Oktoberfest: 8 Tips For First-Timers
With the start of Oktoberfest coming up soon, millions of people all over the world are gearing up to celebrate the world's largest beer festival in Munich, Germany.
I went for the first time for my old job as a tour guide in 2013 and it was beyond amazing. So much fun. And I'm just a little jealous of the millions of people going this year...!
Even if you don't like beer, you should at least consider giving Oktoberfest a try. Truth be told, I rarely drank beer until I tried the deliciousness that is authentic, German beer.
Chances are you might really enjoy the specially-brewed beer (especially after a couple of steins) as well as the lively atmosphere, carnival rides, and delicious German food.
Outside the Oktoberfest grounds is the city of Munich, an incredible area full of places to explore, in addition to the whole Bavaria region of Germany (Neuschwantstein Castle is a day trip from Munich)!
Oktoberfest at a Glance
Some quick facts about Oktoberfest:
Oktoberfest occurs annually from the end of September to the beginning of October.
When is Oktoberfest 2018? The date for this year's festival begins on Saturday, September 22nd and ends Sunday, October 7th.
Six million people from all around the world attend Oktoberfest every year.
Oktoberfest dates back to the early 19th century. It was cancelled during the years of WWI and WWII.
There are six tents from six Munich breweries at Oktoberfest: Hofbräuhaus München, Hacker-Pschorr Bräu, Augustiner Bräu, Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu, Palaner Bräu, and Löwenbräu. Each brewery serves a special Oktoberfest beer and only their beer is served inside their tents.
Each tent serves just their one type of beer, and in one size. The stein that the beer is served in is huge and holds one liter of beer.
Outside the tents you will find carnival rides and games.
The tent for Hofbrauhaus, one of the most famous breweries in Munich.
Carnival rides, games, and food and drink outside the tents!
8 Tips For First-Timers At Oktoberfest
1. Wear traditional German costumes to blend in
Men wear lederhosen and women wear dirndls.
Wearing normal clothes to Oktoberfest was my mistake. I didn't splurge on an authentic dirndl (about $100-200). Almost everyone (including all the Germans) will dress up in authentic costume. You will never find a German not in lederhosen or a dirndl.
It's fun to get into the spirit of the festival, and one way to do so is the traditional dress!
2. Get to the tents in the morning (and get there early)
There will be huge crowds outside the tent entrances before they open at 9 or 10 am.
Be prepared to get your foot stepped on, elbowed in the side, or pushed around a little.
Don't worry - once you get in and find a table you won't have to deal with this crowd again! (That is, unless you leave the tent and try to re-enter...and try waiting for people to leave the tents at maximum capacity to be let back in).
3. Sprint to find a table
Once the doors open, everyone literally sprints to get a table. Tables fill up very quickly so just take whatever you can get.
Have your friends' phone numbers on hand in case you get separated so you can find them - the tents are quite large with thousands of people inside.
While a table reservation isn't required, you may do so beforehand by contacting the brewery.
4. Tip the ladies that serve you beer and food
They deserve it! Tip at least a euro per stein. They carry 10-12 steins full of beer at a time, all day long, for days on end. Also, if you don't tip them, they won't come back. And you definitely want them to come back, because it can get tough to find a new server during the chaos.
5. Pace yourself
You don't want to be that guy or girl that couldn't handle it and vomited/passed out at the table, with photo evidence on Facebook for years to come.
Note that the alcohol percentage in Oktoberfest beer is 6%, higher than regular beer.
6. Write down the address and phone number of where you're staying
Having the address uploaded to your phone is great, but in case you lose your phone, you want to keep a hard copy of this info with you.
If you need directions walking back or are giving your address to a taxi driver it can be much easier to show people an address they can read - pronouncing German words when you've been drinking beer all day probably won't get you very far (or to the right location).
7. Mingle with other Oktoberfest go-ers
Join others at their table if they have extra room and strike up a conversation. You're bound to make new German friends (or friends from all over the world)!
8. Take the chugging challenge
....only if you dare. If you chug your whole stein while standing on a table, you will be applauded by everyone. If you try but fail to finish, you will be booed!
Before you take the challenge, remember that a stein is a whole liter. This means chugging a whole liter of 6% beer at once!
Enjoy yourself at Oktoberfest this year, and as they say, "PROST!"
Headed to Oktoberfest?
Book a place to stay, ASAP! Oktoberfest season in Munich sees a heavy amount of visitors from all over Germany and the rest of the world. The earlier you book your place to stay, the better - as availability for hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs go VERY fast.
I recommend using my all-time favorite booking website, Booking.com - I’ve used it for years all over the world.
It is the easiest way to search and find the best hotels (hostels too!), especially based on reviews. I always check the reviews on Booking, even if it’s a name-brand hotel. You never know!