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Five spring destinations from Austria – and the Covid rules in place

Spring is the perfect time for a bit of break by the ocean or lake. Check out the most popular destinations among Austrians and the current Covid regulations in them.

a beach hotel in Spain
Spring is the perfect time to bask in the sun and forget all about long winter months. (Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash)

Even with the coronavirus pandemic, Austrians have travelled – a lot. About 4.5 million Austrian residents took at least one holiday trip home or abroad in 2020.

That year, almost three-quarters of the trips were domestic, according to Statistik Austria, but in previous, pre-pandemic years, most trips had been taken to other European destinations. And the most popular countries among Austrians were Germany, Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and Spain.

All excellent places to spend a few days over spring, whether heading off to coastal cities for a swim in the sea or driving inland just to enjoy different cities, languages and maybe some beautiful lakes and spas, these countries are Austrian’s favourites for a good reason.

The proximity also makes the trips more accessible, and a majority of travels are made by cars (59%) and planes (24.6%).

As many European countries relax their covid restrictions, they also become more attractive options for an easy and chill trip to welcome spring. However, there are still rules to be aware of when visiting popular destinations around Austria.

Here’s a summary. Keep in mind that many of these measures can change at short notice, and always check the relevant links.

Germany

“Upstairs neighbour” Germany does not have Austria in any high-risk lists. This means that travellers aged 12 or over must carry with them a negative test result or proof of vaccination or recovery when entering the country.

There is no need for a digital registration on entry.

Inside Germany, things are a little more complicated, with different restrictions depending on which state you are visiting. However, the country is set to drop most measures, including mandatory masks and showing G-proof to enter gastronomy, on April 2nd.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The Covid measures across German states

Italy

Travel to Italy for any reason, including tourism, is currently allowed from all countries as restrictions were eased as of March 1st.

All arrivals need to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test result, which must be established before boarding flights or ferries, and possibly during border checks if travelling by road or rail.

Travellers also need to fill out a passenger locator form, or ‘dPLF’. Find out how to do that here.

Once inside the country, there are a few rules to be aware of. There is currently a mask mandate in all indoor as well as some outdoor public places. Additionally, many businesses will ask for a “green pass” with proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 or a negative test.

A “super green pass” is required to access venues, including restaurants, hotels, and public transport. It is equivalent to the 2G rule in Austria, meaning only vaccinated or recovered people can enter.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What Covid-19 rules are now in place in Italy?

Croatia

Travellers can enter Croatia if they provide proof of complete vaccination, evidence of recovery, or a negative result to a pre-departure test. They also need to complete an online form before departure. Children younger than 12 are exempt from testing requirements if the parents comply with the entry rules.

According to the government website, the use of facemasks is mandatory in all indoor areas and in outdoor public spaces where it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of 1.5m. In addition, places such as bars and nightclubs require a 3G proof for entry.

Beaches and thermal spas are open for public use, again keeping in mind that health and safety, as well as any social distancing measures in effect at the time, will apply.

READ ALSO: Austria’s beaches’ second cleanest in Europe’

Hungary

Since early March, Hungary has lifted many coronavirus restrictions and all its entry restrictions.

Travellers can enter the country without the need for proof of vaccination, recovery certificates or any kind of test. Additionally, the special rules of access for specific services and events were also lifted, according to Hungary’s tourism website.

There are no longer any G-rules for hotels, spas, sporting or cultural events, music and dance festivals, or outdoor events.

READ ALSO: Austria’s ‘original influencer’: Ten weird facts about the Austrian Royal Family and Empress Sissi

Spain

Passengers arriving by air or sea need to complete a Health Control Form before departure and obtain their QR code to present at boarding and health controls on arrival in Spain.

In addition to the form, passengers need to present a certificate proving vaccination against Covid, a negative test, or a recovery certificate. Children under 12 years of age are exempt from giving these certificates.

In some regions of Spain, the ‘EU Digital COVID Certificate’ is required to access certain public spaces. Spain’s Autonomous Communities can implement specific territorial regulations.

Face masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces but also required outdoors if a 1.5m distance is not possible at large events.

Spanish regions have virtually lifted all other previous Covid restrictions such as capacity limits, curfews, limited opening hours, the Covid health pass and bar, restaurant, and nightclub closures.

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Will Spain change its Covid restrictions ahead of Easter?

Coming back to Austria

Currently, Austria has a simple 3G rule for entry, and no quarantine requirement.

Travellers need only to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or negative test to enter the country. Here’s all you need to know about Austria’s current entry and Covid rules.

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TRAIN TRAVEL

EXPLAINED: How to not be ‘bumped’ from an overcrowded Austrian train

Austrian trains have been overly crowded recently, with some people who had valid tickets having to be removed for "safety reasons". Here's how to make sure you get to your destination.

EXPLAINED: How to not be 'bumped' from an overcrowded Austrian train

Train travel is a safe and relatively comfortable way to get around Austria, but there is still much to do to make these journeys better for travellers, especially for commuters.

In Austria, a combination of high fuel prices, the adoption of the subsidised Klimaticket, and Vienna’s new short-term parking system, combined with other factors including a green surge and nice weather, has led to an increase in the search for train travel.

The operator ÖBB expects an even higher surge in the next few days, as warm weather meets holidays in Austria. This has led to several journeys being overcrowded, with people travelling standing up or being removed from trains when they reach capacity and the number of people compromises safety.

READ ALSO: Half-price Europe train tickets on offer in Interrail flash sale

“Safety is the top priority. If the train is too full to be guided safely, passengers must be asked to get off. If they don’t do it voluntarily, we have no choice but to get the police. This happens very rarely,” Bernhard Rieder from ÖBB told broadcaster ORF during an Ö1 interview.

Why are trains overcrowded?

There are several reasons for the surge in train travel, but they boil down to two things: rising costs for other means of transportation and environmental worries.

With galloping inflation, Austrians have seen prices of fuel climbing, and as the war in Ukraine continues, there is no likelihood of lower petrol prices any time soon.

At the same time, since March, Vienna (the destination for many domestic tourists and commuters) has instituted a new short-term parking system, basically removing free parking in the streets of the capital.

Driving has become more expensive when everything else seems to be costly, and many Austrians turn to train travel. Particularly for those who are holders of the Klimaticket, a yearly subsidised card that allows for unlimited travel for just over €1,000 – early buyers could get a hold of the ticket for under €900.

READ ALSO: Nine German expressions that perfectly sum up spring in Austria

The ticket allows travellers to “hop on and hop off” as they wish, making occupancy more unpredictable. However, it is possible to reserve seats even if you have them, and there are low-budget bundles for commuters.

The Klimaticket was created in an effort with the Environmental Ministry, looking to increase the use of greener transport alternatives in Austria.

The environmental concern is also one of the reasons why train travel is on the rise globally – travelling by train is also more convenient in many cases, with comfortable seats, free wifi, a dining area and the fact that you can start and end your journey in central stations instead of far-away airports.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Trains are in fashion so why is rail travel across Europe still so difficult?

Why won’t ÖBB only sell as many tickets as there are train seats?

A reasonable question, but that is not possible with the way train journeys operate in Austria – and in most countries.

Some tickets are “open” and flexible, meaning that people can board any train from a specific time. These are particularly useful for commuters who might be late leaving work, for example.

Additionally, holders of the Klimaticket and other regional yearly offers don’t need to buy tickets. They only need to show their Klimaticket card with an ID once checked.

READ ALSO: Austria’s nationwide public transport ‘climate ticket’ now available

What is ÖBB doing to avoid overcrowding?

After the several incidents of overcrowding when people even had to leave their trains despite having valid tickets, ÖBB announced it would bring additional trains for the peak season around the holidays (May 26th, June 5th and 6th and June 16th), increasing the number of seats by “thousands”, according to a press statement.

What can I do to guarantee my journey?

Despite the increase in offer, the operator still warns that “on certain trains, demand can still exceed capacity”.

The best way to try and guarantee your journey, according to ÖBB, is by reserving a seat.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

“A seat reservation is the best way to use the most popular train connections. Starting at €3, you can reserve a seat in ÖBB trains in Austria”.

Reservations are available online at tickets.oebb.at the ÖBB app, at the ÖBB ticket counter, and at the ÖBB customer service at 05-1717.

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