Oktoberfest Safety Tips

Everything You Need to Know About Safety at Oktoberfest

die Bierleichen at Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest visitors on Kotzhügel (puke hill). GettyImages / Joerg Koch

Every year, beer lovers from around the world flock to Munich, Germany, to celebrate Oktoberfest. One of the world’s biggest seasonal attractions, the first Oktoberfest took place over 100 years ago as a celebration of Bavarian culture. Since then, this event has taken a life of its own, where Germany’s biggest celebrities and everyday people raise a massive glass to prost!

To the uninitiated, Oktoberfest may appear to be nothing more than a gigantic drinking party for two weeks in September and October. While millions of people around the world come from throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas to raise a weighty glass when the bands play, it also raises the stakes for something to go wrong. After a liter of beer, reduced inhibitions can lead to poor decision-making.

Safety is paramount anytime alcohol is involved. If you plan on visiting the tents this season, remember these Oktoberfest tips to have a safe and satisfying fest.

Pace Yourself Throughout the Events

In the beer tents of Oktoberfest, everything seems a little bit bigger. It’s not just the pretzels: beers come one liter at a time. In addition, Bavarian beer at Oktoberfest is also stronger than the basic Pilsner. When a liter comes to your table, are you prepared for it?

Although it may be tempting to stand on a table and drink the entire beer while the tent cheers you on, German beer is heavier in both volume and size. The average alcohol content is 4.9 percent to 6 percent and beers come in liter quantities (ein Mass).

As a result, travelers often find themselves getting intoxicated faster. This can lead to small problems like increased urination, to bigger issues like troubles with motor skills or even acute alcohol poisoning. There is a hill on the fairgrounds where people can lay down like Bierleichen (beer corpses), affectionately known as Kotzhügel (puke hill). Keep it to a break, and not a pass out.

Recovery Options Are Available to All

Oktoberfest is composed of many large and small bier tents – so don’t limit yourself to just one. As a general safety rule, pace yourself throughout the day and drink responsibly. If you feel as if you drank too much, stop to drink water or seek help at the Red Cross recovery tent.

Every Oktoberfest, the German Red Cross assists as many as 10,000 people suffering from a number of common medical situations, from dehydration to alcohol poisoning. Assistance from Red Cross volunteers comes free of charge and is available in many languages.

The assistance tents also keep extra clothes on hand in various sizes, for those who have overindulged to the point of vomiting. While the Oktoberfest recovery tents are often inhabited by the "walking drunk," anyone in need of medical assistance is welcome. 

Remember this key Oktoberfest safety tip: travelers who feel unwell at any time during Oktoberfest should not hesitate to visit the recovery tent. 

The Oktoberfest Glasses Are Not Complimentary

Each bier tent at Oktoberfest serves beer in glassware adorned with their brewery logo and brewery glasses comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. While it may be very tempting for travelers to walk away with one of these glasses, stealing bar glassware is a crime. 

Despite the temptation, it is illegal to steal or willfully break any of the mugs at Oktoberfest. Security guards often stand watch in front of bier tents, and will check backpacks for stolen mugs and other contraband. A stolen mug could not only prevent you from entering another bier tent, but it could end your Oktoberfest entirely. Those caught with stolen Oktoberfest glassware are often asked to leave, and some have been escorted off by police.

Those who would like to purchase a mug to celebrate Oktoberfest can do so in each of the bier tents. Simply ask the server where in the tent you could purchase one from. Once purchased, legitimate glassware will have a band placed around the handle, letting security know that you legally own the glass. For your own Oktoberfest safety, never steal a glass from your beer tent.

Show Me the Way to Go Home (From Oktoberfest)

After a long day at Oktoberfest, travelers may feel the full effects of the day. In order to accommodate all of the travelers, public transportation options are available throughout the day and night. 

During the long evenings of Oktoberfest, public transportation options maintain their full schedule. Munich’s subway system, the U-Bahn, is coded by both number and color, making it easy for travelers to remember their lines home.

By purchasing a multi-day ticket ahead of a trip, travelers can ride the entire Munich’s subway system without difficulty. In addition, buses also run where the subway does not. Before going to Oktoberfest, make a safety plan by planning how to get back to your hotel, with a written plan kept on you at all times.

Visiting Oktoberfest can create memories that you cherish for a lifetime, but only if you remember them to begin with. By planning your Oktoberfest visit carefully, you can stay safe and have a great time at the world’s biggest fest.