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TRAIN TRAVEL

New routes and prices: How train services in Austria will change from December

Those taking the train with Austria's main operator ÖBB will have more travel options as the company focuses on tourist destinations. However, prices will also change.

austria train ebb
Austria's ÖBB train with scenery views (© ÖBB/Philipp Horak)

Austria’s train transport company ÖBB has announced a new timetable from December 11th 2022, focusing on tourist destinations and more connections. However, prices will generally increase – though international trips could become cheaper.

“More comfortable, further, more often – this summarises what we offer our customers in the new timetable”, said the company’s CEO Andreas Matthä in a press statement.

“In local and long-distance transport, new modern trains ensure even more comfortable travel; additional connections create a higher frequency and improve the offering for both commuters and tourists. And finally, we are able to further strengthen the European night train network by expanding night travel”, he added.

READ ALSO: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel

Price changes

With the new timetable comes a general price increase, according to public broadcaster ORF. On average, tickets in the second class will become 3.9 percent more expensive, though the earlier you book, the cheaper the journey, ORF said. Price increases due to rising energy costs.

ÖBB said that changes in taxes would allow for tickets to become cheaper, however, at least international tickets. According to the company, starting January 1st 2023, the VAT for international tickets is not charged for the Austrian part of the route, allowing for lower prices.

‘Attractive destinations in Austria and Europe’

The train operator said it is consistently expanding its night train networks to connect Europe in a “climate-friendly” way.

“From the timetable change, the Nightjet will take you from Vienna and Munich to the Italian Riviera. In addition, NJ 233 and NJ 40295 will be extended from Milan and will travel daily to Genoa in the future.”, the company stated.

READ ALSO: Train travel in Austria: 6 ways you can save money

New connections in the Nightjet night trains include Stuttgart and Baden-Württemberg.

Popular destinations will be expanded, and the EuroNight Vienna – Graz – Split will bring holiday travellers to the Croatian Adriatic coast from May to October three times a week.

ÖBB said it also focuses on tourist connection in its daytime traffic. For example, the direct IC connection from Vienna to Salzkammergut to Bad Ischl, Hallstatt and Stainach-Irdning will be offered daily.

On weekends, there will be a new direct train connection Vienna – Schladming – Bischofshofen, which leads over the Gesäuse. Some Austrian state capitals will also be even better connected with new early and late connections at the weekend.

The Vienna – Prague route going through Gmünd and South Bohemia will also be expanded to daily trips. On weekends, the connection will be offered twice a day.

Local and long-distance connections

ÖBB said it would “comprehensively” expand offers nationally. Two other train pairs between Vienna and Villach will allow for an hourly interval from and to Carinthian during rush hours.

An additional IC train pair will be added with the timetable change on the Graz- Linz route. The new timetable also offers a new daily evening connection from Salzburg to Graz.

READ ALSO: Five European cities you can reach from Austria in less than five hours by train

The operator added: “Travelers can also expect new morning and evening connections on the western route. For example, a new RJ connection brings culture lovers back to Linz from Vienna at 00:28 a.m. after visiting the concert or theatre.

“Extensions of RJ connections make Salzburg and Tyrol even more accessible from Upper Austria in the morning or take air travellers from Salzburg to Vienna Airport even earlier in the morning.”

ÖBB said it was “meeting a historically high number of passengers with historically high investments in new and modern trains”. The company announced a total of around € 4.1bn into its wagons, looking to increase capacity in long-distance transport by 30 percent by 2030.

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DISCOVER AUSTRIA

8 things to know if you’re visiting Austria in December

From Christmas markets to possible strike action and the start of the ski season, here’s what you need to know when visiting Austria in December.

8 things to know if you’re visiting Austria in December

December in Austria is exactly how you would imagine it – twinkling lights, wintry weather and wafts of Glühwein in the air.

And this year, the festive season is set to be even more enjoyable after many Christmas celebrations were put on hold for the past two years due to the pandemic.

So if you’re planning to travel to Austria this December, here’s what to expect.

READ MORE: How to save money and still go skiing in Austria

No travel restrictions

There are currently no Covid-related travel restrictions for entering Austria.

Previously, people arriving in Austria had to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test (known as 3G), but those rules came to an end in May.

This year will be the first Christmas season in Austria without Covid travel restrictions since December 2019.

Christmas markets are on

Another welcome return this year in Austria is the Christmas markets. 

Last year, many markets around the country were cancelled after a snap lockdown in November, although some events still went ahead with strict rules in place.

But this year, the Christmas markets are back in full swing without restrictions, so make sure you visit one (or two) to really get into the Christmas spirit.

Austria’s most famous markets are in Vienna, like the Christkindmarkt in front of the Town Hall that runs from November 19 to December 26.

FOR MEMBERS: IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas markets in Austria

Some Covid-19 rules still apply

The stressful days of pandemic lockdowns might be behind us (fingers crossed), but there are still a few rules in Austria to be aware of.

In Vienna, it is still mandatory to wear an FFP2 mask in pharmacies, on public transport and at stations. So if you arrive at Vienna International Airport and take public transport into the city centre, expect to be asked to put on a mask.

Nationwide, masks are also required at all health and care facilities, including hospitals and clinics.

Possible strike action 

Like in many countries in Europe right now, inflation is rising (see more on this below) and many workers unions are in the process of negotiating pay rises. 

This has already led to a strike by rail workers at ÖBB, Austria’s national rail operator, on Monday November 28, with the possibility of further strike action if a deal can’t be reached. 

Retail workers and beer brewers are also threatening to strike in early December for similar reasons. 

So if visiting Austria in December, prepare yourself for some possible upheaval. Although the latest rail strike caused minimal disruption.

READ MORE: Train strike: What are your rights in Austria if your trip is cancelled or delayed?

Everything is more expensive

Inflation in Austria is currently over 10 percent, which has led to price increases for everything from daily groceries to energy bills and dining out.

Even the Christmas markets are more expensive this year due to higher prices for the Glühwein mugs. This means some markets in Vienna are charging almost €5 for the Pfand (deposit) for that first glass of mulled wine.

The same applies to ski resorts with hotels, lift tickets and restaurants all costing more this year.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is travelling to Austria this winter worth it?

Public holidays

Besides Christmas (December 25) and Stephan’s Day (December 26), December 8, when Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis), is also a public holiday in Austria.

Of course, there are also several celebratory dates in December. For example, every Sunday until Christmas is an Advent Sunday, and Austrian families commemorate it in many ways, including lighting up candles.

On December 4, there is Barbaratag, while on December 5 Krampus pays his visit to Austrian villages and cities. On the next day, December 6, it’s time for St Nikolaus to bring chocolate and tangerines to children who were nice during the year.

Christmas Eve, Day, and St Stephen’s Day (December 24, 25 and 26) are important dates for Austrian traditions.

It’s also worth noting that Austrians celebrate Christmas on the evening of December 24, usually with a family meal.

READ ALSO: Is skiing still possible on Austria’s glaciers?

Start of ski season

In some parts of Austria, like on high-altitude glaciers in the Alps, the skiing season is already underway. 

Elsewhere, some resorts tentatively open in early to mid-December before the winter season officially starts at Christmas. So you can possibly save some money (and avoid the crowds) by going skiing earlier.

For example, in St. Johann in Tyrol, the adult day pass rate is €29 between December 8 to 23 – far below the €53 in peak season (from December 24). 

These off-peak rates don’t apply at all ski resorts but it’s worth checking before booking a trip to the mountains.

New Year celebrations

Expect lots of fireworks on New Year’s Eve (Silvester) in Austria – no matter where you are.

Most major cities have a large fireworks display planned for midnight on December 31 and hotels tend to book up quickly – especially in cities like Salzburg.

In Vienna, the bells ring out at St. Stephan’s Cathedral to welcome in the New Year, which is also broadcast on national television. This is followed by fireworks and some even take part in a communal waltz on Rathausplatz in front of the Town Hall.

But if you really want to celebrate New Year like an Austrian, then give a marzipan pig to your nearest and dearest. The little pigs represent a good luck charm and are handed out every year on New Year’s Eve.

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