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DRIVING

Everything you need to know about driving in Austria in winter

Austria is known for having long, cold winters, which can impact conditions on the roads. Here’s what you need to know about driving in Austria in the winter. From tips to make your trip smoother to the rules you need to follow.

Everything you need to know about driving in Austria in winter
Austria's roads are well maintained in the winter, but there are a few rules to be aware of. (Photo by Thirdman / Pexels)

Austria’s infrastructure is built for winter weather. As soon as the temperature starts to drop overnight, gritting trucks are out in force, and roads are quickly cleared of snow during winter storms.

This makes driving in Austria during the winter months so much easier, but there are a few rules to follow as well.

Here’s everything you need to know about driving in Austria in the winter.

FOR MEMBERS: Reader question: Can I take the Austrian driving licence test in English?

Winter tyres

In Austria, all cars and lorries weighing up to 3.5 tonnes must be fitted with winter tyres from November 1 to April 15 of the following year. This is to ensure drivers are prepared for wintry conditions on the roads, such as snow and ice.

A driver can be fined €35 if caught driving without winter tyres during this time. If other road users are put in danger as a result, the fine can be up to €5,000.

The law also has consequences for insurance claims in the event of an accident while driving in the winter with summer tyres. For example, if there is a crash but the driver claims it wasn’t their fault, they have to prove that the accident would have still happened even with winter tyres to avoid blame. They then have the so-called “burden of proof”. 

Also, a tyre only qualifies as an official winter tyre (or all-season tyre) if it has one of the following labels: M+S, M.S., M&S or the snowflake symbol. 

READ ALSO: Can I use my foreign driving licence in Austria?

Snow chains and spike tyres

Between November 1 and April 15, all lorries (with a maximum weight of more than 3.5 tonnes) and all buses must carry snow chains for at least two wheels.

But the snow chains should only be used when absolutely necessary. Such as when a road is covered with snow or ice.

The use of studded tyres is illegal in Austria during the months of June, July, August and September. And if you want to use them in the winter, you need to display a studded tyre sticker (Spikeaufkleber) in the rear of the vehicle.

Spike tyres are only typically fitted on industrial or agricultural vehicles, and are not often used on Austrian roads as they can damage the surface.

Removal of snow and ice from the car

In Austria, drivers are required to clear all windows of snow and ice before driving. In fact, only clearing a small “viewing window” is illegal and can impact an insurance claim if there is an accident.

Drivers also have to clear snow from the lights and licence plate, including on a trailer. And it’s recommended to remove snow or ice from the top of a car as it can fall across the windshield while driving.

READ MORE: The story of how half of Austria drove on the left and half on the right – for 20 years

Photo by Andreea Popa on Unsplash

Road gritting and snow clearing

Municipal governments are responsible for gritting and clearing snow on public roads.

The system in Austria works well with gritting trucks regularly maintaining roads throughout the winter. As a result, roads are rarely blocked due to snow or ice in residential areas or on main roads.

However, owners of property also have to chip in and are required to clear snow from pavements and footpaths within 3 metres of their property. If there are no footpaths, then the road must be cleared and gritted within one metre of the property. 

Weather forecasts

When driving during the winter months in Austria it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast in advance – especially if setting out on a long trip. 

If heavy snow or extremely cold temperatures are predicted then try to postpone the journey, if possible. But if you have to drive, pack a few essentials in case there are delays. 

Must-have items include drinking water, a flask of tea/coffee, a shovel for clearing snow, a warm coat, gloves, a torch and a mobile phone.

Winter weather can vary between regions in Austria, particularly in the Alps. But a little bit of planning can make a big difference to your journey.

Useful links

The Austrian Federal Government guide to driving in winter

Austria by road (travel guide)

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

Austria is known as a country with a high standard of living, but it also comes with a high cost of living. Here’s an overview of what you can expect to earn in Austria.

How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

As with most things in Austria, the question of ‘what is a good salary?’ is difficult to answer as the cost of living (and wages) can vary between states and cities.

For example, the east of Austria is typically much cheaper than the west for housing (with the exception of Vienna). And those living in cities often have easier – and cheaper – access to public transport when compared with people living in rural areas. 

READ ALSO: ‘Bad-tempered locals’: Vienna ranked the world’s ‘unfriendliest city’

Childcare is also something to consider with huge differences between Vienna, where there is access to heavily subsidised services, and places like Tyrol where childcare costs more.

To delve a bit deeper, we looked at the data to find out the average salary in Austria and how it differs between professions and locations.

What is the average salary in Austria?

In 2021, the average gross annual salary in Austria was €44,395, according to the latest data from Statistics Austria

However, in the latest survey by online job platform Step Stone, the average gross annual salary in Austria is €49,609.

The Step Stone survey then broke it down further by industry with those working in pharma earning the most at €60,504. This was followed by energy at €60,345, medical technology at €59,106 and banking at €58,711.

The industry with the lowest average annual salary is hotels/gastronomy at €37,546, followed by agriculture at €39,779 and tourism at €43,965.

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Occupation also plays a part with people working in management earning the most – on average €66,768. Consulting came second at €53,721.

And like many other European countries, the gender pay gap in Austria prevails. The average annual salary for a man is €52,633 and for a woman it is €44,330.

Furthermore, the top earning city in Austria is Bregenz in Vorarlberg with an average annual salary of €54,620. When comparing the west of Austria with the east, the median salary in Vorarlberg is €46,450, whereas in Burgenland it is just €39,100.

What is the average cost of living in Austria?

Many international residents will find everyday living costs in Austria to be expensive, especially for those that come from countries with a much lower cost of living.

Inflation has also been rising steadily in Austria throughout 2022, leading to some steep rises in prices for groceries, housing costs and energy.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Austria

However, the average cost of living varies across the country, depending on the location. For example, Vienna and Innsbruck in Tyrol are two of Austria’s most expensive cities, but more affordable places to live are Graz in Styria and Klagenfurt in Carinthia.

In Vienna, the average price for a one bedroom apartment in the city centre is €915, going up to €2,000 for a three bedroom apartment, according to Expat Arrivals.

Whereas in Graz, the average cost of a one bedroom city centre apartment is around €609, and a three bedroom apartment is €1,170.

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