If you’re visiting Germany in late September and early October, it’s a shame not to at least try to attend Oktoberfest, the largest beer festival held in Munich every year. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, bringing in locals and travelers from all parts of the globe. So what happens when you want to go to Oktoberfest but don’t have anyone to go with you? In my case, I went with a friend who was living in nearby Salzburg, but if you’re a single girl going to Oktoberfest, there’s a few things you should know.
Going Alone vs. Going with a Tour
There are a few ways to do Oktoberfest during the 16 days it runs. You can either go on your own, which offers flexibility on dates and allows you to leave whenever you want. But you also have to be more outgoing and willing to talk to the strangers at your table. You’ll need to book your accommodation well in advance as it fills up very early. Jaeger’s Hostel, where I stayed in Munich, will be party central for the festivities. You could also go to Oktoberfest through a tour company like BusAbout, which runs trips for opening weekend and includes camping or a hostel dorm nearby.
Finding the Right Attire
The dirndl is the traditional dresses for women that you’ll see at Oktoberfest. You don’t have to wear one, but many people do. Some companies allow you to rent them in advance or you can buy them but they are expensive for one day of use. The dress includes three pieces, the dress, the blouse and the apron, so if you buy each piece you could spend up to €150 for a new dirndl. Alternatively, stop by Kleidermarkt in Munich to purchase vintage and pre-owned dirndl and leiderhosen. Be sure to wear something under your dress. Bring something to hold your phone, camera, money, ID and address of your hostel like a small purse or a garter belt. Keep an eye on your bags at all times, as this is an ideal place to get robbed. For more on what to pack, see my post over on Her Packing List for tips on going to Oktoberfest.
Some people might say that going to a festival like Oktoberfest as a single woman alone is dangerous, but as with anything, it’s all about being aware and prepared. Firstly, see if your hostel or hotel has a business card or wristband with the address on it to keep to give to a taxi driver. Pick up a brochure at the Munich Visitor’s Center that provides tips for women and girls to stay safe at the festival. Find a landmark where you entered the festival so that you can find your way back later. Learn a few important phrases in German like “leave me alone.” Remember that beer here is significantly stronger, so it will take much less beer to make you drunk. If you’re feeling unsafe, call the police at 112 or ask someone to call you a taxi.
Food and Drinks
There are dozens of tents to choose from, all with different styles of beer. I chose the Paulaner and it wasn’t as rowdy as I’d heard the Hofbrauhaus and Lowenbrau tents were. Find yourself a spot but make sure it doesn’t have a reserved sign on it. If it’s not opening day, you should wait for a waitress to come to your table. For a large beer say “eine grosse bier bitte” and be prepared to pay at least €15 cash. Stop drinking as soon as you’re feeling woozy and don’t feel pressured to drink too many. Don’t leave your drink unattended either.
On opening day, people will start lining up at the festival grounds before 7 am. Some will have reserved tables in advance but most haven’t. Some will already be drinking at 7 am. They will let people into the tents around 9 am but beer will not be served until 12 pm when there is a parade and the official tapping of the first keg. Bring something to keep you entertained while you wait. You can order food and non-alcoholic drinks in the meantime, like Coke mixed with lemonade and roasted chicken.
Socializing and Final Thoughts
If you’re showing up to the festival alone, ask if you can sit there. Ask questions about where your tablemates are from. The others at our table were fellow Americans, including a soldier and his family who had met him at the event. The biggest tip I must offer for any girl going to Oktoberfest is go to the bathroom before you have to go. I waited for over 45 minutes in line for the ladies room and was on the verge of tears. The guys have it easier than us.
At certain points of the festival, you will see complete bedlam: people vomiting, urinating and worse in the streets, fights, public sex, arrests. To avoid the chaos, avoid opening weekend in favor of visiting during the week when more locals go for a casual afternoon rather than “beer races.” Certain weekends are popular with different groups, in particular Australians, German teens, Italians and Americans.