A Trafik is a kind of small shop found all over Vienna. As of January 2015, there were just over 700 in the city. The term translates closest as tobacconist. And a Trafik does indeed stock a wide range of cigarettes and related goods.
But even the non-smokers among you will probably need to visit a Trafik during your stay. That’s because most of them (but not all) sell two of the key commodities for any self-respecting tourist: stamps and many of the available tickets for public transport.
Once you’ve seen a Trafik or three, you’ll soon learn how to recognize them. But there are two clues for those searching for their first one.
To start with, they very often have a cigarette machine outside their door and a small mobile poster display advertising the latest issue of a glossy magazine (a Trafik sells newspapers and magazines as well).
But the biggest giveaway is they always feature the “Austria Tabak” sign somewhere. You can see an example of this sign in the photo.
Austria Tabak is the former state tobacco manufacturer, now part of the international tobacco group, Gallaher. The tobacco monopoly in Austria dates back to 1784, and the Trafik was part of that monopoly, with licences to sell tobacco given to war invalids and their families.
The distribution of Trafik licences is still a monopoly today, managed through the Monopolverwaltung GesmbH and wholly owned by the state. Austrian law still decrees that particular social groups are given automatic priority when it comes to awarding a vacant Trafik licence.
These favored applicants still include war invalids and their kin, but also, among others, those who suffered as part of the Austrian resistance in WWII or the disabled.