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Traveling to Austria from Germany via car, restrictions?

Hi there!

I am traveling to Cologne, Germany with my boyfriend at the end of August/first week of September to visit his family. We were going to try to travel to Austria from there for a few days, for some hiking and beer gardens! :) We are both fully COVID19 vaccinated.

  • Any word on new COVID restrictions on the horizon in Germany or Austria? I know the situation changes daily, but hoping restaurants/beer gardens remain open...

  • Any word regarding restrictions/difficulty crossing the boarder via vehicle from Germany to Austria (will likely take train from Cologne to Munich, then pick up a car and drive to Innsbruck area)? How about Austria back to Germany?

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

Posted by
575 posts

I will drive from Germany to Austria too. So far, I have not read about restrictions other than vaccination (or PCR negative test in 72 hours or proof of Covid recovery) , which you have already fulfilled.

Posted by
2931 posts

Is this your first driving trip in Europe? Are you aware of the need for an International Driver Permit for each driver ( in addition to your DL?)

And do you know about buying a vignette for your car before entering Austria?

Posted by
3 posts

Yes, I have driven in Europe and in Austria before, and yes I’m aware of drivers license requirements and the Vignette for Austria. Thanks :)

Posted by
140 posts

I haven't looked this week, but I think they are now requiring an antigen test for all travellers, regardless of vaccination status, to enter German; I know it was at least in discussion. And you have to fill out the online form, though if you are from a "safe" country it simply tells you that you have completed all requirements. But if you've done it at least you can say honestly that you have (takes two minutes) and will know what that form looks like if asked.

Posted by
49 posts

Some advice on renting and driving:

A reservation made from the USA is strongly recommended. Be sure to purchase the full collision insurance with no deductible, however, as small incidents with cars add up to big bills quickly in Europe, even for tiny cars.

Rent a small car. Your life will be much easier. You will be miserable with any kind of SUV and they will try to offer you those, especially in Switzerland. If you can't drive stick... learn to before you go.

Most city centers in Europe are now pedestrian with limited access allowed to cars for residents and hotel guests. Always enquire with the hotel what the parking arrangements are - particularly in Italy. Also beware of not getting trapped inside a city after a certain hour. The French in the south of France in particular love to install hydraulic gates that may go up after a certain hour.

Do not speed, ever. There are speed cameras everywhere in Europe and there is zero tolerance and huge fines. They will send you a bill and the rental car company will pay it "for you" along with a surcharge "handling fee".

When you are on the interstate, NEVER, EVER block the left lane or pull out into the left lane to pass a slower vehicle in front of a car that is coming up behind you. Ever. To do so is illegal and very dangerous. European drivers who are passing in the left lane are overtaking at a high rate of speed and they expect you to see them coming and stay put until they have gone by, and they do NOT slow down for a car in the left lane because they expect you to be out of their way by the time they reach you. Despite what I just said about speeding, you will encounter very fast cars and bikes blowing by you on the interstates in Germany, Austria, France, and Italy and just about everywhere else. I don't know how they get away with it but they are well in excess of 100mph and more like 120...140mph.

The ticket for blocking the left lane on the Autobahn in Germany is 1,200 Euro... don't block that lane.

Posted by
2169 posts

I don't know how they get away with it but they are well in excess of
100mph and more like 120...140mph.

Parts of the Autobahn has no speed limits, on those parts don't be surprised if a Mercedes or Audi passes you in the left lane doing 200 km/h or more.

Posted by
18 posts

What is a vignette? Why is it needed in Austria?

Posted by
1618 posts

Any word on new COVID restrictions on the horizon in Germany or Austria?

The actual Austrian regulations , appendix 1, consider the US a low risk country. So all you have to provide is either proof of vaccination or testing (antigen max 48 hours, PCR max 73 hours old).

Any word regarding restrictions/difficulty crossing the boarder via vehicle from Germany to Austria (will likely take train from Cologne to Munich, then pick up a car and drive to Innsbruck area)?

No. But be prepared for controls

Frankly, I'd take the train from Cologne to Innsbruck and rent the care there. Then it will be equipped with the Austrian vignette. The train ticket may cost the same (or not much more) as for Cologne to Munich, provided you book early and can decide on a specific train.

Parts of the Autobahn has no speed limits, on those parts don't be surprised if a Mercedes or Audi passes you in the left lane doing 200 km/h or more.

That will not happen on the rather museal autobahn from Munich to Salzburg which has restrictions on almost the entire route and is usually so congested that you cannot even reach the speed limit.

Posted by
4325 posts

What is a vignette? Why is it needed in Austria?

Austria has no toll roads (except for a few very long tunnels). To maintain the excellent highways, Austria requires that all cars using the Autobahn have a vignette, which costs money. The vignette is a sticker which is placed on the windshield or, in more recent times, a digital sticker tied to the car. Any car which uses the Austrian autobahn needs to have a vignette. There are cameras all along the autobahn which detect whether or not the car has the vignette. If a car does not have a vignette, then a fine will be sent in the mail.

Posted by
575 posts

@sla019:
"That will not happen on the rather museal autobahn from Munich to Salzburg which has restrictions on almost the entire route and is usually so congested that you cannot even reach the speed limit."

Which route are you referring to? I will drive from the Tirol, Austria to Munich Airport (in reverse direction compared to OP), and, on the German side, there three main routes suggested by Google Maps:

Route 8 --> 99 via Rosenheim (fastest according to Google Maps)
Route 13 --> 8 --> 99
Route 95 --> 2R via Munich city

Which route is the worst in traffic? Which route should I take for good lunch options and good break points? I will drive on a Tuesday during daytime (outside commute). If Google Maps does not show good driving time estimates, what alternative mapping websites/apps should I use?

Thanks.

Posted by
25772 posts

Route 8 --> 99 via Rosenheim (fastest according to Google Maps)
Route 13 --> 8 --> 99
Route 95 --> 2R via Munich city

Which route is the worst in traffic? Which route should I take for good lunch options and good break points? I will drive on a Tuesday during daytime (outside commute).

Your question is a little puzzling because you are speaking about Tirol to the airport. Tirol is a large region. Where in Tirol? It is like saying I want to drive from California to Las Vegas. What part of California?

I had to think through the route numbers you used - on the map the blue route numbers are Autobahns, indicated A-. The yellow ones are like state highways, B-, B for Bundesland.

My experience driving in and around Munich for many years tells me:

The A-8 is always both the most direct and very clogged up.

The A-99 (the autobahn which circles the city to the east and north) is even more crowded than the A-8. It has overhead electronic speeds which you be unlikely to exceed, and some of the entries onto it can be confusing.

The B-13 via Bad Tölz is scenic but slow. Bad Tölz is scenic and pleasant - a one street downtown on a hill. Entry into the town can be very slow due to traffic and lights. It is really the long way around if you will be at the Salzburg end. That's why I asked where in Tirol???

If you have never driven in Munich B-2R is NOT for beginners.

Posted by
575 posts

Thanks, Nigel. I will come from around Alpbach. I have not booked my hotel yet, but I will NOT be in the western part of Tirol that borders Switzerland (west of Innsbruck). I plan to stay somewhere in southern Bavaria for the night before the drive up, have some good haxe, and therefore have enough stamina for the drive to MUC airport. Getting stuck in traffic is something I want to minimize.

BTW, where should I stay for that one night in southern Bavaria?I am thinking of Oberaudorf, where there is a good haxe restaurant. Thanks for the help.

Posted by
744 posts

Recently drove home from Wildschönau 1 August 09:00ish Sunday morning thru Kufstein using secondary roads. Almost no traffic that morning and one German Police car at the boarder and no attempt to stop or check us. Have stayed in Oberaudorf twice over the years, but could not recommend one restaurant over another.