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Oktoberfest: 23 Essential Tips For First-Time Visitors (2023 Travel Guide)

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By Matt Morelli

Oktoberfest appears on many traveller’s bucket lists for good reason. The world’s largest beer festival, known locally as Wiesn, is soaked in folksy tradition and each year serves over 6 million litres of the world’s best beer to over 6 million thirsty visitors. Since starting over 200 years ago, Oktoberfest has grown to include over 14 big beer tents, over 20 smaller ones, plus an enormous funfair.

Theresienwiese, the open space in central Munich in which Oktoberfest is run is so vast, it can be quite intimidating at first. That’s why we’ve put together this complete guide to Oktoberfest for beginners. If you’ve never been to Oktoberfest and you’re thinking about it, or you’re all booked up and ready to go, this guide is for you.

All of the following essential tips are based on our own experiences. There are 23 tips in total. To make our advice easier to digest, we’ve broken our guide into two sections; things to consider before you go and things to be mindful of whilst you’re there.

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Plan & Book your trip

Getting there: Find great train fares with Trainline. Find and book bus tickets with BusBud. If you need to fly, find great prices and lower emission flights with Skyscanner.

Where to stay: For hotels and all other types of accommodation, use Booking.com and/or Hotels.com. For holiday homes, use Vrbo.

Things to do: To find things to do, we like using GetYourGuide, Viator and/or Klook.

Things to do in Munich

Discover great things to see and do in Munich with GetYourGuide.

Is Oktoberfest worth visiting?

Yes, absolutely!

If you’re on the fence about visiting Oktoberfest, ponder no more. Provided you follow the tips in this post and you fully immerse yourself, it’s almost impossible not to have a good time. We visited quite some time ago, and we’ve done so many incredible things since, but our visit to Oktoberfest is still a lifetime highlight.

Things to consider BEFORE your visit to Oktoberfest

There are a few things you should think about before you go. Making preparations in advance will ensure your day at Oktoberfest is a happy and memorable one.

Augustiner tent at Oktoberfest
It’s busy, it’s crowded, but Oktoberfest is so much fun!

1. You don’t have to wear traditional clothing to Oktoberfest, but you might want to

There’s no dress code for Oktoberfest, so wear whatever you like. Everyone will be having such a great time, they really won’t notice if you’re not wearing traditional clothing. That said, you might end up having a better time if you do decide to splash some cash on a fancy traditional outfit.

It’s totally your call. We decided to wear our normal clothes and we still had a fantastic time.

Certain garments that form part of traditional Bavarian clothing is usually made using leather, so is therefore not vegan.

2. Take plenty of cash to Oktoberfest, more than you think you’ll need

Think about how much you want to spend in total. Now, double it! At Oktoberfest, everything is pretty expensive. This might be the first and last time you go though, so set a big budget to guarantee you have the best and most memorable time possible. The last thing you want to do is give up your seat to go hunting for an ATM.

In case it wasn’t already obvious, do make sure you split your money between the members of your group. This will help you keep your cash secure and it’ll also mean everyone has cash on them in case they need it later.

Augustiner-Festhalle
Augustiner-Festhalle looking fabulous at night

3. Plan in advance which beer tent(s) you’re going to visit

There are comprehensive guides to each of the tents on the official website. Make sure you do your research in advance to find the tent that matches your style of partying.

We opted for the Augustiner-Festhalle tent as we read that it was the friendliest, had more traditional music and decoration and was a firm favourite with the locals.

We were not disappointed and were delighted with our decision.

Like most of the beers available at Oktoberfest, Augustiner is vegan. There are also a couple of clearly marked vegan options on the food menu.

4. Plan to visit Oktoberfest on more than one occasion

Oktoberfest isn’t just a beer festival. An enormous funfair is created each year and is almost a feature in itself. If you’re into funfairs, we recommend planning to visit Oktoberfest on more than one occasion.

It’s not a good idea to spend a day in the beer tents followed immediately afterwards by a nauseating trip on a rollercoaster. Instead, plan to visit the beer tents during the day mid-week and then plan to visit the funfair another time once you’ve sobered up.

Crowds at Oktoberfest
The full scale of an Oktoberfest tent

5. Avoid the crowds to improve your chances of a seat

Your best chance of getting a seat at a table in one of the beer tents is around late morning/early afternoon during the middle of the first week.

It’s a vague estimate, but we arrived at this time and managed to walk in and find a seat almost immediately. Unless you have a reservation, avoid weekends or evenings as you’ll be met with chaotic queues and closed doors guarded by head-shaking security staff.

6. See if your hotel has made reservations & go with them

If you don’t want to risk being turned away at the entrance to your chosen tent, get yourself booked into an excursion organised by your accommodation.

Many hotels, hostels and guesthouses in the region book tables for their guests, which usually includes travel arrangements too. Factor in the additional cost though and determine for yourself whether you think it’s worth it.

We were offered seats by our hotel, but we declined as we felt it was too expensive and we fancied our chances on our own (and we were right to do so).

7. Learn some basic German phrases

While Oktoberfest is about as German is anything gets, visitors are drawn from all corners of the planet.

Since there are so many foreigners, staff are normally able to understand and speak English. That said, we always encourage our readers to embrace the local culture of a place as much as possible by learning a few basic phrases.

Here are a couple of essentials:

English Deutsche
Cheers!Prost!
One/two beer(s) pleaseEin/zwei mass bitte
Can I see the menu please?Die Speisekarte bitte
Thank youVielen Dank
Keep the changeDas Rückgeld behalten
Drink up!G-suffa!
Another beer pleaseNoch ein Bier bitte
Is this seat free?Ist dieser Platz frei?

8. Learn the lyrics to ‘Ein Prosit’

Regardless of where you’ve chosen to drink, you will need to know the lyrics to ‘Ein Prosit.

This song will be played by the house band every 20 minutes or so and gives everyone the opportunity to drink to the health and good fortune to everyone sitting nearby.

Raise & clink your glasses, sing with gusto and try to ignore the fact you’ve already heard the same song 25 times already.

Here are the lyrics:

Ein Prosit (Deutsche)

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit,
Der Gemütlichkeit,
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit,
Der Gemütlichkeit.

Ein Prosit (English)

A toast, a toast,
To cheer and good times,
A toast, a toast,
To cheer and good times.

9. Take as few belongings with you as possible

If you’re intending on getting into the spirit of things, you’ll not want to have to worry about your belongings. Therefore, try to take as little with you as possible.

Definitely don’t take any bottles with you as these will be confiscated on the door by security.

10. Don’t buy Oktoberfest tokens – pay with cash

There’s some confusion online regarding the use of tokens at Oktoberfest. Don’t worry, you don’t need to buy tokens. You’ll be fine with cash. 

11. Check food menus for dietary requirements

Most (if not all) of the tents offer food, with the big tents in particular offering large menus of surprisingly high-quality dishes. Most of the tents have their own websites where you can view the menus in advance of your visit.

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem. Even big traditional tents like Augustiner-Festhalle (the big tent we visited) have clearly marked vegan options.

Matt Jade at Oktoberfest
Prost! Working our way through a second stein

12. Make no plans for the next day – you’ll need a full day to recover

Assuming you’ve fully embraced the spirit of Oktoberfest, try not to make any plans for the following day. Despite claims to the contrary that beers like Augustiner don’t give you a hangover, we can personally atest that you will definitely have a hangover the next day.

Totally worth it though!!!

Things to be mindful of DURING your visit to Oktoberfest

You’ve prepared yourself for the big day. Now it’s time to enjoy yourself. Here are our tips for making the most of your visit to Oktoberfest.

Jade at Oktoberfest
Jade doing some heavy lifting

1. Gemütlichkeit!

The most important thing to do whilst at Oktoberfest is to fully immerse yourself in it. Drink beer, get you know your neighbours, click glasses and just enjoy yourself.

The word ‘Gemütlichkeit’ describes a spirit of warmth, friendliness and good cheer. Bring this with you on your visit and you’ll be sure to have a great time.

Strudel at Oktoberfest
We were impressed by the quality of the food (not a vegan dish)

2. Try the food at Oktoberfest – it’s surprisingly good!

We we really surprised just how good the food was at Oktoberfest. It will of course vary, but generally the quality was very high. Everything we ate was tasty and beautifully presented. Jade and I shared everything so that we could try multiple dishes.

Check menus online in advance to ensure your dietary requirements are catered for. Many of the tents now offer vegan options.

Andrew at Oktoberfest
Andrew, our Oktoberfest friend, buys a rose for our server

3. Tip serving staff generously

If you want to be served promptly and with a smile, don’t be tight-fisted when it comes to tipping. An initially high tip will result in the server ensuring your thirst remains quenched. From then on, continue with smaller tips.

This might seem jarring for those originating from countries without a tipping culture, but it’s just the done thing.

4. Take your photos early on

Curiously, we found the quality of our photos deteriorated considerably over time, with each photo becoming gradually more unfocused and poorly framed. By the end of our time at Oktoberfest, after several beers each, we found our ability to take decent photos had vanished completely.

To avoid this, we recommend you take all your photos as early as possible as, after a couple of hours, you might not be capable of taking decent photos anymore.

Augustiner-Festhalle
So many smiling faces at Oktoberfest

5. Get talking to everyone around you

Many of our favourite Oktoberfest memories come from our interactions with those sitting alongside and opposite us. Active interaction is key. Don’t worry about the language barrier. Gesture, draw, point, Google Translate, do whatever you need to communicate.

Funny stories will undoubtedly unfold as you fumble your way through incomprehensible conversations.

Cheers at Oktoberfest
Gemütlichkeit in full effect

6. Whatever you do, fight the urge to stand on the tables

Standing on tables could see you getting kicked out by security. If you need to get a better view or you feel the need to draw more attention to yourself, stand on the benches. Bizarrely, this seemed to be tolerated and, in some instances, actively encouraged by the house band.

Augustiner at Oktoberfest
Keep them coming!

7. Be careful with the drinks. They’re very strong!

In case it wasn’t already blindingly obvious, Oktoberfest is a beer festival. If you’re not intending on drinking beer whilst you’re there, you may miss out on experiencing the everything Oktoberfest has to offer.

During our Oktoberfest experience, we were sat opposite a group of doctors from India who were having their very first alcoholic drink. What a fantastic time to try a beer for the first time.

If you’re easily susceptible to getting tipsy, be warned – the beers in Munich are strong! Pace yourself and accompany your drink with some food. Alternatively, you can order a bottle of lemonade and make a Radler (a.k.a. shandy) to share.

This might cause you to lose the respect of any Bavarians sitting nearby, but it’s a deliciously thirst-quenching and stability-preserving option nonetheless.

Big Wheel at Oktoberfest
One of the more gentler rides at Oktoberfest

8. Don’t drink and ride at Oktoberfest

I fear I might be stating the obvious, but in case you were considering it, don’t go on the funfair rides after you’ve spent all day in a beer tent. You will throw up!

Thankfully we were wise enough to heed this advice, so we’re not talking from experience.

Matt, Jade and the lads at Oktoberfest
Clearly, we’re big fans of Augustiner.

9. Drink Augustiner to avoid a hangover… maybe

Take it from the group of Bavarian farmers Jade and I spent most of our time with at Oktoberfest; Augustiner is the best beer in Munich and won’t give you a hangover. They were each on their eighth litre of beer and none of them were expecting to be hungover the next day.

Armed with this knowledge, Jade and I tried to catch up with them.

(The next day, Jade and I were desperately hungover).

10. If you find somewhere to sit, stay put

If you’re lucky enough to find a seat, stay there until you’ve had enough. In the event your tent is almost full, chances are the others are too, so why risk it? You can be served alcohol provided you’re seated, so why would you jeopardise your chances of getting another beer by standing up?

Oktoberfest at night
The night time revelry has a different feel to the daytime

11. Be careful getting back home from Oktoberfest

Luckily there is a U-Bahn station (Theresienwiese / U4 & U5) right on the edge of Theresienwiese where Oktoberfest is held, so you won’t have to stumble too far. Pre-plan your journey home, enlist the help of more sober friends and try to keep safe. You want the experience at Oktoberfest to be the most memorable part of the day, not your journey back.

If you think it might be helpful, write yourself instructions on your phone or on a bit of paper before your visit.

Is Oktoberfest vegan-friendly?

Yes, mostly.

German beer is some of the purest beer in the world and is therefore usually vegan. Our favourite, Augustiner, is most certainly vegan. It’s always worth checking though and the best source of info on this is Barnivore.

In terms of food, there are increasingly vegan options available, both from food vans outside and around the fairground and inside the tents. Many of the big tents have their own websites where you can view their food menus in advance.

There are a few things not-so-vegan things to be mindful of;

  • It’s very likely you’ll be sat around people consuming meat
  • You may see horses being used to haul cart-loads of beer barrels
  • There’ll be a lot of leather being worn.

We hope our guide helps you to have a fantastic time at Oktoberfest. Ultimately, the experience you have is dependent on how much you’re willing to embrace it. Go with an open mind, a strong thirst for the best beer you’ll ever drink and the curiosity to start conversations with everyone, and you’re sure to have the time of your life.

Prost!

Plan & Book your trip

Train tickets: Find great train fares with Trainline.

Bus tickets: Find and book bus tickets with BusBud.

Flights: If you need to fly, find great prices and lower emission flights with Skyscanner.

Hotels: For hotels and all other types of accommodation, use Booking.com and/or Hotels.com.

Rentals & holiday homes: For holiday homes, use Vrbo.

Insurance: Don’t forget to insure against the unexpected. We’ll have a recommendation for an insurance provider here soon.

eSims: You’ll need a data plan on your mobile. Using a local sim is usually cheaper than using your existing sim. If your phone supports eSims, they’re a great hassle-free option. Check out Airalo to search for deals.

Things to do: To find things to do, we like using GetYourGuide, Viator and/or Klook.

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About the author

Matt Morelli

I've travelled to 38 countries across 4 continents, both independently and with my wife. I've been writing travel guides and making videos since 2007, all based on my real-life experiences. Here To Travel is a place for travel advice and inspiration that encourages us all to make mindful decisions. If you want to have life changing adventures that have minimal impact on the places and people you visit, Here To Travel is for you.

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