Every city has its good points and its bad points. The public transport system is definitely one of Vienna’s good points. Cheap, frequent, fast, clean, efficient, and rarely overcrowded.
- Tickets and passes cover almost all bus, train, tram and subway services in the city
- Buy network passes for cheap, peace-of-mind travel
- Two passes designed specifically with visitors in mind are:
How the system works
The four main forms of transport are U-Bahn (subway), Schnellbahn or S-Bahn (local train), Straßenbahn (tram) and Autobus (bus).
Vienna works on an honesty system with no ticket barriers at stations and no formal, permanent ticket checks on the metro, local trains, trams and buses. You just hop on and off unchallenged. This doesn’t mean public transport is free, though. You do need to buy a ticket.
Now I daresay you may be wondering why you’d bother buying a ticket. And you wouldn’t be the first to think that.
Leaving the ethics and legality aside for the moment, a lack of formal ticket checks does not mean there are no ticket checks. You may encounter a conductor wandering down the city train. Or run into spotchecks at the end of a subway platform. Or find the unassuming gentleman next to you on the tram whipping out his transport authority ID and asking to see everyone’s “Fahrschein.”
These undercover agents are impossible to spot and they’ve heard all the excuses before. Travelling without a ticket incurs a fine, not to mention a whole heap of embarrassment.
All forms of public transport fall more or less under the same municipal organization (Wiener Linien), so the tickets you buy are independent of your mode of travel.
If you buy a ticket from A to B, it doesn’t matter if you take the tram, city train, subway, or catch the bus. Or use all four to make the journey. There are very few services you can’t use with that ticket (mainly airport transfer services by bus or train, the Westbahn rail service, and sightseeing services like the yellow Ring Tram).
If you have children, those under six do not need a ticket. And those under fifteen qualify for reduced-price single tickets. Under 15s go free if it’s a Sunday, public holiday or official school vacation period in Vienna (e.g. the summer holidays). This applies to all nationalities, not just locals.
Top travel cards for visitors
The Vienna Pass with Travel: Buying the basic pass gets you free one-time entry to around 60 tourist attractions. You can opt to add in a 24, 48 or 72 hour travel network card for Vienna at purchase. See here for more info.
The Vienna card: This is a 24, 48 or 72-hour network card for the city, but also qualifies you for various discounts. In fact, just about anywhere you’re likely to visit, watch or see offers reductions with the Vienna card. See here for more info.
Standard tickets/network cards
Buy your tickets from ticket offices in the main stations, ticket machines in stations, the Wiener Linien online store and (for some basic tickets) from Trafik newsagents/tobacconists.
Machines on trams also sell single tickets, provided you have the coins (the transport authority is migrating to multilingual ticket machines for trams with cashless payment options, but this may take a while).
Some of the tickets you buy need to be validated in a stamping machine before boarding. Whether you need to do so should be relatively clear from the ticket.
You validate a ticket by putting it face up into the yellow or orange slot on the small boxes (see photo for an example) you find in trams and buses, and at the entrances to U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations and platforms.
Tip: If you get lost or forgot where your hotel is, show your stamped ticket to a tram driver or station attendant. They can often tell you where you stamped your ticket, so you can retrace your journey back to the beginning.
Wiener Linien has a lot of ticket options for travelling around Vienna. Here are the main ones…
Single ticket: Lets you travel from any point A to any point B within Vienna. The only restriction is the journey must be direct, with no pause. You can change buses, trams and trains as you need, provided you’re taking a continuous journey to your destination.
24/48/72-hour network card (24/48/72 Stunden Wien): The relevant time period starts from the moment you first validate the ticket. In that period, you can go where you like, as often as you like, within the city limits.
8-day network card (8-Tage-Karte): This ticket has 8 stripes and you stamp each one as you need (beginning with the first). Once stamped, it entitles you to travel anywhere in the city until 1am on the following day.
If you stamp two strips on the same day, then two people can travel using the ticket. Three strips for three people etc.
Tip: Take care using the 8-day card. If you inadvertently stamp the strip marked number 8 first, then this means all 8 strips are used up. Fold the card so that the lowest available number is facing up and at the top of the ticket before you put it into the stamping machine (see photo on the right).
Note also that the 8-day card isn’t necessarily intended for 8 consecutive days travel. You stamp a stripe if and when you need it.
Weekly network pass (Wochenkarte): Entitles you to city-wide travel from Monday to 9am the following Monday.
Monthly network pass (Monatskarte): Entitles you to city-wide travel during the relevant calendar month, plus the first two days of the subsequent month.
The weekly and monthly passes do not require stamping since they come preprinted with the week or month in question.
(If you move permanently to Vienna, the annual pass costs €1 a day, which is the definition of cheap travel.)
Most of the various Wiener Linien network cards and passes are transferable; they’re valid for the bearer and not for any one particular person, unless they carry your name (usually only with tickets bought online).
City-wide travel means exactly that. The Vienna city zone covers just about anywhere you’re likely to go as a visitor. You’ll probably only leave it if you visit one of the surrounding towns or villages. Note, however, that Vienna airport is outside the city transport zone. For details, see:
Tip: I’d strongly recommend you buy one of the network passes or travel cards. They save you money once you make more than a couple of trips in a day, and simply make life easier.
P.S. Look for the “English” link on the Wiener Linien website for up-to-date details on ticket alternatives, prices, conditions, where to buy tickets, online purchase options, timetables, and maps.