Nestled within the heart of Europe, Austria offers a tapestry of lush landscapes, historic cities, and astounding alpine vistas that beckon to be explored. For the independent traveler, renting a car provides the freedom to glide along the scenic Grossglockner High Alpine Road, navigate the charming streets of Salzburg, or dive into the vibrant culture of Vienna at one’s own pace. With over 62% of tourists citing flexibility as a primary reason for choosing car rentals, the Austrian rental market caters to this demand by presenting a variety of options tailored to suit different travel preferences and budgets. Whether it’s a compact car for urban adventures or a sturdy SUV for mountain excursions, experiencing Austria behind the wheel introduces a dimension of personal discovery to the journey, allowing one to craft a bespoke itinerary that public transportation simply cannot mirror.

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Why Rent a Car in Austria?

From my personal experiences traversing the breathtaking landscapes of Austria, renting a car in this alpine country offers an unparalleled sense of freedom and flexibility that enhances your travel adventure. Austria boasts a rich tapestry of cultural heritage, stunning natural scenery from the rolling hills of the Wachau Valley to the towering peaks of the Alps, and charming villages that seem like they’re lifted from a storybook. Having your own set of wheels allows you to explore these treasures at your own pace, escape the confines of rigid tour schedules, and unearth the hidden gems often inaccessible by public transport. It’s not just about the destinations; driving in Austria unravels the joy of the journey itself, where every turn in the road could reveal a new panoramic vista or an inviting roadside café. So buckle up and prepare to discover the myriad reasons why hiring a car could be your key to unlocking the full Austrian experience.

What Size Rental Car: Big or Small?

When deciding on the size of a rental car for your trip to Austria, there are several factors to consider. During my travels in Austria, I’ve experienced the benefits and drawbacks of both big and small rental cars. Here’s what you should consider when choosing the size of your rental car.

Reasons to Choose a Big Car

  • Family or Group Travel: If you’re traveling with family or a group, a larger car is a must. A big car will offer more space for passengers and luggage, ensuring everyone is comfortable throughout the journey.
  • Safety and Comfort: Larger cars often come with enhanced safety features and more room to stretch out, which can be particularly appealing for long scenic drives through the Austrian Alps.
  • Winter Driving: If you’re visiting Austria in the winter, a bigger car, especially one with all-wheel drive, can offer better stability and traction on snowy and icy roads.
  • Carrying Equipment: For those planning to indulge in outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, or hiking, a larger vehicle offers ample space to carry sports equipment and gear.

Reasons to Choose a Small Car

  • Maneuverability: Small cars are easier to handle and maneuver, especially on the narrow, winding roads commonly found in many Austrian towns and in the mountains.
  • Parking: Smaller vehicles are much easier to park, which is a significant advantage in busy city centers like Vienna or Salzburg where parking spaces can be tight.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Generally, a smaller car will be more fuel-efficient than a larger one, which can be easier on your travel budget given the higher cost of fuel in Europe.
  • Environmental Concerns: If you’re environmentally conscious, renting a smaller, more fuel-efficient car can help reduce your carbon footprint as you enjoy the natural beauty of Austria.

Each option has its trade-offs so it’s important to consider your itinerary, the size of your group, and the type of travel experience you’re looking for when renting a car in Austria. Whether you choose a big car for its spaciousness and safety or a small car for its economy and ease of navigation, ensure that the vehicle fits your travel needs and preferences.

Picking up your Rental Car

Rental car services in Austria are incredibly convenient for those looking to explore the country at their own pace. During my travels through Austria, I’ve picked up rental vehicles from several locations, experiencing the ease and accessibility these services offer. Here’s a brief overview of some of the places where I’ve rented cars, and what you might expect when you arrive to pick up your own rental.

Major Airports

One of the most common places to rent a car in Austria is at the major airports. Vienna International Airport (Flughafen Wien-Schwechat), located just outside the capital city, has a vibrant car rental scene. I have often found it to be a seamless process, as rental desks are conveniently positioned in the arrivals area, just a short walk from the baggage claim.

Another airport where I’ve rented a car is Salzburg Airport (Flughafen Salzburg). Despite being smaller in comparison to Vienna’s airport, the services are just as efficient, with rental desks easily accessible and staff that are welcoming and ready to assist in multiple languages.

Urban Centers

Austria’s cities are also equipped with numerous rental car facilities. For instance, in Innsbruck, I picked up a car right in the city center, which allowed me to immediately dive into exploring the beautiful Tyrolean landscape without any delays. Graz, Linz, and Klagenfurt also offer central pickup locations that are convenient if you are starting your journey from within the city.

Hertz rental city Austria

Rental Desks and Staff

Regardless of whether you’re picking up your rental car from an airport or a city center in Austria, you’ll find that most locations have on-site rental desks. These desks are staffed with friendly and professional personnel. In my experience, they are always eager to help, answering any questions you might have about your rental agreement or driving in Austria. I’ve always appreciated the staff’s efficiency and the way they strive to get you on the road as quickly as possible.

When you approach the rental desk, make sure to have all your documents ready – your driver’s license, credit card, and any booking confirmations. The staff will guide you through the necessary paperwork, explain the details of your rental contract, and direct you to where your car is parked.

Insurance, Excesses and CDW

When traveling to Austria and opting to rent a car, understanding the legal requirements and options for rental car insurance is crucial to ensure a hassle-free trip. Austria, like most European countries, has specific legal mandates about car insurance that every driver must adhere to. Here’s what you need to know about rental car insurance, excesses, and Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) options.

Legal Requirements for Rental Car Insurance

The basic legal requirement for car insurance in Austria is liability insurance, which is typically included in the price of your rental. This insurance is obligatory and covers any damage or injury you may cause to other people or their property. However, it doesn’t cover damages to the rental vehicle itself.

To inquire about the specifics of legal insurance requirements in Austria, you can visit the official Austrian government website or consult with your rental car provider.

What Are Excesses?

When you rent a car, the rental company will often include an excess in your insurance agreement. This is the maximum amount you will have to pay if there is damage to the vehicle or if it’s stolen. For instance, if the excess is €1,000 and the repair costs for damage are €2,500, you would only be responsible for paying up to the amount of the excess.

Understanding Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)

CDW comes in as an additional layer of insurance that can be purchased to reduce or eliminate the excess. While not legally required, it can significantly limit your financial liability in case of an accident. It’s essential to note that CDWs often do not cover certain types of damage, such as damage to tires, windows, and undercarriage, or any damage caused by driving off-road or under the influence of alcohol. Each rental company’s CDW policy might differ, so it’s critical to read the terms and conditions.

Why Opt for Full Excess Coverage?

Choosing full excess coverage can be a wise decision for several reasons. Firstly, it provides peace of mind. Knowing that you’re covered in full allows you to enjoy your trip without worrying about potential extra costs from unexpected incidents. Secondly, this coverage can save you money in the long run. In the event of an accident, without full excess coverage, you might end up paying more out-of-pocket than the cost of purchasing the additional insurance. Finally, if you are not comfortable with the potential risk associated with a high excess, opting for a lower excess or full coverage can make your rental experience much less stressful.

Regardless of the coverage you choose, it’s essential always to read the small print of your rental agreement. Make sure you fully understand what you are and are not responsible for. This will help you avoid any surprises and additional fees at the end of your rental period. To compare policies and get a better understanding of your options, visit rental car company websites or insurance providers before making a final decision.

Renting Eligibility

In Austria, the legal age to acquire a driver’s license and get behind the wheel is 18. This is a fairly standard age in comparison to many other European countries. However, when it comes to renting a car, the rules often differ. Most car rental companies in Austria have their own set of requirements on top of the legal stipulations. This frequently includes a higher minimum age for renting a vehicle, typically starting around 21 years old. Furthermore, there are often additional fees for drivers under the age of 25.

Age Restrictions and Requirements

The eligibility to rent a car involves more than just age. Rental companies usually require drivers to have held their license for a certain period, commonly at least one year. This experience requirement ensures that drivers are not just legally able to drive but also possess some level of road maturity and skill.

If you plan to rent a car in Austria, you should be aware that these requirements can vary significantly between rental companies. Therefore, it is advisable to review the terms and conditions of each rental agency before making a booking. For the most accurate information, refer to the rental conditions on the official pages of recognized rental agencies.

Additional Resources and Information

For those looking to understand more about renting a car in Austria, obtaining information from reputable sources is key. The Austrian Government’s help service provides vital information for residents and visitors alike. Additionally, individual rental agencies such as Sixt and Europcar have specific pages detailing their rental policy, including age restrictions and required documents, which can be extremely helpful.

Navigating the rental car scene in Austria implies dealing with a mix of both legal regulations and company policies. Ensuring you meet all the eligibility criteria will make the process smoother and help avoid any unexpected roadblocks upon arrival at the rental desk. Always read the fine print, and where possible, reach out to the agencies directly for any clarifications.

Documentation Needed to Rent a Car

When renting a car in Austria, it is essential to have all the necessary documentation to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience at the rental desk. Below are the key documents that you will need to provide:

Valid Driving License

Your driving license is the most critical document you need when renting a car. It must be valid for the entire rental duration. If you’re from a country within the European Union (EU), your standard driving license should be sufficient. However, renters from outside the EU will typically need to present an international driving permit in addition to their national driving license. Ensure that your driving license has no restrictions that would impede your ability to drive in Austria.

International Driving Permit (IDP)

The International Driving Permit (IDP) is a widely recognized document that essentially translates your national driving license into several languages and allows you to drive internationally without further tests or applications. It is important for those who have a driving license that is not in the Latin alphabet (such as Arabic, Greek, Russian, or Chinese) to obtain an IDP. In Austria, visitors from non-EU countries are usually required to have an IDP alongside their national driving license. Countries like the United States, Australia, Canada, and many others fall under this requirement. If unsure about your need for an IDP, check with the Austrian government’s official site or with your car rental agency before traveling.

Passport and Visa (if applicable)

In addition to your driving documents, a valid passport is often required when picking up your rental car, especially if your license does not include a photo or if the car rental company needs to confirm your identity. If you are a non-EU resident, make sure to have your passport ready, as well as any visas that may be required for your entry into Austria.

Austrian Passport

Credit Card for Security Deposit

Typically, rental companies will require a credit card in the name of the primary driver to hold a security deposit. This deposit is meant to cover any potential damages or incidental charges such as late returns, fuel refill, or traffic fines occurred during the rental period. Ensure that your credit card has sufficient funds to cover this deposit, and be aware that some rental agencies may not accept debit cards or cash for this purpose.

Additional Documentation

Some rental companies may have additional requirements, such as proof of insurance or secondary identification. It is always wise to check with your chosen rental company ahead of time for any specific documentation that may be required and read the terms and conditions of the rental agreement carefully.

Remember to always carry your documentation with you while driving. In Austria, it is mandatory to have your driving license, car registration, and insurance papers in the vehicle at all times. Failure to present these documents if stopped by law enforcement can result in fines or further complications.

For more information regarding driving laws and requirements in Austria, visit the Austrian government help service.

Where do I Rent a Car in Austria?

Renting a car in Austria is a great way to explore the country’s picturesque landscapes and historic cities at your own pace. You can pick up a rental car from various locations, including airports, train stations, and city centers. Here’s some insider guidance on where to rent a car and which companies to consider.

At the Airport

Upon arrival in Austria, you’ll find that most international airports, such as Vienna International Airport (VIE), Salzburg Airport (SZG), and Innsbruck Airport (INN), house a number of car rental agencies. Some of the globally recognized companies present at these airports include Sixt, Europcar, Hertz, and Avis. These providers offer a wide selection of vehicles to match your preferences and budget directly from the airport, making it convenient to start your Austrian adventure as soon as you land.

At Train Stations

If you’re arriving in a city via train, major train stations typically have onsite car rental facilities or nearby offices. Vienna Hauptbahnhof and Salzburg Hauptbahnhof, for instance, are key hubs where you can find rental desks. The proximity of rental offices to train stations offers seamless transitions from rail to road travel.

In City Centers

For those who prefer to settle into their accommodations before renting a car, city centers offer numerous rental options. In the heart of cities like Vienna, Graz, or Linz, you can locate branches of well-known rental firms, as well as local providers who may offer competitive rates. It is advisable to compare prices across different companies to find the best deals.

Renting Online Before You Travel

Booking a car rental online in advance is an excellent way to ensure that you get the vehicle that meets your needs and often at a better rate than booking last minute. Utilizing websites like Auto Europe, Kayak, or allows you to compare prices, read customer reviews, and secure a reservation with your chosen company.


  • Lower Rates: Pre-booking often secures lower rates compared to on-the-spot rental.
  • Wide Selection: Early renters have a wider selection of vehicles to choose from.
  • Time-Saving: Your car will be ready for pick-up, which means less waiting time at the counter.
  • Special Offers: Online bookings may come with special offers or extra discounts.


  • Changed Plans: If your travel plans change, you may incur cancellation or modification fees.
  • Overwhelmed by Options: First-time renters might feel overwhelmed by the myriad of online options and insurance coverage choices.

For many travelers, the pros of online booking outweigh the cons, especially for the peace of mind and savings. Companies like Sixt and Europcar offer user-friendly websites with transparent pricing and the ability to manage your booking online.

Renting a car in Austria is fairly straightforward, with plenty of options to suit your itinerary. Whether you prefer the immediacy of picking up a car at an airport or the flexibility of renting within a city center, ensuring you understand your rental terms and conditions will set you up for a stress-free driving experience in this beautiful country.

Is Renting a Car in Austria Safe?

Driving in Austria is generally a safe and enjoyable experience, whether you are touring the sleek highways or venturing through the picturesque country roads. Austrian roads are well-maintained and adhere to high safety standards, ensuring a smooth journey for travelers.

Road Conditions in Austria

Austria boasts an extensive network of roads that are in excellent condition. Highways, known as Autobahns, are top-notch and offer a seamless driving experience. They are well-signposted, well-lit at night, and regularly patrolled, ensuring safety is a top priority. Speed limits on the Autobahns are typically higher than on other roads, but they are strictly enforced with radar traps.

Country roads wind through scenic landscapes and can be narrow, but they are typically in good repair. Still, it’s important to be cautious, especially in adverse weather conditions, as these roads can become hazardous during snowfall or heavy rain.

Country driving in Austria

Austrian Driving Habits

Austrian drivers are known for their discipline and adherence to driving regulations. Speed limits, traffic signs, and signals are generally respected, contributing to the overall safety on Austrian roads. However, on mountainous or rural roads, local drivers familiar with the terrain might drive more confidently, which could be intimidating for visitors unaccustomed to the roads.

Driving in the city centers of Austria exposes you to a very organized traffic system. In cities like Vienna or Salzburg, there might be heavier traffic, but the flow is facilitated by clear markings and traffic signals. Parking can be tricky in city centers due to limited spaces and various parking rules, so it’s advisable to use designated parking areas or garages.

Navigating Small Villages

When it comes to exploring small villages, the pace slows down, and the driving experience becomes more relaxed. Village roads are often quieter, allowing drivers to enjoy their surroundings without the rush. However, the roads may be less spacious, so it’s important to be mindful of sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists, who are equally common sights.

One thing to watch out for is the occasional narrow passageways and sharp turns that are common in alpine areas. Tourists should always remain alert for sudden changes in road width and potential obstacles.

While renting a car and driving across Austria is generally safe, it is always important to stay informed about local traffic laws and seasonal conditions to ensure a stress-free driving experience. Whether you’re a seasoned driver or behind the wheel for the first time in Austria, the country’s roads offer a great way to explore its stunning landscapes and rich culture.

Is Renting a Car in Austria Expensive?

Traveling through Austria by car can offer stunning views and an easily customizable itinerary, but it’s essential to understand the various expenses involved in renting a vehicle before hitting the open road. Here’s what you need to know about the costs associated with driving in Austria.

Cost of Car Rentals

Rental rates can vary widely depending on the type of car you choose, the rental company, the duration of the rental, and the season. For a standard economy car, you can expect to pay anywhere from €30 to €70 per day. If you’re looking for a bit more comfort or need a larger vehicle for a group, prices can go up to €100-€200 per day for premium or luxury models. Keep in mind that automatic transmission cars often cost more than manual ones and that adding extra insurance will increase the price further. Many companies also charge more for drivers under 25 or over 65.

Tolls and Vignettes

When driving on Austria’s motorways and expressways, you are required to have a vignette sticker on your windshield as proof of toll payment. A 10-day vignette costs approximately €9.40, while a two-month vignette is about €27.40, and a yearly vignette will cost around €92.50. Failure to display a vignette could result in hefty fines. Additionally, some specific alpine roads, tunnels, and bridges require the payment of separate tolls, which can range from a few euros to upward of €10, depending on the route.

Fuel Costs

Fuel is a significant portion of the travel budget when driving in Austria. As of my last trip, the average price for unleaded petrol (95-octane) was around €1.20 to €1.40 per liter and diesel was in a similar price range. Remember, fuel prices fluctuate based on international oil prices, regional differences, and local taxes, so these costs can vary. When planning your budget, consider the fuel efficiency of your rental car and the total distance you plan to travel to estimate your overall fuel expenditure.

In addition to these primary costs, there may be other fees to consider, such as parking fees in cities, which can add up if you’re frequently parking in urban centers. Also, the rates for international one-way rentals (picking up the car in Austria and dropping it off in a different country) will be significantly higher due to the extra logistics involved for the rental company.

Renting Automatic Cars in Austria

If you’re planning a trip to the picturesque country of Austria, one of the decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want to rent an automatic or manual car. For those who may not be familiar with manual transmission cars or prefer the convenience of automatic gear shifts, renting an automatic car is the way to go. Here’s a closer look at why renting an automatic car might be beneficial for you during your Austrian adventure.

Convenience for the Unfamiliar

For many travelers, especially those coming from countries where automatic transmission is the norm, renting a car with automatic gears can greatly reduce the stress of driving in a new environment. The roads in Austria can take you through some challenging terrains, including the alpine twists and turns that are iconic to this beautiful region. Automatic cars allow you to navigate these roads with an extra layer of ease, letting you focus more on the scenery and less on the gearshift.

Comfort in City Traffic

Austria’s cities, such as Vienna and Salzburg, can have dense traffic, which often means frequent stops and starts. For drivers not accustomed to a manual gearbox, this can become tiring and, to some extent, diminish the pleasure of your trip. An automatic transmission eliminates the constant need for clutch use and gear changes, providing a more comfortable ride through busy urban centers.

Ideal for Less Experienced Drivers

Automatic cars are often seen as more user-friendly, particularly for those who are not seasoned drivers of manual transmission vehicles. They are good for travelers who may not have the confidence or experience to manage a clutch on hilly terrains or simply want to ensure their driving is as effortless as possible, allowing them to keep their attention on the road and the new driving rules they may encounter.

However, it’s important to note that the availability of automatic cars in Austria is typically less than that of manual cars. Because of this, automatic cars tend to sell out quickly, especially during the peak tourist seasons. As such, it is strongly advised that you book your automatic rental car well in advance if you are not used to driving stick-shift vehicles. This will ensure you secure an automatic car for your travel dates and avoid the disappointment of settling for a manual out of necessity.

When you reserve your car, make sure to double-check that the booking explicitly states that the vehicle is automatic. Due to their popularity and limited numbers, any last-minute switches might force you into a manual car, which could significantly impact your driving experience in Austria. Early booking can never be emphasized enough when it comes to securing the convenience of an automatic transmission car for your Austrian journey.

Do I Need Air Conditioning

Deciding whether you need air conditioning in your rental car while visiting Austria is an important consideration, particularly if you’re used to the comfort of a climate-controlled environment. Based on personal experiences in Austria, here are some aspects to consider:

Pros of Using Air Conditioning in Austria

  • Comfort: Summers in Austria can be quite warm, especially in cities like Vienna or Graz. Air conditioning ensures your comfort during these hot days.
  • Driving Pleasure: A cooler car interior can make your driving experience more pleasurable, especially on long scenic routes.
  • Reduced Fatigue: Being in a vehicle without air conditioning on a hot day can be exhausting. AC helps to reduce this fatigue.
  • Protection from Pollen and Pollution: For those with allergies, air conditioning systems can filter out pollen and pollution, making it easier to breathe.
  • Resale Value: If you’re planning to re-sell the car after a prolonged stay, having AC can improve the vehicle’s resale value.

Cons of Using Air Conditioning in Austria

  • Energy Consumption: Running the air conditioning increases fuel consumption, which can add up, especially with Europe’s higher fuel prices.
  • Environmental Impact: Increased fuel consumption also means more emissions, contributing to the environmental impact of your travels.
  • Cooler Weather: Depending on the time of year and elevation, some parts of Austria, like the Alps, might not even necessitate AC.
  • Cost: Not all rental cars come with air conditioning as a standard feature, potentially meaning a higher rental fee.
  • Maintenance: AC systems sometimes require additional maintenance, which could affect your maintenance schedule if renting long-term.

When traveling through different regions of Austria, consider the variance in climate. While urban areas can benefit from the comfort of air conditioning during the summer months, if you’re planning to visit higher elevations or travel during the shoulder seasons, it may not be necessary.

Austria Driving Etiquette

Driving in Austria is an experience that seamlessly blends adherence to rules with courteous behaviors. The roads here are well-maintained and the landscapes can be stunning, but knowing how to navigate the local driving etiquette is pivotal for an enjoyable journey. It’s not just about following the signs and signals, but also about understanding the unspoken courtesies that define Austrian driving culture.

Adherence to Speed Limits

In Austria, speed limits are strictly enforced, featuring a range of limits depending on where you are. Expect to drive at 50 km/h in cities and towns and up to 130 km/h on the autobahns, unless otherwise specified. Speed cameras and frequent police patrols ensure compliance, but it’s not just fear of fines that keeps drivers in check — there’s a strong culture of respecting these limits among local drivers. As such, staying within the speed limits is not just a legal requirement, but also a sign of respect for fellow road users.

Right of Way and Priority Roads

Local drivers are typically aware of the right of way and follow the ‘priority to the right’ rule, bestowed upon vehicles coming from the right at unmarked intersections. However, this rule is often overridden by signage or road markings. On priority roads, marked by a yellow diamond sign, drivers have the right of way and this is generally respected without hesitation.

Overtaking and Lane Discipline

Overtaking on Austrian roads is carried out with precision and consideration. Drivers will only overtake when it is safe to do so, and flashing of headlights to signal the intention to overtake is quite a common practice. Once overtaking is complete, drivers return to the right-hand lane promptly. Drivers maintain strong lane discipline, with the left lane primarily used for overtaking, rather than cruising.

Use of Headlights and Signal Indicators

In terms of visibility, Austrian drivers are diligent about using their headlights during conditions of poor visibility and at night, with daytime running lights being a common feature on modern vehicles. Signal indicators are used well in advance while turning or changing lanes, providing clear communication to other road users.

Understanding Local Gestures and Courtesies

Austrian drivers are also recognized for their frequent use of gestures and courtesies. A flash of the hazard lights is commonly used to say ‘thank you’, while a quick flash of the headlights often means ‘you’re welcome to go ahead’. Being accustomed to such gestures can enhance the driving experience significantly, as it reflects engagement with the local driving culture.

Dealing with Inclement Weather

The Alpine weather can pose a significant challenge, and Austrians are typically well-prepared for driving in adverse conditions. From winter tires to chains and salting, local drivers adapt their driving to suit the elements. Visitors are expected to do the same and may need to invest in appropriate equipment during the colder months.

Understanding and integrating into the flow of Austrian driving can turn your driving experience from being potentially stressful to genuinely enjoyable. It’s a matter of respecting the local laws, but also engaging with the culture of consideration and mutual respect that is prevalent on Austria’s roads.

Fuel and Rest Stops

When touring Austria by car, one of the most crucial aspects of your adventure is understanding the nuances of their fuel stations and ensuring you make the proper stops for your vehicle. The experience is quite streamlined, but there are a few tips and tricks that will help you navigate this with ease.

Understanding Fuel Types

Austrian petrol stations typically offer a variety of fuel types that cater to the wide array of vehicles on their roads. You will typically find unleaded petrol, known as “Benzin,” and diesel. Unleaded petrol comes mainly in two variants – the standard 95 octane and the premium 98 octane. Diesel, on the other hand, is labelled as “Diesel”.

It is also possible to find gas stations that offer bio-diesel or LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), but these are less common and may not be available at all outlets. Electric charging stations are on the rise, contributing to an eco-friendlier driving experience across the country.

When renting a car, it’s imperative to check which fuel the vehicle requires. Wrong fuelling is a common mistake and can lead to engine damage and an inevitable dent in your travel budget. Most car rental companies label the fuel type clearly inside the fuel cap or on the keychain. If in doubt, consult the vehicle’s manual or ask the rental agency before you set off.

Location of Fuel Stations

Fuel stations or “Tankstellen” are plentiful in urban areas and along the Autobahn (the major highway system in Austria). However, in rural regions, it’s wise to plan ahead as stations can be sparse. They are typically open from early morning until late at night, with many of them operating 24/7, particularly the ones located on the Autobahn.

petrol station in Austria

Services and Payment

Most petrol stations offer more than just fuel. They are equipped with amenities including toilets, food outlets, and small shops where you can purchase snacks, local vignettes (toll stickers), and even get basic car services.

As for payment options, they are quite flexible. Cash, credit cards, and sometimes even international fuel cards are accepted. It can be useful to have some cash in euros, as in remote locations card machines might not always function, and smaller stations may not accept credit cards.

Helpful Tips

In Austria, attendants are seldom present to pump your gas, so self-service is the norm. The pumps are straightforward to use, with instructions typically available in both German and English. Make sure to get a receipt after fuelling, especially if you’re on a business trip or need to keep track of your expenses.

Furthermore, some stations offer the choice of ‘self-service’ and ‘service’. If you opt for ‘service’, an attendant will help you, but be aware that this might come with a slightly higher price per litre due to the added service charge.

A vital tip for those planning extensive travel through Austria is to acquaint themselves with the emergency numbers for roadside assistance should any issues arise with your rental car.

With these insights, your fuel stops in Austria should go smoothly, leaving you to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and rich culture of this beautiful country.


Parking in Austria can vary greatly depending on where you are. As with many countries, the closer to the city center or tourist attractions you get, the more challenging and expensive parking can be.

Parking in Cities and Historic Towns

In cities like Vienna or Salzburg, parking can often be quite costly, especially directly in the city center. Many areas in the city center have short-term parking zones which are usually limited to a maximum of 1.5 to 2 hours and can cost from around €2 to €4 per hour. It is quite common to find these zones operating from Monday to Friday during working hours, while evenings and Sundays may be free. In historic towns, especially those with significant tourist attractions, parking is often regulated and may require payment in designated areas.

Parking outside the town/city and using public transport

A more economical option for parking in Austria is to use Park and Ride (P+R) facilities. These are often located at the outskirts of cities near major transport links, such as metro, tram, or bus lines. The cost of parking at P+R facilities is usually much lower than in city centers, and in some cases, a parking ticket may include a day pass for public transport. This option not only saves money on parking but also reduces the hassle of driving in heavy city traffic.

On-Street Parking

On-street parking is available in most Austrian cities; however, the rules and regulations can vary considerably. It’s common for on-street parking to be metered during the day with a maximum parking duration in effect. Rates for on-street parking are generally lower than private parking facilities but finding a free spot can be quite challenging, particularly during peak hours. It’s always important to read the local parking signs carefully to avoid fines and to be aware that some residential areas might require a resident parking permit.

parking on Austrian street

Driving in Austrian Towns

Driving through the picturesque towns of Austria offers a unique and enchanting experience. Austrian towns, often steeped in history and brimming with charm, can be a pleasure to explore by car. The roads are generally well-maintained and follow a logical layout that respects the old-world architecture and the natural landscape.

Navigating with Technology

One of the major advantages of driving in Austrian towns is the availability and usefulness of satellite navigation (sat nav) systems and GPS technology. These tools prove to be invaluable for visitors, particularly when it comes to navigating the sometimes narrow and winding streets that are characteristic of many historic town centers. With real-time traffic updates and turn-by-turn directions, staying on course has never been easier. Sat navs reduce the likelihood of getting lost and can help in locating parking areas, which are often tucked away and can be hard to find without assistance.

Parking and Traffic Regulations

When it comes to parking, it’s important to be aware of the local regulations. Many Austrian towns utilize a ‘blue zone’ parking system where you are required to display a parking disc, which is often provided by car rental agencies or can be obtained at local shops or police stations. Remember to set the arrival time on your disc and place it on the dashboard where it’s clearly visible.

Traffic in Austrian towns is typically moderate, but it can get congested during peak tourist seasons. Fortunately, the adherence to driving rules is strict, which keeps the flow of vehicles smooth. Following the speed limits and other local traffic laws is essential as they are strictly enforced through radar controls and fines can be considerable.

Exploring the Hidden Gems

Diving into the heart of Austria’s towns by car can lead you to discover hidden gems that you might miss when relying solely on public transportation or tours. From quaint cafes and local artisan shops to breathtaking viewpoints not listed in guidebooks, having your own vehicle gives you the freedom to explore these treasures at your own pace.

However, drivers should be cautious of pedestrian zones, which are common in Austrian town centers. These areas are reserved for foot traffic and are often marked by signs. Driving into such an area unknowingly can lead to fines, so it’s key to be attentive and use sat nav systems judiciously as they can sometimes be out-of-date with current pedestrian zones.

All in all, with the support of modern navigation tools, a bit of planning, and an awareness of local driving customs and regulations, the experience of driving in Austrian towns can be as rewarding and enjoyable as the scenic views and cultural attractions they offer.

Drive on the Right

Driving on the right side of the road can pose a unique set of challenges for those accustomed to left-side driving. It requires a shift in perspective and heightened awareness. One must consider the orientation of the vehicle within the lane, the position of controls like the gear stick and signaling, as well as the different flow of traffic. Not only does the side of the road change, but also the driver’s seat is on the opposite side of the car, which can affect one’s spatial judgment.

Adapting to the Road

Adapting to this new driving style demands concentration, especially when making turns or navigating intersections where the natural inclinations must be reversed. It is essential to stay alert and consciously remind oneself to stick to the right-hand side. Pay close attention to road signs and signals, as these will guide you in maintaining the correct position on the road. Also, overtaking other vehicles requires care, as it now happens on the left side, a reversal from left-side driving countries.

Minding the Controls

Familiarity with the position of the driver’s controls is critical. The gear shift is operated by the left hand, and the rearview mirror setup is the inverse of what left-side drivers are used to. Switching on turn signals and windshield wipers may cause confusion at first, as these controls are also on the opposite side of the steering wheel. It’s valuable to take some time to get acquainted with these differences in a safe environment, such as a parking lot, before tackling the open road.

Understanding Roundabouts

Roundabouts in Austria, as with most countries that drive on the right, operate in a clockwise direction. This may be counterintuitive for drivers used to left-side driving. When entering a roundabout, you must yield to traffic already circulating from your left. Always remember to signal your intention to exit the roundabout well in advance, and exit from the right lane, unless road markings indicate otherwise. It’s crucial to pay attention to both the traffic inside the roundabout and that which is entering it.

Navigating City Driving

In urban areas, streets can be narrow, and parking is often on the right side of the street. It may take some practice to get used to these parking maneuvers from the right-hand side of the car. Additionally, most pedestrian and cyclist traffic will approach from the opposite direction than what you might be used to, so it’s imperative to check both ways thoroughly before proceeding through crossings or turning.

Traffic in Vienna

Although it requires a period of adjustment, driving on the right side of the road in Austria can be navigated successfully with patience and practice. Staying vigilant, observing local driving customs, and giving oneself time to become comfortable with this new orientation are keys to a safe and enjoyable driving experience in this beautiful country.

Motorways in Austria

The motorway system in Austria, known as Autobahnen, is a well-developed and intricate network that facilitates efficient and comfortable travel across the country. From the awe-inspiring Alpine vistas to the picturesque valleys, driving on Austria’s motorways is generally a pleasant experience. The roads are meticulously maintained and signposted, making navigation straightforward for those who are visiting for the first time.

The Major Motorways

Austria’s most significant motorways are the A1, A2, and A4, among others. The A1, also called the West Autobahn, starts in Vienna and stretches westward through Linz and Salzburg, eventually reaching the German border. This motorway is part of a primary trans-European network and is one of the busiest in the country, providing a vital link between eastern and western Austria.

The A2, known as the Süd Autobahn or South Motorway, runs from the outskirts of Vienna through the southern states of Austria, passing through cities like Graz and Klagenfurt, and extends to the Italian border at Arnoldstein. This route showcases Austria’s diverse landscapes, from urban architecture to rolling countryside and majestic mountains.

Another key motorway is the A4, or Ost Autobahn, which connects Vienna to the eastern border with Hungary at Nickelsdorf. It’s an essential route for international traffic, catering to travelers and trade between Austria and its eastern neighbors.

Driving Experience and Convenience

Driving on Austria’s motorways is a breeze, thanks to the high standards of road quality and safety. Lane markings and traffic signs are clear, while service areas and rest stops are available at regular intervals, offering motorists places to refuel, relax, and grab a bite. However, it is important to note that all vehicles on Austrian motorways must display a vignette, which is a toll sticker that can be purchased at border points, petrol stations, and post offices.

The efficiency of the Austrian motorways comes with a backdrop of strict traffic regulations that must be adhered to. Speed limits are rigorously enforced, and there is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol. Also, during the winter months, vehicles are required to be equipped with winter tires or chains to ensure safety in snowy and icy conditions.

Another aspect of Austrian motorways that adds to the ease of travel is the intelligent transportation systems in place. These include dynamic traffic management strategies, like variable message signs that provide real-time traffic information, weather conditions, and warnings about potential hazards or delays. This allows drivers to be well-informed and to make smart decisions while on the road.

Overall, Austrian motorways are a testament to the country’s commitment to excellent infrastructure and safety. Whether it’s for long-distance travel or exploring the scenic countryside, the Autobahnen offer a reliable and enjoyable driving experience, setting the standard for road trips across Europe.

Tolls in Austria

When driving through Austria, one of the essential considerations for motorists is the toll system. Austria has a well-maintained network of motorways and expressways, and almost all of these roads require the payment of tolls.

Austrian toll road

Vignette System

A primary tolling method in Austria is the vignette system. A vignette is a sticker that you must place on your car’s windshield, which proves that you have paid the toll for using the motorways and expressways. You can purchase vignettes that are valid for different periods, such as 10 days, 2 months, or a year. As of my experience, the vignettes are relatively straightforward to obtain and can be bought at border crossings, petrol stations, and post offices.

Special Toll Roads

In addition to the vignette, there are certain sections of roads, such as high-altitude Alpine roads, tunnels, and some bridges where you have to pay an extra toll. These tolls are usually paid at the toll booths before entering the toll road section, and the price varies depending on the particular road or tunnel.

Cost of Tolls

The cost for tolls in Austria depends on the vehicle you are driving and the type of vignette you purchase. Prices fluctuate yearly, and it is best to check the latest fees from official sources before traveling. Often, a 10-day vignette for a standard car can be considered budget-friendly, although costs for additional toll roads and special passages can add up quickly if you plan to traverse those routes often.

Go Digital: The Digital Vignette

For those preferring a more modern approach, Austria also offers the option of a digital vignette. It can be purchased online, avoiding the need to physically stick something on your windshield. It is linked to your vehicle’s registration number and is an excellent option for frequent travelers or those who wish to get the vignette settled before arriving in Austria.

Avoiding Toll Roads

Is it possible to avoid toll roads in Austria? The answer is yes, but it’s not always practical. If you have time and patience, the secondary road network in Austria can be used without paying tolls. However, these roads are slower, may have more traffic, and could be challenging to navigate, particularly during busy times or in inclement weather.

If you require more information or wish to purchase a vignette or digital toll in advance, it’s recommended to visit the official Austrian motorway operator ASFINAG website. This will ensure that you have the most up-to-date information and pricing for your travels through Austria.

Speed Limits in Austria

In Austria, the speed limits are strictly enforced, and it is essential for drivers to adhere to these regulations. These are the general speed limits that you should be aware of:

  • Urban areas: 50 km/h (31 mph)
  • Non-urban roads: 100 km/h (62 mph)
  • Motorways and expressways: 130 km/h (80 mph)

Understanding Speed Limits

Speed limits in Austria might vary according to the road conditions, type of vehicle, and weather conditions. For your safety and compliance, always look for speed limit signs, especially when entering new areas. In residential areas, near schools, or in construction zones, the speed limits could be significantly lower than the aforementioned general limits.

When driving, especially on highways, you may encounter variable message signs that display different speed limits depending on traffic conditions or weather alerts. It’s crucial to pay attention to these signs as they override the standard speed limits.

In case of poor visibility conditions such as fog, snow, or heavy rain, the speed limits on motorways and expressways can be reduced to 110 km/h or less. This is often indicated by electronic signs or temporary signage.

speed limit on Austrian highway

Additional Resources

For the most up-to-date information on speed limits and traffic regulations, always check with the official Austrian traffic authorities. The Austrian Government’s official website and the Austrian motorway operator ASFiNAG, who manage the motorways and expressways, are excellent resources. These websites provide valuable insights and current traffic information for anyone driving in Austria.

Knowing and respecting the speed limits in Austria is vital for a safe and enjoyable driving experience. As a visitor, you’re expected to familiarize yourself with these regulations to avoid fines and to ensure the safety of all road users.

Speeding Fines in Austria

When traveling through the scenic routes of Austria, it’s important for drivers to keep an eye on their speedometers. The country enforces its speed limits strictly, and being caught exceeding them can result in hefty fines. As of my recent visit, speeding fines can start at as little as 20 Euros for minor infractions and can escalate to several hundred Euros for more severe cases, especially when speeding in dangerous zones such as near schools or in densely populated areas.

Presence of Speed Cameras

Austria makes use of a network of speed cameras to enforce traffic regulations. These cameras are frequently located on autobahns (motorways), Bundesstraßen (federal highways), and in urban areas. On autobahns, the cameras are often positioned in areas where the speed limit changes—either reducing due to construction zones or in stretches that have a history of accidents—so it’s crucial to pay attention to the speed limit signs.

Police Speed Traps

Aside from fixed cameras, the Austrian police are known to set up mobile speed traps, especially on routes that are notorious for speeding. This may include secondary roads, not just the highways. Such speed traps might use radar guns or other speed detection devices, and unsuspecting drivers could easily find themselves facing penalties if they’re not careful.

One important aspect of Austria’s road safety enforcement is the significant fines and driving bans for repeat offenders. This ensures that drivers take the speed limits seriously. Furthermore, in certain cases, you might be required to pay the fine on the spot if you are a non-resident. It is important to carry enough cash while traveling just in case, although some officers can process credit card payments for fines.

Overall, when driving in Austria, it’s advisable to always observe the speed limits and be prepared for unexpected changes in speed requirements. With roads often winding through mountainous terrain or transitioning quickly from rural to urban settings, speed regulations can change with little notice. Ensuring you understand the speed limit signs and have a functional GPS with live traffic updates, which can alert you of any fixed speed cameras or traffic issues, can be greatly beneficial.

For more detailed information about traffic regulations and current fines, you can refer to the official website of the Austrian Government or the portal, which provides a comprehensive overview of legal stipulations, including road safety and traffic laws.

Drive Times in Austria

Austria is a country with a well-developed road network, offering picturesque journeys throughout its various landscapes. The drive times between major cities, towns, and tourist attractions can vary greatly due to differences in terrain and traffic conditions.

Between Major Cities

  • Vienna to Graz – approx. 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Graz to Salzburg – approx. 3 hours
  • Salzburg to Innsbruck – approx. 2 hours
  • Innsbruck to Vienna – approx. 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Linz to Klagenfurt – approx. 3 hours 20 minutes

From Major Cities to Towns

  • Vienna to Baden – approx. 45 minutes
  • Salzburg to Hallstatt – approx. 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Innsbruck to Kitzbühel – approx. 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Graz to Maribor (Slovenia) – approx. 1 hour
  • Linz to Český Krumlov (Czech Republic) – approx. 1 hour 30 minutes

To Tourist Attractions

  • Vienna to Schönbrunn Palace – approx. 25 minutes
  • Salzburg to the Eagle’s Nest – approx. 45 minutes
  • Innsbruck to Swarovski Crystal Worlds – approx. 20 minutes
  • Graz to Riegersburg Castle – approx. 1 hour
  • Vienna to the Wachau Valley – approx. 1 hour 15 minutes

For the most accurate and up-to-date information on drive times and road conditions, it’s best to consult with ASFINAG, the Austrian motorway operator, or ÖBB, the Austrian Federal Railways, that provides travel updates. Please note that during winter months, certain routes may be affected by snow and ice, which could significantly alter driving times.

Car Seats for Children and Babies

When traveling with children and babies, safety is of paramount importance, and Austria takes this very seriously. Austrian law dictates that all children up to 14 years of age, or those taller than 150 cm (4’11”), must use an appropriate child restraint system while traveling in a car. The legal requirement is structured around the ECE regulation R44/04 and R129 standards, ensuring that the child seats meet strict safety norms.

Categories of Child Seats in Austria

The categorization of child seats in Austria is directly correlated with the child’s age, weight, and height. Broadly, the categories are as follows:

  • Group 0+: From birth up to 13 kg (28 lbs), the child should travel in a rear-facing baby seat.
  • Group I: Children weighing between 9 kg (20 lbs) and 18 kg (40 lbs) should utilize a child seat with a harness.
  • Group II: For those weighing 15 kg (33 lbs) to 25 kg (55 lbs), a booster seat with backrest is recommended.
  • Group III: Children weighing from 22 kg (48 lbs) to 36 kg (79 lbs) should use a booster cushion.

It is critical to select a car seat suitable for your child’s current height and weight, and not merely by age alone.

Renting Car Seats vs. Bringing Your Own

There are pros and cons to both renting car seats with your rental car or bringing your own from home. If convenience is a priority, many car rental companies in Austria offer the option to rent a child seat for an additional fee. This fee can vary by company and often depends on the length of the rental. It’s advisable to check with rental companies ahead of time for availability and cost, and ensure they provide seats that comply with Austrian regulations, such as those from ÖAMTC or ARBÖ, which are the Austrian automobile clubs known for their safety standards.

However, there are benefits to bringing your own car seat. You are assured of the fit and familiarity with the seat’s installation and history, including its safety. Additionally, most airlines allow you to check a car seat for free. Still, traveling with extra gear can be cumbersome, especially for parents navigating airports with young children.

When considering costs, renting a car seat can add up, especially for longer trips. Compare this with airline rules and potential additional baggage charges to decide what’s more economical for your situation. More importantly, factor in the familiarity and ease of use of your own seat against the uncertainty that can come with using a rental.

In summary, the choice between renting a car seat or bringing your own when traveling in Austria depends on your personal preference, convenience, and budget. Ensure that you make plans ahead of time to secure a compliant car seat to keep your little ones safe throughout your journey.


When traveling to Austria, one of the first things you’ll notice is the well-maintained road network and the disciplined traffic. Austria boasts a high standard of road safety and it is mandatory to follow traffic regulations strictly.

Driving in Cities

In cities such as Vienna, Salzburg, and Graz, traffic can become dense, especially during peak hours. It’s common to encounter traffic jams on weekdays, particularly in the morning and late afternoon. One should always be prepared for the presence of trams and buses, which often have right of way. When it comes to parking, finding a spot can be challenging. Most city centers require payment for parking; there are clear parking signage and meters available. For more information on city traffic regulations, visit the Austrian Traffic Club (ÖAMTC) website, a helpful resource accessible here.

Driving in Towns and Villages

Driving in Austrian towns and villages is generally a relaxed experience. The roads tend to be less crowded, but it’s important to be aware of narrow streets, especially in historical areas. Pedestrian zones are common and one must be cautious to avoid entering them inadvertently. Always watch out for cyclists and pedestrians, as many small towns have popular biking and walking paths that cross or run alongside roads. It’s worthwhile to check out the Austrian Automobile Club (ARBÖ) for additional town-specific traffic information, which can be found here.

small village road in austria

Regardless of where you’re driving in Austria, it’s essential to adhere to the speed limits, which are strictly enforced. On motorways (Autobahnen), the speed limit is generally 130 km/h, while on open roads it is 100 km/h, and within towns and villages, the limit is usually 50 km/h unless otherwise marked. Drivers are expected to have a high beam on outside of lit areas, and all passengers must wear seat belts. Moreover, make sure to familiarize yourself with local driving laws such as mandatory vignettes (toll stickers) when driving on expressways and motorways. For further guidance, the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation, and Technology has resources for visitors driving in Austria, available here.

In conclusion, driving in Austria is typically a pleasurable experience, thanks to the country’s strict adherence to traffic rules and high-quality roads. Nonetheless, it’s essential for visitors to familiarize themselves with local regulations and to always stay alert, whether driving through the scenic countryside or navigating the bustling city streets.

Top Tips for Renting a Car in Austria

Renting a car in Austria can be the starting point for a spectacular trip exploring the country’s majestic landscapes and historic cities. Here are my top tips to ensure a seamless car rental experience:

1. Choose the Right Vehicle for Your Journey

Consider the season, terrain, and number of passengers when selecting a rental car in Austria. In winter, ensure the vehicle is equipped with winter tires, a legal requirement from November to April. Opt for a 4WD if you plan to explore mountainous regions. For city travel, a compact car might be more convenient.

2. Understand the Insurance Policy

Insurances can be tricky, so make sure to understand what’s covered under the rental car’s insurance policy. In Austria, third-party liability insurance is mandatory, but you might want to consider additional coverages, such as Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and theft protection. Be aware of any excesses that may apply.

3. Check for a Vignette

A ‘Vignette’ sticker is required for driving on Austria’s motorways and expressways. Most rental cars should come with one, but double-check upon pickup to avoid fines. If you need to purchase one, you can do so at ASFINAG, the Austrian motorway operator.

4. Be Aware of Traffic Rules and Regulations

Driving in Austria demands adherence to local traffic laws. Speed limits are generally 50km/h in cities, 100km/h on open roads, and 130km/h on motorways. Don’t forget to keep to the right side of the road and pay heed to the ‘priority to the right’ rule at intersections without signs or signals. Visit for more information on traffic regulations.

5. Inspect the Rental Car Thoroughly

Prior to leaving the rental lot, inspect the car for any existing damage and ensure it’s recorded in the rental agreement. Take photos or videos as evidence. Also, check that the car has the necessary equipment, like a spare tire and reflective vest, which are legally required in Austria.