It requires re-mentioning that the crowds at the Oktoberfest grounds are huge. Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest days of course as a lot of locals visit then. Treat your visit here as you would any other large carnival or concert.
In summary, if you don't want bier spilled on it or the possibility of losing it, leave it at the hotel.
Ladies, it is an unfortunate thing that men sometimes get a little inebriated and act out of line. There is also a European culture that looks differently upon certain transgressions. Especially so if both parties have been imbibing. So what am I getting at? Well, if you are in certain crowded bier tents later in the day, you will most likely be groped, grabbed or smacked in the butt at some point or other. I don't say this to scare anyone; it's just a fact. The vast majority of these incidents are good natured and are not meant as harassment. In fact, many German woman I have seen seem to enjoy bending over and receiving a good whack on the bottom.
How to avoid this:
Also, with around 400,000 people at the fest grounds throughout a day, there have been sexual assaults and rapes in the past. The city of Munich has taken these cases seriously as of late and there is even a crisis center on the grounds. Near the Bavaria statue behind the Schottenhammel and Schützten festhallen. Please see the following link for more tips about women's safety: http://www.sicherewiesn.de
No. However, if you are in a group of 6-10 people that must sit together for dinner, then reservations are a good idea. For lunch seating during the week, get your group there by 10-11 and you should be fine.
No, admission is free.
One statement..."Do not fuck with Oktoberfest Security Personnel."
These guys mean business. Mark my word, if you step out of line, you can be sure that the swiftness with which these guys come down on you will be amazing. They hire big, strong, bouncer types that don't want to hear anything you have to say. If you get into a fight, are out of line or are extremely inebriated, they will escort you directly from the tent and into the main Strasse. Bloody nose is optional. For these reasons, if you feel a situation escalating with another patron, the best thing to do is turn and leave quickly. It makes no sense to fight here. After all, there are many other tents in which you can drink and have fun!
Getting a table can be the most difficult thing at the Fest. Corporations and other influential people tend to snap up a good portion of the tent reservations months, if not years, in advance. And if you are able to do a reservation, you will need 6-10 people, depending on the tent. That also means you pre-pay for (6-10) X 2 Liters of Bier and 6-10 meals. Each tent has their own rules around reservations but one thing is pretty common; they don't make it easy to reserve tables if you are an "Auslander" or foreigner. I don't know of any tents that accept credit cards for purchasing reservations nor do I know any that will mail your vouchers, etc overseas. Most tents accept faxed requests and require personal pickup and payment of vouchers in Munich only!
The most reliable ways to book ahead is to either have a contact in Munich that can do the legwork for you and your group or look for pre-paid excursions to the Fest that include a table reservation. Of course the latter can be more expensive.
Clearly, a reservation is not the way to go for most people. All is not lost, there are good strategies for getting a seat.
Yes, there are rules. Here they are:
With the exception of the central area of the Hofbräu tent, you must be seated to buy a bier at a Bier Tent; standing on your bench counts. If you have just arrived in a tent and need a bier while looking for a table, you can ask nicely anyone at a table if you can "just sit to order a bier." Most people are good natured and will allow this. Do this only if a Kellnerin (Bierfrau) is close by with Liters in her hands and leave immediately after getting your bier.
It can be a very difficult time for your server to make it to/from either the kitchen or the Zapfer (bier pourer) because of the crowds. Each table is the responsibility of only one server, usually a women wearing a Dirndl and a nametag. Please be kind to her and tip her at least one Euro per bier. In Germany, one usually states the amount one intends to tip. In other words, do not get back all of your change and then hand money back to the server (for some reason, this is considered rude in Germany). Instead, the server will tell you how much your bier is, like "€14.00" and you hand them the money and state the price including tip, "€16.00" for example. If you do tip outside of the Oktoberfest, it is usually only up to the next Euro as waiters and waitresses in Germany make good money because service is included in all bills.
Be kind...."What does that mean?" It means, if you have a few places open at your table, pls be kind enough to offer them to someone who is looking for one. Many people want to keep their table 'open' and tell passers by that "The seat is taken." I, on the other hand, am always happy to crowd in anyone I meet. Please do the same!
The Fest is surprisingly friendly to kids. Tuesdays are always "Family Day" and prices for rides, food and bier are reduced. If you get there early that day, you are bound to see many families with youngsters in tow and even pushing strollers. However, children under the age of 6 must vacate the tents by 8PM. Of course, I don't know of any parent that would even consider staying that late with "die Jungen."
The drinking age for bier in Germany is 16 years old. This doesn't mean that you won't see kids younger than that throwing a few back. Parents are allowed by law to let their children have a drink as long as they are supervised by the parent. And of course, German culture is more bier-centric than most and it is seen as normal to let youngsters imbibe responsibly. I have personally seen children 10-15 being served half liters by their parents.
Unsupervised 12-15 year olds are still a problem in some of the tents. They usually hit the Hofbräu tent and try to give money to tourists to buy them liters. I discourage the practice. Surprisingly, the tent staff are very careful about not serving underage kids. Why bother? There are over 100,000 adults on the grounds daily to serve.
It sure is easy to drink bier all day while at the Fest. I know, I've done it. But there is more to life than brez'n and Bier. There is a wonderful array of food available to you. German food is delicious. And food at the Fest transgresses normal fair food. I can say without a doubt that the Chicken you get at the Fest is amazing!!! try and get there early in the day and order literally anything. It'll satisfy you and keep you drinking longer.
There are also all sorts of stands outside of the tents as well that serve a dazzling array of food. From half-meter-long Bratwurst, to Sugared Almonds, to Fisch Semmel. All are wonderful!
This may seem like obvious advice, but I must include it as many people just don't think ahead. That advice is this: "Do not drink Liters of Bier before you get on any of the fun fair rides!" (Ferris wheel excluded) The rides at Oktoberfest are definitely some of the wildest around and it is not uncommon for people to get sick even without drinking beforehand. Trust me on this one.
I have mentioned it before but it deserves reiteration. The tents are extremely crowded most of the time. And unlike some cultures which allow persons their individual space, the German culture doesn't. This is not to say Germans are rude or anything because they are not. It's just that you will have no personal space. Standing outside a tent waiting to get in can feel like you are a sardine in a can. Likewise in the tents, sitting or standing at a table may require you to be pressed up against someone. My advice is to go with the flow and not allow this difference in culture to bother you.