The first Oktoberfest was originally held in 1810 in honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities lasted a week in October and in the following years, the celebrations were repeated and even prolonged, moving the festival into September. By moving the festivities into September, it allowed for better weather conditions. Oktoberfest 2017 starts on September 16 and ends October 3.
The U.S. Consulate General in Munich created handouts with important contact information and collected useful tips to make this year’s celebration a happy and safe one for U.S. citizens visiting the Oktoberfest.
Top Ten Tips and Tricks for a Fun & Safe Oktoberfest 2017
1. Wearing Tracht (traditional Bavarian dress) at Oktoberfest is encouraged – and fun – but not required.
Pro Tip: Many Dirndls have a hidden pocket, a great place to keep money, ID, and emergency contact information. The ribbon of the Dirndl shows the marital status of the person in the Dirndl, depending where it is located.
* A ribbon in the front and tied to the right means: Married/dating someone/not available.
* A ribbon in the front and tied to the left means: Single/open to suggestions.
2. Oktoberfest beer is stronger than you think! And especially plentiful when you drink it from a “Maβ” (the liter glass). One traditional Maβ of Oktoberfest beer has the same alcohol content as four 12-ounce American beers.
3. Do not take the beer steins from the Oktoberfest tents! There is a large fine for doing so. If you want a souvenir, buy a mug at one of the stands. Yes, the police can tell the difference.
4. Munich may be one of the safest cities in the world, but where there are crowds, there are pickpockets, and Oktoberfest brings out the pros. Keep a close eye on your belongings, especially on mass transit.
5. The Police and Red Cross are located at the “Servicezentrum” (Service Center) next to the large Bavaria statue. There are emergency phones located on the light poles of the Oktoberfest grounds. Pick one up and there will be a police officer on the other end.
6. In the beer tents, you are allowed to stand on the benches and sing all you want. Join in the singing! However, dancing on the tables is not allowed. Do not smoke inside the tents. If you must smoke, each tent has an outside smoking area.
7. Do not bring luggage, packs, or large purses to Oktoberfest. They won’t be allowed inside the Oktoberfest grounds due to security precautions. The rules are similar to U.S. professional sports stadium security rules. Expect to be searched at the outer perimeter. There are a limited number of lockers available and they fill quickly. At the end of your outing, make sure to collect your belongings; lockers are emptied every evening. Any left items will be brought to Lost and Found.
Pro Tip: Theresienwiese has a Lost-and-Found office located at the Servicezentrum. Anything lost in the beer tents (wallets, passports, keys, cellphones, purses) will be turned in to that office, but expect a delay between loss and your item showing up in Lost-and-Found.
8. Know how to get back to your lodging. Public transportation runs all night, but it won’t be useful if you don’t know which U-Bahn or S-Bahn stop to use, or the name or address of your hotel. Keep that information on your person. Ask for the hotel’s card at the reception before leaving. Do not sleep in the park outside the Oktoberfest grounds. Thieves and pickpockets are always on the lookout for vulnerable “Bierleichen” (beer corpses).
9. Avoid disputes with other Oktoberfest attendees. If you get into a fight, you will be arrested. Hitting someone with a beer mug is considered assault with a deadly weapon, and usually results in prison time. If you are arrested at Oktoberfest, it is possible that the police will give you the option of paying a fine on the spot. The amount of the fine can depend on your monthly income. This is not a bribe and of course, you’ll receive a receipt!
10. The police may ask for your ID at any time. Often police are not dressed in uniform, but in plain clothes.
Pro Tip: Make sure to always have a copy of your passport with you. You may also ask to see the police officers’ IDs, which are laminated cards, not badges. When talking to the police, you can always request an English-speaking police officer. However, expect to be escorted to where that English-speaking police officer is located, usually the police station.
Bonus Tip: Call your mother! Your loved ones want to know that you are ok. Often we receive lots of phone calls from worried parents and significant others because they have not been able to reach you at Oktoberfest.
Pro Tip: Use social media to make a status update that you are ok!