After going to Munich's Oktoberfest three times, I've learned how to best navigate the Volksfest.
Take the costumes seriously, and make sure you explore Theresienwiese beyond its six large tents.
Also, never pay for entry or a table reservation — both are completely free to all patrons.
As a former Munich resident and a longtime Oktoberfest fan, I know a thing or two about the world's biggest and most famous beer festival.
First organized to celebrate the marriage between Louis I, the crown prince of Bavaria, and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810, the festival has evolved into an enormous showcase of Bavarian culture and, most famously, German beer.
Lasting between 16 and 18 days every September and October, Oktoberfest is held on festival grounds called Theresienwiese, named after the princess who got married there over 200 years ago.
Most people come for the beer, with all six of Munich's major breweries selling their latest creations. However, they stay for the atmosphere. After experiencing Oktoberfest's rousing songs, table-top dances, and traditional German food, I have yet to find a similar sense of community elsewhere.
Here are 10 tips and tricks I wish I knew when I first attended Oktoberfest, or, as the locals call it, the Wiesn.
Don't pay for entry or table reservations.
Anyone who tries to get you to pay for reservations in a beer tent is trying to fleece you. Luckily, my German friend warned me about these scams during my first Oktoberfest.
If I'd paid the $50 that the fake company requested for the so-called reservation, it would've gotten me nowhere.
Table reservations can only be made directly with the respective tent and don't cost a cent. No other vendor has the ability to make reservations. Normally, people don't even need them since there are plenty of places to show up on the day.
Admission to Oktoberfest and its many tents is also free, so don't be tricked into paying an entry fee. Save your money for beer, as a stein, or two liters, can come in at around $13.
Withdraw cash before you enter Theresienwiese to avoid lengthy ATM lines.
Take out as much cash as you plan on spending at Oktoberfest before you enter Theresienwiese, which is a 10-minute train ride from Munich.
Some tents accept cards, which is rare in Germany, but your order will be made much faster if you don't need to wait for a card machine. Paying with cash keeps your server happy and probably gets you your drinks faster.
There are ATM machines inside the festival grounds, but a lot of other people are also keen to withdraw cash. Don't waste precious party time standing in the queue. Come with plenty of money ready to go.
Arrive early in the day to beat the crowds and secure a prime seat.
Oktoberfest is, first and foremost, a beer festival, so many tourists turn up in the late afternoon or in the early evening, when they think it's appropriate to start drinking alcohol.
Many don't realize that beer is considered both a beverage and a food (known as "liquid bread") in Bavaria, so you can start drinking it whenever you like.
In fact, arriving early means you don't get trapped in queues right outside of the subway station. Oktoberfest opens at 10:30 a.m. and closes at 11:30 p.m., so get there before noon to bag the best seats in the house.
Get involved in the singing and dancing — it'll help you make friends with the people around you.
If you're traveling alone or in a small group, don't worry about getting lost or overwhelmed in the crowd. Oktoberfest is best-enjoyed singing, dancing, and drinking together with complete strangers who you probably won't ever see again.
During my first Oktoberfest, I was nervous about getting involved in the raucous singing and dancing, but those are the things that make the festival what it is.
You'll be hard-pressed to make it through the festival without becoming brief friends with the people surrounding you.
Explore all the tents instead of staying put in one.
Once you have a seat, you might be tempted to stay put and guard it. However, I would encourage you to explore as much as possible.
Each of the six large tents is different and offers a new beer or food to try, not to mention the dozens of smaller tents and stands dotted throughout the festival. The Hacker-Pschorr tent, pictured above, had gorgeous details on the ceiling when I visited this year.
Move around and see everything that the festival has to offer, even if you're having a good time where you are. You can always come back.
The tents can get hot and stuffy, so taking a timeout to try your hand at an activity, like shooting a German rifle or roasting almonds, is a great way to cool off and get a full picture of the festival.
Most of the rides and attractions cost between $2 to $5 and range from child-friendly carnival games to enormous roller-coasters.
Take your clothing seriously.
The traditional German clothing, known as tracht, of dirndls and lederhosen aren't just Oktoberfest costumes. Clothing is an integral part of Bavarian culture, and many rural communities wear the garments to church or other festivals throughout the year.
High-quality dirndls and lederhosen might be expensive (a dirndl can cost anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars, and lederhosen range from $75 to $500), but it's best not to skimp.
Turning up in a touristy T-shirt or a dirndl onesie isn't only disrespectful, but it'll make you stand out from the crowd as someone who doesn't belong.
If you don't want to invest in proper tracht, kit out your look with a feathered hat or another authentic accessory that you can buy around the festival grounds.
There are also plenty of shops in Munich's city center where you can treat yourself to the proper outfit. Just look for the word "trachten" in the window.
It's best to travel to the festival from your accommodation in the clothes you want to wear since no large bags are allowed inside the grounds.
Don't worry about looking silly in your tracht outside of the festival. Many Germans will wear their traditional clothing throughout the city, even if they're not going to Oktoberfest that day.
Travel in small groups rather than large ones.
The larger tents get very busy. If you're trying to coordinate logistics for a group of more than four people, you're inevitably going to lose someone in the mayhem, and you'll likely never find enough seats for everyone.
Oktoberfest is best explored in small groups of two, three, or four, so you can wend through the crowd without wondering if the person behind you is still there.
Going for a ride on the roller-coaster after having several steins is never a good idea.
I'd like to say that this tip doesn't come from personal experience, but it does. The ride by the Paulaner tent exit once seemed like the world's best idea to me. After riding it, my stomach had other ideas.
There are plenty of carnival games, rides, and roller-coasters to try out, and they're good fun. Just make sure you try them out before you fill up on beer and pretzels.
Don't overlook the beer gardens outside of the tents.
The beer tents might be the most popular areas, but don't ignore the beer gardens.
Outside the larger tents, the gardens have just as much singing and offer fresh air. Typically, calmer patrons go there for a more relaxed experience.
The same long tables and benches from inside are arranged in the gardens, and you can enjoy the same food and drinks there. In warm weather, the gardens are an especially pleasant spot to cool off.
Don't feel pressure to learn German songs.
Even though I speak German, I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to sing along with the schlager, or catchy chants or tunes, at my first Oktoberfest. The word "schlager" comes from "schlagen," the German verb for "to hit," so schlagers literally translate as "the hits."
Germans sing the repetitive lyrics at festivals, parties, sporting events, or really whenever they've had a decent amount to drink.
It's fun to know the words to a few of these songs, but it's not completely necessary. The Oktoberfest musicians incorporate popular songs from around the world.
This year, the entire tent sang along to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," Wheatus' "Teenage Dirtbag," and Robbie Williams' "Angels." Rest assured that you'll be able to join in on at least one song.
Read the original article on Insider