By Rick Steves
Are rail passes a good value for Austria?
Generally speaking, yes — and since hardly any daytime trains require reservations, a pass is also more convenient than buying tickets as you go.
How do I see whether a rail pass makes sense for my trip in particular?
Use this map to add up approximate pay-as-you-go fares for your itinerary, and compare that cost to the price of a rail pass for the number of days you expect to spend on the train. Also, follow the links below for:
- More tips for figuring out whether a pass makes sense for your trip
- The basics on choosing among rail passes
- More tips on how to save money by fine-tuning your rail pass
- Advice on deciding between first and second class
- Fare-estimate maps outside Austria
- Answers to frequently asked rail-pass questions
Choose one of the passes below to check prices and to buy your pass (orders are fulfilled by Rail Europe).
Extra tip: If you're considering a single-country Austria Eurail Pass for more than three days of travel, note that the European East Pass costs about the same, but covers three more countries as well (Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary). It also meets or beats the price of Austria–Czech and Austria–Hungary Eurail Passes.
Do I need to make seat reservations on Austrian trains?
For the most part, you can hop on most Austrian trains with just your rail pass in hand. Only overnight trains, and some international routes, require reservations (as indicated in online train schedules).
What do rail passes cover in Austria?
All trains within Austria, as well as the following extras:
- Trains running nonstop between Salzburg and Kufstein, even when they cross a bit of Germany. (Trains that stop in Germany — e.g. at Rosenheim, in the southeast corner of Germany — are only covered by German rail passes and tickets.)
- All Eurail-branded passes grant you a 50 percent discount on certain Lake Constance boats.
- All Eurail-branded passes grant you a 20 percent discount on certain Danube river cruises.
- The bus between Villach, Austria and Venice (Mestre and Tronchetto stations), which is run by the Austrian Railway, is covered by rail passes. Reservations cost about $15; if your pass doesn't cover both countries, you'll also need to pay a supplement.
- Other bonuses are described in materials that come with the rail pass.
If a rail pass doesn't pencil out for your trip, you may be able to shave off the cost of your train tickets with some of these tips:
- Youths (under 26), seniors (60+), and families with kids under 15 can save up to 50 percent on point-to-point train tickets with a VORTEILScard (€20–27, valid for one year, requires photo).
- Group-ticket discounts start at two travelers and get better as you add more people.
- With SparScheine discounts, you can nab some great deals by buying a train ticket at least three days in advance for pre-selected dates and times (seats are limited and refund restrictions apply).
- Search for Austrian ticket fares on the Austrian Federal Railway's site. You can also order by phone at 011-43-5-1717 (from within Austria, call 05-1717); dial 4, then ask for help in English.
- Those staying longer in Austria can get discounts for a full year by purchasing a full-fare VORTEILScard or one of several ÖSTERREICHcards.
Also see our general tips for buying point-to-point tickets.
Austria Rail Passes: Key Details
Multi-country Eurail-brand passes: These passes are only available in second class for travelers under 26, and offer a two-month window of travel (whereas the single-country Austria Eurail Pass, the European East Pass, and the Central Europe Triangle Pass are all available in second class to all ages — hooray! — but allow travel within only a one-month period).
Austria–Czech and Austria–Hungary Eurail Passes: Since the European East Pass covers trains in more countries for about the same price, it's a better buy than either of these passes. Getting the Austria–Czech or Austria–Hungary Eurail Pass only makes sense if you're planning to spread your train travel over a period longer than 30 days.
Austria–Switzerland Eurail Pass: Covers many Swiss boats as well as trains — see our Switzerland rail-pass page for an outline of coverage. For about the same price as a first-class Swiss Pass Flexi, the Austria–Switzerland Eurail Pass covers two countries and allows you to spread travel over a longer period. Separate, second-class rail passes for each country are cheaper, but you'll use a day of each pass when crossing the border.
European East Pass: Covers nearly all trains in Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary (but isn't accepted on Austria's "WestBahn" brand private trains).
Central Europe Triangle Pass: Covers three train trips in a circle of either Vienna–Budapest–Prague or Vienna–Salzburg–Prague (choose your cities at time of purchase). If these specific routes fit your trip, then this pass saves money over buying separate train tickets between these cities. You can start at any listed city and travel in either direction to return to your starting point via the most direct route. For instance, Prague–Salzburg travel is covered via Linz (6/day, 1 direct, most with 2 changes), but not via Germany. Not valid on "WestBahn" brand private trains. This pass is pre-validated for your specified one-month travel period, and cannot be refunded after the first day of validity.