A Backpacker’s Guide to Oktoberfest

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Beers at Oktoberfest

When I first heard of Oktoberfest in Munich, I wondered what all the fuss was about. “Yes OK, so you drink beer at tables, but what’s the big deal?!” Well, now I can honestly say that Oktoberfest is the best thing I have been to in my travelling life to date. It’s difficult to explain what makes it so incredible…but let me try.

Imagine a tent with 10,000 people in it. Imagine those people dressed up in lederhosen and dirndls sitting at tables chatting to people from all over the world. Imagine those people chugging litres of beer. Imagine them drunk in the evening singing Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” waving their arms in the air.

Outside the tents it’s like one big theme park with ferris wheels and rides, plus tons of stalls selling pretzels, heart-shaped cookies, bratwurst, dumplings, roasted chicken and fish. On the grass it’s quite normal to see people passed out in the recovery position after a morning of heavy drinking!

Inside the tents the noise from those thousands of people is mind blowing. The atmosphere is electric and before long you’ve made a bunch of new friends of all nationalities. The entire city of Munich comes alive with the spirit of Oktoberfest, and Germans walk around the city in their costumes as if it were nothing out of the ordinary.

Hacker Tent Oktoberfest Munich

How to Get there

Around Oktoberfest time it can be expensive to fly into Munich, particularly from places like London. Perhaps think of flying from a less popular airport, or alternatively flying into a nearby city like Salzburg and then getting the train/bus over.

For train travel to Munich from other destinations around Europe, check out bahn.com

I was coming from Copenhagen and the flights from Copenhagen to Munich were very expensive, so instead I flew to Berlin and caught the bus to Munich. The bus from Berlin to Munich took 9 hours and cost  €42. You can book buses online through Berlin Linien Bus.

Alternatively if you book with a tour company like pp travel or Fanatics, you can get good deals on bus tours from London- this is particularly great if you’re travelling on your own and want to meet new people.

Where to Stay at Oktoberfest

Accommodation during Oktoberfest is incredibly expensive and gets booked up quickly, so its wise to book your accommodation months in advance. The cheapest hostels in Munich are around €50 per night but if you are on a very tight budget, then camping is your best bet. Popular ones seem to be Camping Thalkirchen or The Tent. Again, there are tour companies that offer 3-day camping packages and there is the possibility to book extra nights. If you book far enough in advance you can book city centre hostels like Wombats, Jaeger’s or Easy Palace on Hostelworld or Hostelbookers, but if they are sold out, not to worry. Sometimes you can still book hostel packages through pp travel, Top Deck or Fanatics.

If there is a big group of you then it’s also worth contemplating booking an apartment for a few days and splitting the cost. This year I was lucky and my friends had organised an apartment for the 6 of us.

Getting in the Tents

The most stressful thing about Oktoberfest is getting a table. If you know you’re going to be going next year, think about booking a table before hand. You have to book through the individual tent- you can’t book on the Oktoberfest website. Tents start taking reservations as early as November for the following year, but I would say generally people start booking from January. Reservations usually have to be made for a minimum of 10 people at a table, but you can always grab people on the day to make up the numbers! It’s nice to have a reservation because then you don’t have to worry about getting up at the crack of dawn every day!

If you don’t have a reservation then you can still get in on the day, but you’ll have to get there early. On weekdays the tents are quieter and it’s a lot easier to get a table, but on weekends it becomes extremely difficult. Have an idea of what tent you want to go to before hand, then get in the queue and stick with it. I recommend showing up around 8am on weekdays and 7am on weekends.

When they open the doors there is usually a mad stampede to get to the tables. The ones with reservations have pieces of paper on them, so look for tables without a piece of paper. If you get a table, congratulations, you’ll soon have a litre of beer plonked in front of you!

If you don’t get a table inside the tent of your choice DON’T feel defeated.

The enthusiasts at Beer Snobs recommend that you try the outdoor beer gardens instead, or go to one of the bigger tents and see if there are any tables that are only reserved for half the day.

If they close the tents completely because they are at full capacity, you CAN get in, but you may have to wait a long time in queue full of people pushing and shoving. As people leave, the security guards let a few people in. I’ve heard people say you have to have a table to get a beer, but on the closing weekend we were able to get beers standing up. Keep your beady eyes on the tables, because some people get too drunk and vacate their table…then it’s your turn to pounce!

My favourite Tents at Oktoberfest were Hacker Festzelt and the HB tent. For the opening ceremony, the place to be is Schottenhamel.

Inside the Hoffbrau Tent at Oktoberfest in Munich

What should I wear at Oktoberfest?

Get into the spirit of things and wear the costume, you’ll feel silly if you’re not wearing one. You can buy cheap Oktoberfest costumes from around £25 on the internet and take it with you, but it’s nice to get the proper Lederhosen for men and dirndl for women. Although they’re quite expensive, you can get second hand ones in Munich.

How Much Will I spend at Oktoberfest?

I spent on average €100 per day at Oktoberfest. I’m a female and I drank approximately 5-6 steins per day which is €50-€60 since each beer is roughly €10 euros. The rest I spent on food-particularly chicken and pretzels! It depends whether you’re into your beer or not as to how much you’ll spend. Since they don’t check your bags, it’s easy for people to take in a water bottle filled with vodka or some other spirit. And if you don’t eat so much, you won’t spend so much, but the delicious German food is half the fun!

5 thoughts on “A Backpacker’s Guide to Oktoberfest”

  1. Brings back great memories! I’m sure it’s very different now but we did Oktoberfest back in 1999. Agree about the accommodation nightmare – we ended up camping in Obermenzing which was a bit of a trek and proved a challenge to get back to after a day’s drinking. The German tent was far better than the English tent. Stand out memories for me (well from what I can remember 🙂 ) would be. The size of the pretzels, the number of steins the barmaids could carry and the fact they carried a pouch of sawdust to clean up spillages of all types! German men really do stitch beer mats into their denim jackets!! 🙂

  2. I agree – I wasn’t even into beer that much but Oktoberfest was one of the highlights of my travels. I lost my friends on day 2 and made new ones! Everyone was in a good mood, and the hangovers were gentle as the beer is particularly good. I did have my bag stolen but I only realised when a police officer came over to me to return it! There is an efficient police presence but they only appeared when needed, and were always looking out for the best interests of those having a good time. Was very impressed how it was all run. And OH those pretzels! They were bigger than my head!

  3. Drinking five or six litres of Oktoberfest beer a day is good going. I used to live within walking distance of the Wies’n, where the Oktoberfest is held, and can vouch for how much fun the event can be!

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