As a mild-mannered social democracy, Austria gives its citizens a lot of things for free. But motorways/freeways (German: Autobahns) are not one of them.
There’s a toll system, and visitors to the country are not exempt. Not even if you ask nicely.
How do the tolls work?
There are no booths or barriers: you have to buy and clearly display a sticker (German: Vignette or Autobahnpickerl) inside your car windscreen to use a motorway. Here’s an annual sticker for 2016:
The authorities recommend you place the sticker near the rear-view mirror or the top-left corner as you face out of the car.
Motorcycles should affix the sticker to somewhere clean and permanent. Buses and lorries use a completely different toll system.
Don’t throw away the sticker back – you may need it as proof of purchase.
How do I know when I need a Vignette?
The Vignette is required when you travel by car or motorbike on any motorway or expressway in Austria. These roads should be obvious, but look for signs like these to indicate you need a toll sticker to travel on this road:
Even if you’re just driving around Vienna, you may still need to buy a Vignette, since there are several expressways and motorways in the city.
Where can you buy the Vignette?
If you enter Austria on a toll road, you’ll get the opportunity to buy a sticker at the border. Inside the country, newsagents (Trafik), petrol stations, the automobile associations and special outlets of the public agency responsible for expressways and motorway (ASFINAG) will sell you one.
Hire cars should already have a toll sticker in place – but check.
Can I purchase one online?
How much do they cost?
Prices increase in line with inflation, but in 2016 an annual sticker cost €84.40 for a car.
You can get short-term stickers, too, if you’re not planning to stay that long. A 2-month sticker cost €25.30, and a 10-day sticker €8.70. Note that these two stickers need to be punched at the point of sale to be valid.
Prices for motorcycles were €33.60, €12.70 and €5.00 respectively.
For the fine print of the motorway toll requirements and answers to various other related questions, see the official Vignette page at ASFINAG.