By Public Transportation
Whether you want to visit the Inner City's historic buildings or the outlying Vienna Woods, Vienna Transport (Wiener Verkehrsbetriebe) can take you there. This vast transit network -- U-Bahn (subway), streetcar, or bus -- is safe, clean, and easy to use. If you plan on taking full advantage of it, pay the 1€ ($1.60) for a map that outlines the U-Bahn, buses, streetcars, and local trains (Schnellbahn, or S-Bahn). It's sold at the Vienna Public Transport Information Center (Informationdienst der Wiener Verkehrsbetriebe), which has five locations: Opernpassage (an underground passageway adjacent to the Wiener Staatsoper), Karlsplatz, Stephansplatz (near Vienna's cathedral), Westbahnhof, and Praterstern. These offices are open Monday to Friday 6:30am to 6:30pm. For information about any of these outlets, call tel. 01/790-9100.
Vienna maintains a uniform fare that applies to all forms of public transport. A ticket for the bus, subway, or tram costs 1.70€ ($2.70) if you buy it in advance at a tabac-trafiks (a store or kiosk selling tobacco products and newspapers) or 2€ ($3.20) if you buy it onboard. Smart Viennese buy their tickets in advance, usually in blocks of at least five at a time, from any of the city's thousands of tabac-trafiks or at any of the public transport centers noted above. No matter what vehicle you decide to ride within Vienna, remember that once a ticket has been stamped (validated) by either a machine or a railway attendant, it's valid for one trip in one direction, anywhere in the city, including transfers.
By U-Bahn (Subway) -- The U-Bahn is a fast way to get across town or reach the suburbs. It consists of five lines labeled U1, U2, U3, U4, and U6 (there is no U5). Karlsplatz, in the heart of the Inner City, is the most important underground station for visitors: The U4, U2, and U1 converge there. The U2 traces part of the Ring, the U4 goes to Schönbrunn, and the U1 stops in Stephansplatz. The U3 also stops in Stephansplatz and connects with the Westbahnhof. The underground runs daily from 6am to midnight.
By Tram (Streetcar) -- Riding the red-and-white trams (strassenbahn) is not only a practical way to get around but also a great way to see the city. Tram stops are well marked. Each line bears a number or letter. Lines 1 and 2 will bring you to all the major sights on the Ringstrasse. Line D skirts the outer Ring and goes to the Südbahnhof, and line 18 goes between the Westbahnhof and the Südbahnhof. Trams run daily from 6am to midnight.
By Bus -- Buses traverse Vienna in all directions, operating daily, including at night (but with more limited service then). Night buses leave every 10 to 30 minutes from Schwedenplatz, fanning out across the city. It's usually not necessary to change lines more than once. Normal tickets are valid aboard these late night buses (no extra charge). On buses you can buy tickets from the driver.
Transportation for Less -- The Vienna Card is the best ticket to use when traveling by public transportation within the city limits. It's extremely flexible and functional for tourists because it allows unlimited travel, plus various discounts at city museums, restaurants, and shops. You can purchase a Vienna Card for 19€ ($30) at tourist information offices, public transport centers, and some hotels, or order one over the phone with a credit card (tel. 01/7984400148).
You can also buy tickets that will save you money if you plan to ride a lot on the city's transport system. A ticket valid for unlimited rides during any 24-hour period costs 8€ ($13); an equivalent ticket valid for any 72-hour period goes for 15€ ($24).
These tickets are also available at tabac-trafiks, vending machines in underground stations, the airport's arrival hall (next to baggage claim), the Reichsbrücke (DDSG landing pier), and the Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro (travel agencies) of the two main train stations.
Taxis are easy to find within the city center, but be warned that fares can quickly add up. Taxi stands are marked by signs, or you can call tel. 01/31300, 60160, 713-7196, or 40100. The basic fare is 2.50€ ($4), plus 1.20€ ($1.90) per kilometer. There are extra charges of 1€ ($1.30) for luggage in the trunk. For night rides after 11pm, and for trips on Sunday and holidays, there is a surcharge of 1€ ($1.60). There is an additional charge of 2€ ($3.20) if ordered by phone. The fare for trips outside the Vienna area (for instance, to the airport) should be agreed upon with the driver in advance, and a 10% tip is the norm.
Vienna has more than 250km (155 miles) of marked bicycle paths within the city limits. In the summer, many Viennese leave their cars in the garage and ride bikes. You can take bicycles on specially marked U-Bahn cars for free, but only Monday through Friday from 9am to 3pm and 6:30pm to midnight, during which time you'll pay half the full-ticket price to transport a bike. On weekends in July and August, bicycles are carried free from 9am to midnight.
Rental stores abound at the Prater and along the banks of the Danube Canal, which is the favorite bike route for most Viennese. One of the best of the many sites specializing in bike rentals is Pedal Power, Ausstellungsstrasse 3 (tel. 01/729-7234; www.pedalpower.at), which is open March through October from 8am to 7pm. The Vienna Tourist Board can also supply a list of rental shops and more information about bike paths. Bike rentals begin at about 27€ ($43) per day.
Use a car only for excursions outside Vienna's city limits; don't try to drive around the city. Parking is a problem; the city is a maze of congested one-way streets; and the public transportation is too good to endure the hassle of driving.
If you do venture out by car, information on road conditions is available in English 7 days a week from 6am to 8pm from the Österreichischer Automobil-, Motorrad- und Touringclub (ÖAMTC), Schubertring 1-3, A-1010 Vienna (tel. 01/711-990). This auto club also maintains a 24-hour emergency road service number (tel. 120 or 0810/120-120).
Car Rentals -- It's best to reserve rental cars in advance, but you can rent a car once you're in Vienna. You'll need a passport and a driver's license that's at least 1 year old. Some minimum age restrictions may apply, so ask if you are under age 25. Avoid renting a car at the airport, where there's an extra 6% tax, in addition to the 21% value-added tax on all rentals.
Major car-rental companies include Avis, Laaer Berg Strasse 43 (tel. 01/587-62-41); Budget Rent-a-Car, Hilton Air Terminal (tel. 01/714-6565); and Hertz, Vienna Airport (tel. 01/700-732661).
Parking -- Curbside parking in Vienna's 1st District, site of most of the city's major monuments, is extremely limited -- almost to the point of being nonexistent. Coin-operated parking meters as they exist within North America are not common. When curbside parking is available at all, it's within one of the city's "blue zones" and is usually restricted to 90 minutes or less from 8am to 6pm. If you find an available spot within a blue zone, you'll need to display a kurzpark scheine (short-term parking voucher) on the dashboard of your car. Valid for time blocks of only 30, 60, or 90 minutes, they're sold at branch offices of Vienna Public Transport Information Center and, more conveniently, within tobacco/news shops. You'll have to write in the date and the time of your arrival before displaying the voucher on the right side of your car's dashboard. Be warned that towing of illegally parked cars is not an uncommon sight here. Frankly, it's much easier to simply pay the price that's charged by any of the city's dozens of underground parking garages and avoid the stress of looking for one of the virtually impossible-to-find curbside parking spots.
Parking garages are scattered throughout the city, and most of them charge between 3.60€ ($5.80) and 6€ ($9.60) per hour. Every hotel in Vienna is acutely aware of the location of the nearest parking garage -- if you're confused, ask. Some convenient 24-hour garages within the 1st District include Garage Am Hof (tel. 01/533-5571; www.garageamhof.at); Parkgarage Freyung, Freyung (tel. 01/535-0450); and Tiefgarage Kärntnerstrasse, Mahlerstrasse 8 (tel. 01/512-5206).
Driving & Traffic Regulations -- In general, Austria's traffic regulations do not differ much from those of other countries where you drive on the right. In Vienna, the speed limit is 50kmph (31 mph). Out of town, in areas like the Wienerwald, the limit is 130kmph (81 mph) on motorways and 100kmph (62 mph) on all other roads. Honking car horns is forbidden everywhere in the city.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.