Rural or sparsely populated regions in Austria are easier to explore by car as bus services can be infrequent. Many popular spots in the mountains are accessible only by car or on foot/ski.Renting a car for a couple of days is a good way to go off the beaten track. Driving in Austria is normally quite pleasant as the country is small and the roads are in good condition, not congested and offer fantastic scenery. Beware of dangerous drivers, however: Austrians are generally a very law-abiding bunch, but behind a wheel, they seem to make an exception to their considerate attitude. Comprehensive maps of Austria, specific regions within Austria including city maps, as well as maps from neighbouring countries can be bought at any petrol station. Expect to pay around â¬7 for one map.
As in many European cities, parking in cities is subject to fee on work days. Usually those parking zones are marked by blue lines on the street. Some cities such as Vienna have area-wide zones not denotated by blue lines). Fees vary from town to town as do the fines, which are charged if you have no valid ticket, generally between â¬20 and â¬30. Tickets can be usually bought from kiosks, some cities such as Graz have ticket machines on the street. A cheap alternative is to park your car a bit outside of the town in parking garages called Park and Ride, which can be found in any bigger city.
Travelling on Austrian motorways Autobahnen or SchnellstraÃen means you are liable to pay tolls. If your vehicle is under 3500 kg in weight, you have to buy a Vignette toll pass, in advance, which can be purchased at any petrol station or at the border. Vignetten can be bought for 10 days â¬7,70/â¬4,40 for motorcycles, 2 months â¬22,20/â¬11,10 for motorcycles or 1 year â¬73,80/â¬29,50 for motorcycles; technically valid until January of the following year.
If you intend to transit Austria via the A14 from the German border to the Swiss border at Hohenems/Diepoldsau, you can instead purchase a Korridor-Vignette. This is valid for a single trip along this road and can be purchased for â¬2.00 or â¬4.00 for a round-trip at the border.
Vehicles heavier than 3500 kg must instead purchase a GO-Box, a transponder which deducts tolls as the vehicles travel along the Autobahn or SchnellstraÃe. The cost the GO-Box is â¬5 and tolls can either be prepaid â¬75 initially, followed by increments of â¬50 to recharge or paid through an invoice at a later date. Rates vary from â¬0,16 to â¬0,33/km based on number of axles, with extra charges paid based on time of day and for certain Autobahnen.
Driving a car on a motorway without a vignette is punished with either payment of a substitute toll of â¬120 â¬65 for motorcycles that allows one to travel on the motorways for that day and the day immediately following or a fine of upwards of â¬300, and if the fine is not paid on the spot, valuables may be seized from your vehicle and person to ensure that the fine is paid. You must affix the vignette to the front windscreen of your vehicle, preferably in the top centre or on one of the driver's side corners, otherwise it is not valid, a common mistake made by foreigners in Austria. The motorway police regularly check for vignetten. Driving without a valid GO-Box, if required, costs â¬220, and setting an incorrect toll class carries a â¬110 substitute toll.
What not to do with a Vignette
Do not, under any circumstances, share a vignette with another vehicle, as doing so renders the vignette invalid and the sticker is designed to show if it has been invalidated in this manner. The penalty for doing so doubles the subsitute toll fee or incurs a fine of up to â¬3000, and payment may be guaranteed with the seizure of valuables from your car.
Additional tolls are payable on certain roads, especially mountain passes, which you need to pay in bank notes not coins. An example is at Brenner Pass, right before the A13 enters Italy, where a toll of at least â¬7,95 is collected each way.
The speed limits are 130 km/h on Autobahnen and 100 km/h on SchnellstraÃen and BundesstraÃen. Expect limits otherwise of 50-80 km/h.
Rules on Autobahnen are very similar to the rules in Germany. For example, you may not pass on the right, and the minimum speed limit is 60 km/h vehicles unable to travel 60 km/h are not admitted onto the Autobahn.
Take special care when driving in winter, especially in the mountains and keep in mind that winter lasts from September to May in the higher parts of the alps and snowfall is in general possible at any time of the year. Icy roads kill dozens of inexperienced drivers every year. Avoid speeding and driving at night and make sure the car is in a good condition. Motorway bridges are particularly prone to ice. Slow down to 80 km/h when going over them.
Winter tires are strongly recommended by Austrian motoring clubs. When there is snowfall, winter tires or snow chains are required by law on some mountain passes, and occasionally also on motorways. This is indicated by a round traffic sign depicting a white tire or chain on a blue background. It is always a good idea to take a pair of snow chains and a warm blanket in the boot. Drivers often get stuck in their car for several hours and sometimes suffer from hypothermia.
Contrary to popular belief there is no need to rent an off-road vehicle in winter though a 4x4 is helpful. In fact, small, lightweight cars are better at tackling narrow mountain roads than sluggish off-road vehicles.
Virtually all roads in Austria open to the public are either covered in tarmac or at the least even surfaced. The problems normally encountered are ice and steepness, not unevenness. When driving downhill the only remedy against sliding are snow chains no matter what vehicle you are inside.
Petrol is cheaper in Austria than in some neighboring countries but is still more expensive than in America.
Although you'll miss out most of the stunning Austrian Landscape, it is possible to travel by plane within Austria.
Domestic flights normally cost in the region of â¬300-500 return, Austrian Airlines offers limited tickets for 99â¬ Redtickets but they have to be booked usually 2-3 months in advance. Since the country is small, the total journey time is unlikely to be shorter than by rail or car. In other words, fly only if you are on a business trip.
These domestic airports are served by airlines like Austrian Arrows, Intersky, Niki, Welcome Air:
Graz Thalerhof, servicing eastern Styria and southern Burgenland
Innsbruck Kranebitten, servicing Tyrol
Klagenfurt WÃ¶rthersee-Airport, servicing Carinthia
Linz HÃ¶rsching, servicing Upper Austria
Salzburg Wals, servicing Salzburg and Berchtesgaden Bavaria
Vienna Schwechat, servicing Vienna and Lower Austria
Here are international airports serving western Austria:
Altenrhein Airport Switzerland, servicing Vorarlberg, Liechtenstein, Northeastern Switzerland, and Lake Constance area
Friedrichshafen Germany, servicing Vorarlberg, Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg and Lake Constance area