Guide to Vienna Public Transport For Dummies
If you’re a suburban dummy like me who’s used to driving everywhere, or a country bumpkin, or a river monster, or anyone who’s just not a big expert on city public transportation, then this guide is for you.
Vienna has one of the best public transportation systems in DA WORLD (need to fact check this), and is definitely the best way to get around the city for cheap.
When I first arrived in Vienna, a fellow au pair was kind enough to explain the public transport system to me. She showed me how to buy tickets, where to validate them, and where to go, so I’m hoping I can do the same for you.
What are the main ways of public transport?
There are four main forms of public transportation in Vienna. The three most important for getting around the main city are the U-Bahn (the underground/metro), the Straßenbahn/tram, and the bus. There’s also the S-Bahn, which is the local train that extends beyond the borders of the city into the deep dark depths of suburbia.
When do they run?
On weekdays, metros start running at 5 a.m and stop running at about 12:30 a.m with trams and buses stopping a little earlier. You can check to see if anything is running by using the ÖBB Scotty app or the Qando app. Public transport runs 24 hours a day on Fridays and Saturdays, so feel free to partayyy until the wee hours of the night on the freakin’ weekends.
Who checks the tickets?
Unlike main cities in the U.S, Vienna’s system of public transport is based on the honor system, meaning your tickets are not systematically checked each ride you take. You are just expected to buy a ticket because that is what upstanding citizens do when they need to get somewhere. You might be thinking “well I’ma just be sneaky and not get one,” but I assure you young hoodlum, you will regret that.
It’s definitely possible to get away with it but Vienna has people check tickets AT RANDOM on all the forms of public transport, and they are often undercover. If you do get caught without a ticket, you pay a fine of 103 euros and have to experience the utter shame of having broken the rules while a cold Austrian stares at you with anger and disappointment. And I will tell you, Austrians have no sympathy for newcomers, foreigners, or little girls in pigtails saying “Oh you have to buy a ticket?? Tehe, so sorry didn’t know, I’m new here.”’ If you try to sneakily scurry away when you see that they are checking tickets, they have other undercover people poised to snatch you.
So in conclusion, tickets are cheap enough that there’s really no sense in risking it.
How does one buy tickets?
Tickets are valid for all forms of transport in the zone of Vienna including trams, U-Bahns, S-Bahns, and buses. You can buy tickets at the computers in the metro station, on the bus, or on the tram. Even some tobacconists called Tabak Trafik sell them, but I would not recommend that because they have certain opening hours, not all of them sell them, and it requires human interaction.
You can also download the Wiener Linien app, which is easier if you’ll be here for more than a day or two, and obviously paperless, so #ecofriendly.
Children under six do not need a ticket. Children under the age of fifteen go free if it’s a Sunday, public holiday or the school holiday (for Easter, summer vacation, and the Christmas/New Year holidays). On all other days, children under fifteen can get tickets for half-price. Ah, to be a kid again.
What type of ticket to get?
Vienna is pretty large, so I would almost always recommend getting a 24/48/72 hour ticket or a week ticket (or a month or year ticket if you live there obviously) as opposed to single rides. A single ride at the cost of 2.20€, only takes you from one place to the other, and while you can change U-Bahns, trams, or buses, you still have to be going towards the same end destination.
The weekly and monthly passes do not have to be validated.
There are 5 U-Bahn lines, the U1, the U2, the U3, the U4, anddddd the U6. Why is there no U5?
It’s a mystery.
Fun fact, “dorf” in German means village and “stadt” means city. So if you’re taking the U4 to Hutteldorf, you’re going away from the city and towards the village, and if you’re taking it to Heiligenstadt, you’re taking it towards the city.
U-bahn’s are denoted by this giant U sign:
These are where you validate your tickets by sticking the bottom of the ticket in the slot for it to be stamped.
They’re usually located before the stairs and escalators to get to the platform. They’re also on trams and buses. Make sure you validate a ticket so one can tell what time you took your journey. If you get checked and you forgot to validate the ticket, you may still get fined.
When you get to the platform, there is almost always a map that shows what direction the train will be coming and the stops in between.
This map will also be above the doors on the actual U-Bahn train.
Above the platform is a sign that will say the end destination and how much longer until the next train comes. If it’s anything longer than four minutes, you should be absolutely outraged.
Tram stops are denoted by this sign, and are going to be on either side of the street where the rails are, or for larger streets they may be on the island in the middle.
Some stops, like Schottentor also have trams running underground, so be sure to look both high and low for your number tram.
At the stop there is also a sign saying the number of the tram, the direction of the tram and how much longer until it gets there. If it’s the right number but the wrong direction, you have to go to the stop on the other side of the street.
Below the sign, you can find all the stops on the route.
You can buy a ticket on board the tram from these machines with coins only:
Also, This is the button you press to open the doors of the tram from the outside. This may seem obvious but a friend of mine who shall remain nameless didn’t know how to open the doors to get on when the tram stopped. So after flailing spastically for a few moments, the tram took off and she had to wait for the next one.
And this is what you press to open the doors from the inside, (like I said this guide is for dummies):
If a yellow tram comes up, that’s the Vienna Ring Tram, which is a tour that you have to pay more for, not a regular tram.
I rarely take the bus because I think U’s and trams are easier for no reason really. But if you are determined to ride a bus, this is the sign to look out for:
which will also have a list below it of all the stops on that bus’ route.
Buses always end in “A.” Again, if it’s the right bus but the wrong direction, head to the other side of the street.
You don’t have to show the bus driver your ticket when you get on board as you do in other cities. They don’t care. You can, however, buy a ticket from the driver.
On the bus, there is usually a screen showing what stop is next, and the consecutive stops before and after that. Make sure to press the button when you hear your stop coming up!
You cannot get from the center of the city to the airport with a basic Vienna public transport pass, as the airport is technically outside of the zone. For getting to the airport, there are a number of options, which you can check out here.
If you have any questions about getting around Vienna, visiting Vienna, or my favorite color, leave them below or shoot me an email.
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