Advice for women and girls How to have fun and stay safe at the Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is about partying, swaying to the music, meeting new people - and all of this should happen without sexual assault.

(Foto: Stephan Rumpf)

Tips for women, girls and everybody else.

Von Tanja Mokosch

A woman has the right to do whatever she wants at the Octoberfest. She can drink, sway to the Oom-pah music, kiss whomever she wants, wear a long dirndl dress, or a short one, or not wear a dirndl at all. "A woman must be able to cross the Oktoberfest unharmed, even if she's naked and completely drunk", says Magdalena Schierl, who works for "Frauennotruf München" and a project called "A Safe Oktoberfest for Girls and Women".

All this sounds great. But the reality is often very different. Every year the police report numerous incidents ranging from mobile phone theft to sexual assault. Of course none of the victims are to blame and not all women become victims. But this year's Wiesn is the first Oktoberfest since Cologne made international headlines for multiple cases of sexual assault on New Year's Eve, so many visitors are especially concerned this year and many women are still undecided on whether to go at all.

"A Safe Oktoberfest for Girls and Women" offers some tips on its website on how to enjoy a safe Octoberfest experience: "Here are some simple suggestions, gained from experience. And they apply to all Wiesn visitors - not just women and girls"

The most important Wiesn-rules

  • On busy days, the Oktoberfest can attract more than 600,000 people, and you can easily get lost in the crowd, so it makes sense to agree on a meeting point in advance.
  • Large handbags and backpacks are not permitted this year, and they could anyway be lost or stolen. It is a good idea to carry your money, mobile phone, keys and hotel address on your person.
  • If the tents are overcrowded you may not be able to get back in. Make sure you take your personal belongings with you when leaving the tent. Even if you're just popping out for a smoke.
  • Oktoberfest beer is particularly strong and is served in one litre beer mugs, so you should have a non-alcoholic drink and something to eat in between. This will help you keep a clear head.
  • Someone may try to spike your drink, making you unconscious or unable to defend yourself - such cases are seen at the Oktoberfest every year. Don't leave your drink unattended. And if someone buys you a drink, you should be there when the waitress brings it to the table.
  • In an emergency, ask others for help. Pick out a specific person in the crowd: "You in the red jumper...!"
  • Sexual assault can also happen on your way home, so think about a safe way to get back home/to your hotel.

If you feel unsafe, head to the security point

Since 2003 "A Safer Wiesn" has been running a security point on the Theresienwiese. You can find it below the Bavaria statue in the Service Centre (Servicezentrum in German), next to the police and sharing an entrance with the Red Cross. It is opposite the Schottenhamel tent and is open to all women and girls who need help: whether your mobile phone battery has run out, you have lost your friends, you have forgotten how to get home, you have had too much to drink or have even become a victim of assault, this is the place to turn .

Schierl says: "Your feelings are what counts. Security is there to deal with any problem. You should come to us if you feel unsafe in any way. We take every woman seriously, no matter how small her concern may seem." Last year about 200 women were looked after at the security point. Some just needed to look up their hotel on Facebook, others got a taxi voucher, others got first therapeutic aid after being assaulted - all these matters are taken care of.