You can now book tickets for the Bayreuth Festival through their website and pay with a credit card. Tickets may be ordered by clicking HERE.
 
Getting started:

The following describes the way that traditionally tickets were requested for the Bayreuth Festival. In the last few years there has also been the possibility of buying tickets online. The Bayreuth website explains the ways to get tickets. Read their instructions by clicking HERE.

Here is the way I went about it.

 
Writing the letter:

The first step on your way to getting tickets is to write a letter to the Box Office stating that you would like to receive tickets to the festival. This short letter can be in German, English, or French. Make sure that you sign the letter, and send it with the proper postage to the following address:

Bayreuther Festspiele
Kartenbüro
Postfach 10 02 62
D-95402 Bayreuth
Deutschland

Telephone inquiries about tickets can be made as follows:
Monday to Friday between 11.00 am and 12 noon.

From Germany: 0921 78 78 0
From abroad: +49 921 78 78 0

The Bayreuth Box Office will not accept fax or e-mail requests, only letters. It is also important to send your letter by the end of September, at the latest. When I sent my original letter, I did it as soon as the festival closed at the end of August.

As soon as they receive your letter you will be registered and they will mail you a ticket application bearing your name, address, and your client number. You only have to write a letter once. Automatically, you will be sent a ticket application every year. It is important to remember that you must send the ticket application back with your request every year until you manage to get tickets. If you miss a year, you will lose your turn in line and you will have to start the process all over again.

Along with the ticket application you will receive an informative pamphlet indicating the works that will be presented at the next festival, the personnel responsible for the productions, and the conductors. The pamphlet also contains a calendar of the performances as well as a plan of the auditorium showing the different sections as well as the prices in euros.

IMPORTANT: you must send back the original application that you were sent. No xerox copies, faxes, or e-mails will be accepted.

UPDATE: Starting this year (for performances for the summer of 2012) one can select performances via Internet through the Bayreuth website. The letter you get from Bayreuth has instructions telling you how to log on and select performances. It is not mandatory to send in the original form anymore.

 
The Wait:

Originally, the Bayreuth Box Office would send a letter stating that due to the fact that there were many ticket requests your particular order was not be able to be filled. They would send a similar letter every year until your order was accepted. They DO NOT send letters anymore. According to the Bayreuth website if you have not heard from them by mid January, you have not been selected to receive tickets for that summer's festival.

Some people have waited ten years for tickets, while for others the wait has been less.

UPDATE - 2012

After a wait of eight years, I was selected to purchase tickets for the 2012 Bayreuth Festival. I attended four performances in early August. At times, it seemed that the ticket wait would be endless, and that I would never be selected. However, I believe that good things come to those who have patience, and I am glad to say that it finally paid off. Obviously, It was an unforgettable trip that I will always treasure. On my blog you can read and see videos that make up a personal account of the journey. You can also read my reviews of the four performances I attended. You can reach my Bayreuth entries of my blog by clicking HERE. In addition, I made an online scrapbook of my 2012 visit to Bayreuth. Click HERE in order to see it.

UPDATE - 2017

I returned to Bayreuth this summer, and attended every one of the current productions, including the Frank Castorf Ring, the new Barrie Kosky staging of Die Meistersinger, Katharina Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, and the Uwe Eric Laufenberg Parsifal. Read my blog entries about these performances by clicking HERE. In addition, I also produced a number of podcasts about my trip. You can see and listen to my podcasts by going HERE.

 
The Prices:
Compared to some of the other summer European festivals, the Bayreuth festival is not as expensive, but it is not cheap either. Before you know what you are getting into take into consideration the rising prices of opera seats, and the fact that you will have to wait years to get tickets. Click here to download a .PDF file showing a full seating plan of the Festspielhaus and the 2017 prices.
 
Alternative Roads to Bayreuth:

If you are not into waiting a decade to get to the Festspielhaus there may be other ways to get to the Green Hill. On the day of performance there are always returns. If you do not mind lining up early and waiting for hours, chances are that you will be able to get a ticket. The box office opens daily at 1:30pm. Performances normally start at 4:00pm. Das Rheingold and Der fliegende Holländer begin two hours later, at 6:00pm.

A number of classical music travel companies run tours to Bayreuth every year. These tours always include good tickets to one performance of each opera being given, as well as additional sightseeing tours and special dinners. Many of these companies advertise in classical music magazines such as Opera News.

Finally, becoming a member of the Gesellschaft der Freunde von Bayreuth (The Society of the Friends of Bayreuth) will allow you to get a foot in the door. The society receives tickets annually, and your contribution goes towards financial support of the Bayreuth Festival. It is not cheap, though. The current joining fee is 260 euros, and the annual membership subscription is 205 euros.

"Karten-Schwarzmarkt:"

WARNING: Stay far, far away from the ticket black market! Tickets bought and sold through the black market will not be honored at Bayreuth. Every year people are turned away at the door and some are dragged out of their seats. In addition, both the buyer and the seller are banned forever from Bayreuth and the tickets are not refunded.