SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

TRAVEL NEWS

Easter holidays: What to expect if you are coming to Austria

After a few seasons of closed hotels and lockdowns, Austria is reopening and ready to resume tourism activities. Here's what you need to know before coming to the alpine country.

Easter holidays: What to expect if you are coming to Austria

The pandemic is certainly not over, but as many countries bring reopening steps, travellers are getting ready to resume trips.

With its natural beauty, Easter markets, stunning architecture and a great variety of touristic offers, Austria is certainly a great destination for those looking to satiate their wanderlust. 

But what are the rules currently in place, what has changed with the pandemic and, most importantly, what should you be aware of when coming to Austria?

Entry rules to Austria

First of all, are you even allowed to travel to Austria? 

The country last month changed its entry rules regarding Covid restrictions, making it significantly easier for visitors to come. 

Travellers need to prove that they are fully vaccinated against the disease, have recently recovered from it, or show a negative Covid-19 test. Either of these, the so-called 3G rule, is enough for entry. 

Austria accepts several different vaccines as proof of vaccination for entry into the territory, including the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac. However, they are not recognised for 2G proof inside the country (i.e. for entry to bars and restaurants). 

There is no need to quarantine or fill in any online forms for those who comply with the 3G rules. In addition, children under the age of 12 don’t need to show any of these confirmations.

READ ALSO: Travel: What are Austria’s current entry and Covid rules?

What rules are in place inside of Austria?

Austria used to have a strict mask mandate, but recently dropped the requirements for most places, including bars, restaurants, and leisure or culture establishments. 

FFP2 masks are still mandatory in indoor “essential” public places (such as pharmacies, supermarkets, and banks) and in public transport and taxis. 

Most of the country has removed the main Covid restrictions, including person limits for events, entry rules for certain establishments, curfews and contact restrictions.

As a result, all areas of life can open again, even nightclubs, which were closed for several months longer than any other type of establishment.

READ ALSO: A maskless Easter: The latest coronavirus restrictions in Austria

The capital Vienna has also dropped most of its Covid restrictions, including requirements that people be either vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid-19 to enter bars and restaurants. 

The so-called 2G rules have also been dropped for nightclubs.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in Austria

What counts as proof of vaccination?

Vaccination, recovery, or a negative test are still requirements for a few places, including hospital settings and for entry in the country from abroad.

A standard EU pass (also known as green, sanitary, Covid or health pass in other countries) is a valid proof of vaccination or recovery. In addition, an official immunisation or health certificate in German or English can also be presented. 

The rules are laid out by the government here

Can I get tested in Austria?

Austria is changing its Covid tests policy starting April 1st, with a limit of five PCR tests and five antigen tests per month per person. 

So far, there has been no need to present proof of residence or social security number to take tests in Austria, meaning that tourists could also benefit from the free offer. There are no indications that this will change. 

We will update this article if there is news regarding Covid-19 tests in Austria for tourists.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Austria’s new Covid-19 testing rules

What else has changed?

Two years of the pandemic have certainly changed Austria in many ways. 

One thing that may affect the lives of tourists is that Austria’s love for cold hard cash has (if only slightly) waned with the health measures and digital payments needed with the coronavirus pandemic.

However, cash is still the preferred method accounting for 66 per cent of all transactions in Austria, according to the Austrian Bank.

READ ALSO: Seven ways the Covid-19 pandemic has changed Austria

So, it is worth it to keep some euros in your wallet unless you want to go searching for a Bankomat to draw some cash and pay for lunch.

Besides that, kissing used to be a standard greeting, with men and women amicably giving one kiss on each cheek as a way to say hello. 

That is no longer as common, and things can get awkward until you figure out if the person you are greeting is a kisser, a hugger, a fist pump sort of person or someone who will greet you with just a nod.

The pandemic is not over, and proof of that is that there are still high numbers of new coronavirus infections, though they have slowly declined from the record-breaking numbers in mid-March.

This has its effects, as people who test positive need to self-isolate for at least five days before resuming activities, including work. You might see the repercussions in certain areas, including transport, as public transport companies have already announced changes in schedules to accommodate the staff shortages.

It’s also important to keep in mind basic health measures to avoid contracting the virus yourself.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: What to do if you test positive in Austria

Plan ahead

If you plan on coming for the Easter holidays, plan ahead. Tourism is picking up again, and hotels have been close to capacity in many regions, including Vienna. 

You should also be aware that, even if businesses have suffered during lockdowns, Austria still closes stores (and supermarkets!) on Sundays. Furthermore, Easter Monday is a holiday too, with everything also closed for that day.

There may be a few options open throughout cities, and convenience stores in gas stations also stay open (so do tourist attractions, bars, and restaurants), but most supermarkets and stores will have their doors closed.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Austria in April 2022

If you are heading to the capital, it’s worth checking out the best things to do in spring in Vienna – all of which open even on Sundays and holidays.

Or just skip town (and country) altogether

In Austria and looking to get away for the long weekend?

Here are five spring destinations popular among Austrians and the Covid rules in place for each of them.

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

Useful vocabulary

Einreiseregeln – entry rules

Veranstaltungen – events

Nachweis – proof, certificate

​​Ferienfahrplan – holiday schedule

Testergebnis – test result

This article was updated with the current Covid-19 restrictions on April 17th.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TRAIN TRAVEL

Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying – even with kids

Hoping to do his bit for the planet, perhaps save some money and avoid spending any time in airports, The Local's Ben McPartland decided to travel 2,000km with his family across Europe by train - not plane. Here's how he got on on and would he recommend it?

Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying - even with kids

Summer 2022 has seen the return of people travelling across Europe en masse whether for holidays or to see family, or both.

But it’s also seen chaos in airports, airline strikes and more questions than ever about whether we should be flying at all as Europe bakes under consecutive heatwaves caused by the climate crisis.

But are there really viable alternatives to travelling 2,000 km across Europe in a short space of time – with young kids?

The predicament

We needed to get from Paris to Portugal, or to be more precise the western edge of the Algarve in southern Portugal, for a week-long family holiday.

We didn’t have that much time to spend travelling there and back so the dilemma was how could we get there, fairly quickly?

“We” in this case being a family of four including two children aged 5 and 7, one fairly easygoing mum and a dad (me) who increasingly comes out in a rash when he goes near an airport.

Normally we’d have flown – as we did when we went to the same region of Portugal in October – but the stories of airport chaos, delays, cancellations, strikes and never-ending queues around Europe at the start of the summer made the prospect of taking the plane far less appealing.

Then throw in the climate crisis and the growing feeling that we, as a family, need to make an effort for the cause.

So the thought of flying, during what forecasters say was one of the hottest Julys on record in Europe and as rivers dried up and wildfires burn, just didn’t feel like an acceptable option – to me anyway – when there are alternatives.

There was the option of driving from France to Portugal, as many French and Portuguese nationals living in France do every summer. But driving nearly 2,000 km there and back for just a week’s holiday with two kids strapped in the back for hours on end would have been asking for trouble – either a breakdown or lots of meltdowns.

So that left taking the train. But would it be viable?  Would something go wrong as my colleague Richard Orange had warned on his own rail trip across Europe with kids this summer?

READ ALSO: What I learned taking the train through Europe with two kids

Planning the route

With the help of some really knowledgeable European rail experts like Jon Worth and information from the excellent The Man in Seat Sixty-One website we looked at the various rail routes through France and Spain to southern Portugal.

One problem was the line from southern Spain to the Algarve no longer runs which meant the best we could do was get to Seville and then hire a car.

At one point the best option looked like a night train (fairly cheap with a whole cabin reserved for the family) down to the Pyrenees (Latour-de-Carol) and then a local train to Barcelona before onwards travel to Portugal.

But in the end we settled on the direct train from Paris to Barcelona, spend the night in the Catalan city before taking the train the next day to Seville and picking up the car.

READ ALSO 6 European cities less than 7 hours from Paris by train

It would be mean Paris to Portugal in two days – or to be precise 7 hours to Barcelona, one night in a hotel, before a five-and-half-hour train journey to Seville and a three-hour car journey. It was the quickest way without flying, as far as we could see.

We were about to book the tickets when friend who was travelling by rail through Europe mentioned the Interrail option.

I did Interrailing as an 18-year- old and it was a great way to spend a month travelling around Europe (and Morocco) but had never thought it could be an option for a quickish trip to Portugal and back.

But Interrail has changed a bit since 1996 and indeed since 1972 when it was first launched for under 21s.

Now it offers passes that can be used for 4, 5 or 7 days a month – perfect for travel to a few destinations in a short space of time.

And, this was the clincher – Interrail passes for under 11s are free if they are with an adult.

Well almost free, because in certain countries like France and Spain you still need to pay for seat reservations for anyone travelling.

But the cost of the passes for two adults, plus seat reservations were cheaper than just booking direct trains and much cheaper than flying (more on costs below).

The high-speed train from Barcelona to Seville. Photo: The Local

The Upsides

Let’s start with not having to wake up at 4am and arrive at the train station three hours before the train leaves just to check in a bag and then spend the next three hours queuing in various lines – bags, passport, security, boarding etc..

We arrived at Gare de Lyon around 30 minutes before the train left and boarded without queuing and the train departed on time.

Compare this with having to get a taxi or the RER train to Charles de Gaulle airport and then still find yourself in Paris three hours later as you queue to board. (I know this is not always the case but this summer the advice was to arrive three hours before your flight to check in bags.)

Plus there was no luggage limits on the train and no having to empty your bags at security because you left an old roll-on deodorant at the bottom of your bag.

Although rail stations in Spain do have airport style x-ray machines to check all luggage, they were very rapid and didn’t result in any long queues.

Add to this comfortable seats with leg room, a bar you can walk to and spend hours watching the beautiful French and Spanish landscape whizz by.

You arrive in the centre of town – in our case Barcelona – so there’s no need to get public transport or taxis to and from out of town airports. 

Spending a night in Barcelona was a great way to break the journey – albeit a bit expensive (see below).

And it all ran pretty much on time. Over five train journeys in four days we had 15 minutes of delay. Spain’s high-speed trains were fantastic.

To sum it up: when flying your holiday only really begins when you arrive at your final destination because these days the day spent travelling is one big headache, but with the train the holiday begins as soon as you leave the station.

It’s just far, far more relaxing.

heading back to Barcelona Sants station after a night in the Catalan capital. Photo: The Local.

The Downsides

But what about the kids, you say?

Yep this can be an issue. Travelling for 7 hours on a train is not easy with two young kids but if you come prepared and can think of 75 different ways to occupy them from drawing and playing cards to I-spy and “count my freckles slowly” then it’s possible the journey will be tantrum free. (Playing hide and seek on a train with 12 carriages isn’t advisable.)

And kids adapt, so the following day’s five and half hour journey from Barcelona to Seville was a breeze because they settled into the pace of life and by that point had worked out the code to get into my mobile phone.

One complaint was how long the TGV train took to get along the southern French coast. Does it really need to stop at Nimes, Montpellier, Beziers, Agde, Sete and Perpignan? Can’t local trains serve these stations and the TGV just head straight to Spain?

Another little gripe was the train food. Whilst buffet cars on SNCF and Renfe trains are great for a coffee or a beer they don’t really offer a selection of healthy meals, so you need to come prepared. We weren’t and spent a lot of money on crap food and drink during the trips.

But if you know this in advance you can bring whatever you like onto the train, with no nonsense about 100ml limits on liquid.

Cost comparison

Working out cost comparisons are hard and anyone looking to do a similar trip will need a calculator at hand. 

It’s hard to do a direct comparison between flying and taking the train because so much depends on what the prices are when you book, the route you want to take and how quickly you want to travel and whether to go first class or standard.

But for us at the time of booking (roughly two months in advance) flights from Paris to Faro were about €1,500 for four people, train tickets booked directly with SNCF and Renfe (not interrail) for four people were around €1,200 (this probably could have been much cheaper further in advance), whilst the Interrail option – 4 day passes plus seat reservations was around €810.

So on the face of it travelling by train, especially using Interrail passes, was cheaper – but then add on the cost of two nights in hotels in central Barcelona and there was no real financial benefit of going by train.

But then it was never all about money – what price on not having to spend three hours at Charles de Gaulle airport?

How easy is it to Interrail?

Interrail proved a great option for us, even though it was only a relatively short trip. It’s more suited to those looking to do multiple journeys through various countries, perhaps at a slower pace. But the kids being free was crucial for us, so other families should definitely explore the option.

The one downside to Interrailing through France and Spain is the requirement to book seat reservations for the high-speed trains.

Whilst this sounds fairly straightforward we couldn’t do it through the Interrail app or website so had to be done with Renfe directly. For most countries you can reserve seats through the Interrail app (more on this below).

With SNCF it required a lengthy phone call because we reserved the seats to make sure there were some available before getting the Interrail passes.

For Paris to Barcelona the reservations cost €34 for standard class seats or €48 for first class.

With Renfe it was more complicated although much cheaper (Around €10 to €12 a seat). We were told on the phone that to reserve seats with Interrail you have to do it either at a Spanish train station or by phone but only if you can pick up and pay for the reservations at a Spanish train station within a certain amount of time.

Neither of these were possible when booking from Paris back in May/June. But the helpful website Man at Seat 61 recommended going via the man behind the AndyBTravels website, who charges a small fee. A few emails were exchanged and our reservations for Barcelona to Seville arrived in the post a few days later. 

Renfe and SNCF could make it easier for Interrail passengers.

The Interrail mobile pass on the the Rail Planner app was very easy to use. It was just a case of adding the days when we were travelling and then adding the specific journeys.

This brought up a QR code for each trip but the ticket controllers were always more concerned about the seat reservations we had on paper.

But all went to plan.

 

Conclusion

Those days spent sitting drinking coffee, orange and beer (in separate cups) starring out of train windows at fields, hills, mountains, villages, beach and train platforms were part of the holiday.

I’d say that if you have a day or two to spare then travelling across Europe by train instead of plane is well worth it – yes, even with two young kids.

They might even thank you for it one day if we all help avert a climate disaster. 

Advice

It’s hard to give advice because each person has different requirements that need to be taken into account – whether number of passengers, time needed for travelling, destinations, cost etc.

But plan ahead and do the research to see what’s possible.

One bit of advice if you need to travel quickly is try keep connections to a minimum or give yourself plenty of time to make them.

My colleague Richard Orange had problems on his trip from Sweden to the UK via Denmark, Germany and Belgium because of delays and missed connections.

Useful links and extra info

You can explore Interrail pass options and prices by visiting the Interrail site here. The site offers plenty of info to help you plan your trip and reserve seats on trains if necessary.

The fantastic Man in Seat 61 guide to train travel across Europe is a must-read for anyone planning a trip. It has pages and pages of useful up to date info and can be viewed here.

It also has loads of information on how to use an Interrail pass and calculations to see whether it’s the best option – if you need help with the maths. The page can be viewed here.

SHOW COMMENTS