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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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For members

MONEY

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Austria’s climate bonus payment

Residents in Austria will receive up to €200 to compensate for the increase in energy and fuel prices created by the eco-social tax reform. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Austria's climate bonus payment

The climate bonus, or Klimabonus in German, is an essential part of Austria’s eco-tax reform, a larger project with several measures to incentivise environmental choices such as riding the public transport.

The bonus would offset some of the costs brought by a new CO2 tax in Austria.

READ ALSO: Austrian government unveils ‘eco’ tax reform

“With the Klimabonus, we ensure that climate-friendly behaviour is rewarded and the people in our country are relieved. If you take good care of the climate, you pay less CO2 tax and end up having more of this money left”, Climate Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) said on Twitter.

The Austrian government plans to set up a web site with more information on the bonus in June. Until then, here is what you need to know about the new compensation and how to get it.

Who is entitled to the payment?

Anyone who has had their primary residence in Austria for at least 183 days will be entitled to the bonus. Children are also entitled, but if they are younger than 18 years old, they will receive 50 per cent of the respective amount of the climate bonus.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get your €500 Kurzarbeit bonus in Austria

“This is the first time that all people, regardless of age, place of residence, regardless of employment or pension or training status, have received a federal payment,” said Gewessler on Friday in the Ö1 broadcast.

What is this ‘respective amount’?

Not everyone will receive the same amount of money. The value changes depending on where the recipient lives and what is the offer of public transport there. Viennese, then, will receive the lowest amount of money: a one-off € 100 payment.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to claim your €200 voucher for electronics repair in Austria

There are four levels of payment depending on the municipality: €100 for urban centres with the highest-ranking development (which is only Vienna), €233 for urban centres with good development of public transport, €167 in centres and surrounding areas with good basic development of the public system, and € 200 for rural municipalities.

If you live in Austria’s second-largest city, Graz, you fall into the second category and should expect a €133 bonus.

Some exceptions to the geographical rule apply, so people with disabilities who cannot use public transport will receive the total climate bonus (€200) regardless of where they live.

The Federal Government had already stated it estimated that a third of Austria’s population would receive the highest bonus.

How to get the bonus?

The payment is pretty straightforward; there is no need to apply for it, and it will be done directly into your bank account, just make sure that you have it up to date on the FinanzOnline website – the final date to do so is June 30th.

Those who receive a pension and other benefits will receive the bonus in that same bank account.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How freelancers in Austria can pay four times less in social insurance

It is worth mentioning that the bank account doesn’t necessarily need to be from an Austrian bank.

People who don’t have a registered bank account will receive a letter with a voucher that can be redeemed in shops or exchanged for cash at a bank, Gewessler said.

According to the Ministry, payments should start at the beginning of October, and those receiving a transfer will not have to wait for long to see the money in their bank accounts. However, people receiving letters with the vouchers could have to wait a few weeks.

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