Flying within a country the size of Austria is rarely necessary. The main exception is to/from Innsbruck (in the far west of Austria).
Austrian Airlines (www.austrian.com) The national carrier offers several flights daily between Vienna and Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz and Salzburg.
Most regional tourist boards have brochures on cycling facilities and routes within their region. Separate bike tracks are common in cities, and long-distance tracks and routes also run along many of the major valleys such as the Danube, Enns and Mur. Others follow lakes, such as the bike tracks around the Neusiedler See in Burgenland and the Wörthersee in Carinthia. Landstrassen (L) roads are usually good for cyclists.
The Danube cycling trail is like a Holy Grail for cyclists, following the entire length of the river in Austria between the borders with Germany and Slovakia. The Tauern Radweg is a 310km trail through the mountain landscapes of Hohe Tauern National Park.
Austria’s regions are well-equipped for mountain biking of various levels of difficulty. Carinthia (around Hermagor) and northern Styria (the Gesäuse, Schladming and Mariazell) are excellent places. The Dachstein Tour can be done over three days, whereas the Nordkette Single Trail in Innsbruck is one of the toughest and most exhilarating downhill rides in the country.
It’s possible to take bicycles on trains with a bicycle symbol at the top of its timetable. You can’t take bicycles on bus services.
- You must purchase a ticket for your bicycle (10% the cost of your train ticket; a minimum fee of €2 applies).
- Weekly and monthly tickets are also available.
- It is not possible to reserve spaces on regional, regional express and S-Bahn train services – simply check if space is available.
- For long-distance trains (RailJet, Intercity, Eurocity and Euronight trains), you can reserve a space for your bicycle in advance for €3.50 at ÖBB ticket counters or by calling +43 (0)5 1717.
- To make the journey run smoothly, ask train station staff where on the platform to wait so you'll be in front of the wagon with your reserved space when the train stops.
All large cities have at least one bike shop that doubles as a rental centre. In places where cycling is a popular pastime, such as the Wachau in Lower Austria and the Neusiedler See in Burgenland, almost all small towns have rental facilities. Rates vary from town to town, but expect to pay around €15 to €25 per day.
Some regions have summer bicycle-rental stations where you can rent and drop off a bicycle at different stations, often using a credit card. In Lower Austria and Burgenland the system is very well established. A similar network is also located around the Wörthersee in Carinthia. Vienna also has a pick-up and drop-off service using credit cards.
Touring electric bikes (e-bikes) are available in most regions. Pedal cleverly using energy-saving options and you can get well over 100km out of some models. A few places also rent e-mountain bikes (e-MBs) which cope with the hills and distances remarkably well. Taking advantage of energy options and the terrain on a good model, it's even possible to return an e-MB with almost as much juice as you set out with.
Movelo (www.movelo.com) This e-bike operator has a network of 250 partner outlets for hire and/or battery change in holiday regions of Austria. Typically, an e-bike costs €20 to €30 per day or 24 hours, depending on the station. You book the bikes directly through the stations (see the website for a list).
The Danube serves as a thoroughfare between Vienna and Lower and Upper Austria. Services are generally slow, scenic excursions rather than functional means of transport. Some of the country’s larger lakes, such as Bodensee and Wörthersee, have boat services.
Rail routes are often complemented by Postbus services, which really come into their own in the more inaccessible mountainous regions. Buses are fairly reliable, and usually depart from outside train stations.
- In remote regions plan a day or two ahead and travel on a weekday; services are reduced or nonexistent on Saturday, and often nonexistent on Sunday. Pay attention to timetables on school buses in remote regions. These are excellent during the term (if a little loud and packed with kids) but don’t operate outside school term.
- For online information consult www.postbus.at or www.oebb.at. Local bus stations or tourist offices usually stock free timetable brochures for specific bus routes.
- Reservations are usually unnecessary. It’s possible to buy tickets in advance on some routes, but on others you can only buy tickets from the drivers.
- Oddly, travel by Postbus can work out to be more expensive than train, especially if you have a Vorteilscard for train discounts (only family Vorteilscards are valid on buses). The ÖBB intercity bus between Graz and Klagenfurt (€28.60, two hours) is cheaper, direct and slightly faster than the train. Generally, though, buses are slower.
Car & Motorcycle
- Autobahn are marked ‘A’, some are pan-European ‘E’ roads. You can only drive on them with a Vignitte (motorway tax). Bundesstrassen or ‘B’ roads are major roads, while Landstrassen (L) are places to enjoy the ride rather than get quickly from one place to another.
- Some minor passes are blocked by snow from November to May. Carrying snow chains in winter is highly recommended and is compulsory in some areas.
- Winter or all-weather tyres are compulsory from 1 November to 15 April.
- GPS navigation systems work well in Austria, but as elsewhere, use your eyes and don’t rely on them 100%.
- Motorcyclists and passengers must wear a helmet. Dipped lights (low-beams) must be used in daytime. You must carry a first-aid kit.
- The National Austrian Tourist Office (www.austria.info) has an Austrian Classic Tour brochure, which covers 3000km of the best roads for motorcyclists in the country.
- A number of train services allow you to transport a car with you.
Third-party insurance is a minimum requirement in Europe and you’ll need to carry proof of this in the form of a Green Card. If you’re a member of an automobile association, ask about free reciprocal benefits offered by affiliated organisations in Europe. The car must also display a sticker on the rear indicating the country of origin.
Two automobile associations serve Austria. Both provide free 24-hour breakdown service to members and have reciprocal agreements with motoring clubs in other countries; check with your local club before leaving. Both have offices throughout Austria, and it is possible to become a member, but you must join for six months or a year; expect to pay around €38 or €75 respectively. For a small fee, the associations also translate non-German-language driving licences.
If you’re not entitled to free assistance, you’ll incur a fee for call-outs, which varies depending on the time of day.
Bringing Your Own Vehicle
You'll need to have proof of ownership papers and third-party insurance. The car must also display a sticker on the rear indicating the country of origin.
A driving licence and proof of ownership of a private vehicle should always be carried while driving. EU licences are accepted in Austria; all other nationalities require a German translation or an International Driving Permit (IDP). Translations can be obtained on the spot for a small fee from automobile associations.
It is much easier to hire cars in Austria in large cities. Small towns either have no hire companies or a very limited number of vehicles and can be expensive and booked out. If you’ve got time, shop around for small companies as they can be cheaper (but more restrictive conditions often apply).
Although companies accept any licence that is written in Roman letters, a translation or International Driving Permit (IDP) is required by the traffic police for any non-EU licence not in German.
Minimum Age Requirements
The minimum age for hiring small cars is 19 years; for prestige models, 25 years. A valid licence issued at least one year prior is necessary. If you plan to take the car across the border, especially into Eastern Europe, let the rental company know beforehand and double-check for any add-on fees and possible age requirements.
Third-party insurance is a minimum requirement in Austria. All companies offer personal accident insurance (PAI) for occupants and collision damage waiver (CDW) for an additional charge. (PAI may not be necessary if you or your passengers hold personal travel insurance.)
Auto Europe Books with other car-hire companies; prices can be at a lower rate than by going directly through a company.
Holiday Autos Often offers very low rates and has offices or representatives in over 100 countries and regions. By booking early, you can find prices that are about 60% of those charged by the international companies.
Megadrive Good network in major cities, with often cheaper rates.
Sixt Has offices all over Austria.
Autobahn Tax & Tunnel Tolls
A Vignitte (motorway tax) is imposed on all autobahn; charges for cars below 3.5 tonnes are €8.80 for 10 days, €25.70 for two months and €85.70 for one year. For motorbikes expect to pay €5.10 for 10 days, €12.90 for two months and €34.10 for one year. Vignitte can be purchased from motoring organisations, border crossings, petrol stations, post offices and Tabak (tobacconist) shops.
A toll (which is not covered by the motorway tax) is levied on some mountain roads and tunnels. For a full list of toll roads, consult one of the automobile associations.
Road Conditions, Hazards & Rules
Drive on the right-hand side of the road. The minimum driving age is 18.
Alcohol The penalty for driving while drunk – if you have over 0.05% BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) – is a hefty on-the-spot fine and confiscation of your driving licence.
Children Those under the age of 14 who are shorter than 1.5m must have a special seat or restraint.
Fines Can be paid on the spot, but ask for a receipt.
Giving way Give way to the right at all times except when a priority road sign indicates otherwise, or when one street has a raised border running across it (the vehicle entering from such a street must give way). Note: the 'give way to the right' rule also applies at T-junctions.
Helmets Compulsory for motorcyclists and their passengers (as well as for children under 13 years on bicycles).
Parking Most town centres have a designated Kurzparkzone (short-term parking zone), where on-street parking is limited to a maximum of 1½ or three hours (depending upon the place) between certain specified times. Parkschein (parking vouchers) for such zones can be purchased from Tabak shops or pavement dispensers and then displayed on the windscreen. Outside the specified time, parking in the Kurzparkzone is free.
Safety Carrying a warning triangle and first-aid kit in your vehicle is compulsory in Austria.
Seat belts Compulsory.
Speed limits During the day, it's 50km/h in built-up areas, 130km/h on autobahn and 100km/h on other roads. In some places, the speed on country roads is restricted to 70km/h. From 10pm to 5am – except for the A1 between Vienna and Salzburg and the A2 between Vienna and Villach – the speed limit on autobahn is 110km/h.
Trams These always have priority. Vehicles should wait behind while trams slow down and stop for passengers to get on and off the tram.
Austria’s local transport infrastructure is excellent, inexpensive and safe.
Buses & Trams Bus services operate in most cities and are complemented by a few night-bus lines. Tram and bus services in most places run from about 5am to 11pm or midnight. You usually need to press the stop-request button, even in trams.
Metro In Vienna, the metro runs all night on Friday and Saturday nights. From Sunday night to Thursday night it stops around midnight or 12.30am. No other towns have metro systems.
Taxis Austrians mostly call ahead or use taxi ranks. Flagging down a taxi usually works, though. Drivers always expect a 10% tip.
Ticketing systems and prices vary from region to region. Often they’re sold from machines at stops. Universally, tickets are cheaper from any Tabak shop, also known as a Trafik. Passes for single trips, 24 hours and several days or a week are usually available.
Fines are stiff if you don’t have a ticket – about €60 to €100 is common – and checks are frequent, especially in the provincial capitals.
While the country bemoans the state of its ‘run-down’ rail system, travellers praise it to the heavens. It’s good by any standard, and if you use a discount card it’s inexpensive.
The ÖBB is the main operator, supplemented by a handful of private lines. You can call 24 hours to book a ticket or get information.
Buying tickets Tickets can be purchased by telephone (you'll be given a 12-digit collection code for printing the ticket at a machine or at the service desk). Other methods include online (with registration and self-printing), from staffed counters at stations and from machines at stations.
Reservations Cost €3.50 for most 2nd-class express services within Austria. If you haven’t reserved ahead, check before you sit whether your intended seat has been reserved by someone else. Reservations are recommended for weekend travel.
Disabled passengers Call 05 1717 for special travel assistance (you can also do this while booking your ticket by telephone). Staff at stations will help with boarding and alighting. Order this at least 24 hours ahead of travel (48 hours ahead for international services).
Smoking Not allowed on trains.
Etiquette The ÖBB takes a strong stand on putting your feet on the seats. You can be fined for it.
Depending on the exact route, a fare can vary slightly.
- Tickets can be purchased online or by telephone with credit cards (Visa, Diners Club, MasterCard, Amex and JCB), and additionally with cash or a Maestro debit card at machines and service desks.
- EURegio tickets are discount return tickets between Austria and the Czech Republic, Hungary or Slovakia and can be great value for short visits.
- If you board and go immediately to the conductor to pay your fare, only a €3 surcharge will be applied to the normal price of the ticket. If you don’t do this, a fee and fine totalling €95 will have to be paid (unless you board at an unstaffed station without a ticket machine or the ticket machine is out of order).
- Children aged six to 15 travel half-price; younger kids travel free if they don’t take up a separate seat.
- Kept in suitable containers, small pets travel free; larger pets travel half-price.
- One-way tickets for journeys of 100km or less are valid for only one day, and the journey can’t be broken. For trips of 101km or more, the ticket is valid for one month and you can alight en route. This is worth doing, as longer trips cost less per kilometre. Return tickets of up to 100km each way are valid for one day; tickets for longer journeys are valid for one month, though the initial outward journey must still be completed within six days. A return fare is usually the equivalent price of two one-way tickets.
Depending on the amount of travelling you intend to do in Austria and your residency status, rail passes can be a good deal. They can be purchased from any major train station.
These ÖBB discount tickets can be purchased by anyone. They offer a 45% discount on inland trains for tickets purchased at the counter and 50% if you buy at a ticket machine. After purchasing one (bring a photo and your passport or other ID), you receive a temporary card and can begin using it right away. The plastic permanent card is posted to your home address. It’s valid for one year, but not on buses. For more information visit the ÖBB website, and look under Tickets & Discounts.
Classic (€19) For those over 26.
Family (€19) Valid for up to two adults and any number of children. The children must be travelling with you. Children under 14 years travel free on this card. Also offers 50% discount on Postbus services for adults and up to two children.
Jugend <26 (€19) For those under 26.
Senior (€29) For women or men over 60 years.
Available only to non-European residents, Eurail passes are valid for unlimited 2nd-class travel on national railways and some private lines in 24 countries. You can also pay a supplement if you want to travel 1st-class. Those under 26 receive substantial discounts. See www.eurail.com for all options.
Global Pass Options for travelling 10/15 days within two months (€689/983), or continuous travel for a period from 15 days to one month (€585 to €926).
Eurail Select Pass Allows you to tailor a rail trip in two, three or four of 28 bordering countries (€255 to €418). For Austria, that means Slovenia and Croatia (classed as one Eurail Pass country), the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Switzerland.
Two-Country Select Pass Combine Austria with Croatia/Slovenia, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic or Switzerland for four or five to 10 days within a two-month period.
Passes are for European citizens (including UK) or anyone who has lived in Europe for at least six months. Those under 26 receive substantial discounts. See www.interrailnet.com for all options.
One-Country Pass Austria Adult 2nd-class three/four/five/eight days within a month €159/191/220/296.
InterRail Global Pass Valid for a certain number of days or continuously in up to 30 countries; five days’ travel in 15 days costs €264, 10 days’ travel in one month costs €374 and one month of continuous travel costs €626.
Bahnhof (Bf) Station
Bahnsteig Track (the track number)
Einfache Fahrt (‘hin’) One-way
Erste Klasse First class
Fahrkarte (Fahrausweis) Ticket
Hauptbahnhof (Hbf) Main station
Speisewagen Dining carriage
Umsteigen Change of trains
Zweite Klasse Second class