7 Road Travel Tips for Austria

How to avoid fines and getting caught in the snow

Driving in a foreign country can be daunting. Not only must you sometimes drive on the different side of the road than you are used to, but you have to make sense of foreign road signs while at the same time adhering to the local laws and regulations. The following road travel tips will hopefully make your driving experience a lot easier.

1. Drive on the Right!

You will be surprised at how many motorists get onto the wrong side of the highway. The Austrians call them Geisterfahrer (literal translation: ghost driver). In 2016, Hitradio Ö3’s broadcasts were interrupted 363 times to warn about such drivers. Thankfully, the announcement is also repeated in English. It goes something like this: “Attention all motorists on the A so-and-so. There is a car heading in the wrong direction between so-and-so. Please drive carefully.” I made this the first of my road travel tips, just to put you at ease to not get into a flat spin when you hear one of these warnings on the radio. To Mattheus’ dismay, we’ve never actually come across a “Geisterfahrer”.

2. Buy a Vignette (Toll Pass)

Tyrol’s highways are toll roads without toll gates. Instead, you buy a sticker called a Vignette for your windscreen. Vignettes are for sale at most petrol (gas) stations next to the highway, starting in neighbouring countries before you cross the border. They are available for periods of 10 days @ €8,90, two months @ €25,90 or one year @ €86,40. Don’t take chances, the fine is €120 if you are caught without one. The toll-road company Asfinag has the most up-to-date information and traffic reports. Note: If you travel over the Brenner Pass to Italy, as well as through certain Austrian tunnels, you must pay an additional toll-fee. The details are as follow:

Brenner Pass – €9

Arlberg Tunnel – €9,50

Tauern/Katschberg Tunnel – €11,50

Bosruck Tunnel – €5

Gleinalm Tunnel – €8,50

Karawanken €7,20

Vignette sticker to go on car windscreen.
The 2017 Vignette sticker that goes on the windscreen of your car. © ASFINAG

3. Travel on a Sunday

Trucks are not allowed on Austria’s highways on public holidays and weekends, starting at 15:00 on Saturdays. So, if you do plan to travel over a weekend during peak holiday seasons, make it on a Sunday. Furthermore, trucks are banned from the entire road network from 22:00 to 05:00 daily.

4. Fit Winter Tyres from November to April

From 1 November to 15 April you may only drive in winter conditions, such as icy roads or roads covered in snow or slush, if you have winter tyres fitted. If you are caught without them in such conditions during this time, you will be fined €35. Furthermore, if other road users are endangered by your non-compliance, the fine can go up to €5,000. Alternatively, you can use snow chains in extreme conditions, but do make sure you know how to put them on before you need them! For more details on winter tyres and snow chains, check out this handy summary by the Austrian government.

5. Get an Emergency Kit

It is compulsory to have an emergency kit in the car, including at least the following: warning triangle and reflective vests/other clothing, and a first-aid kit with the necessary equipment and materials to treat wounds. The triangle and vests must be displayed or worn when you get out of the vehicle at an accident scene or during a breakdown. Find more details here.

6. Bring a GPS

A GPS or any other kind of navigation system is highly advisable. The road signs can be very confusing, even if you have a detailed map.

7. Never Fuel Up on the Highway

The last of my road travel tips can save you lots of money. Fuel costs a heck of a lot more at highway petrol/gas stations. So, fill up in the city/town before you leave. If you are really running low on petrol or diesel while on the highway, rather exit and find the nearest town. If it coincides with hunger pangs, you will anyway find much better and cheaper food in the towns.

  • Maybe you have more road travel tips for me to add. Leave me a comment below. And don’t miss my guide to all the main routes to Innsbruck.
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