Oktoberfest Survival Guide: Don't Be 'That Guy'

How to make the most of your time at the world's largest 16-day beer festival.


Photo © iStock/golero

So, you're going to Munich for Oktoberfest? Here are our tips and tricks for surviving the world's biggest beer celebration. First of all: you need to be in Munich, Germany, in October, right? Wrong.

When is Oktoberfest?

Most of Oktoberfest is in September, in fact the first ceremonial keg will be tapped on September 22nd, 2018 and it'll be time to collect the empties after one last night on October 7th.

It used to be in October, but the weather's better and the nights not so chilly in September. But rest assured, the final weekend of the festival IS in October.

Go Early

There's seating for 100,000 inside the tents, but get there after 10:30 and you'll struggle to find an unoccupied one.

If you don't have a seat, expect to do a lot of singing – you're on your feet, those sitting want entertainment (and maybe they'll make room for you on the bench if you're good).

You can pre-book seats in tents – do that early too, they sell-out months in advance.

Which Oktoberfest Hall?

Reserving a seat means you'll have to choose your tent, not an easy task. There are 13 main tents, each with outs own character, décor or music.

  • Hippodrom: One of the small tents seating 4,000 people. A popular tent for singles. It has a ‘Sekt' bar that serves sparkling wine.
  • Lowenbrau-Festhelle: Popular among Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans. The 4.5 meter lion at the main door makes hard to miss.
  • Hofbrau-Festzelt: Affiliated with Munich's best-known beer hall the ‘Hofbrauhaus'. It's also one of the only tents that has standing room inside.
  • Hacker-Festzelt: Inside this tent is unlike any other, thanks to the blue sky and clouds that decorate the tent's ceiling. Seating 9,300 people, it is also one of the largest.
  • Augustiner-Festhelle: Ask any respecting Bavarian what tent they think you'll get the best beer and they will tell you it's this one. Owned by the Augusinter Brewery, it is considered one of the friendliest tents.
  • But maybe the Armbrustschützen-Festhalle is the one for you. The crossbow shooting competition inside the hall is legendary. Yes, a crossbow shooting competition. Beer and weapons, what could go wrong?

Hot smoked. We're talking about the partygoers, not the bratwurst. It can get hot, smoky and stuffy inside the tents. Quenching your thirst with another litre of strong beer is not the best plan. Try some water, or a Radler (a fancy name for what is, essentially, a shandy).

If you're suffering badly, go outside for a breather (see next tip). All the tents have outdoor areas where you can get some relief, but these areas get crowded too.

Dress Rules

Wearing a silly hat will identify you as a tourist. Strangely, wearing traditional Bavarian costume, like lederhosen, will not – go figure!

It will also show you're entering the spirit of the festival – don't forget this is a serious Bavarian tradition which started back in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.

Go for the real thing, fake costumes look, well, fake. The lederhosen t-shirt makes it look like you're disrespecting the locals.

And girls, if you're not usually the dressing-up type, just remember there isn't a woman alive who doesn't look good in a Dirndl!

When You're Out, You're Out.

If you need to leave the tent to take a breather, you may not be allowed back in. They're seriously crowded and the security guards are keen to avoid a disaster.

Try being friendly to the security on the way in, and on the way out check with them about getting back in (girls, you know how to do this, but guys I wouldn't try flirting with these men-mountains!)

Eating's Not Cheating

Do not try to keep up with the locals. Oktoberfest beer is brewed stronger than usual and comes in one liter mugs. The locals are practised and cunning at drinking tourists under the table.

It's also highly recommended you eat a little something to balance the alcohol. By "a little" we mean the Halbe Hendl – a roasted half a chicken.

Exit Strategy

Don't take anything valuable to the festival, you'll forget it, misplace it, lose it or get it nicked (crowds are the petty thief's friend).

Have a plan for getting back to your hotel/hostel. Firstly, remember where you're staying – the name and the address – write it down. And keep some cash for the cab fare, walking half way across Munich while blind drunk is no fun and leaves you vulnerable to thugs, crooks and scam artists.

Don't Be a Mug

It's hard to keep under control when you've had a liter or two, but try not to be a goose. It annoys the locals and will probably get you a punch on the nose from some other equally drunk twit.

Don't take the mugs – if you're caught with one of the heavy glasses it'll cost you a 50 Euro fine.

Learn a few phrases, it'll make you some friends and add to the fun.

Go on the rides at the carnival BEFORE consuming 5 liters of beer and a whole roast chicken with sauerkraut and pickles – need I say more.

Don't Overdo It

Which brings us to the last and most important tip – don't get totally smashed in the first ten minutes. Pace yourself.

You'll have more fun if you're able to hang around all day, you'll remember you had fun, you'll avoid getting into a fight with an equally drunk foreigner over the way you eyed-off his sausage, and you won't need to become acquainted with the ways of dealing with alcohol poisoning (a serious condition!). The local name for those who don't pace themselves is bierleiche – beer corpse!

Not sure if asleep or passed out… Photo credit: iStock

The Serious Bit

And one final serious warning: We all know how a few beers under the belt can make you lose your sense of what's safe. Risk-taking behaviour increases and it doesn't always end well.

Your travel insurance is calculated on the premise you'll do everything in your power to keep yourself safe from harm.

Have a good time, have a few beers, remember to stay safe, and book early for next year!

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