A Guide to Getting Around In Vienna
While New Yorkers are perennially confronted with the question of whether it’s faster to walk, grab a cab or take the subway, Viennese have it easy: in most cases, public transport wins hands down. With Vienna’s multitude of fast, affordable and simple mass transit options, getting from point A to point B is cheap and easy – provided you know what you’re doing. Here’s a breakdown of the basics: be an expert before you even set foot on your first Straßenbahn!
Taking Public Transport? Know Your Route!
Wiener Linien (The Vienna Transit Authority) provides a great route finder on their website so you can plan ahead from home – click on the ‘Journey’ tab to bring up the route finder; then type in your current address and desired destination (either can be entered as preferred stations or addresses) and get your route! You can choose between the fastest route, the fewest stops, complete with exact times for transfers and arrivals. When people tell you the Viennese take punctuality seriously, they’re not kidding.
If you’re out and about with your smartphone, you can download Wiener Linien’s Qando app – search for ‘Qando Vienna’. It renders the same service as the website’s route finder along with the added convenience that comes with other navigational tools.
Know Your Ticket Options
Regardless of how long you’ll stay, being aware of your ticket options can help save time and money on transit within the city proper (i.e., the 100 Zone). Single trip tickets are rarely your best option: take advantage of 24, 48 and 72 hour passes for short stays. Weekly, monthly or even yearly passes offer better value for the longer term. Bear in mind that weekly and monthly passes apply to weeks and months by calendar, and not the date you purchase the ticket! You therefore get the most out of them by purchasing on a Monday for weeklies or the first of the month for monthlies. Once you have your ticket you’re free to use all public transport within the 100-Zone! Subway, tram, bus (including nightlines), light rail and S-Bahn (Commuter Rail) are all included.
Like the monthly and weekly tickets, the yearly ticket is valid from the first of the month it was ordered, allowing you complete access to public transport services for the low price of €1/day. If a whole year seems too big a commitment, you can choose to pay in monthly installments and cancel it at any time, although this flexibility will cost you an extra €0.03 daily.
If you’ve settled on the yearly ticket as your best option, take a moment to consider the new WienMobil-Karte instead. For a few Euros more you receive the same benefits, plus discounted use of E-bike and Electric Car charging stations; free registration and 40 free minutes of DriveNow car-sharing; discounted short-term parking at WIPARK garages; free registration for Vienna City Bikes; and special offers on taxis, airport transfers and car rentals. Even if you don’t drive, the money saved compared to buying monthly tickets makes it well worth it. They’re still coming up with new incentives and offers, such as the new SMILE transportation app (now in pilot stages) which will allow you to buy tickets with your smartphone that are compatible with transit services throughout the country.
The Mobil-Karte is now available for the same price as a yearly ticket.
[The card also gives a slight discount for the CAT Airport train, but here’s an inside tip: use any 100-zone ticket (short or long term) and combine it with an additional single-zone ticket; then take the S7-Schnellbahn (direction: Wolfsthal) to the airport for a fraction of the CAT’s cost. It adds 10-12 minutes to the trip, but saves more than 10 Euros each way.]
You’ve stayed out into the early hours, you can hardly get yourself to walk to a kebab stand, much less find a subway – or worse– a night bus station, and you’ve already decided before you had that last Weißer Spritzer: you need a ride home. Enter Uber. The concept is simple enough – you download the app, set up an account with your credit card info, mark a pick-up and drop-off location on a map, and a private car swoops you to your destination. The route is recorded and saved via GPS so there’s no chance of being taken for laps around the Ringstrasse by unscrupulous cabbies. All payment is made automatically through the app: No tips necessary, no disappointed eye-roll when you take your credit card out, no arguing whether you gave him a 10 or 20 Euro bill. Widely available in Vienna, it’s consistently cheaper than hailing a taxi, and there isn’t any stigma associated with it as in other cities (for example, a certain French capital). So next time you feel the need to get off your feet and back to your apartment as soon as possible, remember this alternative to your generic Taxler. Get home safe!
Vienna’s Citybike network consists of over 120 stations with 1,500 public bicycles, reaching as far as Schönbrunn and Ottakring in the West to the Stadion and Friedrich-Engel- Platz in the East. Registering could not be simpler – all you need is either a locally-issued Maestro card or a Visa/Mastercard; €1 for the one time registration fee, and a few minutes to spare. Once you’ve signed up, renting out bikes is quick and easy– swipe your card, choose a bike and enter your password. The city’s public bike system may be one of the cheapest ways to get around town, considering the first hour of each rental is free, the 2nd hour is only €1, and the third is all of €2. If you don’t feel comfortable using your bank card for registration, Citybike has 2 alternatives – the WienMobil-Karte and its own Citybike Card, which can be ordered online.
Finding your closest station is fairly simple – you can either check Citybike’s website or download one of the several apps available for your cell phone (Bikar on iOS and Citybike Wien on Android), which can also tell you how many bikes are currently available at any station in the city.
Need to hop off the bike for a second to pop into the store? Your bike has a built-in lock – which works by turning the front wheel as far as possible to the right, pushing the lever by the wheel down, and removing the key on the left side of the bike.
Not only is cycling a green and healthy alternative to mass transit, it’s also a great, cheap way to explore the extensive bike lane network.