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TOURISM

How to save money while travelling around Austria

Austria is on a travel bucket list for many people but it’s an expensive place to visit. Thankfully, there are ways to save money in the Alpine Republic.

How to save money while travelling around Austria
An international train linking Bolzano and Innsbruck passes on a bridge over a highway near the border between Austria and Italy after it reopened on June 16, 2020 in Brenner, Austria. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Like many other countries in Western Europe, Austria has a reputation for being an expensive destination.

Unfortunately, it’s a well-earned reputation and Austria is, in fact, an expensive place to be a tourist with high prices for hotels, trains and tourist attractions.

Don’t let the prices put you off though. With a bit of planning and some insider tips, Austria can be an affordable place to explore.

Here’s how to save money while travelling in Austria.

Accommodation

Hotels are expensive in Austria – especially in cities like Vienna or at mountain resorts in the Alps where it can be hard to find a decent room for less than €100 per night.

The best way to secure a good price for accommodation without breaking the bank is to book in advance. If that’s not possible, then try checking price comparison sites for any last-minute offers.

READ MORE: Nine things you might be surprised are actually Austrian

Other options are to stay in hostels in the larger cities (as long as you don’t mind sharing a dorm room), or book an Airbnb. 

Finally, if travelling outside of the main towns and cities, there are plenty of campsites across Austria – particularly in the countryside. 

Campsites are significantly cheaper than hotels with the added bonus of being able to spend time outdoors in the fresh alpine air.

Travel

For visitors to Austria, trains are a convenient way to travel around the country. But they are not cheap.

As with booking hotels, a useful way to save money is to book in advance with a Sparschiene ticket by national train operator ÖBB. This is a reduced rate ticket with prices starting at €9.90. 

Sparschiene tickets are mostly available for routes between Austria’s biggest cities, like Vienna and Graz, or Salzburg and Innsbruck, making it a convenient service for tourists.

But the downside is that Sparschiene tickets can’t be cancelled or refunded. 

This means if you miss the train or change your mind, you will lose the money and have to buy a new ticket at full price.

Alternatively, consider hiring a car for travelling outside of the main train routes. A car is also essential for accessing many nature spots or start points for hiking trails.

Food

There are great restaurants to visit all over Austria, with cuisine ranging from traditional to fusion and everything else in between.

Then there is the famous cafe culture in Vienna with long-standing establishments serving coffee and cake throughout the day.

Sampling the food is part of the experience of visiting Austria, but for people trying to stick to a budget, it can eat away at the bank balance.

FOR MEMBERS: Cost of living – Seven tips to save money in Austria

Instead, select cheaper meals and snacks from menus, such as pretzels (brezel), frittatensuppe (pancake soup), goulash (meat and vegetable soup) or sliced bread with cold meat and cheese.

Saving money on food also becomes easier if staying in self-catering accommodation where you can cook meals or prepare packed lunches in advance.

If shopping at an Austrian supermarket, the most affordable is Hofer.

Tourist attractions

There is an entry fee for most tourist attractions in Austria, like museums and historical buildings. You either pay it or miss out on seeing the site.

However, there is a cheap way to see opera in Vienna by buying a standing ticket on the day of the performance – depending on coronavirus restrictions. 

At other times of the year, affordable tourist attractions and events include Sonnwendfueur in the Alps to celebrate the summer solstice, annual Christmas markets in towns and cities across the country and numerous cultural festivals.

In the mountains

Austria is a playground for winter sports, but if the cost of travelling is already squeezing the budget then skiing might seem completely out of reach. 

This is where ski touring and cross-country skiing come in. 

Ski touring doesn’t involve using a lift, although some resorts charge a small fee for accessing a piste. This is a much cheaper way to go skiing without forking out for a full lift pass. 

It’s a similar story with cross-country skiing. Again, you don’t need a lift pass, just the right equipment and access to trails. 

In the summer, hiking in the mountains or spending an afternoon at a lake is an inexpensive way to explore the Alps. You can even take your own food to avoid spending money at a mountain hut.

Travel in the off-season

Finally, a top tip for saving money while travelling in Austria is to plan a trip during the off-season.

This means booking a holiday in May for early spring weather, or in September to avoid the high-summer crowds and peak prices.

Or try booking a ski holiday for late in the winter season between March and April (depending on snow conditions and coronavirus restrictions) to skip the main tourist months of late December to early March.

Not only is there the possibility to save money by travelling in the off-season, but it can be more enjoyable without crowds of people all doing the same thing at the same time.

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MONEY

29 ways to save money in Austria (but still have fun)

In case you hadn’t realised, life in Austria has become even more expensive. Here’s how to still have fun without breaking the bank in the Alpine Republic.

29 ways to save money in Austria (but still have fun)

Inflation in Austria is almost at ten percent, energy bills are skyrocketing and the rising cost of food is showing no signs of slowing down.

But it’s not all grim and there are still ways to enjoy life in Austria without emptying your bank account.

Here’s our guide to saving money and having fun at the same time.

FOR MEMBERS: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

Going out

Budgets might be tight right now but there are still ways to maintain your social life on the cheap.

One top tip is to switch from going out for dinner with going out for lunch instead. Many restaurants and cafes do special lunch menus at a set price, which are usually much cheaper than the a la carte prices.

In some places in Austria, these lunch deals are known as Aboessen (subscription food – literal translation) or Mittagsmenü (lunch menu), so keep an eye out for them.

In the mountains, another option is to hike to a mountain hut for lunch or an early dinner. Most huts have cheaper options on the menu like Kaspressknödelsuppe, which is cheese dumplings served in a broth. It’s delicious, filling and affordable.

For the evening, many bars and pubs in Austria do open mic nights that are free to enter and some even have happy hours for cheap drinks. 

If you’re in Vienna and like to stay out late, then try visiting the bars at the Stadtbahn arches under the U6 train line where some places have a happy hour until 4am.

READ MORE: Cost of living: Why are restaurants getting more expensive in Austria?

Arts and culture

Even when trying to stick to a budget, it’s still possible to enjoy Austria’s cultural offerings.

Vienna’s State Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper) famously has cheap standing tickets for performances, and budget prices for some seated tickets.

There are two ways to get a standing ticket: register for a free federal theatre ticket to be able to purchase tickets online up to two months before, or buy a standing ticket on the day.

For the second option, go to the Stehplätze (standing room) ticket office on Operngasse. The office opens 80 minutes before the start of a performance. Prices for these tickets range from €13 to €18, depending on the section.

Another tip for people in Vienna is to take advantage of free entry to museums on the first Sunday of every month (special exhibitions are usually exempt from this). This includes the Wien Museum Karlsplatz, Roman Museum, Collection of Clocks and Watches, Wien Museum Hermesvilla and the Museum of Military History.

Also, many museums in Austria’s capital city offer free entry for under 19s on a daily basis, or discounted annual passes for adults.

Then there is the BundesMuseenCard that allows holders one visit to eight federal museums within one year. The card costs €59, which means you save around 50 percent when compared with day ticket prices.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s ‘Tax Freedom Day’?

Sports

Taking part in sports or outdoor activities for cheap (or free) is easy in Austria.

In most towns and cities there are outdoor gyms in parks, government-funded outdoor fitness classes and groups like Open Yoga Vienna that offers free yoga outside.

Plus, there are hiking trails, lakes to swim in for free or cheap entry to public pools, and many cycle trails across the country to explore.

For winter sports fans, it is even possible to enjoy the season without spending a fortune by opting for cheaper options that don’t require a ski pass. These are cross-country skiing (Langlaufen), snowshoeing and ski touring (hiking up on skis before skiing down). 

Also, lots of gyms and fitness centres in Austria offer discounted or even free trial periods for new customers, so always ask what is available before committing to a contract.

READ MORE: When and where in Austria can you join free exercise classes

Transport

Having fun sometimes means having to travel somewhere. Thankfully, there are ways to cut transport costs in Austria.

If visting Vienna for a limited period of time, it’s worth investing in the Vienna City Card for free public transport, discounts at museums, restaurants and tourist attractions, and optional airport transfers. Prices range from €17 to €23, depending on whether you buy a 24, 48 or 72 hour ticket.

If you live in Vienna and use the train network on a regular basis, then consider buying the Wiener Linien Jahreskarte. The annual pass gives you unlimited access to city centre public transport for just €1 per day. For people aged 65 and over, the price is even cheaper at €235.

For those wanting to travel across Austria (and reduce their impact on the planet), there is the KlimaTicket. It costs €1,095 and can be used on all regular public transport services for one year. Find out more at klimaticket.at.

However, sometimes there is no other option but to drive. In this case, try using the ÖAMTC app to find the cheapest petrol station to fill up your car before setting off.

READ ALSO: The six most spectacular train trips in Austria

Wifi

Gaining access to wifi might not sound like having fun, but it can be important when trying to contact friends, find directions to a venue or check out a review for a restaurant.

In Vienna, there are around 400 free wifi hotspots in the city, with 40 in the 1st District alone.

Visitors and residents in Vienna can find free wifi at City Hall Square, Stephansplatz, the MuseumsQuartier, Naschmarkt, in the Prater and on Danube Island.

Additionally, free wifi can be found at the tourist information office on Albertinaplatz, at the wienXtra-jugendinfo office on Babenbergerstrasse and at food outlets that have a Free Wave hotspot.

You can find all locations for free public wifi in Vienna at this interactive map from the City of Vienna.

Elsewhere in Austria, most towns and cities have free wifi, as well as many bars, restaurants, cafes and venues.

READ NEXT: Digital nomads: Who can work remotely in Austria?

Events

To find free events in Austria, it’s worth checking out the Eventbrite website. 

Upcoming free events include a talk on the future of Vienna, free concerts for children and a traditional Korean orchestra at the Wiener Konzerthaus.

Other free events taking place across the country are weekly traditional music concerts in your local Dorf (village) and free food and culture events, like Lang und Klang in St Johann in Tyrol. 

Lang und Klang is a weekly summer series of late night shopping, food and live music. The last event takes place on Wednesday September 7th and entry is free.

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