Austria is served by an excellent rail network and buses cover most of the places you’ll want to get to beyond the tracks. With a bit of planning, you can explore the wild beauty of Austria by public transport at your own pace, without ever getting behind the wheel of a car.

Add on ferries that make the most of the grand sweep of the Danube River, and excellent roads and cycle routes that cut through spectacular Alpine scenery, and this mountainous corner of central Europe is a joy to explore. Here's how to travel around Austria.


Rail travel within Austria is fast, comfortable, reasonably priced and reliable, and national rail operator ÖBB runs a comprehensive route network across the country. Their Railjet trains are the fastest for intercity routes – clean and quiet, with restaurant cars, free WiFi and power sockets.

You can take bikes on trains, but bike storage spaces are limited on Railjet and InterCity trains so it pays to book a place in advance. Folding bikes are carried for free, but for regular cycles, you need a special ticket that costs 10% of the 2nd-class passenger fare.

The journey from Vienna to Salzburg by Railjet takes as little as 2hrs 22mins, with direct trains twice an hour, city center to city center. From Vienna, it’s just 1hr 15mins to Linz, 2hrs 35mins to Graz, 4hrs to Klagenfurt and 4hrs 15mins to Innsbruck, all direct. R and REX trains are slower and stop at smaller stations between the main hubs.

You can book trains online or at train stations (card and cash payments accepted). The cheapest fares are the advance-purchase Sparschiene tickets, which are valid only for a specified departure time; standard tickets offer more flexibility (you’re not tied to a fixed departure time) but can cost twice as much. Seat reservations are only mandatory on some Intercity or EuroCity services, but it’s worth booking on longer journeys or busy intercity routes (there's a small fee).

Funicular climbing to Schlossberg in Graz, Austria
Cog railways and funiculars climb to viewpoints and mountain peaks all over Austria © Shutterstock / irakite

Leisure Tickets are valid for one day and offer unlimited travel on public transport within a specific state or region, including R and REX trains, suburban trains and buses. However, they’re not valid on Railjet, InterCity or EuroCity services, or for private operators. The Leisure ticket is valid for 2 days in Tyrol.

The private rail operator WESTbahn runs hourly direct services between Salzburg and Vienna, using Vienna’s Westbahnhof station, rather than Vienna Hbf. The modern double-decker trains have free WiFi and the standard (flexible) tickets are cheaper than the equivalent fares with ÖBB. There are also some 26 S-Bahn (suburban) rail lines radiating out from major cities including Vienna, Salzburg and Graz.

Austria’s most scenic rail route is arguably the Unesco-listed Semmeringbahn, between Gloggnitz in Lower Austria and Mürzzuschlag in Styria. Built-in the mid 19th century it crosses the Semmering Pass by way of a spectacular succession of tunnels and viaducts.

In mountainous areas, don't overlook cable cars and funicular railways as a means of getting around. The Schafbergbahn railway at St Wolfgang – the country's steepest rack and pinion railway – and the Hintertuxer Gletscher cable car at Mayrhofen are both highly memorable journeys.

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People in a Christmas market in Austria
Take trains and buses to get around, then explore Austria's historic towns and cities on foot ©Timelynx/Shutterstock


If you can’t get somewhere in Austria by train, the chances are you’ll be able to get there by bus, often with a connecting service from the railway station. Most services are run by Postbus (a subsidiary of ÖBB), along with a few regional operators including Salzburg Verkehr in Salzburgerland, ÖOVV in Upper Austria, VOR in Lower Austria, Vienna and Burgenland, Verbund Linien in Styria and Kärntner Linien in Carinthia.

For most journeys, you can just buy a ticket when boarding the bus, but buying a ticket in advance can be a good idea on some major routes in peak season (such as the fast double-decker Intercitybus service between Graz and Klagenfurt, or the bus from Salzburg to Bad Ischl). Sundays tend to see significantly fewer services in rural areas, which you might need to plan around for some journeys.


The road network in Austria is very good and the roadside scenery can be epic. Motorways operate on a toll system, and vehicles are required to display a toll sticker known as a vignette. Vignettes can be bought to cover 10 days (€9.50), two months (€27.80) or one year (€92.50).
If you’re driving in Austria, you need to drive on the right (and overtake on the left). Seatbelts are compulsory and speed restrictions are 130km/h on motorways, 100km/h on open roads and 30km/h to 50km/h in built-up areas.

You’re legally required to have a reflective jacket in the car (to be worn in case of a breakdown), as well as a warning triangle and a first aid kit. Appropriately sized child restraints are required for children under 14 and under 1.35m (4.4ft) tall.

Young mountain biker riding at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria
Bikes are a great way to get to, around and over Austria's mountains © Westend61 / Getty Images


There are Citybike rental schemes in Vienna and Salzburg, and bike rental services are widespread across Austria. Mountain bikes, road bikes and e-bikes are all easy to find, and you can take bikes on trains to avoid long road journeys. On the Danube Cycle Path, there’s the useful option to rent a bike in Passau (just over the border in Germany) and drop it off around 185 miles (300km) later in Vienna.


Austrian Airlines operates domestic flights from Vienna to/from Innsbruck (1 hour) and Klagenfurt (40 minutes). However, for a country this size – boasting an excellent rail network, and crammed with some of the most exquisitely beautiful mountain scenery anywhere in Europe – it’s much more rewarding (and environmentally friendly) to take the train.


Passenger ferries and boat tours operate along the Danube – the Donau website has timetables. There are also boat services on several of the larger lakes in Austria’s Salzkammergut region, including Wolfgangsee and Hallstätter See.

Accessible transportation in Austria

Railjet services have wheelchair spaces and wheelchair-accessible toilets (the coaches where these are provided are marked on timetables). Lifts are provided to reach platform level at major stations such as Salzburg Hbf and some trains have wheelchair ramps for boarding. ÖBB has an online form for enquiries regarding station and onboard accessibility for specific journeys. See Lonely Planet's Accessible Travel Resources page for more information.

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