Can I drive Germany to Austria no problem? (across border)

Can I drive with a rental car across the Germany and Austria border (both ways) without any problems? Are there checks at the borders I need to prepare for? Any necessary documents needed or anything? (We will have passports, US drivers licenses, and driver will have an International Driving Permit.)

Is the border crossing open 24 hrs/day? This is my first time if you haven't noticed. :-)

Posted by Paul
NYC area
1434 posts

Hi Karina,
We were just in Gemany and Austria this past October.
Crossing the border is just like driving from one state to another. The sticker to drive on Austria's highways is called a "vignette" and costs 8 Euro for a 10 day sticker. These are available in Germany (by the border) and in Austria. Convenience stores, gas stations, etc. sell them. Look for the sign that says "Vignette". You won't have any trouble.

Paul

Posted by Lane
Mansfield, GA
847 posts

If you should venture into Switzerland the toll sticker is more expensive. No option to purchase for 10 days or 30 days. Only option is for one year thus the higher fee.
Definitely get one for Austria if you are going to be on the autobahn. Also, make sure you have adequate insurance for you rental. Check with your credit card company to find what they provide.

Posted by Lane
Mansfield, GA
847 posts

No problem going from Germany to Austria and back. You just cross one border to the other like we do from one state to another. Looks like you have everything you need in the way of documentation. I recommend a gps. Best travel investment we have made.

Posted by Jarrod
White Bear Lake, MN, USA
479 posts

Karina, if you blink you might not even notice that you crossed the border. It's about as significant as crossing from Florida into Georgia.

Posted by Jennifer
Lincoln, NE, USA
390 posts

I've never driven in Austria, but I remember hearing about a permit you need to buy in Austria to use their roads. It's just a sticker you put in your window. It's available at gas stations, border crossings, etc. for about €8 for 10 days. There is a pretty hefty fine if you don't have one, so be sure to pick one up.

For more info - read the second half of this webpage -
http://www.german-way.com/autobahn2.html

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

If you aren't crossing on an autobahn, you won't really notice the border. If you are on the autobahn, there is a border truck stop/station.

Austria requires two things to drive on their autobahns. First they sell a sticker for your car that is the equivalent of a road tax in lieu of toll booths. If you stay off the "freeways", you don't need the sticker.

You also need an orange vest in case you have a breakdown.

Since the Germanic people are such sticklers for regulations, I wouldn't even try to avoid compliance. I can't recall the exact prices. The sticker was about what I expected (maybe 25-35 euros) and the vest was cheap considering they had you over a barrel (about 5 euros).

There will be a border gas/restaurant/station where you can get gas, food (if you want trucker food), and the sticker and vest.

I left the sticker on the car when I turned it in and kept the vest as a souvenir for my car at home.

Posted by Perry
Pearland, TX, USA
852 posts

Karina, thanks to Brad [above] I plan to get orange emergency vests for our family car here in Texas. While I'm at it, I plan to get the appropriate auto fire extinguisher I've been meaning to buy.
Hope you have a great trip! Gute Reise... P

Posted by Andreas
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
2511 posts

Rent a Diesel car as Diesel is much, much cheaper than regular plus gets much, much better milage. Also keep in mind that any kind of fuel is significantly cheaper in Austria than in Germany for tax reasons.

Posted by carrie
pacific grove, ca, usa
144 posts

the vignette is very important. the fine for not having it is more than 100 euros! if you go into switzerland, there will be a compulsory stop where they check for the vignette and sell you the swiss permit--about 20 euros, i think.

Posted by Karina
Florida
7 posts

Thank you everyone for all your tips and information! I really appreciate it all!!!

Posted by Dan
Annapolis, MD, USA
2 posts

I am writing this from Switzerland. I drove from Germany to Switzerland two days ago, so this information is a little more recent than the prior posts.

A few days ago I drove from Munich, Germany, to Salzburg, Austria. There was a spot where traffic slowed but no set stop. I drove right through having bought no sticker. Later I drove from Munich to Zurich, Switzerland. The direct route required a pass through a short section of Austria. There was a large "zoll" area to pass through, but I could not understand the zillion of signs and did not see instructions in English. I rounded the next corner where the police were pulling over car after car (myself included) and levying a 120 Euro fine for not having a sticker. This fine must be paid at that spot, cash or credit card.

As I was entering Switzerland, I was waved on by a police officer. I kept trying to ask about another sticker and he kept waving until I insisted he answer the question about whether a sticker was required. I bought one there for 40 Swiss Francs (about $38). I understand another huge fine was coming my way if I had not bought the Swiss sticker, but it was not readily offered nor, to my knowledge, checked on my car.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

I prefer the sticker system to Italy's tolls. The exits from the autostrada are far apart. By the time you pay your toll and get back on you have spent 10-20 minutes. I also think our tolls in Italy added up to a lot more than the cost of the sticker for Austria's expressways.

Posted by Jamie
Moore, Warrington, Cheshire, United Kingdom
1 posts

I just returned from a trip to Germany, Austria and Italy. We read in the Rick Steves guidebook that we wouldn't need a vignette unless we were driving on the Austrian expressways, and that if you were just dipping into the Tirol from Germany you would be fine. However, there is a stretch of new highway between Reutte and Fussen which seems to require a vignette (hwy 179, I think). The sign was not in English, and we were completely confused. They were looking at cars on the way in to Austria (everyone drove very slowly through a weigh station type area). We were waved through, but we suspect it may have been because we had a recently expired vignette from our trip going south through Austria to Italy, and that at a quick glance it looked valid. It would definitely be worth getting the definitive answer on this if you're planning on not buying a vignette and avoiding autostradas. In retrospect I think that I'd just buy one for the peace of mind, and in case our plans changed and we ended up on an autostrada unexpectedly. 8 euros (well, 7-something) for 10 days seems a bit steep if you're only driving through Austria, but is reasonably priced if you are actually spending a week or so there.
Good luck. I wouldn't mind getting an expert opinion on this.

Posted by carl
dallas, tx, usa
1358 posts

Like the other responder, I recommend a GPS. It not only tells you how to get to an obscure address, but I like the feature that helps me get back on track when I miss a turn or an exit on the expressway.

If you take one from the US be sure you get the maps of Europe. It will definitely be of help when you come to an intersection where there are no street signs (which happens half the time). It will also help when you come to a Y in the road and can't read the highway signs. And you will.

Posted by T.
Springfield
14 posts

You should get the vignette, also german (and probably Austrian) regulations require a 'first aid kit' in the passenger compartment of the car. It mostly just has the bare essentials, a vest and a few other things, but if you get pulled over and they ask for it, you can be fined if you don't have one. Check with your rental car place and make sure they have them. Most of Europe has open borders...if you don't look for the "Osterrich" sign you'll miss it!