Tips for a Safe and Fun Oktoberfest!
It's been several years since the last Oktoberfest, or the WIESEN (as locals call it), due to the pandemic, and people are now able to gather in this old Bavarian tradition. This Saturday in Munich, the parade started, the beer was tapped, and thousands of people gathered to take care of this event that was last held in 2019. Maybe surprisingly, there aren't even any COVID restrictions or requirements so we will all just cross our fingers on this one as the expected 6 million visitors come to Munich.
I've been in Munich for around 10 years and I've definitely learned over time as I've attended every year (except during the Pandemic). It's quite common for companies to get tables and to gather big groups of the employees together to spend the day together. Also, it's something that's been quite fun for me as an expat in Munich when friends and family come to visit. I've now taken my dad a few times and he absolutely loved the atmosphere and always recommends it to his friends. :)
Oktoberfest is lively, social, and can be a lot of fun. It’s a great place for families, couples, and groups of friends. Whether you're interested in the main tents such as Paulaner and Augustiner or enjoy the more traditional Oide Wiesn tent, this is a fun space for all ages. There is plenty of food, amusement park rides and games, souvenirs, and of course, beer. Here are some tips on how to feel good and stay healthy during and after the festivities.
There are a lot of ideas about Oktoberfest and some misconceptions. While yes, beer is the main idea at this events, there are also many carnival rides, games, family activities, beer gardens outside, tons of snacks and food, etc and even a traditional Oktoberfest area where many families go to get away from some of the madness of certain tents.
Oktoberfest can be downright confusing for the reported 6 million yearly visitors, annoying and exasperating for the locals, and a logistical headache for transportation and city officials. Have no fear, I’m here to help!
For those planning to come to Oktoberfest 2022, where do you start?
1) Planning when to go to Oktoberfest
This is a tricky one, since the biggest day is of course, opening day, but also the busiest as it the entire opening weekend. If you arrive the day before along with everyone else, plane tickets will be crazy expensive and there most likely won’t be anywhere to sleep (not kidding). I would recommend coming a few days before, or trying to go more towards the end and staying a few days after. Every year, literally millions of people arrive in Munich so if you need to consider booking things way in advance if you're thinking of coming on the weekends.
The last day is usually the best, in my opinion, because you can actually walk into most of the tents and get a place on the last night for the closing ceramony where they sing and have a ceremony with sparkers.
Contrary to the name, Oktoberfest starts many times the last week of September and does not go through the whole month of October. In fact, it's only around 2 weeks long.
Keep this in mind when planning so you don’t arrive to a quiet, tranquil Munich, having missed Oktoberfest by 2 weeks. This 2022, Oktoberfest starts Saturday, September 17 and ends Monday October 3 (which is a holiday in Germany).
I've read in some forums people discussing going at the end of October, so don't make this mistake.
2) Getting airline tickets to Munich for Oktoberfest
As you would expect, airline ticket prices shoot up during that time, so booking in advance is highly recommended. If you are coming from the US, Kayak or CheapoAir are two I use when I am going back home to the US. In Europe, I always use Google flights and if you're flexible you can find something a bit cheaper during the week although it could be at an inconvenient time.
Airport alternatives to Munich to check
Keep in mind of where Munich is geographically in the vicinity (4-6 hours bus/train) of Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, France, and Croatia. While Munich is the main airport, you can also check Memmingham, which is 1.5 hours outside of Munich but well connected with discount airlines like Ryan Air, Easy Jet, etc.
Once your arrive, you can check Flixbus, DB train tickets, or even BLABLA carpool where you go with someone who's already driving to Munich and you just book a seat in their car. I like OMIO APP as well to quickly search and buy tickets.
A side note: Berlin is NOT near Munich, so it won’t help much if you get a cheaper flight there first, although Berlin is certainly a bigger hub with better connections. It’s a 4-6 hour train ride (the fast train usually quite expensive) or a 7-8 hour bus ride.
You can consider flying into Frankfurt, which is a huge international hub and around 3-4 hours away depending on the speed of the train.
You can consider flying into Vienna, which is around 4 hours by train from Munich and around 6 hours by bus.
Salzburg or Insbruck, Austria
You can also consider flying into Salzburg or Innsbruck which are both around 2 hours away by train or bus.
You can also consider flying into Zurich which is around 3-4 hours in train or bus.
Farther options but still closer than Berlin:
Prague (5 hour bus ride)
Strasbourg (4-5 hour train)
3) What to bring with you to Oktoberfest
As for the tents themselves, Oktoberfest has a remarkable amount of items left in the lost and found, so much so, that a regularly published list is updated on a daily basis in Munich and even makes the international headlines on CNN, BBC or others.
Also, Oktoberfest is very safe, but since it's crowded, you should always be aware of your valuables. Keep watch of your wallet, phones, cash, etc. There are pickpockets there who would love a new IPhone that you have in your back pocket or your cash sticking out of your pocket..
These are just my suggestions:
First and foremost, and please listen to me on this:
DON’T BRING your passport with you! Every year, many people lose their passports and that's a great way to ruin your holiday in Germany by having to wait to get a replacement from your
DO bring a copy of your passport so that you have a form of ID on you
DO bring your health insurance card always
DO charge your phone before going and if you have a small portable charger it's a good idea to have it.
DO stick together it's better to all go inside in a group so one person doesn't have to wait outside or try to locate you with GPS. It can get crowded and sometimes they close the tents when full and you might not get in to meet your group. In my opinion, don't leave your friends to go check out another tent or you might not be able to meet up with them again.
DON'T bring a backpack or a large purse. Due to security, you can't bring them inside and you will have to go check them at a locker and wait in line a long time and don't forget you have to go back later and get it. It can take an hour and your friends will have to wait for you to get in.
DON’T bring all your bank or credit cards or big sums of momey. While Oktoberfest is safe and there are hardly any fights (you get thrown out), there are pickpockets sometimes as many huge public events.
DO determine how much to spend and stick to it. You can easily blow lots of money, especially if you tend to get generous after a few beers. It becomes harder and harder as the night goes on to not spend money. Food is expensive, between 10-20 euros a plate, and beer is around 13.50 EUR for one, so money can go fast! There are ATMs so if you decided to bring your ATM card, you will be able to take out more money if need be.
4) What to wear to Oktoberfest
Dress wisely! There’s no going back once you’re there!
Munich has tons of places to buy the traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest outfits such as lederhosen and dirndls’. In fact, even the Munich main train station sets up stalls so you can get off the train with your buddies and all buy lederhosen first thing. They vary in prices but be warned, these outfits do not come cheap! A ‘cheap’ dirndl will run you at least 60 euros without the shirt (at least another 20-30 euros) and lederhosen are at least 150 or so depending on quality of leather. They do have packages which usually end up a bunch cheaper, but know that if you want the whole shebang, you will pay.
There are a number of outlets around Munich downtown that sell used dirndls and lederhosen for a little bit cheaper. There is one second-hand shop down by Karl’s Platz I went to several times and they have a good selection. You could also buy used ones on eBay, but I really recommend trying them on in a shop instead. The sizes are a bit funny, and the dirndl’s usually run a bit small. Sounds obvious, but dirndls are tight so make sure you can breathe.
DO bring comfortable shoes you don’t mind getting muddy, dusty, scuffed, etc. It's a fair ground with some paved parts so don't wear your brand new white shoes.
DON’T wear uncomfortable heels ladies! The fair ground is huge and you might have to walk 20-30 minutes before you reach your planned tent, or you might need to go to more than one tent if they are full.
DO layer your clothing. Remember it’s hot inside the tents for the most part, but Autumn in Munich can be unpredictable, so bring a sweatshirt and maybe a waterproof jacket for leaving in the night. There is nothing worse than leaving the tent at night and freezing your toosh off because you thought the dirndl 'looked better' without a jacket - do not do this. Also, those heels are sheer torture as you make your walk to the subway.
5) Finding accommodation for Oktoberfest
For lodging, unsurprisingly, everything books up really quickly, so reserve in advance! It's really important NOT to arrive without somewhere to stay as places get full and what's left over might be out of your budget.
Try Airbnb during this time to get last minute lodging and better deals. Many people rent out their couches, so consider this if you only need a place to crash for a night or two without the frills of a hotel.
Tip: Consider staying at one of the cities 1-2 hours away and taking the train in and out of town: Nuremberg, Garmisch, Tegernsee, Regensburg, Ingolstadt, etc
6) Deciding on a beer tent at Oktoberfest
OK so this part can be difficult because there are 17 large and 21 small tents and they are different in decoration, sometiemes food and most certaintly, in the beer that they offer. Each of the main Bavarian breweries has its own tent. There are some tents that tend to be geared towards younger partygoers in their 20s while other tents might have a Oktoberfest's Gay Sunday celebration. There are other tents that tend to be geared toward the posher, richer folks, like the Käfer Tent for the FC Bayern guys and those with a lot of money. Others, like the Fischermans Vroni have specific dishes that they are famous for. Also, many of the big tents also have big beer gardens to sit in very comfortably but the music and bands are inside.
For the most part, after awhile, you might get less picky as the tents fill up!
7) Getting into an Oktoberfest Tent
This is the most part, getting into a tent is not as simple as it sounds and depends on several factors. If you're in a big group, it's easier to sit in the beer gardens outside or go in the mornings when they open. While the tents are all free (except the traditional Wiesen Area which charges a few euros), they can fill up.
First off, while it’s fun to bring a big group of people, unless you have table reservations, realize that you won’t be able to realistically sit together at a table unless you go EARLY in the morning. Especially the first day. People hang out there sometimes as early at 6 am in order to get into the tents early to find a spot. If you go to the Munich forums, people do sell a few spots at their tables, so check Toytown and the Munich Facebook groups. Often, at the last minute, people end up selling a whole table, or at least a few seats at one. If you buy a seat, it usually includes 2 beers and a roasted chicken. Every tent is a bit different, so it’s best to check beforehand.
There are places online you can try to reserve tables, but this is usually done VERY far in advance (some people do it 6 months to a year beforehand). You can try to book with individual tents here.
If you go with two to four people, the chances are pretty good you will get in and you can probably snag two seats with a group somewhere. Try to find the side entrances, those are your best bet. Waiting in front is a waste of time in my opinion unless you already know someone who is inside. (If you are ALONE with friends inside, many times they can come out to get you if they tell the bouncer).
Sidenote: people try to duck under the tape sometimes, and the bouncers are NOT amused by this. Although I have seen people get away with it, I wouldn’t try it because those dudes go through a lot on a daily basis at Oktoberfest and have zero tolerance for stunts.
8) At the tent: EAT BEFORE DRINKING!
Please just listen to me on this:
Yes, this sounds obvious, but there are entire sites dedicated to people losing their dignity all over the tents and streets of Munich. Remember, most people go for the whole day.
Since getting seats is easier early on, again maybe sounds OBVIOUS, but remember to EAT before you start drinking!
And keep munching on snacky food such as those gigantic pretzels while you are there.
9) Eating at Oktoberfest
Treat Your Stomach Right with Hearty Meat or Vegetarian Dishes
Your stomach is your friend but can easily become your enemy if you don’t treat it right. It can be tempting to arrive at your table and simply start guzzling beer. Beware – if you want to feel better both at the festival and the next day, it's important to eat. It’s easy to feel full after the first liter of beer and not have room for much food afterward. Food is one of your most important decisions at Oktoberfest.
Lucky for you, there are plenty of choices. To give you an idea of the most popular dishes, the 2016 food consumption tally found that around half a million chickens, 116 whole oxen and 115,000 pairs of pork sausages were consumed.
Without question, the best thing to do is have a heavy meal outside at the many food stalls while you’re walking around the Oktoberfest grounds before going into the tents. Or, when you get inside the tent, get a big meal with your first beer.
Having enough food in your stomach will greatly help you to metabolize the beer you drink. Truth be told, this is not the time to count calories although if you need to, here is a helpful guide to the main dishes at Wiesen. The food at Oktoberfest is not really considered low fat, but it is excellent quality.
In addition, many of the tents in recent years offer menus with detailed information for those who want more healthy vegetable and vegetarian dishes, have food allergies or intolerances, and special dietary needs.
Try sharing a starter platter with your friends first to whet your palette. These fresh sampler platters typically offer traditional delicacies including sausage and smoked ham, tangy Obatza cheese, radishes, and soft brezen (pretzels) as big as your head.
The main courses are hearty and typically include a side dish such as fries or choice of potato. The local favorites are usually traditional Bavarian dishes such as crispy pork knuckles, pork loin with gravy, veal schnitzel, etc, which usually come with sauerkraut and knödel - a kind of gluten dumpling.
If you're searching for a slightly healthier poultry option, get the juicy hendl (grilled chicken), which is freshly seasoned and always mouth-watering.
If you prefer fish, try the famously delicious grilled 'fish on a stick' at the Fischer-Vroni Tent. Also, you can choose tents that have made efforts to use free-range chickens such as Hühner- und Entenbraterei Ammer, all free-range organic meat at Wirtshaus imSchichtl.
10) Special dietary needs at Oktoberfest:
Vegetarian options at Oktoberfest
Ovo-Lacto vegetarians will have no trouble finding tasty Oktoberfest delights since there are many dumpling, bread, and pasta dishes. Try the mini egg dumplings with cheese or cream sauce, called Käsespätzle. In addition, there are salad choices so you can be sure to get your veggies as well. Almost all of the tents have some sort of vegetable option like grilled asparagus or veggie platters.
Vegan Options at Oktoberfest
You might assume that there's nothing to eat without eating meat at Oktoberfest, but times are changing and vegans can eat just as well as everyone else. Vegans will be delighted to find out that the traditional Oktoberfest area, called the Oide Wiesen, where the Herzkasperl Tent serves delicious vegan renditions of traditional Bavarian dishes. Beer at Oktoberfest is locally brewed and vegan. For more detailed info, check here.
Wheat Allergy and Gluten Intolerance at Oktoberfest
Those with wheat allergies will still be able to drink beer at Oktoberfest as most beers there, called, Helles, are wheat free. The real wheat beers are specifically called: Weiss bier, meaning "white beer". If you're gluten intolerant, you might be better off at the Weinzelt, or Wine Tent, which offers generous servings options of wine - which is naturally low carb and gluten free. For food, those with gluten intolerance and wheat allergies have a variety of red meats and poultry, potato salad, and vegetable options.
11) About the beer at Oktoberfest 2022
Germans take their beer very seriously and are the 5th largest market internationally, according to a Euromonitor report. Plus, many would argue that the beer found at Oktoberfest is some of the best in the world. Why? It's all about German quality. Germany's brewing purity laws date back 500 years and state that beer here can only have 3 ingredients - barley, hops, and water. There are six breweries that offer beer at Oktoberfest and each has its own tent, so you can look forward to trying a variety of quality German beers without additional flavors, dyes, etc.
However, remember that each beer is a liter (in US: roughly a Quart). Liter beers at 6% alcohol are a lot more at once than many of us are used to, so just pace yourself and you’ll last a lot longer! You don’t want to be the person who has to leave all the fun early because you got carried away too soon! If you would like to take it a bit easier, you can ask for a Radler, which has only half beer/half fruit soda or lemonade. In addition, they DO have non-alcoholic beer, which looks and tastes the same (seriously). So, remember that you can always discretely slow down if you need to.
Also, they DO have non-alcoholic beer, so if you are worried about drinking with everyone else but don’t want to get drunk, order non-alcoholic beer! It looks and tastes the same, and you can Prost (cheers or toast) along with everyone else consequence-free!
So if you order one, no one can tell the difference!
12) Drink water
Unfortunately, they won’t let you take water bottles into Oktoberfest so you have to buy it there and it’s more expensive obviously than it would be at a store. Make sure you budget accordingly because glasses of water in a tent can run you around 5-6 EUR. It might sound like a lot, but it can help you from getting too drunk and it will also prevent a bad hangover the following day.
Do you live in Munich? Do you like the Oktoberfest? Why or why not?
Hope those tips were helpful, do you have any to add?
ANDREA HUNT - Online Transformational Life Coach & EFT Tapping Practitioner based in Munich, Germany
I'm an accredited transformational life coach from Animas Centre for Coaching UK and a member of the International Coaching Federation. I'm also a Level 2 practitioner in EFT Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) and a member of AEFTP (Association of Emotional Freedom Technique Professionals).
If you're not sure where to start transforming your life, you can download my free ebook on How to Start Your Personal Growth Journey.
Are you ready to change your life, let go of old beliefs, empower yourself for a mindset shift to move forward? Mark Batterson says: You're always one decision away from a totally different life.
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