm.
This might be the advice I stress the most to first-timers: Before you start drinking, pick a spot to meet if you get separated. Make it a landmark like the ferris wheel- it’s easy to spot from anywhere in the festival and so you can stumble there if need be.
I unfortunately got separated from my group the first night and was lost for TWO HOURS before Casey found me at the McDonalds outside of the festival. (Don’t judge me, I was hungry and they had WiFi). It was really stressful and a major buzzkill on the evening.
Get to the Tents Early and Stay Put!
Like I said above, the festival is massive. Even though there are 18 beer tents that hold anywhere from 2,000-6,000 people each, they fill up quickly. You don’t want to spend your day standing in line, so make sure to get plan your day early and get to the festival around the time that the main tents open (10am).
Also, don’t plan on “tent hopping”. Because the tents are so crowded, you will have a hard time getting into another tent mid-day. Plus, they all have the basic theme (and same music) so once you find a table, plant yourself there and enjoy your day!
If you do decide to switch tents, do it around the time that reservations change. You’ll have a better chance at getting a table.
After 6pm, Good Luck Getting Inside a Tent
And honestly, it might even be earlier than that for some of the more popular tents. Like I said before, plan to stay where you are and that especially goes for the afternoon. Unless you have a reservation, of course.
On our second day we made the mistake of leaving our tent and spending too much time in the fair grounds, before trying (and ultimately failing) to go into another tent.
Bring Cash, and Lots of it
The tents do not take credit cards and you will need to pay for each round as it is served. There are ATMs on the fair grounds but make sure that you get cash out early because they do run out of money later in the day.
Also, don’t plan to exchange American money at the festival. Bring Euros.
Learn the Oktoberfest Songs!
This is a fun one. Each tent has a live band that starts playing every day at noon. And while every tent looks different, they all play the same songs. Over and over and over again. Some are songs we are all familiar with, like, Sweet Caroline & the YMCA. But, there are also a lot of traditional German Songs that I wish I had known prior to attending Oktoberfest. And fair warning: They will be stuck in your head for weeks after the festival!
Pre-gaming (and post-gaming) is Unnecessary
My last and final survival tip: Don’t pregame Oktoberfest. Arrive sober. After your first stein of beer you will be tipsy and it all goes downhill from there. No need to speed up the process, I promise.
On the same note, once you leave the fair grounds for the evening, go home, chug some water and go to sleep. Don’t try to find a bar and continue the night (especially if you’re planning to return the next day). You’re not 22 anymore and your body is already pissed at you for drinking all day.
I hope that these tips help prepare you for a great time at Oktoberfest! If you’ve been before and have any other great tips, be sure to leave them below! Prost!