Welcome to my ultimate Oktoberfest tips guide for first-time visitors! Oktoberfest rules, culture and general “do’s and don’ts” can be a learning curve, so I wanted to share with you all my tips for navigating Oktoberfest in Munich for the first time!
I went to this famous beer festival in Munich on one of the first days of our honeymoon. That year, we did a big road trip through Europe and the UK and happened to start at Oktoberfest in Germany! We went in the day and the night, and I’m not going to lie. When we first arrived at the beer tents, I had NO idea what to do.
- Tables were all packed. Were we even allowed to sit down on them?
- How the F do I order beer in German?
- How much is the beer?
- Was I wearing the rigth outfit?
- What is the proper Oktoberfest etiquette anyway?
Nobody tells you that the bucket list Oktoberfest experience can be confusing without a few tips on what to wear and how to order. Well, let my mistakes be your lessons. Continue reading to learn everything you may be confused about or should know ahead of time to have a great visit. Oktoberfest Guide – From How to Order Beer To The Best Tents… let’s go!
First, Oktoberfest isn’t in October. This traditional Bavarian festival starts on a Saturday usually around the first day of fall and it always ends the first Sunday in October. In 2019, that’s September 21. It lasts for about two weeks, ending on the second weekend’s Sunday. So don’t plane your Germany travels for the wrong month!
We made it on one of the last days of Oktoberfest, just barely squeezed in before the festival ended. Any day is fun to go, though weekends will be more crowded.
Reservations & Tent Guide
Is Oktoberfest expensive? Not on the surface. You don’t need tickets to get into the grounds. but you do need a seat to be served a beer (and of course, a beer cost money!) You should budget at least 100 Euro per night so cover beer and food.
Tables reservations open up starting in December and are snapped up quickly. If you know that early that you are going to Munich for Oktoberfest, then reserve a table or two. Most locals are on top of table reservations, so you usually have to compete with them. There are 14 Oktoberfest tents, 6 of which are the Main Tents, and at least 20 other smaller buildings. Obviously, the biggest tents are the most popular and the most competitive.
If you don’t make reservations, don’t fret! We didn’t, so don’t worry, you can still find a table and enjoy the party, it will just be a bit more challenging, especailly in the main tents. These tents serve an upwards of 12, 000 people a day and remember, you need a seat to get a beer! That’s why I recommend you go in the day time so there’s a higher chance of finding an open table.
I personally liked the HB and Paulaner tents the best, but they are all are fun and each have different vibes, so make sure you pace yourself on beer and walk around to all of them!
Day vs. Night
Day and night Oktoberfest is a bit like a state fair vs. a frat party at 2am. The day is calmer in the morning, and it picks up as the day goes on and more and more people get drunk. The nights are pretty rowdy, but also a lot of fun if you are with a big group and have a table.
We suggest swinging by in the evening one day for a couple hours just to see all the tents packed with people standing on tables drinking beer and singing their little hearts out. But plan on making your official “Oktoberfest” visit during the day starting in the morning. Tents open at 10am. This way, you can easily get a table and food, and it’s more fun to walk around, go on rides, play games, etc during the day.
Best Time To Visit
Plan on getting to Oktoberfest grounds before 11am on a weekday if you don’t have a reservation. By 2-3pm, more tents are full and it’s really hard to just plain impossible to tent hop after 3pm. Some tents allow reservations all day, some start past 5pm for just night reservations. Because of this, we arrived at 10am which allowed us enough time to hop to 4 different tents before it got too busy.
I know some locals love to come for like, five days in a row. They come after work, I feel like they wear their Oktorbest outfits to the office, I swear. Must be nice!!
How To Order A Beer At Oktoberfest
This one threw us for a loop you guys. As mentioned above, you need a seat to be served a beer. If you do not have a seat at a table, you cannot be served a beer. We didn’t know this for the longest time! We stood awkwardly on the HB tent sides trying wave down a server until some nice lady told us how it works. *Face palm*
After we ran out of the tent due to embarrassment, we grabbed seats outside at the Golden Hend’l, which was considerably less crowded. This, my friends, is why you get to the grounds early. If you are visiting at night, I recommend walking through the big tents as it’s fun, but they will all be very crowded and unless you encounter a rare bit of luck, you will not be able to find a table. Instead, head to a Biergarten which will usually have a few open tables.
“ Ein Bier, Bitte” which means “one beer, please”
Beers are usually around 10,70-10,90 Euros per liter, which holds about 3 pints. So, Oktoberfest prices are really affordable! To order a beer at Oktoberfest, simply tell your waiter “ Eins Mass, Bitta” which means “one beer, please” and they will bring you the Oktoberfest brew on tap at your tent.
Sometimes they offer shandy, which is called “Radler” or other options. You have to ask for those specifically or you will get the Oktoberfest beer. Most of the menus also have English, or the server will bring you an English one automatically if she thinks you’re American.
Types Of Beer & Best Food To Try
As mentioned above, all tents and gardens will have an Oktoberfest brew available. Some tents are brewery tents, like Spaten, Paulaner and Lowen Brau. Here you will find beer only from that brewery and usually a few kinds from that brewery (an Oktoberfest, a shandy and one other.)
Others are general tents will usually serve large brands like Augstiner or Lowne Brau on tap. If they don’t have Radler on the menu, you can ask for it and they may be actually serving it! If for some reason you come to Oktoberfest and you don’t want to drink beer, most tents will also offer champagne, cocktails and wine. But, don’t be that guy, ok?
Most tents also serve food, though Spaten, where we ate, has some of the best food. Some food highlights include:
- Käsespätzle: this is basically German Mac ’n’ cheese on steroids. So. Good.
- Pretzels: Waiters will walk around with pretzels for about 5 euros, and those are wonderful when you need a quick beer-soaking snack.
- Brats: They are about 6 euros and you have to try one at Oktoberfest!
- Other: Some tents have complex meat dishes, so don’t fret, there is plenty of food here, and no reason to leave the grounds all day! If you don’t have a seat at a table, there are plenty of food stands around the grounds to pick up hand food. We grabbed a brat for about 6 euros each.
Cash or Credit Cards?
Make sure to bring a LOT of cash with you as everything is done in cash at this festival. You can find ATM’s inside, so bring your card in case you run out of cash. You’ll end up spending more than you think you will as things add up quickly. You pay at your Oktoberfest tables after ordering, not some checkout machine upfront.
If you plan on ordering more than one drink at your tent, it’s polite to leave a small tip for your waiter. Most people “round up”, so if your beer is 10.20 – round up to 11 Euros and tell them to keep it. If you are also ordering food and multiple beers, add 1-2 more Euros.
This makes a big difference in the level of service you will receive. Waiters are simply overwhelmed with their tables, so buttering your waiter up a bit will ensure speedy service for your time at the tent. I also found that tourists tend to get served last over locals, but a good tip can help with that!
How To Order Water At Oktoberfest
Ordering water is important to stay hydrated and help you drink all day. To order, tell your waiter “Eins Wasser” and they will bring you a half-liter of sparkling water for about 4.50 euro. If you want still, you have to ask especially for still water otherwise you’ll get sparkling. It can get REALLY hot in those tents, so make sure you care for yourself!
Go With A Group
For the best time! Robin and I went as a couple and while we had a blast, I couldn’t help but feel like hanging out with more people would have been more fun. That’s the point of drinking culture, right? Then, the universe magically gave us friends!
I ran into two gals that I went to high school and college with… the world is crazy small! After that, we had a great time drinking, chatting, dancing and tent-hopping together. It was a very surreal moment to run into someone in my graduating class for 180 kids halfway around the world. But I guess that’s the magic of Oktoberfest for you!
What To Wear/Bring with you
Most of the people in Oktoberfest will lederhosen or dirndls. We didn’t dress up, and you won’t be shunned or anything if you don’t dress up. It’s just more fun that way!
- Euros: As mentioned earlier, do bring your credit card just in case, but you’ll be dealing in cash all day. You’ll want at least 100 Euros per-person.
- Lederhosen (men) or Dirndls (women): You can buy them on the grounds or easily find them in the shops surrounding the grounds/ downtown Munich. You can get a dirndl for about 50 Euros. Or, get them on Amazon ahead of time here.
- Flat shoes: I would recommend wearing flats so you can easily dance on benches and walk around after 5 huge beers.
- Small purse: You cannot enter with a backpack. They have security here and they will turn you away. Think of Oktoberfest as a concert – small purse only! (This is a great anti-theft purse!)
- Deck of cards: Everyone around the world knows how to play card games. Make new friends or keep yourself occupied with cards!
- Sunscreen: This pale gal really wished she wore or brought sunscreen. I left the outdoor Biergartens sunburnt!
- Sunglasses: Again, the outdoor Biergarten can be sunny!
- Hand sanitizer: This entire festival is like one big bar. Bring the hand sanitizer. The Oktoberfest bathrooms are pretty nice, but you’ll also want to sanitize after.
- External phone charger: You’ll be there all freaking day. Make sure to bring extra power for yourself!
Accommodation During Oktoberfest
Coming into Munich just for the festival? You’ll want to stay within walking distance to the festival grounds. Each day we went, we pasted the entrance to the S Bahn and it looked SO dang packed, I couldn’t imagine those people getting back tot heir hotel any time quickly. Your hotel will probably cost a bit more due to the location to the grounds, but you’ll be saving literally hours of your life. So it’s worth it!
- *Hotel Amba: We stayed right across the street from Munich HBF at Hotel Amba and loved the location as it took about 10 minutes to walk to the grounds. They had a pretty decent free breakfast and while the rooms were small, they were clean and the front desk is 24/7.
- King’s Hotel: This one is on the other side of the main train station and a bit closer to the grounds. Guests like the bigger rooms and nice front desk staff.
- Bayerischer Hof Hotel: Centrally located luxury hotel with a rooftop bar! Guest raves about the views from the place and also love the pool.
- Airbnb: We LOVE using Airbnb while traveling, especially for long term trips where we want a kitchen or when we’re traveling with groups. There are a lot of cute Airbnb vacation rentals near the festival. You can use THIS link for $40 off your first stay, too! #savemoneyforbeer
Is Oktoberfest worth it? I think so! I can’t wait to go back one day, this time in a better Oktoberfest outfit because I had serious FOMO on playing dress-up. I also want to go back with a larger group, it’s more fun that way!
I hope this helps you plan your Oktoberfest trip and help you have an amazing day there! I loved all the culture – locals clearly are very into the Bavarian lifestyle this festival celebrates. Low-key want to move to Munich. If you have any helpful tips to add or any questions, please leave a tip below! You can also DM me on Instagram @thewhimsysoul and I’lll be happy to help!
- Lots of cash (at least 100 euro per-person per day
- Small purse
- Playing cards
- An outfit!
- A backpack
- Credit card only
- Jacket (it gets hot in the tents, so skip this)
Heading to the Neuschwanstein during your trip to Munich? Read this post which details step-by-step on how to get there!