Let’s rewind back to September 2012. I had just landed my first job in London. They didn’t actually need me to start for a couple of weeks so naturally I wanted to fill that time with one last holiday before returning to the world of employment for the first time in 3 months.
Oktoberfest had been one of the events on my bucket list for when I moved to London. I had been to Munich twice before and had a blast with friends at the Hofbrauhaus on both occasions. I even picked up a dirndl on my last trip there so I definitely looked the part. I realised that the time I had before starting work coincided with the opening weekend of Oktoberfest so I decided to book a last minute trip to Munich via Salzburg.
I would be taking this trip solo - at the time I only had a few friends in London and they had work commitments so they weren’t able to take off last minute. Because of this I decided to book a group tour so that I’d have the chance to meet some people and not be totally alone at the festival. Most group packages were already sold out at this late stage but I was able to find a 3 night hostel package in walking distance of the Oktoberfest grounds.
In the end, the trip didn’t go as well as I had hoped! Let me explain how it all went wrong and why I will never return to Oktoberfest as a solo traveller during the opening weekend.
Attending the opening weekend is a bad idea
I didn’t realise it at the time but the opening weekend of Oktoberfest is the busiest time of the festival. Our tour arranged for us to get to the beer halls around 7-7:30am to start queuing. On the opening day, the doors open at 9am and then its a mad rush to find a table. This is important because if you don’t have a table then you won’t be served.
We had originally lined up outside the main set of doors of the Hofbrau tent but were shuffled along to some side doors by security. When 9am finally came, those side doors didn’t open so we lost any advantage we had by getting there early and there wasn’t much left in the way of tables when we did get inside.
I had kind of assumed that since this was an organised tour they would have some tables reserved or at least some kind of strategy for keeping people together - this was definitely not the case. Once those doors open its every person for themselves in the race for a table.
We did manage to squeeze on to a table after scouring the tent. Then it was time to settle in for a 3 hour wait. On the opening day the first keg isn’t tapped until 12pm by the Mayor of Munich so you won’t be getting any beers until after that.
Everything was going great until we got kicked off our table in the afternoon - lots of tables are reserved by locals from around 3pm. By this time the tent is quite crowded and security like to literally push people out the doors if you stand in one place for too long. This is not an exaggeration - be careful when queuing for toilets as security will probably try and push you out of the tent if you are close to an exit. We had been warned about this earlier by the tour leaders but it still took me by surprise when it happened. They weren’t letting any more people back into the tent so a few of us ended up being stuck outside for a couple of hours. Normally this would be a good time to check out the showground and the rides but unfortunately on this day the weather was wet and cold so being forced to stay outside was not much fun.
The second day was a lot better. The weather improved, the queues were shorter and the tents were less hectic. The crowds die down further mid-week and I’m sure that would make for a much more enjoyable experience. If you’re planning a trip to Oktoberfest definitely try and visit mid-week and avoid weekends like the plague!
My hostel nightmare
Booking a hostel was not my first choice, I would have preferred a hotel but unfortunately since I booked so late there wasn’t anything available. I ended up in a 6 bed dorm sharing with one other girl and a group of four guys who were travelling together.
After a long day at Oktoberfest I came back to the dorm. I noticed one of the beds at the other end of the room was occupied and figured one of the guys had probably gone a bit too hard and passed out early. I gathered some of my things to go have a shower and it wasn’t until after I came back out that I realised that person in the bed was not alone - I’ll leave it to your imagination to work out what they were doing. Feeling incredibly awkward I quickly finished getting ready and bolted from the room. I had stayed at a few hostels before but never experienced anything like this - it pretty much turned me off ever wanting to stay at a hostel ever again.
These dorms also had private bathrooms and lets just say they weren’t left in the best state. I’m not the only one who experienced this problem - on the last morning I ran into a girl at the hostel desperately searching to see if there were any shared shower facilities she could use (there weren’t).
The best advice I can give is be wary about who you share a room with. If you’re travelling alone and don’t want to risk being subjected to some horrific stuff then a private room is your best option.
This probably sounds like I had a terrible time at Oktoberfest - that’s not entirely true. Some parts were a lot of fun and I wouldn’t rule out returning to Oktoberfest again if in the company of great friends. I’ve definitely learnt what not to do in future, though!