“In Bavaria, beer’s not alcohol. It’s food!” proclaimed the German host I couch-surfed with in Munich for the beer-fueled festival known as Oktoberfest. No truer Bavarian words have ever been spoken.
- 1 A Girl’s Guide to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany is a globally-sought Volksfest spanning 2 and a half weeks of carnival funfair, beer chugging, and festive dress. People from all over the world come to reach a hand on a stein at the party, known locally as the Wiesn. And why do people the globe over venture to this festival-scape? That’s right—BEER. In fact, no less than 7 million liters of beer flow freely down the gullets of Oktoberfest-goers. Although cities across the world have tried to imitate Munich’s Oktoberfest, the 1810-established event will always be the O.G. in Bavarian beer fests.
Bavaria, Germany: Where Beer is King
A major constituent of German culture, beer is a symbol of pride for many Germans. In the German state of Bavaria, this beer identity is even more prominent, particularly in the Bavarian pride in Reinheitsgebot—the 1487 Bavarian beer purity law stipulating that the integrity of Bavarian beer be eternally preserved by limiting its production to 3 ingredients (eventually 4, after the discovery of yeast): water, barley, and hops. It’s true, Bavarians, and Germans at large, certainly love their beer.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
A younger and brighter-eyed Lauren living in the Czech Republic in the Fall of 2012 decided to join in on the festive beer spirit herself. Accompanied by a South Korean friend of mine, I boarded a night bus from the Prague bus-station and made our way to the capital of the Bavarian state of Germany with a backpack, a blanket, and a children’s-sized tent. The rest is a beer-engineered dream.
After one of the most uncomfortable bus-rides of my life, we arrived at the Munich station at some midnight hour, with nowhere to stay for the night. We had booked spots at a local hostel campground (details below) for the next night, but figured we would wing it the first night and just hang out at the bus stop until check-in time the next morning (because 21 year-olds such as I once was have bodies built of steel and minds for novelty).
Towing our blanket and miniature tent, we stumbled upon a small bar/lounge attached to the bus station, and made ourselves cozy on an available couch, snuggling together beneath our single blanket. We weren’t alone for very long.
All at once (presumably after the close of most or all of the beer tents), a stream of hearty Oktoberfest-goers festively decked out in dirndl (for the ladies) and lederhosen (for the gentlemen) crossed the bridge by the bus station, many of whom perkily made their way for the bar we were perched at for a nightcap. Before long, we had made friends with Austrians, Australians, Italians, Brits—you name it—all showering us with free beers and grandly showing off their gingerbread cookie heart necklaces.
My favorite new friends were the Austrians. The rosiest of cheeks, naturally brought out by the brisk autumn midnight air, accessorized their crisp lederhosen and boots, as well as some perfectly von Trapp accents.
“They’re so beautiful. Like porcelain dolls!” commented my South Korean companion in a giggly whisper. Doll-like our Austrians certainly were, and we shared stories and taught each other bad words in our respective languages for the greater portion of the night. (Or rather, they taught me bad German words and phrases, and I taught them “blanket,” as they continually asked to share ours while shivering in their little boots).
This was my first introduction to Oktoberfest, and we hadn’t even entered the festival grounds yet. The rest of my Oktoberfest weekend was similarly themed, characterized by a shameless and constant flow of beer and the friendly and boisterous meeting of new people from across the globe.
And how did I survive it? Read on for my tips as a traveling lady traversing the wild festival of Oktoberfest, and how you can make it through yourself!
After all, what better place for a girl that just wants to have fun?!
A Girl’s Guide to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
Because of its global draw, Oktoberfest is very much a festival you’ll need to plan ahead for. A typical day can see somewhere around 600,000 beer-drinkers, with a mere 120,000 seats to offer. You do the math.
Tables are reserved as far as a year in advance, and if you don’t reserve a table, you’re definitely going to want to arrive to the tents as early as possible to grab up one of the first-come public tables. What does this mean? You need to go EARLY. Weekdays can be less urgent, as long as you’re there around noon or so. But the weekends will definitely require you go as early as you can muster. 10 am? Earlier. 9 am? Perhaps earlier still.
Given the spontaneity of my Oktoberfest trip, we definitely didn’t reserve a table. However, we were allowed to sit inside at the tables for a certain time period, and getting a seat at an outdoor table was very easy before noon. Tables are the hardest to find at night, so you’ll want to keep that in mind as your day continues. But as a lovely lady, just give your dirndl a flirty twirl or two and you should be on your way (as long as you don’t mind sitting with strangers)! If you don’t want to mingle with unknowns, keep in mind that a table reservation can cost you a good 300 euros (which should include food), and seat about 10 people or so.
Table reservations are made through each individual beer tent, and here’s a good list of each Oktoberfest beer tent’s contact information.
But which beer tent reigns supreme, you ask? Check out this list of the best Oktoberfest tents!
Couchsurfing can seem intimidating, especially for female travelers. Spending the night in the house/apartment/room of a total stranger? Not exactly at the top of many women’s lists.
Still, I would recommend it.
As with every aspect of travel (or life?) you should approach Couchsurfing with your wits about you. Research the hosts you apply to stay with, and select the host who is most appropriate for you in terms of personality, location, etc. Check their references, and maybe even look them up on social media. Gather all the appropriate intel before you show up at their door.
While you’re staying with your Couchsurfing host, be polite and friendly (consider bringing a gift!), but approach everything with common sense and follow your intuition!
Because our Oktoberfest trip was so last minute, we chose Couchsurfing because it was one of the only options available to us as most hostels were already full, but we also wanted to save money. The fantastic thing about Couchsurfing for Oktoberfest in particular, is you get to have your own built-in local Oktoberfest guide. Someone in Munich willing to host travelers during the festive Oktoberfest time is likely going to want to show their guest a good time and share the insider tips with their visitors, including the best times to go, the best tents to visit! One of my favorite parts of visiting Munich for Oktoberfest was hanging out with my host and his friends—in fact, I still keep in contact with him to this day! Because Oktoberfest is so saturated with tourists, Couchsurfing is one of the few opportunities during this time to actually meet locals. And, yes, as a plus, you can save money!
If Couchsurfing still isn’t an appealing option, we did spend one night at The Tent hostel. As backpacker-friendly bohemian camping hostel grounds, The Tent appeals mostly to younger travelers. There are three options for accommodation.
- First, for 8 euros a person, you can reserve a spot in the camp grounds, which is cheaper but requires you bring your own tent, and blankets (although blankets are available for rent at a fee).
- Second, for 25 euros a person, you can rent a bed in a giant communal tent (includes blankets).
- Third, for 15 euros a person, you can rent floor space in the giant communal tent (includes blankets and a floor mat).
Prices are for the Oktoberfest season as of 2016.
We reserved a camping spot. BUT LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKE. DO NOT RESERVE A CAMPING SPOT. I WILL REPEAT. DO NOT RESERVE A CAMPING SPOT.
Unless you have all the proper gear, you will be miserable. We had our little children’s tent and one twin-size comforter between us, and we were FREEZING. Autumn in Munich gets quite cold at night, and one blanket was not enough. Our little tent allowed very room to move, but the worst part was the feeling of the cold wet grass underneath the full span of our bodies the entire night. We hardly slept a wink. And in the morning, we threw that tent full-heartedly into the trash whispering promises of never-evers.
Don’t make our mistakes. I would HIGHLY recommend you reserve a bed in the communal tent, if you choose to stay at The Tent. Otherwise, you should definitely try to bring more camping gear! Either way, make sure to bring a lock so you can utilize the lockers during the day while you visit the festival grounds.
Don’t be that basic b*tch puking in the bushes at 11 in the morning.
While you should definitely go as early as you can to secure a spot, do remember that you most likely will be going all day! I made a rookie mistake myself, chugging a liter of beer I had brought from Prague on the bus on the way to the festival grounds in an attempt to (a) lighten my pack load, and (b) save the 10 euros on the first beer. This self-supplied beer was soon followed by a second beer purchased at a beer tent, which I also downed rather quickly. Consequences? A stomachache and about 10 peepee visits for the next hour.
Don’t be foolish like I was. Eat breakfast, eat meals throughout the day, hydrate plenty with water, and don’t chug every liter of beer you consume! You don’t want to pooped out by early afternoon, do you?!
Don’t Expect Things to be Cheap
Oktoberfest is in no way a budget event. So naturally, Frugal Francine isn’t invited to the party.
Decent costumes will cost a pretty penny (but probably worth it). A beer (though it is a hefty liter size) will put you back 10 euros each, and the food in the tents will be pricey as well. Instead, we picked up some of the vendor snacks available as we walked around outside of the tents. Everything from the obvious (giant) pretzels and sausages, to some scrumptious nutella crepes (amirite, ladies?!) and (not-so-scrumptious) fish-skin sandwiches can be picked up as you wander around the festival grounds, and for much cheaper than the food offered in the tents. We picked up some chocolate dipped bananas and caramel apples ourselves!
So what’s a good game plan? Eat breakfast before you approach a tent in the moring, then get your seat nice and early and enjoy some beer before you’re kicked out to make room for the reservations. Now you can enjoy some food and a few carnival rides as you walk around and find your next tent! Keep in mind, the carnival rides are NOT cheap. A modest-priced ride will set you back 6 euros, so keep that in mind before you tally up 10 rides in your to-do list!
Up your Instagram Oktoberfest selfie game with some perfectly festive Bavarian dirndls. An “acceptable” dirndl costume (in the words of my Couchsurfing host) can ring up at around 100 euros, while a quality dirndl will start at 250-300 euros and beyond. Either way, you should definitely scope the internet well in advance to find the best costume for the best price. Close to the festival grounds, the shops will be picked out and over-priced. While you can get cheaper costumes, this obviously will come with a sacrifice in quality, which may or may not be okay for your purposes!
As a last-minute girl to the Okotberfest planning party, I had not the time nor foresight to get a dirndl ready myself, but if/when I return to the drunk-happy fair, I will definitely get in the costume spirit! Costumeless as I may have been, I did, however, get gifted a cute little hat!
And what’s more? A dirndl will come in handy while batting those flirty eyelashes for the gent in the lederhosen to buy you a liter or beer or two (although you don’t really need a dirndl, for that, do ya?). Look at that, the dirndl is paying for itself already!
Check out Nearby Attractions
Depending on the length of time you’ll be spending roaming Oktoberfest, you may want a break from the boozin’ carnival atmosphere. Personally, we welcomed a break in between our days of droppin’ dough on giant steins of Bavarian beer.
Check out this thorough guide to taking a day trip to Neuschwanstein!
If you’d rather stay in Munich, be sure to check out this list of 99 Awesome Things to Do in Munich. Taking a scenic walk down Leopoldstraße or scoping out the majestic view of Munich’s Old Town by climbing St. Peter’s bell tower are some of our favorite suggestions!
Find this guide helpful? You should also check out What You Should Know Before Attending Oktoberfest!
So there you have it, ladies. As with anything—be smart and do your preparation first, and then you can have fun freely and liberally. Preparing your stay, costume, and beer tent seating ahead of time will free you up during the festival for as much drunken gallivanting a girl can wish for! You’ll want to research which tents are most appropriate for your personality, so you won’t be overwhelmed on scene. The fantastic thing about Oktoberfest is that even if you’re traveling alone or in a small group, it truly is the perfect place to meet others. With the free-flowing social lubricant of beer splashing across the scene, it’s extremely easy to make quick friends with people from all over the world! And if you meet anyone you don’t want to socialize with anymore—guess what, it’s a giant festival so you can easily walk away and never see them again!
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