Train Tickets in Austria

SO, I feel like kind of an idiot. Help me understand what I need to do and where I need to do it, please! I'm traveling with my sister and my husband in December in Austria. We're flying from London to Salzburg, then we'll be taking the train from Salzburg to Innsbruck on December 16th. On December 18th, we'll be taking the train from Innsbruck to Vienna. Here's my hangup. I'm looking at the bahn.de website. I don't speak German, so I'm using the English version. When I enter a destination, I see stations with Hbf after. Is this the main city station? What does Hbf mean? How do I figure out from the list of options which station is the one I need? Next, I have my dates, but I don't see any ticket prices. Is that because I can't book through bahn.de or because it's too early? This will be my first trip to Austria; where do I book train tickets for Austria? Or, do I need to make reservations at all? I have the RS Vienna book, and it seems that he recommends not getting reservations, but that worries me as a planner, especially with my experience with train travel in France. What do I do? Thanks for helping me in my silliness. :)

Posted by Kevin
near Ringwood, Hampshire, UK
521 posts

What does Hbf mean? It's an abbreviation for HochHauptbahnhof, or main / central station. How do I figure out from the list of options which station is the one I need? Look through the list for an airport station, if that is where you are travelling from. Otherwise use Google Maps to find the location where you will be, and search for railway stations nearby. where do I book train tickets for Austria? http://www.oebb.at/en/index.jsp

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Becca, I'm not overly familiar with Austrian rail, but I'll try to provide some information..... In German-speaking areas the letter "Hbf" indicate Hauptbahnhof, which refers to the principal or main station in a city. Other less important stations seem to be referred to as Bahnhof. For rail travel in Austria, you may want to use the www.oebb.at/en/ website rather than the Bahn.de site. I believe the bahn site only allows bookings on rail trips which originate in Germany, which is likely the reason you're not seeing any ticket prices for trips in Austria. I normally just buy tickets at the stations in each country. If reservations are required for a particular train, those will be included with the ticket. Happy travels!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9133 posts

"Next, I have my dates, but I don't see any ticket prices. Is that because I can't book through bahn.de or because it's too early?" Yes and yes. I don't know if ÖBB offers advanced purchase discounts, but in my experience riding trains in Austria, reservations are not necessary. "How do I figure out from the list of options which station is the one I need?" With the exception of Vienna, most cities in Austria are not large enough to have more than one long distance rail station (if any other stations are even listed, these are likely commuter rail stations or even bus stops). Choosing the Hauptbahnhof is usually a safe bet. And anyway, on the ÖBB website, if you use the generic "Vienna" as your start point, it will automatically adjust to the proper station.

Posted by Becca
Provo, UT
163 posts

Thank you!! I'll look into that website, but it sounds like I can wait to buy my tickets until we arrive in Austria. My sister speaks German, so I'll let her buy them. :)

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11277 posts

Austria Rail sells advance purchase discount tickets online for less than the cost you can get ticket over there over the counter just before travel. It might be advantageous for you (or her) to get your tickets now (if you can commit to a certain time and date because the discount tickets are train specific and non-refundable).

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
142 posts

oebb.at is really easy to use (in English!) and there are cheaper tickets if you book in advance for a specific train. Also reduced fares for groups of 2 or more. Seat reservations are also easy to make at the same time, or separately (about 4 euros per transaction, so a reservation for 3 seats is 1 transaction) Just finished doing this for several trips in Austria, and my German is almost non-existent.

Posted by Becca
Provo, UT
163 posts

Thanks, Lee and Laura. Laura, you mention group tickets; is it pretty easy to find those online? Since there are 3 of us, I think it will probably be advantageous. And, we have hotels booked; we can definitely commit to specific trains. I'll see what we can do. Thanks again, everyone!

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
142 posts

On the oebb.at website it asks how many people are traveling on the ticket, and will give you prices for different types of tickets including group (2 or more)

Posted by Becca
Provo, UT
163 posts

Okay, I've looked into the oebb website and found the english version, and I thought everything was great. I looked into booking mid-September, about 4 months before my travel dates, and the site said that the timetables are only valid through December 14th, and my first train travel day is December 16th. No big deal, I thought...I'd wait until I returned from Paris. I'm back now, and the site is saying the same thing. When I try to book, it won't find any matches, and when I look at the timetable, it says the same thing at the bottom of the page: timetables are only valid through December 14th. When might the tables be updated? I'd like to book in advance to take advantage of any discount available, but I'm not sure when I'll be able to book. Anyone have experience with this? Thanks!

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2279 posts

Yes, all the railways in Europe do a semi annual schedule adjustment in December, this year it falls on Dec 15. Keep checking back, they should have the schedule out soon.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
650 posts

Letter from Austria ; we are in Austria now , on our way to Munich from Salzburg tomorrow AM . While it is true that reservations are not required even for railjet trains , they cost little , and in my opinion are advisable if you are riding on a railjet . On two such runs , I saw travelers scrambling for seats and having to continually hump baggage about when they found that someone reserved the seat they were in . Standard IC and RE trains pose no such problems , but if you choose a railjet you would be well advised to reserve your seats for about EU 3 per seat .

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, Good that your sister can do the talking in German, but still at the train station ticket counters the Austrian staff speak very good English, if that's important to you.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

Another thought on Hauptbahnhof. Unlike Airports, which were built much later, the Hbf is generally in the city center (I can't think of any that aren't) - usually walking distance from the area you will most likely want to visit.

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
318 posts

In Vienna, the was never a Hauptbahnhof until about a few months ago as this huge construction project has only just completed an initial phase. At the moment, only regional travel originates from this new station (former Sudbahnhof). Vienna continues to have numerous train stations all of which (including the new Hauptbahnhof) are far from the center.