Oktoberfest guide: reservations and tent logistics (Part 3)

Munich Okotberfest weekday afternoon

Just your typical weekday afternoon in Oktoberfest. Don’t fret. Read this guide and you’ll be fine.

In this Oktoberfest guide, now you’ve covered the fundamentals and basics. It’s time to learn the advanced tactics and strategies you’ll need in order to declare victory, include Oktoberfest reservations.

Reservations for Oktoberfest

Yes, you can actually reserve a table for Oktoberfest at no (direct) cost. However, there’s a lot of caveats to keep in mind which may not make it convenient. You cannot book directly through the Oktoberfest München organizers. Rather, you have to make a reservation with the proprietors of the tent you want to visit, so you have a choice between 14 tents (a full list will come later in this guide). When you make the reservation, there’s typically a minimum of 10-12 people per table (approximately the same size party that would fit one typical biergarden table in Oktoberfest). You should request the invitation at April, which is when most tents start taking reservations and usually book all slots by May-June. You could sometimes sneak in a reservation after that, but don’t count on it. You may want to contact the tent directly just in case there’s any last-minute cancellations you can take advantage of. Also, there’s a minimum spending amount per person that must be paid in advance (around €25-€40). This is done in the form of pre-paid vouchers that you later on redeem only at its respective tent. Don’t worry about using all of them, since you can usually use them in their partner restaurants outside the tent.

Marstall online reservation

You can go directly to the site such as this one to book a table in the large tent of your choice online (courtesy: Marstall)

There’s also a time window you must choose when booking, so if you’re looking to reserve a table for the day, don’t bother reserving. Once your time slot expires, they reserve the right to boot you from the table. While there’s no certain way to tell if a table is to be used for reservations (aside from the “reserved/reservierung” sign that’s sometimes present on the table), they tend to be the tables that are easiest to get to. These are typically the tables next to the entrances and walking paths, but you can always check online at the tent’s official website to see if there’s a seating map you can consult. Also, you typically cannot reserve during evenings and weekends, which is when Oktoberfest is in peak-hour. Be wary of any promises of guaranteed reservations for payment from third-parties, as reservations are supposed to be non-transferable. Only legit reservations made straight to the tent organizers will be honored. Instead, look for a reputable tour company since they often reserve many tables in advance in anticipation of paying tourists.

How to get a table without a reservation

Ah, yes! The million dollar question that’s on everyone’s minds. It doesn’t really matter when or what tent you go in Oktoberfest. You’ll run into crowds all the time, and it can be a bit frustrating when you or your friends are trying to get a table. Here’s when it pays to be social, as well as being by yourself or a small group. If you’re in a group of 6 people or more, you better stake your claim at a table early before 2 p.m. during weekdays and from 9 a.m. onward during weekends. Otherwise, it’ll be near-impossible to get the whole group into one table. Here’s some battle-proven tactics that will help you or your small group get that table (remember: no table, no service).

Ask a waiter/waitress: You can approach a server if they’re not too busy and ask to be seated. Often, they’ll be nice enough to accommodate your party and clear some space in a table, even if it’s already with people. However, don’t expect them to do this during peak-hour onward because they’ll be too busy serving others.

Meet some new friends: This is where it really pays to be by yourself, since strangers will typically not allow you in their table if there’s too many people in your party. You can stroll along and if you see an opening in a table, you ask the people seated around that space if you can sit there. Again, many people there speak English so you don’t have to worry too much about a language barrier. It’s nice to do it this way because you can meet a lot of new people. The constant flow of beer in Oktoberfest also makes it easier than normal for people to act friendly to strangers, and most people are very welcoming to strangers, provided they’re polite and ask for permission. Try and “break the ice” by saying something like “you guys seem like the coolest bunch of people here! It’d be awesome to party with you all!” It’s also a good time to show off your “tourist” label, since people always love meeting someone that’s not from there.

Oktoberfest biergaden table

Just some of the friends I made while infiltrating tables.

Other important logistics

If nature calls during your beerfest, it’s important that you plan to go to the bathroom before you NEED to go. Lines for the bathrooms are always long and are at least 15 minutes for the tent bathrooms (lines for women tend to be longer than men). There are bathrooms in every tent, and unlike your typical public bathroom in Europe, they’re free. You can ask where the “toilets” are (don’t ask for “bathrooms” because that word isn’t used outside America). They’re typically marked “toiletten,” or “damen” for ladies and “herren” for gentlemen. There are also some toilets outside the tents, but you run the risk of not being able to get back in the tent once you leave. Don’t think about trying to sneak in a corner to do your business there. Police are pretty strict about public urination in Germany, and they’ll fine/cite you if they catch you in the act. There’s always tight security in the Wiesn grounds, so don’t bet on getting away with it.

If you need medical attention due to being intoxicated or otherwise, don’t hesitate to go to the Sanitätsstation or first aid station, denoted by a red cross. There’s four in all, so consult the Wiesn map. If you can’t find your way to one, feel free to ask a police officer (polizei) for help. They’re super nice in Germany and won’t reprimand you for being drunk. They’ll also escort you to a first-aid station if you need it, and stay with you should you pass out or need medical attention.

Oktoberfest Wiesn hills

Hopefully, this won’t be you. Just in case, you can at least be rest assured police see that you get medical attention.

If you manage to lose something, check the lost-and-found at the Service Center behind the Schottenhamel tent (entrance is at the “Festleitung” basement) to see if they have your item. Over 4,000 items are lost in Oktoberfest each year, including wallets, cell phones, dentures, wheelchairs, and even Viking helmets. If you lose your cell phone, make sure you have your serial number written down in advance because that’s how they’ll identify it. If you have kids, there’s a rendezvous area in the same office for lost kids since Oktoberfest is frequently visited by entire families (although, not necessarily inside the tents). For money, there are ATMs (Geldautomat) at the Wiesn, but don’t be surprised if they’re out of money. It’s best that you bring money in advance.

Pacing yourself during Oktoberfest

If you haven’t realized it yet, Munich Oktoberfest deals with beer, beer and more beer. What else do you expect when the beer steins are 1-liter? While the beer itself isn’t heavy in alcohol volume, it’ll definitely catch up to you in just one maß (pronouced “mas,” which is a 1-liter beer) and you can easily find yourself intoxicated before you know it. If you don’t think it’s a big deal, maybe you should take a look at the picture above again. I don’t care how hard of a party animal you THINK you are. I admit that I used to love being a club rat in the NYC nightlife scene, which is very intense and fast-paced. However, even a few consecutive days in Oktoberfest made me feel sick even at the sight of beer. Here’s some tips to help you keep sober:

  • Drink water with every beer. Make sure you go to the bathroom in time!
  • Eat food half an hour before you start drinking.
  • Do NOT chug your beer. Yes, some smart alecs do it and no, none of them are sober afterwards.
  • Come in during the morning, leave the grounds for a break during lunch hour, and come back at 2 p.m. so you get to the Wiesn before peak-hour hits (not applicable on weekends).

I recommend spending no more than 4 consecutive days in Oktoberfest or you’ll either pass out from intoxication or exhaustion. A good idea is to spread out the days in non-consecutive fashion. There’s some other sights in Munich you’ll want to see anyway, such as St. Paul’s Kirche (church) and the BMW Museum. Don’t try and be a hero and stay for all 16 days. I guarantee you will never make it.

Coming up next on this Oktoberfest guide is a full breakdown of the large tents of Oktoberfest 2014. Here’s a list of websites for all 14 tents you can visit to reserve a table at your choice of tent:

Previous page – Part 2 : Bierhaus rules

Next page – Part 4: The large tents

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