Oktoberfest -- officially kicking off in Munich today for a week -- is expensive. From the €10 euro beers to three-foot pretzels to $100+ costumes, if you're going to do it right, the celebration isn’t anywhere near cheap. So why would any thrifty traveler include this Germany pitstop on their itinerary?
In short, it's an unbeatably festive, uniquely preserved Bavarian tradition. When else do you get to join thousands dressed in traditional garb clanking steins and singing to the accordion tunes of a live Lederhosen-clad band? And it's much more than just guzzling beer. These tents are surrounded by an incredible array of amusement park rides, food vendors, and grassy knolls for breaks (or naps).
The better question, we think, is: How to experience this be on a budget?
Here’s the first trick for doing Oktoberfest on the cheap: Don’t stay in Munich! Seriously, hotel prices are through the roof expensive, and most hotels sell out quite literally a year in advance. Instead, consider lodging in Nuremberg (rooms starting under $60/night), Bavaria’s second largest city and a tourist destination in its own right, with castles and and plenty of WWII history to boot. Regensburg (hotels starting at $70/night), a UNESCO heritage site, boasts a breathtaking medieval center that’s perfect for relaxing day for lounging.
We're fans of BYOP: bringing your own pretzels. It's probably not a surprise that food inside the Oktoberfest tents will have substantial markups. While delicious and part of the experience -- roasted chicken, anyone? -- consider bringing your own munchies to sustain you through the day. Or, you can also find cheap doner kebab, sausage, and chicken vendors right outside the tents. If you’re looking for a particularly Bavarian meal, we recommend Nürnberger Bratwurst Glöckl. Sit down, order a portion of the bratwurst for €6 euros ($7.50), and lather your wurst in their delectable mustard.
Obviously, a large portion of an Oktoberfest-themed jaunt will go toward consuming delicious Hofbräu München and Helles. Considering each one-liter stein costs €10 ($12.60), it's easy to eviscerate your savings while singing in a beer tent. The solution? Think back to the good old days of "pre-gaming." What’s nice about Munich, and most Germany in general is that you can purchase half-liter bottles of beer for less than a dollar -- and enjoy them anywhere. Treat yourself to a couple of these before heading to the tents, and you won't have to break then bank to maintain a cheery buzz.