This summer, a friend of mine gave me the opportunity to join them in Munich and attend Oktoberfest. I didn’t flinch once before I booked my flight to Germany for a week, thinking that I would just be attending a larger and more international version of the German festival in my American hometown. I envisioned the movie Beerfest in my head, imagining that we would walk into some room, order some beers, and have the craziest time of our lives. This was all wrong. With much luck, I still had the time of my life, but many attend Oktoberfest without being able to obtain a single beer.
Make a reservation
The only way to get a table at Oktoberfest, which is the only way to get served, is to be sitting at a table. If you know you are going to go, and you have a group to go with, make a reservation. They are free, but require the purchase of food and drink vouchers and also have a minimum of ten people. If you’re traveling abroad solely for this event, a reservation is worth it. Without one, you may not even be able to enter a tent. The one major catch: People start making reservations a year in advance. If you know well in advance that you are going to Oktoberfest, don’t wait to book your reservations, as well as your hotels.
If you don’t have a reservation, still plan ahead
If you want to get into a tent, go early. As in 8 a.m., earlier than you need to be at work early. Oktoberfest starts at 9:30 everyday, but don’t think that the tents don’t fill up quickly even in the mornings. On Saturday, I made the mistake of going at 10:30, thinking I’d be able to walk in. Instead, I stood in the pouring rain for an hour before I was permitted into a tent, and even then, I got very lucky. If you can’t get into a tent in the morning, a good idea is to try the hours of a reservation change, when more people will be permitted into the tent as others leave. One is at 12, and another is at 4, however arriving this late is very risky. Try to attend during the week, when there is less of a crowd, and show up to Oktoberfest as early as possible.
Another key part of planning ahead at Oktoberfest is deciding which tent you are going to. Each tent has a different personality and caters to a different experience. There’s a tent for Australians and Italians, and even a wine tent where celebrities are spotted. Decide what type of Oktoberfest experience you want and plan your tent accordingly.
Find a seat
You cannot be served a beer without sitting at a table. However, even if you don’t have a reservation, once you’re in the tent this is fairly easy. Many tables have extra seats since reservations require a minimum of ten people, so many book for ten people even though they have less, or someone will not show up. Simply ask someone if you can join or if you can stand with their table; most will be nice enough to say yes.
Dress the part
You are more likely to get into a tent, make friends, and even get some beers bought for you (ladies), if you dress the part. Oktoberfest is crazy, but it’s not a frat party blasting Avicii. They sing the traditional songs and wear the traditional dress. Girls wear a dirndl, while boys wear lederhosen. It may seem a little odd to dress up at first, but think of it as a part of experiencing the local culture and having the full experience.
Just decide you’re going to have fun
I think the number one thing that made my Oktoberfest experience as great as it was, was that I decided no matter what, I would have a good time. My friend and I stood in the rain for an hour and instead of complaining, decided it would turn out okay. Eventually we got in, got to sit with a great group of people, and were served a really nice four course meal. However, the girls behind us who were banging on the door and complaining for the whole hour were never permitted into the tent.
Plan ahead, but also be determined to enjoy yourself regardless of what situation arises. You’ll get to meet some really great people, exchange great stories, and experience a beer festival like no other.