You’re headed to your first Oktoberfest? Congrats! Here’s what you need to know to make the most of the festival as a first-timer. There is a lot to consider from where to stay, what to wear, what you need to bring with you and, possibly most importantly, which songs you need to learn.
First Oktoberfest: the basics
Want to make the most of your first Oktoberfest without feeling like a first-timer? You and thousands of other people! Do you pay to get in? Do you need table reservations? Is there WiFi? So many questions!
Getting to the festival: The festival is easily accessed by Munich’s public transportation; when you get off on the stops for the ‘fest, follow the crowds. Everyone is headed the same way. Note: getting caught without paying your metro fare carries a large fine (also note: at no point did I see a single person checking tickets).
Entering the festival: The festival is open to all and there is no fee to get in. You will be checked by security and big bags and open drinks will need to be left behind.
Entering the tents: The tents are where the magic happens (the beer magic). You do not NEED a reservation to get in the tents, but it is the only for sure way to get a seat. Especially if the weather is bad, everyone will want in and once they’re at capacity, no one else is getting in.
Buying beer: Waitresses (and some waiters) will be cruising around and you buy your litres from them. They are badasses and surprisingly super quick given the crowds they fight to get through. Treat them and tip them well – they control your access to beer.
Food: There is food both in and outside of the tents; it is generally affordable and very Bavarian (um, yes please pretzels!). if you’re in a tent and hungry, but don’t want to get stuck outside, you eat what you get.
Non-beer drinks: Throughout the streets of the festival, there are several tents to get non-beer beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
Games and rides: What would a festival be without carnival style games and rides? Play to win stuffed animals or ride the roller coaster. Each will have their own prices, paid in cash. Can recommend the rifle game for fun and high conversion rate to prizes.
WiFi, outlets and general gadget info: There is no WiFi. There are no outlets to be found. So if you need your phone, make sure it’s charged and you have a power bank with you (or go in airplane mode when you aren’t trying to reach anyone).
What to wear: dirndls and lederhosen
Is wearing lederhosen or dirndls just for tourists? I didn’t want to show up in dress, and it be clear I was a visitor. Nor did I want to go in regular clothes and feel left out (and like a visitor). So I asked my German friends and got a unanimous response – wear a dirndl! I’m more comfortable in shorts (and couldn’t find a dirndl with enough, ahem, room), so I went with lederhosen.
Women wearing lederhosen is a recent trend, but for the most part people stick to the original.
Dirndls and lederhosen are not cheap. You will likely spend more on this than on your beer (yes, seriously), but it is an epic souvenir and can be worn year after year. Budget no less than $100 (more like $150-$200) for the perfect outfit.
If you don’t want to wait until you’re there (who would), you can shop some great options online at Bavaria Lederhosen. Avoid the costumes from Amazon as you won’t see anything that cheap on anyone at the ‘fest.
It’s all about the cash money
Beer, food, rides, games, souvenirs – the list goes on and on. You’ll want cash. You need to pay to use the restrooms, so it’s worth it to have coins handy. Checking this year’s prices, all beers are still under €11 (remember, they’re a liter), snacks can run €3-6, rides upwards to €10, and so on. Think about what you want to do in your day and bring enough cash accordingly.
It’s probably better to have more than you expect to use, rather than run out and have to look for ATMs (you won’t have to look far). Unless you’ll spend all you bring.
What to bring
Other than cash, what should you bring with you? What can you leave behind?
Fanny pack: There are A LOT of people, so it’s best to have a secure way to look after your belongings. I’d highly recommend a fanny pack (or bum bag for the non-US readers out there).
Camera: Of course you’ll want to document your experiences, but make sure your camera fits in your fanny pack or pocket. Otherwise you’ll spend too much energy looking after it. Bonus for going waterproof [beer-proof], like a GoPro. If you feel the need to bring anything bigger, be prepared to keep an eye on it all day.
Phone. This can go either way. You won’t get WiFi and the networks get jammed, but it might be your camera. If you decide to bring it, document your IMEI number in advance – every day there are lines of people at lost and found looking for their phones and a report cannot be filed without the IMEI number.
Big bags: Leave them behind – you will have to check them (and pay to check them) prior to entry.
Umbrellas and jackets: Weather can make or break the ‘fest, or more importantly your preparedness for the weather. Check the weather report and bring what you need. Pro-tip for jackets is to tuck them in the supporting bar under the table. Just don’t forget them there or you’ll be at lost and found, and possibly quite cold.
The ‘fest is all about spontaneity, but there are a few things that you will want to plan before you arrive.
Finding your friends: First is any meetups. You will not find wifi, and there are thousands of people there jamming the cell networks. So plan ahead for where and when you will meet, rather than trying to connect while there.
Lay of the land: Going into it with no idea where anything is means you’re open to explore, but it also means you’ll get distracted by the first things you see. It’s worth checking out the map and thinking about which tents you want to hit ahead of time. You will also want to know where lost and found and medical are, just in case.
Table reservations: Löwenbräu and Hofbräu are fan favorites. You’ll get in without a reservation, but will be much more comfortable with one. From the tents page, you can find the links to the tents to request reservations.
Etiquette: toast and stand like a local
You can imagine that there is a lot of toasting to be had at a beer event, but make sure you do it like the locals and cheers from the bottom of the glass. The reason this is done is because of the size of the glasses – going in side to side could break the glasses and make a mess, and toasting at the top of the glass means spills.
To take on the posture of a local, check out Tobi’s stance below. Use the beer to help you rest and switch legs as needed.
The music: learn these 3 songs
If you don’t know them already, be prepared to have them in your head for the rest of the month. About every 10 minutes, revelers in the tents will break into Sweet Caroline, Country Road and Hey Baby, If You’ll be My Girl.
You’ll get some serious street cred if you know Ein Prosit. Learn more about Oktoberfest tunes here.
Survival: pace yourself!
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Standing on tables and chugging your litre will get you cheers, but as the cheers fade, your drunkenness will set in. Beers are pouring until 10:30 pm every day, so plan out your day to include plenty of water and food. Taking time out of the tents to hit up the games and rides is a good way to get fresh air and a break.
Where to stay: accommodation options
Accommodation gets booked out quickly and early for the whole festival. Your ranges of options vary in cost, but also in social value – you can pay more to stay close and have a hotel room, or camp a bit further away with hundreds of people on the festival level.
Here are some ways to save, no matter which way you go:
- Want a Stoke promo code (free booze!)? Get it here.
- Get $20 off through Booking.com using this link.
- Get $25 off your first AirBnb booking using this link.
Camping (€60 pp/night all-inclusive): The most economical and social option. If you want to bring the experience back from the festival, there’s no better way than to camp. You can do it on your own, or you can camp with Stoke Travel, who have an amazing site set up for Oktoberfesters. It is a bit away from the city, but transportation runs frequently right next to the site.
Hostels ($90-$200 pp/night): The party will go start at and go back to the hostel, so you won’t get rest, but a good option for a solo ‘fest attendee.
Hotels ($150+/night): Your priciest option, but the best way to get some actual rest. As of July, Booking.com is showing 40% booked for all of Munich; best to book now and change as needed.
Couchsurfing/friends ($0): If you’re lucky to have friends in Munich, ask them early for a crash pad. They never get hit up more for a place to stay then when Oktoberfest rolls around. Make sure they’re up for the ‘fest and are easy to get to by public transport though!
But most importantly: have fun!
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