If you are new to Vienna and overwhelmed by the amazing public transport system, look no further than this guide to figure it all out!
Vienna Transportation for New Arrivals
Welcome to Viennese public transport, one of the most efficient systems of transportations in the world. Half of the Viennese population does not own a vehicle and relies solely on public transportation. We only use our vehicle on road trips because Viennese transportation is THAT hassle free. You may feel overwhelmed if you are new to Vienna but in a few weeks, you too will be an expert navigator.
Buses, trams and U-bahns, oh my!
Based on our experiences, the best way to get to know your host city and avoid becoming disoriented is to ride the buses and trams. Avoid the U-Bahn if possible (sometiems you can’t) at first unless you have clear directions of where to exit (not stop, I mean exit the station) or don’t mind being confused in trying to get to your destination after exiting a U-Bahn (yes, there are many street exits from each station). Vienna’s system includes stops and transfer points for all three modes of transportation. The system is quite efficient and mostly on time (it’s the Austrian way!).
Do I need a ticket?
Yes, you need a validated ticket for your ride (don’t forget to stamp/validate your tickets before your ride or as you hop on, more on that later!).
Transportation is patrolled by plain clothes Wiener Linien officers who check tickets. They will show you their ID and say “ticket please” (“Fahrkarten bitte”). If you don’t understand, but witness a bunch of people looking through their pockets or purses, this is what is happening. If you get caught without a valid ticket, you will be required to pay 100 Euros per person in your party. Don’t have cash on you? That’s ok, they will walk with you to the nearest ATM.
Where do I get a ticket?
Tickets are available for sale at the local Tabak stores, train stations and on the buses (costs slightly more) and you can also purchase them online. If you purchase them online and register with Wiener Linien, you can download the Wiener Linien app and any ticket you purchase or have purchased will show up on your phone. You can also purchase it from your phone if you have the app. If you store your ticket in the app, just pull it up on your phone and show it to the officer if asked. Make sure your phone is always charged. Please note that Tabak stores are closed on Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday. Plan accordingly.
You can buy single ride tickets, day (Tag), weekly (Wochen), monthly (Monate) and, the mother of all passes, the annual/year (Jahre) pass. When you consider and compare the cost of a monthly pass and the cost of an annual pass, the annual pass is the much better deal coming up to 1 Euro per day for unlimited transportation access in Zone 100 which is basically all the districts in Vienna.
The annual pass costs 365 Euros if you pay in full. Wiener Linien recently added a monthly payment plan for these passes. It costs 10 Euro more than paying outright, but it splits your payments into 12 monthly payments of 31.25 Euro which is automatically withdrawn from your Bank Austria account. Compare that to paying 45 Euro for a monthly pass!
To purchase an annual pass, you can either go to a ticket office at one of the train stations or you can go on-line, upload your picture and enter your information/pay or select the payment plan and the pass is mailed to your home.
Adults with an annual passes can bring along two kids (up to 15 years) starting at 12pm on Saturdays for free. Annual card holders may transport their bikes and bring their dogs for free anytime.
Children under 6 ride free year round and children under 15 ride free on Sundays and on local public and school holidays.
For school children, Wiener Linien offers the Top Jugend Ticket. This ticket costs 60 Euros for the entire year (September to September) for children 6 – 15 years old who attend school in Austria. It must be used with a valid school ID card. When school begins in August, ask your school official where to get the ID card for the Top Jugend Ticket.
- Please note that if you want to purchase a pass at the Wiener Linien site that is not a tourist pass (24, 48, 72 hours), you must make sure you are in the “Deutsch” version of the site (use Google Chrome to translate the page). The English version is made available to visitors and does not include all the passes available to those living in Vienna.
How do I know where I am going?
Every mode of transportation displays its end stop. You will see it on the front of every bus, tram or U-Bahn. At each stop, the stops for that line are also posted along with each stops. The stop where you are standing has a black dot. Look at the last stop listed AFTER the black dot. That is the direction you want to look for on the bus or tram.
If you have the time, just hop onboard whatever route you plan to use most often to orient yourself and ride it back and forth. You really can’t get lost.
Ready to Ride?
You have your ticket. You figured out where you are headed. Now you are ready to embark on your adventure!
First thing you need to know is that when a bus, tram or U-Bahn pulls up to the stop, you must press the button next to the door to enter the vehicle (the same is true for exiting!). If you are running to catch a bus or tram and the doors are shut and you are at a stop light, make your way to the driver’s door which the driver can open until he needs to get moving.
Once on board, if you have a weekly, monthly or yearly pass, there is no need for you to stamp your ticket because the valid dates are already printed it. Just board and take your seat. If you have a single ride ticket or a day pass, you must stamp your ticket in the blue box located on buses or trams or upon entering the U-Bahn.
Stops are announced and/or displayed on an electronic board within the vehicle. On buses, in particular, it is important to press one of the many available stop buttons to indicate that you need to get off. If no one is at the bus stop waiting and no one on the bus signals a stop, the bus will skip the stop. And, to exit any tram or U-Bahn, you also have to press the button on the door in order for the door to open.
Remember how I said you can’t get lost? Well, this blurb helps ensure you NEVER get lost. All you need to do is download the application “AnachB” (AtoB) from the iTunes or Google Play store. This app is brilliant and much more user-friendly than the one provided by Wiener Linien’s website. The app is like the Google Maps for Viennese transport. They have a website as well, AnachB.at, in case you do not own a smartphone or wish to print out directions.
Once downloaded, you can punch in your physical address or stop location and then type in your destination. Voila! You have door-to-door directions to include walking (how many meters), stops and transfers (where) with the direction of the transport line you need to be on, and maps. They also have information on disruptions to service but that part is in German only.
Occasionally (this has happened to me once), your bus or tram or UBahn will stop at one of the stops along the route (sometimes not even yours) and will say something gibberish in German on the loudspeaker. You will then see a mass exodus of people. My advice: follow the people! It is likely that, for some reason or another, the service is terminating at that station instead of the usual end point. Walk along the route until the next vehicle comes along or you reach your destination – whatever comes first.
Do not take it personal if you run up to a tram or bus and the driver doesn’t wait for you. They have a schedule to keep. The only exception is that when it is snowing or raining, they seem more amenable to waiting for you. Thank them (Danke) – it will make their day!
On other occasions, buses and trams may be late. This is a rarity (at least for me), but it does happen and when it does, don’t worry. One will come by to pick you up (remember Austrian efficiency?!).
Vienna can be really hot and really cold. The older trams have no air conditioning but heating (it can get toasty!). I have nicknamed them the “hot trams”. Try to ride those in the winter time. The newer trams (the ones closer to the ground for disabled persons indicated on the blinking wheelchair on the electronic board at your stop) have air conditioning and also heating. Try to ride those mostly in the summer.
For more information:
Contributed by Milena