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Vienna current refugee situation

Can anyone in Vienna now let us know how the huge influx of refugees is affecting train stations and the historic center? Anything we need to go arriving in the next week or two here.

Posted by
4637 posts

I don't think anybody can predict. I can only guess that with immigration encouraging news from Germany there will be many more refugees coming. I would expect delays, cancellations. Let's hope that I am wrong.

Posted by
4698 posts

I live in Vienna. My entire career is refugee work. I am closely involved with the situation in Vienna. There are several thousand refugees passing through Vienna. A large number, yes, but a tourist will not see them, especially not in the tourist areas (!). They are at the train stations. Give them a bottle of water and a kind smile.

Posted by
8293 posts

Yes, Emily, kindness please for these people.

Posted by
51 posts

I don't think anyone has forgotten that we are talking about families that are in dire straits. In fact my traveling partner was trying to figure out the logistics of bringing them food . But we are trying to be proactive in avoiding a problem that we might not be able to handle. We would like travel advice not political. We all are looking at the pictures of these poor people and wondering how they will endure.

Posted by
13762 posts

You have 5,000 to 10,000 migrants wanting to get on trains to Germany. I suspect that the migrants will impact train travel just as it did in Budapest. If i were going to visit the region right now and do the big three i think i would be inclined to fly into Budapest, then fly to Prague and then train to Vienna. That puts you running in the opposite direction of the migration when you do get on the train. You might also Google walking directions from the Train Station to to the nearest German border town and then stay clear of that route.

Posted by
74 posts

Thank you for asking this question. Tourists spend much money in Europe and we need to know the current situation. This does not mean we don't care.

Posted by
4698 posts

It's pretty simple, really, if you are worried about how this will affect your travel plan.

Train travel may or may not be affected. Tourist sites are and will remain unaffected. If you don't go to Westbahnhof, you won't see a single sign of a refugee. It is impossible to predict, even a day in advance, how train travel will be affected. Be flexible and have a back up plan if your plans include a train.

Posted by
38 posts

As someone who was thinking of taking my daughter and baby grandson on a train from Austria to Prague in November, as a conscientious parent and grandparent, the last thing I want is to get my precious family mired in a desperate situation that we can in no way alleviate. In fact, if we are taking seats on trains that are already full beyond capacity, we are not only NOT helping, we are causing more harm to everyone involved, the migrants and the poor railway employees who are being pushed beyond their limits or job training.

Posted by
9363 posts

"Wanting to understand the current situation is hardly callous or a sign of lack of empathy and you are frankly beyond offensive to suggest it....You know nothing of my charitable activities or life; a little less sanctimony is in order. For shame."

Emily wasn't saying anything about a lack of empathy, or anything about you or your life. Try not to take things so personally. These people are passing through, not staying and seeing the sights, so they are unlikely to be in the historic center of the city. I imagine having to deal with this situation daily is very stressful for all involved.

Posted by
13762 posts

These people are passing through, not staying and seeing the sights,
so they are unlikely to be in the historic center of the city.

They may not know that, so they asked. If they had asked about Budapest, unfortunately the train station and the walking route to Vienna are not so well situated so that tourists can be oblivious as to what is going on. Which is sort of good and sort of bad.

Posted by
4698 posts

James - I am here, now, in Vienna. If you don't go to Westbahnhof and don't read/watch the news, you would t notice a thing.

Posted by
4698 posts

To those following this crisis:

I spent most of my day yesterday at both Westbahnhof and Hauptbahnhof assisting refugees. At both stations, trains are running and on time. The refugees congregate and are assisted in areas away from most activity. Tourists and everyday travelers will likely not even see them.

Posted by
70 posts

Emily - thank you very much for taking the time to give us this information. It is much appreciated. It also appears from what we have seen on TV that the Austrian people are doing their very utmost to do what they can to look after these unfortunate migrants. There have also been many emotional rallies here in Vancouver urging our government to do more to help these people.
Thank you agin for your update.

Posted by
4624 posts

Thank you for the updates, Emily. Is there anything being set up at the airports or train stations in Vienna to donate clothing or similar that we should be looking for to help?

Posted by
4698 posts

There are no refugees at the airports and I am no aware of anything happening there.

At Hauptbahnhof, walk to the end of track 9/10 and go down the stairs. Volunteer or donate there. Men's hygiene products are very needed as are volunteers in the evening and at night. Train of Hope (www.trainofhope.at) is the primary organization coordinating assistance. It is best to follow them on social media for the most current needs.

At Westbahnhof, Caritas has an area for dropping off donations. Visit https://www.facebook.com/caritas.omni.bus for the latest information on needs at this train station.

Posted by
13762 posts

Emily, It’s good to hear that the Austrian rail stations can handle an additional 20,000 riders in 3 days without impacting facilities or schedules. Leave it to German organization to solve the problem. Amazing what can be done with the right attitude. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/08/us-europe-migrants-austria-idUSKCN0R81C820150908

The Austrians have canceled all trains to Budapest and have been threatening to close the border to immigrants. This will help clear their stations but cause them to back up in Budapest like last week.

Posted by
260 posts

My thanks to Emily for the very helpful information. We will be going to Vienna early next week. Appreciate your comments and the suggestions for how to help.

Posted by
13762 posts

Par.pas75, you are correct. My apologies. I edited out the commentary.

I am in communication with individuals attempting to get to Salzburg by train. They canceled when they saw the train station. I am also in communication with individuals who are attempting to drive from Vienna to Budapest and have discovered that the Austrians have closed the main highway to the Hungarian border; fortunately re routing only adds an hour to the trip.

I don't live in Vienna and I am not employed in the relief industry, but I do have a tourist related business in the region that keeps me a little up to date on the hardships experienced by travelers.

If I were going to suggest an itinerary right now I would say fly to Budapest, then fly to Prague (about $125), then use a service like Bean Shuttle to take you to Cesky Krumlov one day and into Vienna the next. This keeps you out of train station and moving in the opposite direction of the immigrant flow when on the highways.

Posted by
4698 posts

Trains are going to Salzburg from Vienna. I don't understand why your contact didn't go?..

Posted by
13762 posts

I am not entirely certain. "We took on look and decided to stay in Vienna" was sort of their comment about the train station. Of course a few years back a heard guests make similar comments when they entered Keleti in Budapest (old and sooty back then).

Posted by
71 posts

We just returned from a week in Austria and traveled through Munich, Salzburg, Hallstatt, and Vienna train stations, and there was nothing significant. We heard from another traveler in Hallstatt (who was German) that she had some friends unable to travel due to the refugees in train stations. We saw some refugees in the Salzburg train station, but not in masses. We may have been just ahead of it though.

Posted by
13762 posts

I am guessing there was a short period between when the Austrians reopened train service to Hungary and when they again closed the train service to Hungary when things might have been a bit more tense. With the trains to and from Hungary suspended by the Austrians the stations in Austria I bet are pretty manageable.

Posted by
70 posts

James & Emily- I am counting on you both being right about no current problems at Westbahnhoff as we are currently in Vienna & will be headed to this train station Monday (14 th) morning to catch a train to Salzburg! I will keep you all posted as to what transpires but as Emily lives in Vienna I am confident that she is up to date on the situation.

Posted by
51 posts

We also have plans to travel Vienna to Salzburg on Wed. 9/23, so appreciate all posts updating the status of trains. We previously purchased WestBahn tickets, although I understand it was not necessary. Since they do not require reservations, what happens if they have too many hopeful travelers on a particular train?

Posted by
4698 posts

I have spent time helping the refugees at Westbahnhof. It is not a free for all. Typically one car is allotted to the refugees. The rest of the train is as usual. It is organized. You don't need a reservation. Just get on, find a seat and sit down. If you can't find a seat, you stand until one is available. Pretty simple. If you want to be certain to have a seat, then buy a seat reservation. Again, pretty simple.

Posted by
13762 posts

Lynne, I didn't say that you wouldn't have problems. Personally I would not count on anything requiring train travel out of Vienna. Things are too fluid and the overall investment for a European trip is just too much. But that is just my comfort threshold; doesn't mean I am right.

We have some guests coming through Vienna and to be safe I hired them a driver. Right now I am glad I did.

Posted by
70 posts

Emily - we are taking Westbahn so hoping that is the better option of the two as you mentioned in an earlier post.

KJ - I purchased tickets online a few weeks ahead only because our Canadian dollar keeps slipping, but I did not make a seat reservation. We can use our tickets on any of Westbahns train going to Salzburg that day. Will arrive at the station at least half hour ahead of the train we wish to take in case of extra crowds.

James - I priced out a private driver at $ 500 cad $. We will hope for the best at the train station tomorrow and I will post as soon as I can and let everybody know what the situation is.

Posted by
8293 posts

Good luck, Lynne. You will have interesting stories to tell when you come home. The CBC may be interested.

Posted by
13762 posts

500? Because you are in Austria i guess or the gouging has begun. Going price for Hungarian drivers from Vienna to Budapest is about 290 euro last week. I today paid 400 euro for a guest from Vienna to Budapest but that included a tour at Pannonhalma on the way in from Vienna.

Posted by
13762 posts

But the difference in prices also illustrates some of the recent migrant issues. The average income in Austria is 5 times the sub poverty level average income in Hungary.

Posted by
503 posts

I just read that Germany is setting up temporary border controls at the Austrian border to help them deal with the refugee situation. If this applies to all train and auto routes, it seems it will certainly delay travel a bit more than usual.

Posted by
70 posts

Just to let everyone know - we boarded our westbahn train to Salzburg this morn at 8:38 with absolutely no issue. Train left on time & was not crowded, seats available.
Thank you again Emily for all your help. We enjoyed our two days in Vienna & the lovely weather!

Posted by
4698 posts

I am so glad and happy to have an example here that shows it is not the total chaos that the media would leave to you believe!

Posted by
13762 posts

I am guessing closing the Hungarian train routes have done a pretty good job in slowing down the immigrant traffic in the Austrian stations. That should help you a lot.

Posted by
6734 posts

We were at three train stations in Vienna today. If you have any business to transact e.g. buying tickets or making reservations that require a ticket window, forget it. At Haupbahnhoff, the wait was at least 4 hours to get to a ticket window; from looking at the process and the lines, I would guess longer. Similar situation at Westbahnhoff. If you have tickets you can just go get on your train, but if you need to book them, it is really not possible unless you have a chip and pin card and can use the machines. Obsolete US cards did not work. We ended up getting the tickets we needed at a minor station called Meilingen.

So if your travel takes you from Viena to other countries in the region, be aware not only of the issues between Hungary and Austria and Between Germany and Austria which is canceling trains but also that you need to buy tickets before arrival on line and not plan to get them at train stations in Viena.

Posted by
4698 posts

Jane - I was also at Hauptbahnhof today collecting donations for the Train of Hope.

A few points - the machines have always worked with my US credit card. If you are going to Salzburg, just take Westbahn and buy your ticket on the train. Even if there are no lines, it is always best to book and make reservations online. The station is called Meidling.

Posted by
6734 posts

I'm doing the train to Melk with visit to Abbey and boat back to Krem, train back to Vienna. Did get the tickets at Meidling which had short lines. It was not possible to get this package on the machines or if it is I couldn't figure out how.

I have my tickets to Prague in hand.

Posted by
6734 posts

I'm doing the train to Melk with visit to Abbey and boat back to Krem, train back to Vienna. Did get the tickets at Meidling which had short lines. It was not possible to get this package on the machines or if it is I couldn't figure out how.

I have my tickets to Prague in hand.

Posted by
1 posts

Any update in refugee situation in Vienna today? My husband and I plan to take a train from Aschaffenberg Germany to Vienna on Friday and my husband wants to cancel our trip because of all the refugee reports from Vienna.

Posted by
51 posts

Lynne,
Can you describe how it works with the pre-purchased Westbahn tickets? Basically we just have a printed email confirmation. Is that all we need to show once on the train? No special authorization needed before getting on the train? We'll be there next week.

Posted by
4698 posts

You should have a PDF attached to your email which you must print. The email is not your ticket.

For others, there is no advantage to buying Westbahn tickets online in advance. In fact, what you are supposed to do is just buy them on the train from the staff.

Posted by
31530 posts

Thanks for posting this, and thanks to Emily for the "on the ground" updates! I'll be in Vienna next week and as it happens the train I'll be taking from Salzburg arrives at the Westbahnhof.

I'm not concerned at all about the situation and I'll deal with whatever the circumstances are when I arrive there. If I can offer a bottle of water or a kind smile to some refugees, I'll certainly do that. This will not change my plans to visit Vienna, and I'm looking forward to seeing the city.

Posted by
70 posts

Kj - I just got in from a long day of enjoying the sights in Salzburg & saw your question. I see that Emily has answered it for you so that is good.
Just another bit of information that may or may not help others traveling from Germany. Our friends that were meeting us here in Salzburg on Monday were coming by train from Munich. They got through the border with no problem because their train was going on to Graz. Another couple staying at the hotel here told us their train was stopped at the border and not let through because it's journey was terminating in Salzburg and the train company didn't want an empty train in Salzburg where the there were a lot of migrants that would want to get on and ride it back to Germany. Travellers were getting off the train at the border and taking taxis to Salzburg or as in the case of the couple we talked to, they just walked the six miles to Salzburg !!!

Brenda - I wouldn't cancel your holiday - perhaps just find another mode of transportation to Vienna - maybe rent a car. As Emily has said - as a tourist in Vienna you are not likely to be impacted by the migrant situation.

Posted by
4 posts

Brenda,

I've been in Vienna for three days now and have toured without any delays. If you can get here without any problems, you shouldn't have any trouble in Vienna. We bought tickets today at westbanhoff and it took 30 minutes. There was a ratio of probably 4 refugees to 1 non refugee in the ticket line but the line moved quickly. We did the Melk Wachau valley train and boat combination and you can't buy that from the machine and it would cost more to buy each individual piece along the way. If you are worried about buying a ticket at a train station that you have to buy at a ticket office, I'd suggest purchasing it the day before. Happy travels.

Posted by
13762 posts

Just received notice that one of our guests that was arriving in Budapest from Vienna had their train canceled this morning. Not sure if they had a plan B

We left Vienna's main HBF train station today. Many refugees. Delays and lines. Don't make our mistake -- buy tickets in advance. The OBB agent told me I could buy them with the app (not on website) and then show my phone on the train but I had already waited in line. Train to Prague was full but space available on a later train. I believe the tickets would have been less $ if I used Czech rail website instead of buying with OBB in person.
Vienna itself did not appear to be affected by refugee situation.

Posted by
1 posts

we are traveling from paris to Frankfurt by train, then picking up a car in Frankfurt an driving to rothenburg, fussen and on to Salzburg. this is planned for the beginning of October. any help on this route as to problems on the road? or in the cities? thank you.

Posted by
260 posts

In Vienna now. No issues in area around the Ring.

Posted by
31530 posts

I don't know how many days ago this was written, but this is one traveller's perception of the situation ("The Refugee Crisis.....") Hopefully no one minds me posting this, I'm just including it for interest). Caution for language.....

http://seat61.com/news.htm#.Vf2pO31GT90

Posted by
9930 posts

Ken, thanks for the link. That was an interesting account.

Posted by
3336 posts

Wow...what an amazing first-hand account. Thanks for posting!

Posted by
6 posts

Hi Im planning to go from prague (praha) by train to vienna early this october and then going feom vienna to innsbruck and to zurich...will there be any problem using the train transfer?. It seems that the route i have is the opposite from the refugee that came from budapest to vienna and prague...please advise thanks.

Posted by
1 posts

Coming to Vienna for 3 days May 2016. Many previous entries helpful but any updates on refugee situation would be good. May sound selfish in view of awful plight of many but don't want our first visit to be spoilt.

Posted by
4698 posts

Refugees are no longer transiting in large numbers through Vienna. Even at the height on the crisis, you would not have encountered refugees either in the historic center or the train stations unless you sought them out. Vienna is greatly unchanged.

Posted by
13762 posts

During the height of it all I had guest stranded in Vienna trying to get to Budapest but were not allowed on the train. We had other guests in Budapest who thinking they were going to Vienna ended up in a refugee camps for several hours. It was a bit of a mess, but eventually everyone got to where they were going. The Hungarian / Austrian border is now effortless again, but there is still apparently a problem to cross the border from Austria to Germany as the Hungarian rail page still posts:

Passengers travelling from Budapest to Munich with railjet train must
leave the train at Salzburg station, where border control will be
carried out. A connecting railjet train will be provided towards
Munich, where seat reservation is obligatory. There is no such border
control when travelling from Munich towards Budapest. The EuroNight
train EN 462/463 (Kálmán Imre) operates again with full service (i.e.
with seat, couchette and sleeping cars) between Budapest and Munich.
At Salzburg station travel documents and ID/passport of all passengers
in the seat car will be checked. Although the attendants of the
couchette and sleeping cars will collect the travel documents in
advance, occasional and thorough controls may be expected in these
cars.

Will it ever get like was late last year? My guess is we wont know until it warms up. I would suspect that even now with the Germans cracking down the migrants must be sitting someplace. I guess the Austrians keep them out of the stations and out of sight. The Hungarians have effectively closed their southern borders except to those that are willing to take the time and effort to demonstrate that they qualify for refugee status so the problem there is pretty much non-existent. The Serbs and the Croats have come to a remarkable understanding given their tumultuous recent history and are coordinating border crossings and direct transfers across Croatia to Austria in so much that the Austrians will accept them. Slovakia, Slovenia and Poland have also cracked down on their borders. I would suspect that the most bottlenecked point north of Greece right now is Austria. But if Emily hasn't seen them it cant be a problem. Especially since she works with them.

Posted by
31530 posts

James E,

" I guess the Austrians keep them out of the stations and out of sight."

That wasn't my experience in September. In Salzburg the refugees were being housed in the underground car park at the Hbf, but they seemed to be free to wander about and patronize the fast food restaurants in the vicinity. There were quite a few of them often standing in front of the station smoking and chatting amongst themselves. They weren't exactly "out of sight". When I arrived in Vienna, the situation seemed to be the same.

Posted by
13762 posts

But there weren't many? And there was nothing threatening about it. Just guys living the life...... I think Emily was trying to say that they presented zero impact on tourism and since she is there working with them i am inclined to believe her. Austria has apparently handled it very well. In Hungary when there were no trains to put them on it got sort of contentious; a tiny bit violent at times too. But like Vienna, that's no longer an issue (Budapest closed its borders and Austria has the resources to keep them well cared for) I may go up to Vienna next week. If i get there i will look around.

Posted by
31530 posts

James E.,

"But there weren't many?"

There were many at times. One morning when I was at the station in Salzburg there were about 20 refugees. When I returned later that night, there were over 800 so that's a good indication.

Yes, Emily will absolutely have the best idea on what the current situation is. My experience was several months ago, and I suspect things have changed since then.

I agree that the refugee situation has presented zero impact on tourism, at least in my experience.

Posted by
6882 posts

Nothing like a trashy link with no related text or opinion to clarify things...thanks. Several photos are downright ironic - showing people doing perfectly normal things (smoking, sitting in a waiting area, checking their phones) but with sensationalist captions attached. What happened to hard, objective journalism?

I hope the OP can report back on her trip experience from last year.

Posted by
13762 posts

Agnes, I hope the OP can report too. It might add balance to the previous post. But in my mind any perspective is valid in adding to the conversation and in helping people come to personal opinions. Naturally I would hope they go beyond what is here and do some real research but.... well, at least its a start. I just came back from Bonn and Cologne; and despite my somewhat right leaning I was open minded to encourage my daughter to move there. After seeing it first hand I have changed my opinion. Now I have no idea if there is any comparison between Vienna and Bonn, but if I were going to spend any constructive time in Vienna I would certainly do the research including the post in question. Lets quit trashing people we disagree with and start looking for common ground from which to find understanding and communication.

Posted by
6882 posts

James, I agree with you but believe that click bait (unsubstantiated but strategically biased photos and high decibel headlines) should be called out for what it is because it's rather insulting. Cranking up the noise does nothing to improve the quality of the argument. Less noise and emotion would actually help IMHO. I have a feeling that there are several people out there just ready to use this forum to stoke the fire but contribute nothing to the conversation.

Bonn, Cologne and Vienna have stark differences in population (and probably a host of other characteristics) that I would be cautious in extrapolating experience in one of these cities to the others.

Posted by
13762 posts

Agnes, you have to believe me when I say i respect your opinion, but that your noise is someone else's reality. I hear loud noise on both sides of the issue. I don't call out either side because I know the two extremes don't see it the way I do. I believe the secret is to show both extremes respect and then try and help them find the middle. The more I disagree with "the word" the more I am inclined to hate the word. But hate gets nothing accomplished. Accept the heart felt beliefs of others and promote your beliefs.

Posted by
6882 posts

There was no heartfelt belief attached to that link - it was just a link. As such, I critiqued it for what it was - the use of several common images to suggest something more sinister is misleading and dishonest (..."as they calculate their next move" ...that's unbiased language to describe people standing or sitting in a waiting area who happen to be dark/ish skinned?) The poster hasn't claimed its content as his or her "reality", so I can't assume that to be the case. I have no dog in this fight, really, so I'm going to make good on my promise and remain silent. (What is "pidgin German"? and "pigeon French"? never mind, I don't want to know)

Posted by
13762 posts

Agnes, a much better critique. Bravo! Seriously! But could you meet the OP at Starbucks and argue your points without expressing disgust? Because that's where the world needs to get to. No, I couldn't either, but then I am no great role model.

Posted by
13731 posts

(Edited again)
Ah, finally got that link to work, Philip! Yes, well done, and the point in my previous comment about the questionable credibility of the Daily Mail (before I got the link to work).

Posted by
4684 posts

Yes, that link's very slow to respond for some reason.

Posted by
13762 posts

Ironic that one would select an article that is clearly anti Semitic to demonstrate the point in question in the context of the current situation, players, etc.

Posted by
4684 posts

Yes, it is ironic given how identical the rhetoric of anti-Muslims nowadays, on both the national and international scale, is to anti-Semitic rhetoric of the early twentieth century.