Vienna’s public transportation network is among the best in the world but if you want (or need) to drive here, getting behind the wheel and navigating the city and its small streets can be a bit of a nerve-wrecking experience so here’s a little primer on all things related to driving in Vienna and Austria! Did we miss anything or get something wrong, let us know!?
Trams, bikes, and people – oh my!
You know you’re driving in Vienna, when you are constantly checking your mirrors and never taking your eyes off the road in the fear of hitting another car, a tram, and/or a pedestrian or two….yes, all these factors make driving here so exciting – there’s no shortage of things to look out for (including those bike riders that zip right past you when you are stopped in traffic). A few things to keep in mind:
- trams ALWAYS have the right away. Seriously, do not mess with a tram….you (and your car) will lose
- when driving behind a tram , be careful of slipping and sliding on the tracks especially when the street/tracks are cold and/or wet
- you are allowed to pass trams when there is no on-coming traffic but be aware of pedestrians crossing or getting in/out of the tram
- pedestrians ALWAYS have the right away at a cross-walk (“Zebrastreifen” in German = zebra stripes as my kids still call it; in fact there’s a little handy children’s song about what kids should do when wishing to cross the road)
- when making a right turn, check that there is no bike rider who wants to pass you on the right (bike riders are supposed to ride all the way on the right side of the street)
Who kidnapped all the stop signs? And what’s this circle-thing doing in my neighborhood?
- Repeat after me: “Do NOT turn on red here” Never …ever. It just doesn’t happen…trust me.
- In a round-about, cars driving on the inside ALWAYS have the right-away. As a curtesy, you are expected to indicate when you are leaving the round-about so cars can move in quickly.
- When driving on a main street (think big street), you have the right-away so that cars wishing to enter a main street must wait until traffic allows them to enter.
- When driving on a side street (i.e. not a main street; think neighborhood streets), the CAR ON YOUR RIGHT ALWAYS has the right-away. It’s a little rule called “rechts vor links” (=right before left) – so, slow down, make sure there’s no car on your right, and then proceed; stop if there is a car on your right, let it go first. You can proceed when there is no car on your right …. This system works, really, but is often confusing! The same rule applies pretty much all across Europe everywhere including parking lots. In German, the rule is sometimes abbreviated “StVO” which stands for the short and simple word “Strassenverkehrsordnung” (=traffic rules; yup in English it sounds so simple, right?)
Faster than the speed of light?
Speed limits are enforced here (very much, I can attest to that…ahem) so forget the notion of going as fast as you like on the Autobahn here….yep, there is a limit!
For cars and motorcycles:
- within the city -> 50 km/h unless otherwise indicated (there are LOTS of 30 km/h zones so beware)
- streets outside the city that are not highways -> 100 km/h
- Autobahn -> 130 km/h (there are MANY radar check points)
Other things to keep in mind:
- Austrians don’t believe in honking unless it’s a real emergency; rather if you want to “yell” at someone, flash your lights (and don’t be surprised if people flash their lights at you to let you know they think you’re too slow or caution you if there’s a speed trap ahead)
- Drivers are not allowed to talk on cell phones while driving (unless it’s hands-free)
- To drive on the Autobahn, make sure you have a valid vignette taped to your windshield (you can purchase monthly or yearly ones at your local Trafik)
- Children up to age 14 and 150cm in height must be in appropriate child/booster seats
- Everyone must wear a seat belt
- Don’t drink and drive (limit is 0.5 promille; there are severe fines!)
- Radiostation Ö3 has up-to-date traffic information
- If there is an accident, you must call the police
- A “Rettungsgasse” (=rescue lane) is supposed to be formed during emergencies to let first responders pass; the lane is supposed to emerge in the middle between two existing lanes so cars on the right lane are supposed to pull over to the right and cars on the left lane should pull over to the left. See the example below.
For more information:
- check out Austria.info (German)
- for road-side assistance services: ÖAMTC and ARBÖ (German)
- traffic information Radiostation Ö3 (German)
Summarized by Nicole who learned to drive while living in Germany and has since driven widely (wildly?) around Europe, North and South America. She is a firm believer of the “rechts vor links” and giving cars inside the round-about the right-away. When she is not driving, she likes to collect speeding tickets.