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). Likewise, for roughly the same price of a single-country Austria pass, you can get a two-country Select Pass that combines Austria with either Hungary, the Czech Republic, or Slovenia/Croatia (which count as a single country for the purposes of this pass).
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-brand passes grant you a 50 percent discount on certain Lake Constance boats.
- All Eurail-brand 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. (The popular bus connection shown on the train-fare map on this page — the dashed line between Reutte and Füssen — is not covered by rail passes.)
- 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 (62+), and families with kids under 15 can save up to 50 percent on point-to-point train tickets with a Vorteilscard (€19–29, 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; not sold by US agents).
- 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
Single-country Austria Eurail Pass: Valid for just one month, not two, after you've activated the pass. Note that adding extra days on this pass, at about $20–30/day, is significantly cheaper than doing so on a multicountry pass.
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). Valid for just one month, not two, after you've activated the pass. Note: This is not a Eurail-brand pass, so special Eurail promotional deals don't apply to this pass.
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, but still needs to be activated (stamped) by a train-station staffer prior to first use, and cannot be refunded after the first day of validity. Note: This is not a Eurail-brand pass, so special Eurail promotional deals don't apply to this pass.