Transport and Driving in Austria
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Getting around in Austria is easy due to the country’s small geographic size, efficient rail network and well-maintained road infrastructure. For most expats, travelling by train is the easiest way to travel.
While domestic flights between Austrian cities are readily available, they are relatively expensive and only save travellers a small amount of time. Driving in Austria is a pleasure and while owning a car is not a necessity for those living in a big city, it’s a great way to explore the country.
Public transport in Austria
The national public transport infrastructure in Austria consists of buses and trains operated by the state-owned company, ÖBB. The train and bus networks complement each other well and ÖBB has implemented an integrated ticketing system.
Tickets on buses and trains in Austria are based on the distance travelled, the type of train or bus used and the class of seat. Base fares are fairly expensive, but expats who take some time to do their research will find that there are plenty of discounts available.
Trains are the most popular mode of public transport in Austria. Intercity trains that connect the major destinations in Austria are moderately priced and relatively comfortable.
Most train routes are operated by ÖBB, while WestBahn offers competitive services on certain lines. Commuters must be aware that ÖBB rail passes and tickets are not valid for West Bahn trains and vice-versa. Tickets for either service can be purchased in advance online, at train stations or, in some cases, onboard the train.
ÖBB also oversees buses in Austria. The national bus network is not quite as comprehensive as the rail system but has been designed to complement trains. Tickets can be purchased online, at the station or on the bus.
Bus travel in Austria is generally cheaper than the equivalent train journey. Still, where there is the option to travel by train or a bus to a destination, most commuters will opt to take the train. Trains in Austria will generally offer a more comfortable and faster service than intercity buses.
Taxis in Austria
Taxis can be easily found at taxi stands or outside bus and train stations. Fares are regulated and charged according to the meter. Taxis can be hailed while out and about, or they can be pre-booked in advance via phone or online.
Large-scale ride-hailing companies such as Uber are operational in Vienna, but have had to suspend services in the past due to legal battles. For this reason, it's best to check ahead if planning to rely on such a service.
Driving in Austria
Generally, most expats living in Austria will be based in a city and therefore will have little or no need to own a car. However, for those wishing to explore the country and visit more isolated rural parts of Austria or certain popular skiing spots, having a car can be useful. Most expats will hire a car for a short period rather than making a long-term investment.
Driving in Austria is generally a pleasant experience as the country is small and roads are well maintained. Outside the cities, there is very little congestion and driving provides a great opportunity for expats to experience the wonderful scenery in Austria. However, expat drivers should take care when driving during winter, especially if unused to driving in icy conditions. Ice on the roads leads to large numbers of accidents each year, so winter tyres are strongly recommended.
Expats who plan on driving in Austria should note that on Austrian motorways they are liable to pay tolls. Drivers are required to purchase an Autobahnvignette, or toll pass, in advance. Digital toll passes, which are linked with a car's licence number, can be purchased online, while sticker toll passes can be purchased at any petrol station. Driving on a motorway without an Autobahnvignette will result in a hefty fine.
Domestic flights in Austria
Austria is a small country, and so there is no real need to fly between destinations. It is, however, possible to fly domestically between cities in Austria, although it does mean that expats who choose this option miss out on seeing some stunning Austrian landscapes.
Domestic flights within Austria are particularly expensive and the time one saves by flying is minimal. Therefore, the majority of commuters that fly within the country do so only on business trips.