Oktoberfest in Munich 2008: Gadling readers chime in with some tips

Gadling wants to give a shout out to two of our readers, Josh Linder and Avery Glasser, both veterans of Munich’s Oktoberfest. They took the time to share some tips for those heading to the festival for the first time this year.

The world’s biggest beer binge, known locally as Wiesn, kicks off this Saturday with the ceremonial tapping of the first keg and will run through Oct. 5.

Both John and Avery have gone a couple of times to Oktoberfest through the years (and Avery in addition benefits from some local knowledge, as he lives in Munich!).

John has these tips:

1. Where to stay: You’re probably not going to find a place in Munich now, so you can do what I did the first time and stay in a place easily accessible by train (i.e. Augsburg). We got a Hotel Ibis (I believe) with parking for EUR 35 (about $45) a night, but if you’re talking last minute, it might be more.

2. Do not, and I repeat do not, take a car into Munich during Oktoberfest. We had a very nice car, but didn’t get within 20 km of the city center.

3. The best way to get into the beer tents is to find someone German who has extra seats for sale. The first year I went we were able to walk around early, but once the table reservations kicked in, we were kicked out. The second time I was able to pay for a table reservation, so I actually had a designated spot (two seats) for all two weeks in one of the tents.

4. Best beer tent? We spent most of our first Oktoberfest outside of the Paulaner tent. There is open seating and I love the beer.

5. Don’t worry too much about costs. Stuff outside the festival is expensive, but beer is reasonable. [Gadling note: expect to pay around EUR6.50-7.00 for a 1 liter beer.]

6. I’ve been both to the end and the beginning of Oktoberfest. Best time to go? Go during the weekend if you like big crowds. But Germans do get time off for Oktoberfest, so all days are pretty busy.

7. After a day of drinking, do not do any shots.

Avery adds these tips from his times at the festival:

1. If you’re trying to score last minute accommodation, you’re probably out of luck. Even the Wiesn campgrounds are probably full right now. Think train.

2. Check tent opening times here. If possible, get to the grounds a half hour before they open. The central floor area is always seated on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there early and claim a table. Forget about the boxes along the sides and balconies: they’re almost certainly reserved. A helpful German expression is “Noch frei?” or “Is this seat free?”

3. Once a tent fills to capacity — usually by noon — the doors are closed and it becomes nearly impossible to get inside, even if you have friends in there holding down a space for you.

4. The only beer served at the festival is Maerzen, or Oktoberfest, beer, and each tent is sponsored by a brewery serving its own Maerzen brew. The Radler — 50% beer 50% lemon soda — will save your life. [Gadling note: This is why Germans seem to last longer than foreigners at Oktoberfest. If you want to get into a drinking contest with a German, make sure the playing field is level.]

5. The view of the Wiesn grounds from the Ferris wheel at night is worth checking out.

6. Tip your servers! It’s the difference between waiting a minute and a half hour until your next beer.

7. Food to try: The ox sandwiches from the Oschsenbraterei; Steckerl Fisch (roasted fish on a stick) from Fischer Vroni; Schnitzel at the Hippodrome; Halbes Hendl (half a chicken) inside any tent.

Thanks, guys.

I’ll throw one more tip out there: Think against stealing the steins at individual beer tents. It’s tempting. You might even pull it off (and if you do, don’t tempt fate by trying for a second). There are police and security guys constantly on the look out for this, and if you’re caught you’ll be slapped with a EUR50 fine. You’ll see at least one skirmish between a drunk festival goer and a security guard over this, I promise.

Check out Gadling’s Oktoberfest coverage last year for more tips and info.