Vienna: How tourists, visitors (and residents) can get free Covid tests

Austria has changed its testing policy, but tourists, visitors (and residents) can still easily access free Covid tests. Here's a step-by-step guide to registering for the free tests.

Vienna: How tourists, visitors (and residents) can get free Covid tests
Telephone sick leave is back for positive Covid-19 cases in Austria. Photo by Stephane Mahe / Reuters.

From April, free Covid-19 tests are no longer unlimited in Austria, and people will be limited to five PCR and five antigen tests a month. There has been a lot of confusion about how the government will keep track of the number of tests and whether or not non-residents could still access them.

Austrian capital Vienna has confirmed it will continue offering several testing options, including the home PCR tests known as Alles Gurgelt and test streets and boxes throughout the city. Tourists can access all these options – there is no need to show proof of residence or a social security number.

Alles Gurgelt

One of the easiest ways to get a Covid PCR test, especially if you don’t speak German, is using the Alles Gurgelt offer. For this, you need to sign up to the website, which is also available for Upper Austria. 

When you click “jetzt registrieren“, you are taken to the partner company website. There are several languages to pick from, including English, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Portuguese, and Romanian.

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

From there, you provide your name, email a new password to create a new user. Then, as you are testing privately and not through a school or company, it’s time to fill out some personal data, including telephone and address.

The website also asks for a social security number but already has some info: “You will find your social security number on your e-card. Citizens of other countries enter the digits 0000 together with their date of birth”, so tourists and non-residents can quickly sign up as well.

People who have already taken the tests before will notice that a new page shows up, where you can choose whether to start a new test or pick up the kits. Tourists and visitors are also entitled to five tests a month.

The five-a-month limit

There was a lot of confusion about how the limit would be measured. Would it be how many tests you can pick up a month? Or how many you can submit? Turns out, it’s both.

Users get a new pickup code every month and are entitled to get five test kits. If they choose to start a new test, they will also see how many they have already taken of the “five monthly free tests based on the regulation of the Ministry of Health”.

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

However, there are many exceptions and several different possibilities that won’t count towards the monthly quota. 

Users are prompted with the question “why do you want to do a PCR test?” and the five free tests is only one of the possibilities. 

One of the listed reasons is “official testing”, and people can check if they have symptoms, if they need to test themselves to leave quarantine, if they are a contact person, or if the antigen test was positive.

These options will give them a free PCR test that won’t count towards the five-a-month limit.

But that’s not all. Users can also select “I have the following reason for doing the test”, which will extend different reasons to get “extra” free tests. These include “I am visiting someone in a hospital/rehabilitation institution, residential care facility/disable care facility”, for example. 

You can also get free unlimited tests if you work at residential care facilities, hospitals, schools, daycare centres, or if you are a student. 

Some bugs and problems

While testing, we found that the system is not perfect. 

You can’t use your ‘old’ test kits if you choose to take a test that will be counted as one of the five monthly ones. The system will say that you have no tests available. 

READ ALSO: Austria: I’ve stashed away Covid tests. Can I use them from April?

However, you can move forward if you choose any other option. 

This will mean that tourists will have to first pick up new test kits and not use the five-free tests quota before starting a new test. 

You can pick up the kits at any BIPA outlet in Vienna – and you can drop off your tests at any REWE outlet in the city (BILLA, BILLA PLUS, BIPA, and PENNY), but also several ÖBB train stations – Wien Hauptbahnhof/Vienna Central Station, Wien Meidling, as well as at the petrol station shops of BP, JET, SHELL, ENI & OMV).

You will receive your result via email within 24 hours if you hand in your sample before 9 a.m. The samples are picked up at the REWE outlets twice a day (between 9 a.m. and noon and between 2 and 5 p.m.).

The test streets and testing boxes

Another option in Vienna is the testing streets and boxes – a good choice if you don’t have the time to pick up a new kit, or don’t want to go to the trouble of taking the test at home, filming yourself and then dropping out the test. 

The streets and boxes work the same way as before. The City Hall confirmed that all of them will remain working “for the time being”. 

Here you can find a list of all the testing centres in Vienna. Registering a new user is very simple, but it is in German. The forms are pretty straightforward, though, and they will ask for information such as name and date of birth. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: What are Vienna’s new Covid measures?

A social security number (Sozialversicherungsnummer) will also be asked, but you can check a box stating if you don’t have any (Keine Sozialversicherungsnummer vorhanden). 

After the registration, you will get a personal QR code that needs to be shown before your test appointment. Then, you can choose one of the several streets and boxes to schedule your test.

All you need to take, according to the official website, is an official picture ID (a passport, for example), the QR code (printed or on your phone), the confirmation of the appointment (also printed or on your phone), and an FFP2 mask. 

They also ask you to take your e-card if you have one, but it’s not mandatory, so tourists and non-residents can easily take the tests.

There was no mention of reasons to take the test or the five-a-month limit during the entire process, so it is still unclear how they will control the limited tests of people going to centres, streets and boxes.

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Austrian railway workers set to strike after pay talks fall flat

Austria's railways are set to grind to a halt on Monday due to failed negotiations between unions and rail operators, the country's railway system (ÖBB) said on Sunday.

Austrian railway workers set to strike after pay talks fall flat

Austrian railway workers will hold a one-day strike on Monday after another round of negotiations between unions and railway representatives failed.

The fifth round of negotiations over pay rises for 50,000 employees from 65 different railway operators, including the main national operator ÖBB, had failed to come to a resolution.

Vida, the trade union that represents the workers, has asked for a wage increase of €400 – an average increase of around 12 percent.

In response, Austria’s Chamber of Commerce offered an increase of a 8 percent.

With walkouts set to go ahead, there will be no regional, long-distance or night trains on Monday.

“After more than twelve hours of intensive talks, the [two sides] unfortunately did not manage to come to an agreement,” the ÖBB said in a statement.

Cross-border traffic and night travel could be affected, and the ÖBB also warned of “individual train cancellations” on Sunday evening and even on Tuesday.

Andreas Matthä, CEO of ÖBB, said in a statement: “I cannot understand this strike at all. With an offer of 8.44 percent, the ÖBB has made the highest offer of any sector.”

“This is clearly a malicious strike on the part of the union,” he added.

Vida union negotiator Gerhard Tauchner said that they “are fighting for a sustainable cost of living adjustment… which will give relief to those with lower and middle incomes in particular in the face of skyrocketing prices.”

Austria’s year-on-year inflation rate hit 11 percent in October.