An adventure traveler’s guide to Oktoberfest in Munich

Congratulations, you made it to Oktoberfest in Munich! The beer is flowing, the tents are filling and there are more grown men in knee-high stockings than should ever be allowed in one place. So what now?

Every year Oktoberfest attracts close to six million people from all around the world to its three-week drinking celebration, making for hefty lines and overwhelming crowds.

Even still, the Oktoberfest experience is one that every bucket-lister needs to check at least once.

Cheers to the biggest beer fest on Earth. Photo courtesy of aluisa/twenty20.
Cheers to the biggest beer fest on Earth. Photo: Courtesy of luisa2506/twenty20

But the festival is more than just lederhosen and milkmaids with beer steins.

In order to get the most out of your Oktoberfest experience, here are a few realities of the world’s largest drinking party, as well as a few insider tips to get the good times flowing.

Take a look, tighten that girdle and stay hydrated, my friends.

Getting in the tent isn’t guaranteed

Get there early, or get shut out. Photo courtesy of Derek Story/Flickr.
Get there early, or get shut out. Photo courtesy of Derek Story/Flickr
With doors opening at 10 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on weekends, getting into one of the beer tents is not guaranteed, especially if you’re not a morning person (or rather, morning drinker).

You can reserve a table, but that needs to happen over six months in advance, so standing in line usually becomes the best bet.

For the daring, it’s possible (but not likely) to snag an extra ticket at reservations entrance. For the rest of us, there’s actually an app that tells festival goers which tents have availability throughout the day.

Cash is the one and only king

Bravo! You’ve scrambled to find three seats for you and your buddies and now the drinking begins! Don’t get up (you’ll lose your seat), the beers will come to you via a collection of well-balanced waitresses.

Don’t even think about flashing the plastic, these cups of liquid nourishment are cash only and will keep flowing until the cash disappears or you tap out.

Waitresses expect a tip on each pass, so get ready to drop close to 15 Euros each beer.

The beer is no joke

Careful, these suds pack a punch. Photo courtesy of reinasierra/Twenty20.
Careful, these suds pack a punch. Photo: Courtesy of reinasierra/Twenty20
While light and refreshing beer might be the ticket to a long day of drinking, Oktoberfest sticks with tradition, brewing a a specialty Bavarian beer known as Oktoberfestbeir (guess what that means?) especially for the festival.

It weighs in at about 5.7 to 6.1-percent alcohol content, meaning that a liter can knock you on your butt, pretty quickly.

Plan accordingly, and make sure to leave some room for food and water.

Find the Käfer tent early

While most of Oktoberfest closes down around 10:30 p.m. Käfer’s Wies’n-Schänke tent stays open until 12:30 a.m.

If you somehow have the stamina to continue, hit the Kafer tent early and get your spot before the herds migrate to the late night watering hole.

Get the bow right on your Dirndl

Photo courtesy of rodrigodaibert/Twenty20.
Photo: Courtesy of rodrigodaibert/Twenty20
This one is for the ladies. After squeezing into the traditional alpine dress known as a dirndl, make sure you are sending all of the right signals when you tie the bow around your waist.

Tie it on the left side if you are single, the right if you are married. Tie it front and center? Well, that means you are a virgin.

Get your feet off the table

Seriously. If you need to stretch your legs and get a foot up on the table, you are sending one powerful sign to the entire beer hall: That you are going to chug your beer in front of a few thousand strangers.

That’s right, the foot up on the table is the signal for chugging. If you’re up for it, the crowd will cheer you toward the finish, but if you bail, expect a heavy dose of boos.

Don’t steal a mug

Just don’t do it. Many have tried, few have succeeded. It turns out drunk heists are rarely the best heists and in the case of Oktoberfest, many of these would-be thieves are arrested and fined as they make their exits.

Oktoberfest is actually in September

Don’t let the name mislead you, the festival typically runs from mid-September to early October (the 2016 festival runs from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3), so book your airfare accordingly.

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