Oktoberfest the ultimate survival guide

Oktoberfest the ultimate survival guide

It’s that time of year again, time for the biggest and best party of the year OKTOBERFEST!  Since I couldn’t make it this year I thought I would share my top tips for surviving Wiesn.

Oktoberfest is famed worldwide, during the short two-week duration over six million guests will visit annually.  Oktoberfest wasn’t always like this. Initially it was a wedding celebration for the union of Crown Prince Ludwig (who became King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.  The wedding festivities were held at the current grounds for the citizens of Munich to help the couple celebrate the royal occasion.

In the beginning years Oktoberfest was centred around a horse race but as the years went on Oktoberfest grew and introduced new elements. At one stage it even housed an agricultural fair.  1818 was the first step to evolving Oktoberfest to how we know it today, with the introduction of beer stands, which eventually became beer halls.

Now days the main attraction to Oktoberfest is the beer halls. There are over 30 tents at Oktoberfest but for the real party you want to head to one of the large tents that are hosted by Munich’s top breweries.

Keep reading for my top tips on how to survive Oktoberfest!


Wear Tracht

What is Tracht?  Tracht refers to traditional German clothing and yes you should wear it! When I say you should wear tracht I’m not referring to the cheap polyester costumes you can buy off amazon. There are plenty of places you can buy traditional German clothing in Munich and around the city centre. In fact you can even buy it in the main train station on the way to Oktoberfest.

What traditional items do they wear?

Women wear – a dirndl (a dress), with a blouse (an uncomfortable blouse that just covers your boobs) and a full skirt apron.

Men wear – lederhosen (leather pants), with a check shirt, long socks, suspenders and some men opt for a waistcoat (which I think is particularly sexy)

Know what side to tie your apron

Believe it or not, the way you tie your apron will tell someone a lot about your marriage status. This can make it a lot easier if you do or don’t want people hitting on you. Tying your apron on:

  • The left side – means your single and available
  • The right side –unavailable or married
  • In the middle – means you’re a virgin (I’m sure it’s a great way to get a lot of additional attention if you’re looking)

Pace yourself

I’m sure a lot of my friends will laugh at me making this statement, as I’m not famed for pacing myself when it comes to drinking.  Just keep in mind that the beers they are serving are a whole 1ltr (well most of the time), plus the beer is brewed stronger than most beers at 6%.  Just keep that in mind, eat some of the delicious food to help you soak up the alcohol and have a great time.

Check if the table is reserved

A large portion of tables at Oktoberfest are reserved however the reservations don’t usually start until the afternoon.  Meaning you need to be careful when selecting your table to make sure there isn’t a reserved sign on it.  If there are no other tables by all means sit at the table but be aware you will be kicked off the table come 1 or 2pm.

If you’re interested in reserving a table find out how to here: http://www.bigboytravel.com/europe/germany/munich/oktoberfest/how-to-get-table-reservations/booking-cost/

Buy lebkuchen biscuits

You will see everyone wearing lebkuchen biscuits, they are shaped like hearts and have cute little phrases on them.  Traditionally they are given to friends, loved ones or family to express your feelings, or to celebrated something. These biscuits are more for decoration and not for eating.  I was laughed at by plenty of friends for actually eating the biscuit.

Arrive early

The key to getting a seat at a table is arriving early, especially if you’re a large group. On weekends the tents will be filled to capacity by around 11am. When this happens they close the tents and very rarely do they open again.  They might let the occasion pair in if a couple of spaces open up.

To get a table you must line up in the morning.  If it’s opening weekend this means starting your day between 5-6am to get in line for a table (they won’t even let you in the tent until around 9 or 10am). On any other weekend aim to be in line before 8am.  Weekdays you can tent hop and check out what some of the tents have to offer, but aim to be in a tent by around 2pm.

Tip your server

It can take a long time to get a drink and with up to 10,000 people in one tent you can understand why. Tip the sever with every beer you order and you will find they will serve you quicker than their other tables. The bigger you tip the better and faster the service will be.

If you’re on your own, or a pair of friends tip a server to find you a seat at one of their tables.  I’m sure you’re aware but you won’t be served unless you are sitting at a table.

Dance on the benches and learn the songs

Get up on the benches, dance and get familiar with the songs.  Oktoberfest is like on big sing along and you will be surprised at how many main stream songs the brass bands play, with plenty of traditional songs thrown in the mix.

Here are some songs to get you started, learn the words and get ready to sing along!

This is the most popular song at Oktoberfest, it’s played about every 15 minutes.  It’s basically about I salute our friendship and the good time we are having.

This is my favourite Oktoberfest song and it has actions to accompany the song.  It’s basically a children’s song, if you don’t pick up the words just follow the crowd and join in the actions.

Have a plan of action for losing your friends

If you lose your friends at Oktoberfest the likelihood of you finding them again is slim to none.  I suggest making new friends and enjoying your time at Oktoberfest, everyone is there for the same reason and making friends is super easy.  Always make a contingency plan with your friend of what to do if you become separated so someone isn’t waiting at home while the others are having fun and partying the night away.

Line up for the bathrooms in advance

The toilets at Oktoberfest are no joke.  I swear people have babies quicker than the time it takes you to get to the front of the toilet line. Do not, I repeat do not ever wait until you are busting to pee to line up, the chances of you having an accident are very large.  As soon as you get the urge you need to use the bathroom head straight to the massive queue and while you are there you might as make some new friends, as you will be there for a while.

Check out Oide Wiesn

Oide Wiesn is quieter affair and a great place to head for a good meal before the partying begins.  Oide Wiesn is a nod to the traditional Wiesn, they play traditional brass music and you can watch traditional dancing groups. It’s a lot more civilized and a great place to relax and take in the atmosphere.

Unlike Oktoberfest (Wiesn) there is a small entrance fee of 3 euros to enter this area.


Stand on the table with your beer

This simple error will see thousands of eyes on you, those eyes will be expecting you to skull your whole beer.  If you don’t manage to finish the whole thing you will be booed out of the tent.

Steal a Maß

While it’s very tempting to steal a Maß (stein, beer mug or whatever you call it) if caught attempting to steal one it incurs a hefty fine of 60 euros. There are plenty of stalls and souvenir stands to buy one outside of the halls and it will only set you back around 10 euros, a much cheaper option in my eyes.

Wear flip flops

Wearing flip flops in the beer halls isn’t worth the constant stares and statements from locals of how dangerous your chosen footwear is.  I have on numerous occasions worn flip flops and have to agree that it’s an ill-advised choice of footwear.  The floors are slippery, the benches are slippery, there is broken glass everywhere and on the odd occasion vomit.

I would suggest wearing any type of footwear (yes, some ladies wear heels, but make sure you can last the night and feel comfortable dancing on benches in your chosen footwear), that is closed toed.

Annoy security

As everyone knows German’s are known for their efficiency, this also extends to their security guards.  They take no nonsense, they will not negotiate and if you annoy them or break the rules you will be thrown straight out of the tent.

You want to keep these guys on your side as they are your key to staying inside the tent where the party is.  Follow their instructions and if you can’t make out what they are saying just move to the side. It’s also worth noting not to take photos of them particularly if they are throwing someone out of the tent (this is usually done in a forceful way) they don’t like this and will likely throw you out of the tent as well.

Nap on Kotzhügel

There is a hill at the back of Oktoberfest nicknamed Kotzhügel (pukehill), which is famous for Bierleichen (beer corpses, or sleeping drunks).  Munich is usually a very safe place but this area is notorious for people taking advantage of those inebriated people.

It’s not a safe place to pass out, you will likely be pickpocket and unfortunately people (of both sexes) have also been sexually assaulted on this hill.  If you are feeling tired or are that drunk, head home and avoid this area (unless you want to laugh at all the drunks, then just avoid all of the vomit).

Stage dive

Save your stage diving efforts for another festival.  Oktoberfest is not an appropriate place to test out your new-found passion for stage diving, plus the likelihood of the drunken crowd catching you are very slim.

If you do happen to hurt yourself rest assured, there are first aid tents set up all over the grounds.  Some are even what I imagine a field hospital to be like with beds, iv’s and the whole shebang.

Bring valuables

It’s advisable to leave all your valuables at home. In a tent of 6,000+ people it’s very easy to misplace items (it’s hard enough keeping track of your friends). Lose them on rides or just be so drunk you didn’t even know you brought them to the festival.

If you do happen to lose something there’s a lost and found tent (Fundbüro) which is open from 12.30pm -11pm every day.  After 6 months, anything not claimed will be actioned off to the public.

One of my favourite things to do once Oktoberfest is finished is read the statistics about Oktoberfest of that year.  Commonly this includes a section of the weirdest items handed in.  Over the years these items include a daschund named “Wasti”, a fishing rod, a grasshopper, an electric wheelchair (I would love to know how that person got home) and every year at least one set of dentures.

Bring backpacks

All bags and backpacks will be searched on the way in and out of the tent.  Any bags over a certain size will not be permitted into the beer halls and you will have to check them into left luggage.  There is only one left luggage site on the grounds, it’s chargeable and a hassle to try and locate especially when you’re drunk.

Important information:

Oktoberfest starts on the third Saturday of September, it’s ending date will depend what day German Unity Day falls.  If it falls on a weekday after the first weekend in October, Oktoberfest will usually be extended to this date.

Opening hours:

Opening day – 12.00pm – 10.30pm

Weekdays – 10am – 10.30pm

Weekends and holidays – 9am – 10.30pm

Generally, they stop serving beer at these times and you have an hour to finish your drinks and leave the tents.

Stalls, rides and attractions stay open until 11.30pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends.

For more information check out these useful websites https://www.oktoberfest.de/en/ , http://oktoberfestbeerfestivals.com

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  1. wow very informative I had no idea that oktoberfest was originally a wedding celebration! Thanks for all the great tips I think this is definitely one for my (ever-growing) bucket list.

  2. Haha I had no idea about the tying-of-apron symbolism lol. It kind of reminds me of how in Hawaiian culture, putting a flower in your left ear means that you are taken, but putting it in your right ear means you’re single.

  3. Ah I’m so jealous. I’m planning on heading there next year maybe. Haha those bathroom lines sound horrendous. Did you have any close calls in those?

    • I hope to make it back next year also. I had plenty of close calls, thankfully only close calls though.

      • Haha this sounds like an interesting story to tell? Did you keep your cool or was it entirely obvious by the front of the line that you were dying?

  4. Excellent suggestions and hints on how to make the most of Oktoberfest. There’s quite a lot here that I didn’t know, especially love the advice about how to tie the apron, and dancing on the bench with your beer. I’d be dead if I had to skull 1L!!