Despite it’s reputation for being rowdy and out of control, Oktoberfest has been one of my favorite travel memories to date. The first phrase that comes to mind is larger-than-life, and with a carnival type atmosphere skirting the 10 giant beer tents, it’s not hard to see why. Traveling solo, I debated attending this by myself but decided I’d forever regret passing up the opportunity and booked my ticket. (Only later did I find out tickets are not required #internationalincident7293). As fate would have it, the other girl staying in my Airbnb hopped on board the Oktoberfest train with me, and we headed out early in the day to be there by 10am.
The smell of pretzels, toasted pecans and cotton candy wafted through the rows lined with flashing plastic signs inviting you to try out the silly slide, enjoy the ferris wheel or negotiate with death on the rickety carnival rollercoaster. I’m proud to say we did all 3 before finding our tent, Pschorr-Bräurosl and I’m mighty glad we did considering 2 liters of beer were included with our ticket.
Walking through the tent, I felt an immediate sense of warmth and camaraderie. The ceiling seemed open air with thick loopy banners alternating in yellow, blue and green. In the center of the room stood a stage for the musicians, and I would soon be pleased to find that our tent was focused on German traditions in the music, food and of course prosts. Communal tables were spilling over with locals dressed in their best trachten. Leiderhosen for the boys and dirndls for the girls.
There’s not much more to it other than drinking, singing and making new friends, but all of this together creates the best kind of atmosphere I could ever hope for. A few hours in, people began dancing on their tables like an unspoken rule and I may have had to join the fun when they played Country Roads by John Denver! We only spent half a day here, but I wish I could have spent a whole week exploring the different tents. They’re each distinctly their own (with different beer too!) and you really need to be able to let loose… well with a minor bit of responsibility I guess.
So without further ado, here are my top 7 tips to know before you go!
1. Choose your tent ahead of time
Make sure you do your research, as some tents are better for traditional songs, families, parties, etc. It wasn’t too crazy when I attended the 3rd week of September, but I’ve heard you typically need to get there EARLY if you don’t have a reserved ticket. If you’re a big group, be prepared to start waiting in line at 9:30am to make sure you get a table. Small parties of 2-3 should be just fine squeezing on to the end of some seats.
2. Don’t feel obligated to buy a ticket
Tickets are NOT required for entry into the carnival or the tents, but they do have their perks. Having a reserved seat means that you won’t have to wait in line all morning to fight for a table, and it usually includes a few vouchers for food and beer. Most of the tents have a minimum purchase requirement anyways, so it may be worth the cost just to avoid the wait. That being said, avoid 3rd party sites like the plague because they will charge you a premium and make you feel like you’re getting the last 2 seats left when in reality there are still plenty available. The reserved seats are typically located inside, but on the outer edge of the tent so if you want to be part of the crazy community right in front of the stage, I’d play it by ear!
3. Play up the tradition
It’s not mandatory to dress up in Bavarian folklore attire, but it sure is a lot more fun. 80% of the attendees will be dressed up as well, so you may feel a little left out if you don’t. And hey, it doubles as a pretty great Halloween costume once the party is done! That being said, these don’t come cheap. I even went to a bargain store, but still ended up spending around $200 for the full outfit. I’ve heard these are available to rent as well, but if you’re gonna spend that much money you may as well spend to keep!
4. Bring cash
If you’d like to ride the carnival rides, you will pay individual fees for each and they do not accept credit cards. Same with the beer, pretzels and fun souvenirs floating around the tents. So best to have cash in small amounts on hand if the mood strikes!
5. Pack light
Oktoberfest is HUGE. Best to pack only the necessities, especially considering how tight your table may be, and I’d leave the LV at home. Surprise surprise, drunk people spill things. So if you care about your handbag, it’s not worth the risk.
6. Make new friends
This is no place to be shy. The tables are made for 8-10 people, though it’s not uncommon to see more squeezed in. You’ll likely end the night dancing on tables and singing at the top of your lungs arm in arm anyway, so get to know your neighbors over those first couple liters of beer.
7. Know the lingo
I’m talking both spoken and non here. The first being all the German toasts you’ll be shouting throughout the day. The most popular one is the call and response “Zicke zacke, zicke zacke” “Hoi hoi hoi!” The unspoken language I’m talking about is the dirndl bow. The side you wear it on has an important meaning! If you wear it on your left, it means you are single and available to talk to. If you wear it on the right, it means you are taken so don’t even try.
If you’re attending Oktoberfest in the next couple weeks, I’m extremely jealous. Go forth, drink lots and live your best life at the happiest festival in the world.