The largest annual beer festival in the world, Oktoberfest is one of the most renown celebrations for drinking copious amounts of beer. From mid-September to early October, folk festivals are held in cities around Germany with the most famous in Munich where over 6 million people migrate in for Oktoberfest. Tourists from around the world pour into the fest grounds to join the locals in drinking massive steins of beer until late into the night. Before my first fest, I was given sage advice from many seasoned veterans of the drinking festivities to avoid some of the common mistakes and make the most of my Oktoberfest experience. Here are a few of the pointers to look like a pro:
Break out the Dirndl and Lederhosen- one of the best way to avoid looking like a tourist is to get the appropriate German clothing. There are plenty of options ranging widely in the price range, but this is definitely the first step to prep for fest. For ladies be sure to wear comfortable shoes that can be stepped on and will not kill your feet after hours of walking and dancing.
Know your tolerance- after waving down one of the waitresses and receiving the 1-liter beer steins, be aware of the alcohol content in the beer which tends to be stronger than an average beer. Also don’t miss the delicious plate of chicken and bread rolls in the tent, which tastes fantastic and is a great way to reduce some of the alcohol in your system after downing the hatch with several steins.
Don’t mess with the security- if the security guards come over and tell you to do something like get off the tables, don’t question it. They will quickly pull people from the tent and it can be very difficult to get back into another one or to link up with friends. Remember, you are the one that is drunk but they are not.
Explore the Fest Grounds- while the center of the festivities is drinking and singing loudly in the tent, the grounds are filled with rides and food stands similar to a State fair. Go a bit early and take some time to explore the area before beginning the rowdy night ahead.
Bring a plastic bag for storage- if it is cold or rainy out and you have extra items on you such as a jacket or bag that you do not want to lose or to get covered in beer, bring a plastic bag to put it in and stash it under the table. This keeps everything in a central location and prevents all the beer being spilled from soaking your things.
Coins for Tipping- there is an essentially mandatory 1 Euro tip per order of beer or food per person. Bring extra euro coins and keep your server happy so they will keep the drinks coming throughout the night!
Know the train schedule- at the end of the night the trains departing from near the grounds are filled beyond max capacity with drunk people. Try to catch one before the final out to ensure you do not get stuck in the mayhem and trying to find a very expensive cab in the mess of people.
General knowledge- while tickets are not necessary to attend Oktoberfest and it is free to entire the grounds, having tickets ahead of time ensures access to the tents which are often filled to capacity and provides a place for everyone to gather rather than fighting for space in the crowded isle ways. ID cards are generally not required so it is much safer to bring a copy of a passport page instead of the actual passport and risking losing it. However, in Munich this apparently happens so frequently that there is now a tent from the US Embassy to issued temporary passports. There are ATMs on the fest grounds, but avoid long lines and expensive transaction fees by bringing plenty of Euro.
It also goes without saying for any major event like this that it is important to book early for getting a good location at a reasonable price. Air bnb is an excellent option to rent a room nearby for a fraction of a hotel cost and typically get information from the host on how to get to and from the grounds easiest. As mentioned earlier although Munich is the largest and most famous of the fests it is not the only one. My first fest was in Stuttgart which is called Volksfest and is a smaller version that has more locals which I found to be more fun than the large tents in Munich. There is also a spring counterpart called Frühlingsfest which is significantly easier and cheaper to attend while providing a similar experience.
No matter which fest you go to, it will be a boisterous atmosphere with lots of drunk people happily joining the bands in rousing renditions of popular songs. It is an awesome time and definitely enhanced by going with a group of your friends or joining up with locals!