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COVID-19

Stricter travel rules come into force in Austria

As of Monday, December 20th, the rules on which documents are needed to enter Austria are changing.

Passengers arriving at Vienna airport
Passengers arriving at Vienna airport earlier this year. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP

Only travellers with proof of 2G (two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine or recovery from the virus) will be allowed to enter Austria. This applies regardless of the country you are entering from.

In addition, even those with 2G proof will need to enter quarantine on arrival unless they have one of the following: a booster dose or a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours on entry to Austria. 

For people entering without these additional proofs, it is mandatory to fill out a pre-travel clearance form before travel and to enter self-isolation which can be ended after receiving a negative PCR test result. You can find the pre-travel clearance form by clicking here.

There are a few exemptions in place.

Austrian and EU/EEA residents and citizens are able to enter Austria without 2G proof, but in that case they must fill out the pre-travel clearance form and enter a ten-day quarantine on arrival, which can be ended after five days at the earliest with a negative PCR test result.

People who commute regularly for work or studies can show proof of 3G instead of 2G which means a negative test result can be used to enter Austria.

People who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and pregnant people, do not need to show either 2G or the additional PCR test or booster, but they need to show a medical certificate proving their exemption.

The Local has contacted the Health Ministry for clarity over what applies to people who have proof of recovery in addition to two vaccine doses, particularly those who recovered from Covid recently and therefore may still test positive in PCR tests or not yet be eligible for booster vaccines. We will update this article when we get a response.

Children aged under 12 do not need to show the above documents in order to be allowed to enter; they should follow the same rules regarding pre-travel clearance and quarantine as the adult they are travelling with.

Useful links

Austrian Foreign Ministry

Austrian National Tourist Office

Travel to Austria: FAQ from Health Ministry

Pre-travel clearance form

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TRAIN TRAVEL

EXPLAINED: How to not be ‘bumped’ from an overcrowded Austrian train

Austrian trains have been overly crowded recently, with some people who had valid tickets having to be removed for "safety reasons". Here's how to make sure you get to your destination.

EXPLAINED: How to not be 'bumped' from an overcrowded Austrian train

Train travel is a safe and relatively comfortable way to get around Austria, but there is still much to do to make these journeys better for travellers, especially for commuters.

In Austria, a combination of high fuel prices, the adoption of the subsidised Klimaticket, and Vienna’s new short-term parking system, combined with other factors including a green surge and nice weather, has led to an increase in the search for train travel.

The operator ÖBB expects an even higher surge in the next few days, as warm weather meets holidays in Austria. This has led to several journeys being overcrowded, with people travelling standing up or being removed from trains when they reach capacity and the number of people compromises safety.

READ ALSO: Half-price Europe train tickets on offer in Interrail flash sale

“Safety is the top priority. If the train is too full to be guided safely, passengers must be asked to get off. If they don’t do it voluntarily, we have no choice but to get the police. This happens very rarely,” Bernhard Rieder from ÖBB told broadcaster ORF during an Ö1 interview.

Why are trains overcrowded?

There are several reasons for the surge in train travel, but they boil down to two things: rising costs for other means of transportation and environmental worries.

With galloping inflation, Austrians have seen prices of fuel climbing, and as the war in Ukraine continues, there is no likelihood of lower petrol prices any time soon.

At the same time, since March, Vienna (the destination for many domestic tourists and commuters) has instituted a new short-term parking system, basically removing free parking in the streets of the capital.

Driving has become more expensive when everything else seems to be costly, and many Austrians turn to train travel. Particularly for those who are holders of the Klimaticket, a yearly subsidised card that allows for unlimited travel for just over €1,000 – early buyers could get a hold of the ticket for under €900.

READ ALSO: Nine German expressions that perfectly sum up spring in Austria

The ticket allows travellers to “hop on and hop off” as they wish, making occupancy more unpredictable. However, it is possible to reserve seats even if you have them, and there are low-budget bundles for commuters.

The Klimaticket was created in an effort with the Environmental Ministry, looking to increase the use of greener transport alternatives in Austria.

The environmental concern is also one of the reasons why train travel is on the rise globally – travelling by train is also more convenient in many cases, with comfortable seats, free wifi, a dining area and the fact that you can start and end your journey in central stations instead of far-away airports.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Trains are in fashion so why is rail travel across Europe still so difficult?

Why won’t ÖBB only sell as many tickets as there are train seats?

A reasonable question, but that is not possible with the way train journeys operate in Austria – and in most countries.

Some tickets are “open” and flexible, meaning that people can board any train from a specific time. These are particularly useful for commuters who might be late leaving work, for example.

Additionally, holders of the Klimaticket and other regional yearly offers don’t need to buy tickets. They only need to show their Klimaticket card with an ID once checked.

READ ALSO: Austria’s nationwide public transport ‘climate ticket’ now available

What is ÖBB doing to avoid overcrowding?

After the several incidents of overcrowding when people even had to leave their trains despite having valid tickets, ÖBB announced it would bring additional trains for the peak season around the holidays (May 26th, June 5th and 6th and June 16th), increasing the number of seats by “thousands”, according to a press statement.

What can I do to guarantee my journey?

Despite the increase in offer, the operator still warns that “on certain trains, demand can still exceed capacity”.

The best way to try and guarantee your journey, according to ÖBB, is by reserving a seat.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

“A seat reservation is the best way to use the most popular train connections. Starting at €3, you can reserve a seat in ÖBB trains in Austria”.

Reservations are available online at tickets.oebb.at the ÖBB app, at the ÖBB ticket counter, and at the ÖBB customer service at 05-1717.

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