Being that it’s one of the most well-known and mass-attended events in the world, of course Oktoberfest scams exist. Because no, we cannot have nice things.
Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany is an unforgettable trip and a bucket list item for most who attend, but wow Oktoberfest trip planning can be overwhelming. For that reason, many innocent travelers find themselves the victims of a variety of stressful and expensive Oktoberfest scams.
A lot of this happens because there’s just a lack of (straightforward and English-language) information on Oktoberfest out there. (Not here though!) And because most people are good and assume that others genuinely want to help them and are not lying straight to their faces.
So, to make sure you don’t make those same mistakes, I’m going to address the 7 most prevalent Oktoberfest scams you need to know about NOW to have an amazing Oktoberfest season.
1. The “Oktoberfest tickets” scam
First and foremost on the list of widespread Oktoberfest scams is the “Oktoberfest tickets” scam. I’m going to say this as loud as I can in my limited font options: YOU DO NOT NEED TICKETS FOR OKTOBERFEST.
I repeat—you do not need tickets to attend Oktoberfest. You do not need tickets to get into an Oktoberfest beer tent. And you do not need tickets to buy beer at Oktoberfest. At no point during your visit to Oktoberfest will you ever need a “ticket.”
Likewise, there are no such things as “Oktoberfest passes.” Under no circumstances will you need a “one-day pass” or an “opening weekend pass” or any such thing.
Look, I get it; we’ve been programmed to assume that to get into any event we will need some kind of ticket. But while that may be true for some concerts, festivals, sporting events, and even smaller local “Oktoberfests,” for example, that is not true of Oktoberfest in Munich. Let me break it down in some easy-to-read bullet points:
- Admission to Oktoberfest = FREE
- Getting into the Oktoberfest beer tents = FREE
- Getting a seat inside an Oktoberfest beer tent = FREE*
- Beer at Oktoberfest = Whatever the beer costs, in CASH (the same goes for all non-alcoholic options as well)
- Food at Oktoberfest, whether inside a tent or out = The price, in CASH
*I’ll clarify the confusion often associated with this in a minute.
One important note here: There is one section of Oktoberfest where you do have to pay a special admission to get in that’s virtually unknown to non-locals. Get all the info on this secret section in my post on Oktoberfest facts you need to know!
How to get into Oktoberfest
Munich Oktoberfest is a free event that is open to the public. To get into Oktoberfest you literally just walk up to one of the entrances, get looked over by security, then walk right in. No tickets required; no wristbands required. No exchange of money takes place. Nothing.
How to get into an Oktoberfest beer tent
Once inside the park (aka, the Wiesn), to get into one of the Oktoberfest beer tents you just—gasp!—walk right in through the open door. No tickets required; no showing your ID. No formalities. Nothing.
How to get a seat inside a beer tent
Once inside the beer tent, you need to be sitting at one of the tables in order to get served. (Or, in the Hofbräu tent, standing within the standing-room-only section.) To get a seat inside a beer tent you literally just—no way!—seat yourself. No reservations required. No hostess stand or waiting list. Nothing.
Now, there’s a lot more that goes into this depending on many factors—like if you attend Oktoberfest in a large group, visit on the busiest days, etc. There are times when a beer tent reservation is recommended, but never a time when one is mandatory. But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion and something we can chat about one-on-one.
Be sure to check out these 49+ expert Oktoberfest tips you must know for your Oktoberfest trip this year!
There is no such thing as Oktoberfest tickets
But what you need to know NOW is that there is no such thing as “Oktoberfest tickets” and anyone who tries to sell them to you is a big fat swindler.
I’ve heard from so many people that they’ve been told or read that you need Oktoberfest tickets to get into the festival. And the #1 question people ask when beginning their Oktoberfest trip planning is always: “How do I get Oktoberfest tickets?” (Here are the rest.)
Because we’ve been programmed the way we have, when these people read that they don’t need tickets to Oktoberfest, that is the information they believe is false. The fact that they have been unable to find out how to buy Oktoberfest tickets has not yet tipped them off for some reason.
I know, right? A free event? That can’t be. Instead, they would rather spend hundreds (yes, hundreds) of dollars on “Oktoberfest tickets” out of fear that they will “sell out” and/or that they’ll look like a fool after flying all the way to Germany and then not being able to get into Oktoberfest.
Please, please take my word for it. YOU DO NOT NEED TICKETS TO GO TO OKTOBERFEST.
2. The “Beer tent tickets” scam
Similar on the list of Oktoberfest scams is the “beer tent tickets” scam. I covered this a little above, but let me go into more detail here.
Oktoberfest beer tents are free to enter and, provided they haven’t reached their capacity limits, are open to the public. They don’t even card you or put you on a waitlist. You can literally just walk in off the street.
For whatever reason, there’s a common belief that you need Oktoberfest “beer tent tickets” to get a seat inside an Oktoberfest beer tent. This is 100% completely fabricated nonsense.
Yes, it is possible to reserve a table inside an Oktoberfest beer tent. This is common practice for large groups, local corporate outings, etc. but it is not mandatory. All of the large beer tents at Oktoberfest are required, by law actually, to keep a certain number of their thousands of seats unreserved and available for walk-ins. I repeat: You do not need to make reservations at Oktoberfest.
So what are Oktoberfest beer tent tickets?
What people try to sell as “beer tent tickets” are simply spots at a reserved table. Basically, let’s say the seller has reserved a 10-person table inside an Oktoberfest beer tent. Then, they try to sell those spots to the panicking public at an exorbitantly inflated price. Think of it like ticket scalping (even though there are no actual tickets). And yes, this is extremely illegal.
Beer tent reservations
But let me back up and explain some fundamental beer tent reservation information. First, anyone can reserve a table at Oktoberfest. Anyone, for any reason. Yes, you! However, you can only reserve entire 8-person or 10-person tables (depending on the tent). So, parties of 8 or less need not worry about this.
The only legit way to make beer tent reservations is directly through the beer tent owners themselves, via their websites.
The cost of Oktoberfest beer tent reservations
The beer tent reservation itself is free. There are no reservation “fees.” However, there is a minimum food and drink purchase requirement. Meaning, in order to reserve a table, you will have to pay the equivalent of a meal + 2 liters of beer per person. So, for a 10-person table in a tent where a ½ chicken + 2 beers costs €45, you will pay €450 to reserve that table. Got it?
You will then get one food and two beer vouchers per person (a total of 10 food vouchers and 20 beer vouchers) that you can use in that tent only. These are paper vouchers provided by the beer tent to the person who made the reservation. So, the money you spend on the reservation you actually get to eat and drink yourself. Ergo, free Oktoberfest beer tent reservations.
Oktoberfest scams for beer tent tables
So what some scammers do is make the reservation themselves, then sell those spaces to the desperate, misinformed, naïve public. Instead of the €45 per person that includes a meal and two beers (aka “face value”), they will sell each of those seats for something like €250+ a piece. Then, they will sell those food and drink vouchers separately. This is more than just a rip-off. It’s an amputation.
This person has just made a gazillion dollars and you’ve just paid €500 for you and your spouse to sit in an Oktoberfest beer tent with nothing to eat or drink. (And that’s on the lower end of the Oktoberfest scams dollar meter.)
But at least you got a seat! Right? Well, that’s assuming this person hasn’t sold your seats to four other parties and there’s actually an empty seat for you when you get there. Something to think about.
Just say no to “beer tent tickets”
Take my word for it – you do not need to pay a third party reseller for beer tent tickets. In fact, this is highly illegal. You run the chance of not only losing tons of money (and dignity, let’s be honest here), but also being booted from Oktoberfest. It is so not worth it – you can literally walk into a beer tent and get a seat, for free. All you have to do is plan accordingly.
One exception to this rule
However, there is an exception to this. While it is illegal for third party sellers to reserve a bunch of tables and sell the spaces at a higher price, it’s totally fine to join other parties.
What I mean is: say someone wants to reserve a table but only has 5 people in their party, they may ask around to see if anyone else wants to join them and split the cost. Or maybe a party of 10 had a few friends bail on the trip at the last minute and want to recoup some costs by recruiting some more people to join them.
As long as these people are only asking for the “face value” of the beer tent reservation and providing the accompanying food and drink vouchers, then everything is still on the up-and-up. However, always be cautious about who you do business with as scammers know the value of posing like totally normal human beings on the internet.
And I can’t stress this enough: Never exchange money with strangers over the internet. If you go this route and join others at Oktoberfest, insist on only paying in cash WHEN YOU GET THERE. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Always use your best judgment and run away as fast as you can when stuff starts to get weird.
However, what you may find are perfectly legitimate-looking businesses online that are selling “beer tent tickets.” Regardless of how legit these companies look, the fundamental issue here is that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BEER TENT TICKETS. Promises of “beer tent tickets” = Oktoberfest scams.
Tour companies and “beer tent tickets”
It is possible that you’ll find tour companies offering “beer tent tickets” as part of their packages. Most of these will include some sort of walking tour of Oktoberfest and then reservations in a beer tent. These will always include the food and beer that goes along with the table.
Oktoberfest allows this because these are legit tour companies and they aren’t price gouging their customers. They offer the food, drinks, and table reservations together, along with some extra service for a fair price. Whatever extra bit you pay will be for the additional tour stuff + the hassle of booking the reservations. Think of it as a fee for someone handling all the logistics for you.
This is not a bad way to go, HOWEVER, always be cautious of which tour company you use. Make sure it’s one you’ve heard of and that has lots of reviews and online presence. (And doesn’t give you sketch vibes.) For instance:
- This “Munich Oktoberfest 2022 Tickets and Tour” is sold by Viator and hosted by Radius Tours – a legit Munich tour company and a reputable tour provider.
- Companies like Thirsty Swagman offer accommodation packages with top-notch Oktoberfest hotels and tour guides (like myself). The beer tent reservations (with food/drink) are rolled in at cost and they are able to offer this because they have a great relationship with the Oktoberfest beer tents. They are a platinum-rated tour operator on TourRadar.
3. The fake beer vouchers scam
Surprise, surprise – next on the list of Oktoberfest scams is the selling of fake Oktoberfest beer vouchers.
In order to purchase a beer at Oktoberfest, you must be inside a beer tent. Once inside at a table, the way you purchase a beer at Oktoberfest is:
- Order a beer from the server that comes to your table
- Pay for that beer in cash when she/he brings it
Some people assume that, since this is a festival and all, they will have to purchase booklets of tickets in order to pay for a beer/food/etc. (First of all, whoever invented this system is themselves a prolific con artist because this is just the worst.) This is entirely false. Beer at Oktoberfest is paid for in cash, in person.
However, as I showed you, when you make a beer tent reservation the tent gives you food and beer vouchers. This is the only instance in which you’ll use a paper voucher to purchase beer at Oktoberfest.
Regardless, some people have taken to printing fake beer vouchers that they then sell to people who just don’t get it. Look, if someone has leftover vouchers from their beer tent reservation, it’s fine for them to give them away. But if someone is asking you for money for them, stay on the safe side and politely decline. (Or at least confirm their legitimacy with a server first.)
Pro tip: Beer tent food and drink vouchers change design and style every year and always feature a combination of watermarks and holograms.
4. Dirndl and Lederhosen scams
Yes, even picking up your festival clothing has landed itself on the list of Oktoberfest scams to beware.
There are benefits to both shopping for your Oktoberfest attire online before the festival and picking something up in Munich when you get there. However, your potential for scams is higher when you shop online (as I’m sure you would assume).
Given that there are very few dirndl and lederhosen retailers here in the U.S., often you’ll have to shop overseas if you want to pick up something beforehand. And this is totally fine, I’ve done it myself and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. But you have to choose a reputable seller for your dirndls and lederhosen and your Oktoberfest shoes and socks.
Dirndls and lederhosen can be potentially quite expensive, so people are drawn to insane deals and immediately dismiss all the red flags. Look, when it comes to Oktoberfest scams as in the rest of life, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Check out my complete and honest guide to what to wear to Oktoberfest here. All you need to know, for men and women, head to toe.
Online shopping Oktoberfest scams
Many people report ordering dirndls or lederhosen from online companies and getting:
- Total pieces of crap
- Used, damaged, and stained clothing items (so gross)
- Items from Pakistan when the company claims to be located in the UK/Europe
- Poor or nonexistent customer service
- Completely bonkers sizes (even when they consult the size chart)
- Zero return policy and/or instructions like “Check with your neighbors” if you report it missing when they say it was delivered.
- Pro tip: the Wanderlusty Oktoberfest shop… not a scam. ⤵️
Given my focus on Oktoberfest here on MWL, I get loads of emails and Facebook and Instagram requests from dirndl and lederhosen “companies” pushing me to promote their businesses. And they are all CRAP and total scams. It’s shocking how many of these “businesses” there are out there. (I mean, just look at that email. It’s laughable. But these are the people running many of the Oktoberfest clothing websites out there!)
When choosing an online retailer for your dirndls and lederhosen, do not base your purchases on price or design alone. Chances are a super low price means the product is totally not going to look the way it does in the photos. (And if that happens, here’s how you can spruce up a cheap dirndl.)
Instead, deep dive into the reviews. Read through the Google reviews when you search for the company’s name. Go to their Facebook page and see what people are saying. Check out sites like Trust Pilot to see what people have experienced. (Yes, I know all of this can be faked as well, but I trust that you know how to spot fake reviews by now.)
Buying dirndls and lederhosen from Amazon
Look, it’s Amazon. There are perfectly acceptable dirndl and lederhosen options to be found on Amazon, but you probably already know the quality they provide certainly has a ceiling. That being said, purchasing from Amazon does bring a sort of assurance to the buyer.
In this case, I would purchase only items that are Prime eligible and come with Free Returns as well. This will ensure your best chance at being able to return something that doesn’t work and/or getting refunded if something goes wrong. I’m no expert, but I definitely think you have the most protection in this case.
Things to look out for
When scrutinizing online retailers, take note of these red flags:
- Numerous spelling errors and/or poor language skills
- Sketchy return policies (always read through their FAQs to get an idea of how this company does business)
- Prices way lower than everyone else
- The same stock photos you see on other sites
- Bad reviews or no reviews at all
- No social media presence or social media accounts with a bajillion followers but no engagement whatsoever
- Sites that make it really hard for you to contact them
- Is there a human presence that you can find? A person’s name? Personal interaction from the owner on social media? Or does it feel like the whole scheme is run by robots?
- What is your gut telling you?
That being said, there are plenty of reputable online dirndl and lederhosen retailers out there. I always recommend Rare Dirndl here in the U.S. (use promo code MYWANDERLUSTYLIFE for 10% off your purchase!) and I’ve ordered from Alpenclassics based on personal recommendations from people I know personally.
5. Munich Airbnb scams
Because so many people attend Oktoberfest each year (upwards of 6 million), the fact that there are not 6 million hotel rooms in Munich opens up another brand of Oktoberfest scams.
A lot of Oktoberfest-goers think they’re going beat the exorbitant prices of Munich hotels brought on by Oktoberfest supply and demand by booking an Airbnb instead. And maybe that works sometimes… but not enough of the time for me.
Besides the fact that Airbnbs in Munich during Oktoberfest are not anywhere in the neighborhood of “a great deal” (some locals leave town for those two weeks and make their year’s rent from Airbnb’ing their place), there’s also so much potential for getting ripped-off.
One common complaint I hear is from people who booked an Airbnb for Oktoberfest… only to have the owner pull the plug at the last minute. There could be any number of reasons for this, but the ones I hear the most are that they decided to stick around after all, or they received a better offer from someone else.
And while this may not be what some would define as a ‘scam,’ it absolutely falls under the category of ‘screwing people over for your own benefit.’ When this happens, you are SOL, my friend. Airbnb gives no craps about this and now you’re out of a place to stay and all the hotels are either booked solid or charging $1000/night.
Not all Airbnbs are bad news
If you absolutely have to stay at an Airbnb during Oktoberfest, not all hope is lost. Many people do this successfully and don’t fall victim to Munich’s Airbnb scams. To avoid this, most recommend:
- Book only with Superstar hosts
- Book only at properties that are distinctly Airbnb properties… not someone’s apartment who is simply renting his/her place out to make some extra cash
- Only book properties that are highly-rated (and stay away from the ones with no reviews at all)
I’m not saying this is a surefire way to not get scammed, but the tips above certainly lessen your chances.
Book a hotel instead
I don’t think it’s news to anyone that Airbnb has gone swiftly downhill in the past couple of years. They offer almost no protection to guests and have become nothing short of a nightmare to deal with for most people.
I am a devout hotel-stayer myself, and while I can appreciate the value Airbnb once offered, I will always recommend against it for Oktoberfest. Instead, book a legit hotel that operates under a code of conduct and is almost surely not going to cancel your reservation at the last minute. (I book all my hotels with booking.com who offers its own set of consumer protections.)
Take a look at my post on the most important factors to consider so you can pick the perfect hotel every time!
6. Oktoberfest ATM fees
Look, just because a scam is officially sanctioned doesn’t mean it’s not still a scam. You should know by now caveat emptor is alive and well nowadays. The same is true for Oktoberfest scams like ATM fees.
At Oktoberfest, cash is könig. (That statement works if you know könig is German for king.) You pay for your beers and meals and everything else in CASH. And if you don’t bring enough cash with you for the day, you’ll be stuck using the ATMs at the Wiesn.
And what do you do with a captive, drunk audience that desperately demands cash? You rob them blind, duh.
Personally, I have yet to use one of the ATMs at Oktoberfest but I continue to hear horror stories of, literally, $50 ATM fees. That’s just… the fee for using the ATM. And if you have to use them more than once? Ouch. You didn’t even get to drink that.
How to get your ATM fees waved
As in-the-know world travelers, I would hope by now you would have one of the many fee-free credit cards out there. With my Chase credit card, for example, I don’t pay any foreign transaction fees (when using my card) and all of my ATM fees get reimbursed. I can use any brand of ATM anywhere in the world – like it doesn’t have to be a Chase ATM or anything else so 1998.
If you don’t have one already, do a search for credit cards that offer ATM fee reimbursement or no ATM fees. OR – be sure to take out plenty of cash before you head to Oktoberfest and leave your credit card locked up in your hotel room so you won’t be tempted to take out more. (A little tip there most people first learn in Las Vegas.)
7. Pickpocketing at Oktoberfest
I want to preface this by saying I personally have never been a victim of a “petty” crime at Oktoberfest. Nor have I, even one time, heard about someone being pickpocketed at Oktoberfest.
However, this is still something to be wary of when traveling around Europe (and getting robbed abroad SUCKS). Especially when that travel involves huge crowds and your own probable inebriation. A drunk person packed into a crowd of people would be super easy to steal from, I’m just saying.
Get an anti-theft purse
I will never tell you to wear an anything-but-discreet money belt, but when I go to Oktoberfest, I always carry my few necessary items in a small anti-theft purse. You’re only allowed to bring in small bags as it is, and I make sure mine come with all the anti-theft goodies like a crossbody strap, slash-proof material, zippers that lock, RFID-proof pockets, straps that latch onto your table, etc.
Pro tip: You’re only allowed to bring bags smaller than 8″ x 6″ x 4″ into Oktoberfest. You will get turned away at the entrance if your purse is too big.
I have bags from both Travelon and PacSafe and I love them all. Here are some great options for anti-theft purses for Oktoberfest (that fit the size requirements):
- Travelon Stadium-Compliant Mini Bag – OK this is PERFECT for Oktoberfest. It’s designed for stadium compliance – aka, the smallest possible purse that holds just the necessities.
- Travelon Convertible Anti-Theft Bag – Part crossbody bag, part fanny pack. Totally perfect for travel.
- Pacsafe Citysafe Anti-Theft Square Crossbody – High quality travel purse with so many anti-theft features
- Travelon Anti-Theft Double Zip Crossbody Clutch – A simple design that will look great with a dirndl and gets the anti-theft job done
Check out all my go-to travel safety items here. Yes, I travel with a full safety arsenal, Oktoberfest scams and otherwise. I regret nothing.
Or an anti-theft wallet
For wallet carriers, I would totally recommend getting yourself a simple wallet with a chain that can attach to your pants. Not in like an old-timey train conductor kinda way, but a “you’re not getting my money assh*le” kinda way. Even the servers at Oktoberfest keep their money chained to themselves. And always carry your wallet in your front pocket, not your back.
Obvious safety tips for everyone
Beyond the hardware, always do your best to stay safe and follow the tried and true rules to avoiding becoming a victim. Don’t flash your huge wads of cash, you baller you. Don’t get so hammered that you completely lose track of your surroundings.
Never go anywhere with strangers. Take only what you absolutely will need to Oktoberfest and leave everything else locked up in your hotel room. But most importantly, definitely consider purchasing travel insurance for Oktoberfest. Your policy can cover you for lost/stolen items and so much more. I always use World Nomads myself.
How to avoid Oktoberfest scams
If you’ve learned anything from this post, I hope it is “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Tale as old as time, my friend. I know a trip to Oktoberfest can be expensive, and because of this so many people look for shortcuts. But it’s this desire to save a little bit of money that can potentially cost you BIG in the long run.
What it comes down to is… keep it mainstream. In other words:
- Stay at a legit hotel, or at least the most reputable Airbnb you can find
- Book with a reputable tour operator
- Buy from only well-known or reputable shops (or just buy once you get to Munich)
- Follow the official rules and guidelines from Oktoberfest authorities.
- Even though most of your Oktoberfest planning will be done online, you still know what a shady deal feels like. Always trust your gut!
More info for your Oktoberfest trip
- Heading to Oktoberfest? Read hotel reviews on Tripadvisor and book your room here!
- Need a rental car? Check out the best Munich deals on rentalcars.com.
- Visiting more of Germany? Pick up a Germany guidebook for all your sightseeing. And be sure to pick up this Germany customs and culture guide too!
- I highly recommend purchasing travel insurance too. (And here’s why.) I always use World Nomads and you can get an instant quote here.
- Keep yourself and your belongings safe with these must-pack travel safety items.
Have you ever seen any of these Oktoberfest scams?
Tell me about it in the comments!
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