As a tour guide at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, I see so many examples of what NOT to do at Oktoberfest. Just over and over and over. It’s like these people don’t have their own resident Oktoberfest expert to lead them down the righteous path. Luckily, you do!
Oktoberfest may be the world’s biggest party but it’s anything but a free-for-all. There are still standards, rules, and unspoken agreements to follow. Beyond respecting proper Oktoberfest etiquette, making some of these mistakes could earn you public ridicule, everlasting shame, and even jail time or hefty fines.
To help you avoid making some seriously embarrassing mistakes this year, here are 19 examples of what NOT to do at Oktoberfest.
While some of these may seem super obvious, trust me when I say I’ve seen them all. Obvious or not, some people just don’t get it. Congratulations on taking the first step to not being one of those people.
1. Do not turn up in the wrong city
*shaking my head* Unfortunately yes, going to the wrong city is definitely something to avoid at this year’s Oktoberfest. Every year I have people reach out to ask which city they should celebrate Oktoberfest in.
Personally, I always thought it was obvious that Oktoberfest takes place in Munich, Germany. I mean, even the most basic of internet searches will tell you that. I don’t know if Google’s font can get any bigger.
Those really out of the loop just think Oktoberfest is a Germany-wide celebration. And while they’re not entirely wrong—cities all over Germany do celebrate Volksfest season with festivals of their own—the original and mother of them all takes place in Munich.
I repeat: the giant pretzel and beer festival you think of when you hear the word “Oktoberfest” takes place in Munich, Germany. Literally, in the center of town, within the Munich city limits. If you want to go to “Oktoberfest,” plan to show up for it in Munich.
If this is news to you, you may want to also check out: 26+ Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Oktoberfest (But Definitely Should!)
2. Do not turn up in October
Maybe the fact that Oktoberfest actually takes place in September and not October isn’t the most obvious fact out there, but again, THE INTERNET. Before you plan a trip to an event, regardless of what it’s called, please always look up the dates. Especially when you need to book plane tickets and hotels and rent cars and buy Oktoberfest outfits.
I have in fact had people ask about the details of their Oktoberfest trips after Oktoberfest has ended. Don’t miss the beer boat, people! Oktoberfest is in September!
Technically speaking: Oktoberfest takes place almost entirely in September, but does end in October, usually on or around October 3rd. But still, plan for September.
3. Do not buy “Oktoberfest tickets” from anyone
I talk more about this in my post on the biggest Oktoberfest scams, but I’ll summarize it here. Oktoberfest is a free event; there are no tickets, wristbands, day passes, or any such nonsense you have to buy in order to attend.
The only thing you pay for at Oktoberfest is the food you eat, the beer you drink, the souvenirs you take home, etc. You do not have to pay to get into Oktoberfest. You do not have to pay to get into a beer tent.
Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise or sell you “Oktoberfest tickets” is trying to rip you off. And it happens year after year. When it comes to what not to do at Oktoberfest, paying to get in is an important one!
4. Do not try to save seats in a beer tent
Attempting to save seats in a beer tent or hog an entire table is huge on the list of what not to do at Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is a uniting, friendly affair where everyone you meet becomes your best friend. But don’t you dare try to save seats for your friends who are “on their way” or “are coming later.” I mean it; it’s all fun and games until you try to tell someone they can’t sit there.
Oktoberfest beer tents are where the party’s at and there are only so many seats for so many butts in there. Yes, the large tents have anywhere between 5,000 – 10,000 seats, but there are always more people than that trying to get in.
At Oktoberfest, the rule is basically “finders, keepers” when it comes to seats in a beer tent. If your ass can fit there, your ass can sit there. There’s no holding of seats for people who aren’t there yet and, if not another thirsty soul, then your server will definitely fill that spot A$AP.
If you want to make sure your whole group can sit together, you’ll have to arrive together. Show up earlier in the day to get whole tables to yourself, or make a beer tent reservation ahead of time (for groups of 10 or more).
5. Do not try to pay with a credit card
At Oktoberfest, cash is könig. Oktoberfest beer tents only accept cash so prepare for this. Do not order a round of beers and try to pay with a credit card. Oktoberfest is an intense and fast-paced environment and the incredibly busy and impatient servers don’t have time for your nonsense.
In the beer tents, you order a beer then pay for that beer when the server delivers it. There’s no starting a tab or paying at the end or anything like that. It’s beers for cash and nothing else. I honestly don’t know what would happen if you told a server you didn’t have cash to pay for the round of beers she just brought you… and I really wouldn’t want to find out.
6. Do not try to pay with U.S. dollars
I don’t know why this is such a prevalent belief among Americans traveling to Europe (or anywhere actually), but NO, you can’t pay with US dollars at Oktoberfest. Or in Germany. Or in Europe. (Seriously, why do you think this?)
It’s true there are a few places outside the United States where you can pay with US dollars (Puerto Rico, Ecuador, some Caribbean islands, etc.), but that’s because US dollars is their national currency. Not because being an American abroad entitles you to certain privileges.
For whatever reason, people ask every year if they can use American dollars at Oktoberfest. I don’t know why they would ever think this is possible, but the answer is NO. Don’t bring your dollars; only euros.
7. Do not forget to tip
While tipping culture isn’t as prevalent in Europe as it is here in the U.S., you should still always tip the servers at Oktoberfest. When you get there, you’ll see just how hard they work and that they absolute deserve it. Not only that, but not tipping is a good way to not get served again. And a beer-less beer tent sounds like a real bummer.
Beers at Oktoberfest cost between €12 – €14 depending on which tent you’re in. An extra euro or two on top of this is standard and very much appreciated.
8. Do not wait until you get into the Wiesn to get cash
Now that we’ve established you need cash to party, be sure to get some before you head over to the Theresienwiese.
Since you can only pay with cash at Oktoberfest, there are plenty of ATMs around the Wiesn to make sure you don’t make embarrassing mistake No. 5. But are they cheap? No. Are they free of long lines? No. Do you risk getting ripped off or pick-pocketed or losing your card because you’re trying to use an ATM after 4 liters of beer? Yes.
You already know you need cash, so be sure to stock up before you head to Oktoberfest. There’s a good chance there’s going to be a bank or two on your walk to the Wiesn. Or just anywhere else you find yourself in Munich.
The ATMs at Oktoberfest charge outrageous fees and usually have long drunken lines. Nobody’s got time for that (especially since you can’t take your beer with you).
Pro tip: the best place to get cash when you travel is always out of the ATM at the airport when you land. This will get you the best exchange rate and there are never any lines.
9. Do not ask for a small beer
On the list of what not to do at Oktoberfest, this may be one of the most embarrassing. With only a couple of exceptions, there is only one size of beer at Oktoberfest, and that’s a liter. This liter of beer is called a maß (pronounced moss) and the glass mug it comes in is called a maßkrug (moss-kroog).
Regardless of how much you like beer, how slow you drink, or how small you are, you will be served beer in a liter mug and that’s that. There are no other sizes so don’t even ask. Nothing will make you stand out more like a clueless tourist than asking for a small beer.
The exceptions are tents like Kuffler’s Weinzelt (the wine tent) where the only beer sold is ½ liters of Paulaner Hefeweizen. Even then, you just get the one size.
For more on Oktoberfest’s wine tent and what else you can drink at Oktoberfest besides beer, check out my guide to Oktoberfest for non-beer drinkers.
10. Do not ask for ice
I don’t know where the idea came from that European countries serve their beer warm. This couldn’t be further from the truth actually. It’s true that Germany doesn’t serve their beer ice cold in an ice-covered mug but that’s because they don’t need to cover up what their beer actually tastes like.
Their beer is actually so good that they want you to taste it! For that reason, beer in Germany is served cold, but not tap the Rockies cold. I promise, the temperature of the beer you drink at Munich Oktoberfest will be a non-issue. Please, I beg you, do not ask for ice to put in your beer.
Not only do they not have ice in most places at Oktoberfest, you’ll probably be publicly shamed. Paraded naked through the festival grounds while the locals throw old sausages and shout “Shame!” at you.
11. Do not try to get drunk as fast as you can
I see this every year—some bro who thinks he can “beat Chad’s record” by drinking 10 liters by noon. This always turns out the same: the bouncers tossing him out for falling asleep at the table and his friends carrying his lifeless body back to their hotel where they drop him into his bed before coming back to party with everyone else. AT 10:30 AM. Why did you even come to Oktoberfest, bro?
The important thing to remember about drinking beer at Oktoberfest is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The beers are served by the liter and the beer is stronger than the Michelob Ultra you’re used to, bro. You getting hammered at 10am is fun for literally no one. You look like an ass.
Why spend all that money and time to attend Oktoberfest if you only get to experience like 10 minutes of it? One big what not to do at Oktoberfest is get too drunk, too fast.
12. Do not forget to eat
And in that spirit is my reminder to not forget to eat at Oktoberfest! So much beer… so much strong beer. Do not forget to eat while you’re there; this is crucial to finishing the marathon!
All Oktoberfest beer tents serve full menus of delicious food. It comes in huge portions and you can get anything your heart desires. They even have daily lunch specials so you can save some cash (for more beer). There are even people inside the tents and outside in the beer gardens walking around selling snacks of all kinds, like at a baseball game.
Outside the tents are all kinds of food kiosks. Everything from roast chickens, bratwursts of all kinds, dampfnudeln, pastries, ox dishes, and I could seriously go on. It doesn’t matter what you get, just be sure to eat!
13. But don’t eat the cookies
The decorated cookies you see at Oktoberfest are called lebkuchenherzen. They’re made for giving and wearing but not necessarily for eating. You only have to make this mistake once.
They’re technically edible of course, but they’re made in such a way as to be extra hard and durable so they’ll last. And while they do have a gingerbread cookie aura about them, they’re just gross. I know, it seems like such a great idea to rip into that cookie on the way back to your hotel after a full day of marathon beer drinking. Such a shame. A rock-hard, flavorless shame.
14. Do not dance on the table
The later it gets at Oktoberfest, the crazier it gets. By mid-afternoon people are off their bums and up on their feet, dancing to that fabulous Oktoberfest music. But what’s important to remember here: dancing on the benches is always fine but dancing on the tables is a big no-no.
Dance on the bench all you want! But don’t even think about putting a foot on the table. Not only is it not allowed and can get you kicked out, but it’s also stupid. It’s covered in glass mugs you could kick over; it’s wet and slippery; it’s so much farther to fall than from the bench; and people are eating on it!
15. Do not wear a costume
I could go on and on about what to wear to Oktoberfest and how you should always go after traditional clothing over a cheap “October Fest Costume.” But here I’m specifically talking about other costumes.
First of all, no one thinks your “Carry Me to Oktoberfest” costume is funny. It’s been done a thousand times and that thing looks more like a leprechaun than anything else. Plus, do you really want to wear a costume that makes fun of the local Bavarian culture… to a festival where you’re surrounded by the locals you’re mocking?
Beyond that, you won’t be allowed into the beer tents if you’re wearing this or any other ridiculous costume. If you do manage to get in, you’ll get kicked out as soon as you’re spotted. In 2019 I watched the bouncers at the Hofbräu tent toss out a guy dressed as Jesus. And if he can’t get by with it, I’m guessing no one can.
Lemme just say, it’s going to be super embarrassing for you when you go all the way to Oktoberfest and they won’t let you in because of what you’re wearing. And, ahem, don’t expect your friends to save you a seat. Just stick to a trusty ol’ dirndl or lederhosen, mmkay? Save the silly costumes for your at-home Oktoberfest party.
But do you have to dress up for Oktoberfest? Should you? Get all your questions answered in that link.
16. Do not wear your dirndl backwards
I shouldn’t have to say this, but here we are. The concept of a dirndl is probably foreign to you if you’re not native Bavarian and/or have never been to Oktoberfest. So I understand that you may not know how to put it on initially. But… it’s not rocket science either.
Here’s a tip: Every dirndl that I have ever seen and/or put on zips either in the front or on the side. NEVER IN THE BACK. This means, if you put your dirndl on and you’re zipping it up in the back, it’s probably on backwards. If the tag is in the front, you’re probably putting it on backwards.
I understand how someone could make this mistake since our everyday dresses commonly zip up the back. I’ll let that slide. But when the “front” of the dirndl you’re wearing goes up to your neck, and the “back” is open, maybe take a beat and think about why.
When you notice the thousands of other women at Oktoberfest wearing their dirndl in the opposite direction as you, maybe dig deeper into that. Maybe take a second to ask yourself, “Why is all the decoration in the back, but the front is plain?” Hmm…
And when you do realize what has happened, it’s as easy as going into the bathroom stall and turning your dress around. It’s a 1-step process.
Look, we’ve all done something dumb like this before. We’ve all gone somewhere with our shirt inside out or backwards, or accidentally worn two different socks. But those are easy mistakes to make. This one? Not so much. This one took effort. I can’t figure this one out.
17. Do not pass out on the hill behind the tents
Look, I know you’ve had way too many liters of beer and you just want to lay down. Who doesn’t? But if there’s anything you should take away from this list of what not to do at Oktoberfest, it’s do not lay down on the grassy hill.
This hill behind the beer tents may look harmless, but it’s commonly referred to as “puke hill.” Can you guess why? This is where all the drunk AF people go to… well, everything. Take a nap or sit down and rest, sure, but also to throw up, pee, and god knows what else. (I have seen some stuff.) Don’t let the green grass fool you; it’s seriously so gross.
18. Do not try to steal a stein
Everyone wants a souvenir from Oktoberfest, and the souvenir most people want are the beer mugs. Yeah they’re cool and great to have around the house. But get yours the honest way—they sell them there!
Attempting to steal the mugs is a big deal and you do not want the Oktoberfest police after you. They know what you’re trying to do and they’re pretty good at stopping mug thieves at the exits. In 2019 they caught 96,912 people trying to steal mugs. In 2022 that number was 112,551.
The mugs are huge and heavy and you’re probably drunker than you think you are. Don’t even try to get away with it. Just buy one.
Want to learn more fun facts about Oktoberfest? Try your hand at my Oktoberfest trivia quiz here.
19. Do not snort just any ol’ white powder
I hope this is a given in your life, but I’m going to reiterate it here just in case. At Oktoberfest there’s something called Wiesn’koks. It’s a white powder that’s made from menthol and grape sugar. And it’s for snorting—for a burst of energy, to clear the head, to just freshen things up a bit after hours of beer drinking and pretending to know all the words to the songs.
It’s sold inside the beer tents by the beer tents themselves as souvenirs. Thing is, people are generous and offer to share theirs all the time. I won’t tell you to try it (for legal reasons and all), but I will tell you not to try it if you didn’t see where it came from.
Please always exercise caution anytime a stranger encourages you to snort a white powder that’s not yours. Do I really need to say this?
If you found this interesting, be sure to check out my post of all my best Oktoberfest tips from years of creating and leading tours there.
I hope I’ve made your upcoming time at Oktoberfest in Munich a little easier to plan for by sharing this list of things you shouldn’t ever do there. As always, if you have any Oktoberfest-related questions, don’t hesitate to leave them below!
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