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
Extra tip: The European East Pass is priced competitively with the other passes listed here — once it's back on sale, compare rates even if you're not planning on traveling in all four of the covered countries.
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 operated by the national railway (the ÖBB), as well as the following extras:
- Trains running nonstop between Salzburg and Kufstein, even when they cross a bit of Germany, are covered by all rail passes that cover Austria. (Trains that stop in Germany — e.g. at Rosenheim, in the southeast corner of Germany — are only covered by rail passes that include Germany…and of course by point-to-point tickets.)
- S-Bahn trains (but not U-Bahn trains) in Vienna and Innsbruck are covered by all rail passes that cover Austria. (This bonus is usually only relevant on the days you arrive or depart on a longer train ride, since otherwise it makes little sense to use up a rail pass travel day for a short, inexpensive trip.)
- Eurail-brand passes also cover privately operated WestBahn trains.
- Eurail-brand passes grant you a 50 percent discount on certain Lake Constance boats.
- Eurail-brand passes grant you a 20 percent discount on certain Danube river cruises.
- The buses between Villach, Austria and Venice (Mestre and Tronchetto stations), and between Klagenfurt and Graz, which are run by the national railway, are covered by all rail passes that cover Austria. Reservations cost about $15; if your pass doesn't cover both countries, you'll also need to pay a supplement. (A 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). In Austria, kids under 6 ride free without a ticket (whereas train travel in most neighboring countries is free only for kids under 4).
- 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).
- High-speed connections between Vienna and Salzburg are usually cheaper on WestBahn trains than ÖBB's Railjet trains (and WestBahn sells tickets on board at no extra cost).
- Search for Austrian ticket fares on the national railway's site. You can also order by phone at +43 5 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 ("Classic") Vorteilscard or one of several Österreichcards.
Also see our general tips for buying point-to-point tickets.