How can you participate in the world's biggest party? It's actually pretty easy, it just takes some planning. Is it worth going to Munich when your hometown probably does Oktoberfest celebrations during the entire month of October? Is it really that much better? YES, yes it is. Trust me, I was once you, and now I've gone and would love to go again. Picture a huge state fair, then add drinking, and tons of people from all over the world- and you have Oktoberfest. Here is how I made it happen.
The key really is PLANNING AHEAD. Way ahead. Like a year in advance. Even though the entire festival goes on for 2 weeks (ending the first weekend in October, so the name is a little deceiving since it actually goes on in September)- start booking a place to stay asap. Don't worry about airplane tickets until a few months in advance, the most important thing is booking a place to stay first.
Lodging and Transportation: You'll be flying, or driving, into Munich (obviously) for Oktoberfest. All the hotels in Munich will be super pricey during these 2 weeks, so the further you book out the better. In fact, the festival doesn't actually take place in downtown Munich, but at the fairgrounds close by, so either way you most likely will be taking a train to the festival. There is a local train which will drop you off pretty close to the entrance, and it only costs a few euro to ride. The place we stayed in was located in Pasing, about a 15min train ride from the fairgrounds. We had no problem getting to and from Oktoberfest. We rented a couple Airbnb apartments which were located on top of a local mall- and next to the train station. It worked out perfectly. We took the train everywhere, from the airport - to our place - to the fairgrounds - and back again. In other words, no need for a car on this trip, if you had one ditch the rental before you settle in.
Oktoberfest, Things to Know:
Do you need a reservation? No. We actually did get one, but you don't have to. If you want to be safe and have a table, inside a beer tent, reserved for you and your party, you can make a reservation by contacting a beer tent directly, or by going through a site that does this- and you'll pay for your table in advance and if you want a meal, beers, etc included. For our reservation, we contacted a tent (firstname.lastname@example.org), requested the reservation and meal plan, and they eventually sent us a confirmation.
Possible Plans/Itineraries: There was 8 of us on this trip, and the plan was: Saturday Day 1- rest, sleep off jetlag, explore Pasing. Sunday Day 2- maybe check out the festival Monday Day 3- reservations in a beer tent at the festival Tuesday Day 4- train to Lake Garda, Italy where we spent the rest of the week. We followed this plan somewhat, except Day 2 went from "maybe check out the festival" to "spending the entire day at the festival", which was amazing. However, we kind of went so hard that day that Day 3 was a bit of a struggle, at least for the ladies. So on our big Day 2- we were able to roll up on Oktoberfest and grab a table right outside a beer tent for all 8 of us. As long as you are drinking, the tables outside the tents are open for all- no reservation needed! Now, if the weather had been rough, it would have been in a different story, so maybe the safe choice is getting a table reservation in advance for comfort's sake- but we lucked out in that department. We spent the entire day drinking at outdoor beer tent tables (we checked out several), and riding the crazy rides. Day 3- we headed to the beer tent for our reservation at noon. We got our beers and chickens, checked out the indoor beer tent scene (aka- everyone hammered by noon, lots of singing, dancing and falling off tables, pretty amazing), repeat Day 2. Day 4- we took the train to Lake Garda, Italy for a change of scenery and relaxing (something we did not get to do at all in Munich). I highly recommend doing this- there are so many beautiful places just a few hours on a train away, and you honestly only need 2 days at Oktoberfest to have a blast and do it to death. Next time, I'd love to check out Austria. By the way, you won't actually see any of Munich proper if you are just going to Oktoberfest and aren't staying in a hotel/Airbnb there. I'd suggest planning another time to see it. During the 2 weeks of Oktoberfest, you will just be paying way too much and wading through crowds of people.
Drinking and Eating: If you aren't a beer fan (like myself) I actually found a wine tent, and at the stands that sell pretzels, desserts and other baked goods- they also sell prosecco by the glass. A little something for everyone! Also, at tables you can order half chickens with fries, sausages, all the typical german food. In other words, don't make any dinner reservations at any restaurants- there is no need to leave the festival for food.
Going with a Group: It's hard with a group sometimes. Everyone is going to want to do different things, you are in a foreign country where you can't use cell phones or text or internet, so it's easy to get separated. Plus, if you are staying in an Airbnb like we did, you aren't going to have keys for everyone if someone wants to go back to the place early. I say all this, because one of our friends got lost at Oktoberfest, and it really freaked us all out. She went to the bathroom, got turned around, and couldn't find her way back to the table to get us. This really could happen to anyone- think about the jetlag, the all day drinking, the unfamiliar territory, all the tents that kind of look the same, and add to all that, not many of the police or security there speak English- so they couldn't really understand when she was asking them for help. It all ended up ok- but if I could give advice to other groups going- it would be to pick a time and specific place to meet up if separated for an hour or more. Suggestion- in front of the train station, or somewhere out of the festival (again, everything in the festival looks the same).
What to Where: You have to wear a dirndl dress (ladies) or lederhosen (guys)- everyone does. You don't have to- but you will kick yourself if you don't. Just embrace it- you are going to look good, and those pics are going to look good, I guarantee it! Do keep in mind, you are in Germany in late September, so it does get chilly. Tights under that dirndl dress and a light cardigan are a good idea.
-Get some euros, cash is king here.
-This trip won't be cheap- you'll be spending money all day at the festival-just plan for it.
-Don't ball out on an expensive Airbnb place, you will only be in it for sleeping and showering.
-Make sure you buy a train ticket every time. You won't be checked every time for one, but if you are caught without one you'll get hit with a hefty fine that will make you wish you had just bought the ticket!