Seven excuses when caught without a ticket on public transport

Nothing in life is certain except death, taxes and eventually hearing the words “Fahrscheine bitteee!” (Tickets, please!) while travelling on Vienna’s Public Transit. Encounters with the Schwarzkappler (Ticket collectors, lit. “black caps”), are rare, but that just contributes to their notoriety: you can ride the city’s Strassenbahnen for years without ever seeing one, yet they lurk just beneath the surface, waiting like living turnstiles to teach humility to the overconfident fare dodger. On an average day, around 100 ticket inspectors are on the road conducting 20,000 checks, often operating in packs. Their mission: To catch as many freeloaders as possible, and intimidate all others into paying the fare with their shock-and-awe tactics.

While certain websites, apps, radio stations and even the Wiener Linien themselves provide up-to-date information on where spot checks are taking place, getting busted sooner or later borders on inevitable. At the current fine of €103, schwarzfahren (fare dodging, lit. riding black) is an expensive risk to take. Sure, you could simply buy a ticket and avoid the hassle, but if you prefer to live every day on the edge, here are our Top 7 excuses when trapped in a Schwarzkappler dragnet:

  1. Today is my birthday. My only wish is to get a free ride.
  2. I’m working undercover for the Wiener Linien. I’m here to make sure you’re doing your work thoroughly and correctly! Looks good!
  3. My bag with my wallet and all my identification cards got stolen and I am just on my way to the next police station.
  4. An illness makes me look way older than I am. Ever heard of Benjamin Button syndrome? I am actually a first grader coming home from school. And children ride free, don’t they?
  5. I tried to get a ticket at the machine, but it swallowed all my money without printing the ticket. Can I get a refund?
  6. I got a ticket in 2005, look. I thought it´s valid for 10 years, isn´t it?
  7. I think the term Schwarzfahren is extremely racist. Why isn’t it called Schwarz-and-Weißfahren? Refusing to buy a ticket is my way of protesting against this discrimination. Boycott bigotry!

Granted, it’s unlikely these excuses will mollify the transit furies, but they are certainly more entertaining than playing the old “I am a foreigner. I don’t understand what you’re saying” card.

Info sites on ticket controls in progress:

Wiener Linien

Schwarzkappler (the ticket collectors)

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