Every year at Oktoberfest in Munich, beer tents fill with costume-clad revelers.

With these insider tips, navigating the world’s biggest beer festival just got a whole lot simpler.

Every year, with the arrival of another crisp fall, the dignified city of Munich morphs into a madhouse as approximately 6 million visitors pour into its center for Oktoberfest. Also known as the Wiesn, the world’s biggest drink-a-thon runs for just over two beery, bleary weeks starting in mid- or late September. It’s the embodiment of Bavarian tradition: pomp, parades, a huge fair, and, of course, giant beer tents. We’ve asked some Oktoberfest devotees to share their basic strategies—follow these, and you’ll be drinking like the Deutschen in no time.

1. Know your tents
At Oktoberfest in Munich, 14 beer tents seat between 5,000 and 11,000 people, both inside and in the attached exterior beer gardens. Each has its own atmosphere, but many Munich locals are partial to the Augustiner tent for its excellent beer, down-to-earth ambience, and lack of tourists, who tend to flock to Hofbrauhaus.

2. Time it right
Oktoberfest beer tents open at 10 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on weekends. Despite their large size, they do fill up quickly—on Saturdays you need to haul out of bed at sunrise (think 7 a.m.) if you hope to snag a spot without a table reservation. Most locals prefer weekday afternoons when the festival grounds are a lot less frenzied. To make a table reservation, contact the beer tent you wish to visit directly using information on Oktoberfest’s official website. (This year, for the first time ever, you can also book a spot at a selection of Oktoberfest tents through OpenTable.)

Thousands of attendees drink inside the Löwenbräu beer tent at Oktoberfest in Munich.
3. Find a seat by making friends
At Oktoberbest, all beer tent tables are communal, so keep your eyes peeled for friendly looking folks with empty seats and ask politely if you may join them. If you’re feeling courageous, try asking in German. “Ist dieser Platz frei?” translates generally to “Is this seat taken?” Making warm Wiesnbekanntschaften (Oktoberfest acquaintances) is part of the festival’s fun, after all.

4. Hit the smaller tents
Often overlooked by tourists, the beer festival’s smaller tents are no less atmospheric—they are, however, usually less frantic. Take a stroll across the Oktoberfest grounds and explore your options. Menus at smaller tents tend to be centered entirely around various local treats like cheese, veal, and Mohrenkopf, a small, chocolate-glazed cream-cake. A popular small tent is the Münchner Knödelei, famous for serving up a mean Bavarian dumpling.

5. Revel in nostalgia at the Oide Wiesn
For a glimpse of yesteryear’s Oktoberfest, head to the Herzkasperl at Oide Wiesn. In this small tent, traditional Bavarian cuisine is served (with vegan options!) and the beer garden has dance floors where folk music performances take place.

6. Nosh on Bavarian favorites
For a quick snack, seek out a Wiesn Brezn, Bavaria’s famous, giant salt-encrusted pretzel. You can’t miss these at Oktoberfest (and you shouldn’t). For a hardier meal, munch on Bratwurst, a regional sausage usually served with a bread roll. If hot dog–like snacks aren’t your thing, order the menu classic: halbes Hendl (half a roast chicken).

7. Join the drinking rituals
Traditional German oompah bands play all sorts of cheerful folk music in the beer tents. When you hear “Ein Prosit”—the most popular drinking song at Oktoberfest—stand up, hoist your mug, sing along, clink bottoms, then chug!
Salt-encrusted pretzels are a staple Bavarian snack.
8. Pace yourself
Don’t forget that Oktoberfest beer packs an extra punch; most ales clock in around 6 percent ABV. Remain vertical by drinking slowly, eating, and alternating your beer with a radler (shandy) or soft drink. The last thing you want is to end up as a Bierleiche (beer corpse) on the Kotzhügel (puke hill)!

9. Check out Munich’s nightlife
All but two beer tents kick out the last tippler at 10:30 p.m. (Käfer and Weinzelt remain open until 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m., respectively). For après-Wiesn partying, follow still-thirsty insiders to such nearby haunts as Substanz, Pappa Leone, and the Wirtshaus am Bavariapark beer garden.

10. Reserve your room ASAP
If you hope to hang your hat within stumbling distance of the Wiesn, book accommodation early. Try staying in the city’s Schwanthalerhöhe borough, but don’t fret if you end up staying farther away—subways in Munich run every few minutes. Prost!

Information about Oktoberfest 2018 in Munich:
Celebrations kick off when the mayor of Munich taps the first Oktoberfest keg in the Schottenhamel tent at 12 p.m. on Saturday, September 22. The festival comes to a close at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 7. For the full list of official 2018 beer prices, visit www.oktoberfest.dePlan your trip to Munich here.

This article originally appeared online on August 30, 2017; it was updated on July 25, 2018, to include current information.

>>Next: 8 Beer Gardens Worth the Trip to Germany