Coming from the UK system, here are ten things that “surprised” me a little about driving in Vienna.
1. Trams are not your friends
Don’t get in the way of trams.
If you’re blocking a tram, get out of the way as quickly as possible. Trust me on this. It’s also a legal requirement.
Trams are subject to different road rules – they’re not obliged to stop at zebra crossings, for example, if someone’s waiting to cross. And you can assume they always have priority, whichever direction they’re coming from.
2. Be careful at tram stops
If you’re approaching a tram stop and a tram is also approaching on your side or already parked there, you must slow down and stop to allow people to go onto the road to leave or board the tram.
Only drive off again if the tram moves off or the coast is completely clear (and then only slowly until you’re clear of the stop).
3. Priority to the right
Vehicles coming from the right have priority, as in much of mainland Europe. This takes getting used to for UK drivers.
It means, for example, if you’re driving along a road and pass a turn off to the right, you must wait for cars coming on to your road from that turn off.
This does not apply, for example, if they have a “give way” or “stop” sign, or if you’re on a clearly marked priority road (“Vorrangstraße”).
In practice, many junctions are regulated fully by traffic lights and signs. But be especially careful if using residential or minor roads, as this is where this rule comes into play most often.
4. Be wary on roundabouts
People here are still getting used to roundabouts. In particular, indicator discipline is poor, so be extra careful.
5. Take care turning off at traffic lights
If turning left or right at traffic lights, be careful of pedestrians, even if your lights are green.
Check the pedestrian lights for the road you’re turning into – they may also be green and you must let people cross.
6. Watch for cyclists on one-way streets
Some one-way streets have cycle lanes that go against the flow of traffic. This is something to particularly watch for when turning onto a one-way street (there should be appropriate warning signs).
7. Don’t use bus lanes during their hours of operation
Even if you see other cars going down them – these are probably taxis, which are actually allowed to use the bus lanes.
8. Don’t expect special treatment
If you have foreign number plates don’t expect too much patience or understanding from other drivers. Not because they’re unfriendly, but simply because you’re nothing that unusual.
There are lots of cars without Viennese number plates in Vienna, given the city’s international population, location in the middle of Europe on an east-west transit route, and closeness to other countries like Slovakia.
Want to know the smallest measurable unit of time in the universe? It’s the time between the lights going green and the car behind you using their horn to point this out to you.
9. Don’t assume it’s right just because everyone does it
10. Drive on the right
Not a surprise, but not something to forget (um, obviously).