Oktoberfest, the beer festival held annually in Munich, Germany, is known as one of the world’s biggest parties. Whether you’re taking a weekend off from studying abroad in Germany or turning up just for Oktoberfest, you want to be prepared so you don’t get ripped off or caught off guard. Many people spend three or more days at the festival, but some may find that one is plenty. This packing list should work for a weekend at Oktoberfest.
Since the festival occurs in late September and early October, there are a range of temperatures you might experience. Even if you plan on renting a dirndl, the authentic local dress, you should also bring things to wear outside of the festival. We will discuss where to find one of these dresses later in the post.
1 pair of jeans – If you don’t find a dirndl, jeans and a sweater will work just as well.
1 pair of leggings – You can wear them under your dirndl or as pajamas.
1 pair of tights – I threw a pair in my bag to put on under my dirndl if my legs got cold.
2 bras – One black and one nude should work.
4 pairs of underwear – Pack less if you plan on washing and wearing your ExOfficios.
1 light jacket or cardigan – It’s smart to bring something to throw over your shoulders.
1 short sleeved shirt – Good for layering.
1 long sleeved shirt – I was glad to have a long sleeved shirt to change into after my day at the festival.
1 sweater – Yet again, if you didn’t find a dirndl, wear a sweater instead.
1 light scarf – Ideal for throwing over your shoulders.
1 pair of flats – I wore flats with my dress and out for dinner.
1 pair of flip flops – Hostel showers are particularly dodgy this time of year.
1 pair of ankle boots or athletic shoes – To wear during the rest of your trip.
2 pairs of socks – Keep your feet toasty.
Small purse or garter belt – You don’t want to carry a large purse or camera bag because you’re more likely to leave it under the table and forget about it. Local stores sell small purses and garter belts to hold your phone and cash under your dirndl. The Clever Travel Companion (see this post) is another good option.
Shampoo and conditioner – You might not have much time for cleanliness during the festival, but it’s always nice to be prepared!
Prescriptions – If you have any prescriptions from home, be sure to bring them along. If you need something while in Germany, however, you can walk into the pharmacy and they will give you what you need.
Birth control – In case you meet a fellow festival goer.
Diva Cup – It’s the easiest way to deal with “that time of the month.”
Deodorant – Keep yourself smelling nice.
Towel – Hostels typically don’t provide them and will run out of ones to rent during Oktoberfest.
Hair brush and hair ties – Travel sized works best.
Toothbrush and toothpaste – You don’t want to wake up to the stale beer taste in your mouth.
Aspirin – You will need it!
Dry shampoo – For those days when you can’t be bothered to wash your hair.
Febreze – If you haven’t gotten around to washing your clothes, a quick spritz will help.
P Mate – I’ve never found a use for this myself, but once I stood in line for over an hour at Oktoberfest, I was suddenly wishing I had one!
Camera – I brought my big DSLR and got sick of carrying it, so something like a GoPro, small point and shoot or your iPhone should work just as well.
>>Browse through our travel photography packing list for the perfect camera gear.
Adapters and chargers – Charge before you go in case you have trouble finding an outlet at your hostel or campground.
Deck of cards – Waiting around from the time you get into the tent to when the first keg is tapped seems like forever. I brought a deck of cards, which kept us entertained until we got our hands on some beer.
Book – I wouldn’t recommend bringing an e-reader for this occasion since it could get stolen, but a basic paperback could keep you entertained while you’re waiting for the festivities to begin.
Small umbrella – Bring an umbrella in case of rain that you don’t mind losing if you accidentally leave it behind in the tents.
Cash – There are long lines for ATMs and no one will take your credit or bank card, so I recommend bringing at least €50 for food and drinks. Each beer costs €10 before tip. Bring more if you plan on staying all day and if you want to do any rides or games outside of the tents.
Map of festival grounds – This may sound silly, but there is more than one Hofbrau tent and more than one Paulaner tent, so telling someone you will meet them in front of a place gets confusing. You can pick up one for free at the visitor’s center beforehand.
Pacsafe Travelsafe 100 – I’ve never found a need for a travel safe, but if I were camping at Oktoberfest, I would want somewhere safe to put my passport and cash while I was at the tents.
Eye mask, earplugs and sleep aids – Trust me when I say that sleeping will be difficult during Oktoberfest.
When to Go
Opening day is easily the busiest day of the 16 day-long festival. People line up to get a table starting at 7 am and start drinking as early. The first keg is tapped at noon, so there’s a lot of sitting around. There is plenty of pomp and circumstance with celebrity guests before beers are served.
After the first weekend each weekend has a general theme. There are gay, Italian, American, student and Australian weekends. Visiting during the week means you won’t have to fight as hard for a table and it’s likely to be less rowdy.
Renting or Buying a Dirndl: What to Wear to Oktoberfest
Dirndls and lederhosen, the female and male traditional Bavarian attire, are quite expensive to purchase. I borrowed mine from a friend but purchased my own blouse for €18. It’s possible to rent your outfit once you arrive in Munich, but it’s a good idea to reserve in advance. If you decide you want to buy a new dirndl, expect to pay upwards of €150. If you buy one at the beginning of the festival, you can likely sell it to someone in your hostel after you’re done with it.
The best way to go, in my opinion, is to buy a secondhand dirndl from Kleidermarkt in Munich. You can try them on before you buy and choose pieces that fit into your price range. Remember that each piece is sold separately: the blouse, apron and dress. And while there are authentic shoes and sweaters you can wear with your dirndl, I found that a basic cardigan and black flats worked just as well.
Which Tent to Choose
Each tent has its own reputation, typically with more Americans and Australians at the Hofbrau tents. I went to the Paulaner tent and enjoyed myself. Each brewery has their own special Oktoberfest beer that you can’t get elsewhere. Sometimes the best tent is the least crowded one.
How to Get a Table
Reservations are the only surefire way to land a table, particularly if you are visiting with a large group. They can cost anywhere between €20-80 and must be made through the individual tents. Otherwise your best bet is to walk in early and grab a seat. Just remember that if you get up, you risk having your table taken.
Eating and Drinking
You won’t be able to order unless you have a table. Food costs between €7-30, depending on what you order. Staples include knackwurst, roast chicken, pork knuckle, schnitzel and potato soups. You will have a waiter or waitress for your table who will continually come by with beers. You must pay immediately, as there are no tabs.
If you’re going with a tour group like Fanatics, Contiki, BusAbout or Topdeck, you will probably be camping near the festival grounds and shuttled to and from.
If you are staying in a hostel, be sure to book well in advance, as they are completely booked up to four months before the festival. Also note that hostels host many of the post-festival after parties, so expect to see rowdy and overindulgent backpackers at all states of inebriation. Sleep is hard to come by to say the least, particularly if you are staying at Wombat’s or Jaeger’s across from the train station.
Hotels may be more expensive, but also need to be booked in advance. If possible, try CouchSurfing or an apartment rental for a more local experience.
The first thing to remember is that the beers are significantly stronger than the beer you’ve had at home and much larger portions. Don’t try to go drink for drink with anyone, especially the Germans who are used to the alcohol content. As you would back home, don’t leave your drinks unattended and you can stop drinking whenever you like. It’s a good idea to keep the address, business card or wristband of your hostel or accommodation on you at all times. If you’re with friends, think of a meeting point beforehand in case you get separated.
Feedback on Companies to (Not) Work With
Since posting this article, we’ve been contacted by HPL readers that wanted to warn other females on companies to avoid working with when staying at an Oktoberfest.
“I do not recommend staying with Stoke Travel to anyone, especially not female travelers. This company does not promote a safe environment for women, and their employees are completely unprofessional. Plus, the campsites are really unsanitary! It may be a more inexpensive option, but it is not worth it to risk your safety.”
“I wouldn’t go with Fanatics again. We were under the impression that because we were with that tour group we would have access to the beer halls with the whole group even if we were later. Turns out that wasn’t the case and about 5 of us ended up sitting outside without everyone else.”
“…I did Oktoberfest with Busabout and they were great. . .I stayed in the hostel, but a few friends camped and had a good time. I have done another trip with Busabout since and can’t recommend them highly enough!”
Book a Viator Tour for Your Trip to Oktoberfest
Munich Sightseeing Bike Tour ↗
With a local guide, you’ll pedal past landmarks such as Odeonsplatz with its Italianate architecture and the landscaped English Garden.
Munich’s Highlights 3-hour Segway Tour ↗
Learn about the history of Munich from the guide while seeing such sites as Odeonsplatz, Hofgarten, Victory Gate, Leopoldstraße, the Maximilianeum and the Peace Angel, among others.
>>Be sure to read these 10 tips for having the best Oktoberfest.
Is there anything you’d add to or subtract from this female packing list for Oktoberfest? Leave us a comment below!
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Make sure to wear something UNDER your dirndl as well — I’m a German folk dancer, and we’re required to wear bloomers under our dresses. Between the wind blowing up your skirts, spinning while dancing, and general mucking about, you might not enjoy flashing your goods to all of Munich. Traditional dirndls have circle skirts, but if you find something more tapered, you can get away without this.
If I don’t have a dirndl, would it be inappropriate to wear a nice white blouse with a fullish skirt instead of jeans – in other words come close to the look but without the bodice and apron?
This is awesome! I’m going there this year, I wish I read it earlier but great advice!
I stayed at Wombats, and didn’t have any trouble sleeping, I feel that if you are in the spirit and you drink enough, sleep comes as no problem 🙂
Just one plea from a local expat: do NOT buy your dirndl from a costume/fancy dress/sex shop or similar. Every year these outfits are seen and there’s only one word for it: fremdschämen (feeling embarrassed for someone else)
While Tracht (traditional Alpine dress) is gladly seen on non-residents, respect is even more so. So borrow from a pal, buy secondhand/locally (Kleidermarkt is a good tip) or rent.
Oh and go in pairs to the toilets. It is easy to be disorientated in the huge tents, especially after beers. Plus safety in numbers.
Look out for the Security Point offices and follow their advice: http://sicherewiesn.de/index.php/en/
And YES TO BIG KNICKERS!!
A group of us girls from Australia are going to Oktoberfest this year, and we all have drindls we’ve worn to Oktoberfest here. They’re just fancy dress, cheap ones. I’m wondering why this is looked down upon!?
Jade, I think she probably means the skimpier ones like you would see as Halloween costumes for American teenagers and young women, and/or ones made of shiny polyester.