Travelling by train in Austria

General information

Welcome to our guide how to save money, time and confusion when travelling in and from/to Austria by train.
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Or if you would like help with planning a train journey within or to/from Austria, or want to add some Austrian destinations to a European train travel itinerary, take a look at ShowMeTheJourney's new Concierge Service.



Travelling by train in Austria is generally a joy!
On the majority of journeys you’ll be passing through stunning scenery and most of the stations look as though they were built or modernized yesterday.
Also the ticketing and trains are comparatively uncomplicated.


The Austrian national operator OBB has a Covid-19 update page, but the key piece of info is that mouths and noses must be covered when travelling on Austrian trains.

The temporary conditions that need to be met in order to enter Austria can be looked up here.

Austrian national operator OBB is allowing customers to cancel or amend any type of ticket booked on the international services which have been suspended.
It's suggesting that this can be arranged at a station in Austria or by calling its customer service team.

National rail operator OBB is now operating the majority of its services, updated information is available on its route information page.

Many of the international services to and from Austria have now once again been temporarily paused to the Covid-19 pandemic.
All daytime long-distance services between Austria and Croatia, Germany, Poland, Slovenia and Switzerland are apparently operating according to the usual timetable.
A reduced service is available on the Wien/Vienna <> Budapest route.

Most of the Nightjet services are being paused until at least late March dates of planned resumption vary according to the route.
The only Nightjet and Euronight services still operating are:
Dusseldorf <> Innsbruck and Wien
Zurich <> Wien and Budapest (this service is being paused from February 7th/8th).

The daytime Railjet trains on the Vienna/Wien <> Venice/Venezia route have been paused on the part of the route between Villach (on the Austrian border) and Venice,

All but one of the daily EC trains which travel between Innsbruck and Verona (and beyond) via Brennero are now paused.

Services have also been reduced on the Wien/Vienna <> Praha/Prague route, with many departures from the Austria capital travelling no further than Brno, the first stop over the border.

The daily IC train on the Wien/Vienna <> 
Košice route is also paused.


The Top 7 Things worth knowing about travelling by train in Austria:

1. ÖBB is the national operator and it provides the majority of Austrian trains - except for;
(1) some independent scenic mountain railways
(2) the Westbahn trains, which provide alternative services to the ÖBB  trains on the Wien/Vienna – Linz – Salzburg route.

2. ÖBB train services are broadly categorised as:
(1) Railjet Express (RJX) =  the fastest trains on the Wien/Vienna - Salzburg - Innsbruck - St Anton - Bregenz route
(2) Railjet (RJ) = the other express trains between major cities
(3) IC = the less frequent express trains to tourist resorts
(4) REX = the regional trains and the local trains outside the major cities

(5) S-Bahn = the  local trains in Austrian cities (not including the Vienna Metro)

3. The discounted tickets for journeys by RJX, RJ and IC train services  are known as Sparschiene’ tickets and these tickets can ONLY BE BOOKED online or on the OBB app.
They're usually available from 6 months ahead of the travel date, but note that they can't be booked at all at stations.

4. Seat reservations are optional on RJX, RJ and IC train services, but are not available on REX trains.

5. The Railjet  RJX and RJ services from and to Wien/Vienna tend to operate to fixed schedules, departing hourly or every other hour.

6. Many Railjet routes extend over the border, so Railjets link Austria to Budapest, Munchen/Munich, Praha/Prague, Venezia/Venice and Zurich.

7. ÖBB operates the Nightjet network, which comprises most, but not all, overnight train services from and to Austria.


Travelling on Austrian Trains AND trains to/from Austria - 9 Things that are good to know:

1. The pride of ÖBB are the Railjets which depending on your point of view are either hideously ugly or wonderfully futuristic.
However, what they definitely are is comparatively comfortable.

Railjets were initially only used on the top tier express routes in Austria, but now the overwhelming majority of express train journeys are by Railjet.

On the main Wien - Linz - Salzburg - (Innsbruck) route some Railjets are faster than others, because they skip more stations - and OBB has now branded these services as 'Railjet - Express'.
On the OBB ticket booking site and on some departure screens at stations, RJX is used to designate these faster trains.

Railjets are also used on international journeys - to/from:
- Budapest via Gyor
- Prague/Praha via Breclav (some Railjets on this route are provided by CD, the Czech national rail operator).
- Berlin via Praha and Dresden
- Zurich via Buchs
- Munchen/Munich
- Venezia/Venice via Udine

2. IC Trains:

IC trains are more typical of standard, but comfortable, European express trains, and prior to the arrival of the Railjets, they were the top tier trains on ÖBB.
Though these IC train services are becoming quite rare, because on many routes and services, they have been replaced by Railjets in recent years.
They are now mainly used on less frequent services - some tourist destinations have only one or two direct trains per day from Wien/Vienna and IC trains are used on these services.

3. Austrian IC coaches are also used for the international EC (EuroCity) trains on these routes:

(1) Munchen - Innsbruck – Bolzano – Verona – Bologna/Venezia
(2) Munchen – Salzburg – Villach – Ljubljana – Zagreb
(3) Wien – Graz – Maribor  - Ljubljana/Zagreb

Reservations are compulsory when travelling to Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia.

4. Seats don’t HAVE to be reserved on Railjets or IC trains.
Unless you’re travelling at peak business hours (particularly on Fridays) OR on summer Sunday afternoons - finding a spare seat is unlikely to be a problem.

5. Though for peace of mind, you can opt to pay a reservation fee on Railjets and ICs when booking online.

6. Special tickets are required if you want to travel with a standard (non-folding) bicycle on OBB trains - and on the express trains a reservation is also required.

More info about how to book these bicycle tickets is available here.

7. Non express trains operated by ÖBB have differing categories depending if they operate in big cities or not.
Longer distance regional trains and are branded REX
Local trains to and from the larger cities are the S-Bahn services.

1st class is not usually available on REX trains or local trains, including the S-Bahn trains.

8. German ICE-T trains can also be used to travel between Wien/Vienna and Wels via Linz - a route they share with Railjet and Westbahn trains.

They are deployed 
on these routes between Austria and Germany:
(1) Wien – Linz – Nurnberg – Wurzburg – Frankfurt – Koln
(2) Wien – Linz – Nurnberg – Wurzburg – Kassel - Hannover - Hamburg (1 x train per day)
(3) Wien - Linz - Nurnberg - Erfurt - Halle - Berlin (1 x train per day)

Reservations are optional, but highly recommended when travelling on these ICE trains.

9. Trains operated by Westbahn compete with OBB's Railjet trains, in both drections on the Wien - Linz - Salzburg route.

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Austrian Train STATIONS  - Five Things that are good to know:

1Austria’s major stations (the hauptbahnhofs) including those in Graz, Innsbruck, Linz, Salzburg and Wien/Vienna are comparatively simple to use.
They all follow a similar pattern of having underground passages that are located beneath the tracks that give access to the trains above.

There are always lifts and escalators, which connect the bahnsteigs (platforms/tracks) that the trains arrive at/depart from, with these passage ways.
You never HAVE to use the stairs at a hauptbahnhof (major station) to access the trains.

2The signage at OBB’s stations is bi-lingual, it is in English and German, but the announcements will be in German only.

3Announcements are generally made to alert travellers to something out of the ordinary, such as delays
If you think the announcement may be referring to your train watch the departure screens closely.

Particularly pay attention to any scrolling text to the right of the ‘nach’ column – which shows the train’s final destination.
The English translation should follow the German text, so you may need patience to find out what you need to know.

4The major stations don’t have paper departure sheets, so you have to depend on the electronic departure screens.
Though at busy times the smaller screens will only show trains departing in around the next 25 mins.

5If you will be changing trains at a hauptbahnhof (major station) there will be blue electronic departure summary screens on the bahnsteig (platform/track).
Though if you will be changing trains and can’t see your next train on this departure screen, the best option is usually to make your way to the main departure hall and wait there for the details of your next train to be confirmed.

You may then need to re-trace your steps, but you can often avoid this if you will be travelling on a Railljet, IC train, or on some EC trains.
While you're on the train, check the paper guide to the departure you’re travelling by – which you should find by your seat.
It will list the details of connections from your train, including the number of the bahnsteig (platform/track) which your next train SHOULD be departing from.



Finding Your Train at a major station in Austria:

It's worth being aware of these six steps:

1When looking at the main departure screens ‘Abfarht’ = departures and ‘Ankunft’ = arrivals

2The bahnsteigs (platforms/tracks) at the hauptbahnhofs (major stations) are divided into zones -  A to E.
Most trains only occupy some of these zones, they tend to be shorter than the bahnsteigs (platforms/tracks).

3On the blue departure screens, small and large, the NUMBER of the bahnsteig (platform/track) will be listed to the right, of the list of stations that the train will be calling at.
To the right of this ‘bahnsteig’ number will be some letters and these letters are the zones on the bahnsteig (platform/track) where the train will depart from.

4When you arrive on the bahnsteig you will see other blue screens - from a distance they look similar to the smaller version of the departure screens, but they show different information.

Those screens show the ‘Wagenreihung’ – the formations of the next three trains to depart from the bahnsteig (platform/track).
They indicate which zone each specific coach of a train will occupy when it arrives.
So they’re very useful for working out in which zone you should wait for 1st class, or for a specific coach/wagen where a reserved seat will be located.

5The departure indicators on the bahnsteigs (platforms/tracks) can show the details of arriving trains.
So don't be surprised if you don't initially see the details of the train you will be taking.

6If you have a reservation or a Sparschiene ticket it will have a Zug (train) number on it – a four digit number beneath the departure date and time.
This number will also be shown in the ‘Zug’ column on the blue departure screens.

If you will be taking an international train and aren’t sure of its final destination, you may need to rely on this ‘Zug’ number to work out which bahnsteig (platform/track) your train will be leaving from.
The stations that international trains call at can be omitted from the departure screens, but you can use the ‘Zug’ number to find your train.

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Austrian Train TICKETS  - Seven Things that are good to know:

More info is available if you click the green 'Tickets & Passes' button below.

1. The discounted tickets for journeys by Railjets, IC trains and on international trains from Austria are branded ‘Sparschiene’ tickets and these tickets can ONLY BE BOOKED online or on the OBB app.

And yes we have made the same point twice on this guide, but this is really worth knowing if you want to save money when travelling on long-distance express trains in Austria!

2. The price of ‘Sparschiene’ tickets can increase depending on how popular a departure is.
So it can be a good idea to search through departures to find the cheapest fares - particularly when travelling between Wien/Vienna and both Salzburg and Innsbruck.

3. Tickets are available on OBB up to 6 months ahead of the travel date - but the ‘Sparschiene’ tickets may not be available so far in advance, or made available on every departure on the rotute you will be taking.

When booking train tickets on OBB for journeys within and to/from Austria, the specific departure you will be taking and the date/day of the week you will be travelling, can matter more to the ticket prices, than how far in advance you will be booking.

4. Note the restrictions when booking Sparschiene’ tickets - both 1st AND 2nd class.
These tickets will be specific to the departure you selected when making a booking AND can't be refunded at all if YOU subsequently change your travel plans.
They also can't be exchanged to alternative, later departures.

5. When looking up journeys the only price you will initially see is the cheapest 2nd class price per departure.
You need to click on this 2nd class price in order to access a range of upgrades, which include;
(i) 1st class tickets
(ii) Seat reservations
(iii) Adding 'highest flexibility' to your booking - do that and your ticket won't be tied to a specific departure and will be able to claim a refund.

6. On the OBB trains children aged 5 and under travel for free Children aged 6 – 14 travel at half-fare, except when travelling with adults who have booked Sparschiene tickets - when up to four children can travel at no charge.

7. You can’t just hop on a train with your bike in Austria.
To travel by regional REX trains you will need to purchase a special bicycle ticket, which costs 10% of the full price 2nd class ticket – a minimum fee of €2 applies.
For journeys by Railjet trainsIC trains and on international EC trains within Austria, you will need to reserve a space for your bike prior to boarding – the reservation fee for bikes on these trains is €3.50.

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