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Vienna subway warning

On a recent trip to Vienna, my wife and I bought subway tickets at the entrance machine before entering the subway. We had trouble understanding the instructions on the machine; there was no ticket booth; there were no officials nearby to ask questions, only people rushing by we couldn’t ask for help.

We purchased a combined ticket for us both. Then, on the train, a subway policeman showed us his identification and checked our ticket.

We were told that we had purchased the wrong ticket. He had us leave the train at the next stop and took us to an ATM machine on the platform, where he had us withdraw 100 Euros to pay a fine.

We were embarrassed and unnerved by this and being tourists felt this was uncalled for. A warning ticket would have better proved the point and ended the encounter without leaving a bad impression of Vienna as we left the city the next day.

My wife later wrote to the Vienna Ubahn protesting the fine that we considered unwarranted. A reply from the Vienna office supported the policeman saying that regardless of our tourist status, we had broken the law.

As much as we loved visiting Vienna, this will leave a bad taste for us about our visit.

Posted by
8889 posts

I have some sympathy for the Public Transport company. If you could avoid fines for having an incorrect ticket just by claiming to be a tourist and speaking in a foreign language, then anybody could avoid paying the fare.
Confusion and mistakes do happen, but it is still worth researching the ticketing system in advance for any Public Transport system. There is usually information on the internet (here), or you could have asked at your hotel, or on this forum. And the ticket machines are multi-lingual, including English.

Was it a policeman (in uniform) or a ticket inspector? It is more likely to have been the latter, and not in uniform.
There is nothing special about Vienna imposing instant fines for not having a ticket, most systems in Europe do it.

Posted by
4690 posts

Yes, this is the system here and the price you have to pay for an honor system. There is no such thing as a warning ticket. The machines are in English, so it should have been clear what you were buying. Most stations have a manned office - at least the larger ones do. As you have realized, there is very little sympathy here for those that do not purchase tickets correctly. It is just the culture.

When you say that you purchased a combined ticket for both of you, do you remember the details? The only combined ticket I can think of is a senior ticket. As you were charged 100 Euros, it appears that one of you was covered and one of you wasn't as the fine is 100 Euro per person. It sounds like you actually just bought one ticket but pass along any details.

Sorry that you had this experience, but you are not alone as I see people getting pulled off frequently. Some argue that the risk of a fine is ultimately cheaper per year that buying tickets.

Posted by
11613 posts

Sorry you had a bad experience, but this is not uncommon all over Europe: being fined on the spot for some violation of law. As Chris noted, if there were no consequences, lots more people would work the system. Cities depend on ticket sales to defray the cost of efficient public transportation, if one does not contribute as one should under the law, imagine what would happen.

Posted by
935 posts

I'm sorry that your experience went so badly, Vienna is one of my favorite places to visit, please don't let one isolated experience keep you from visiting again. I had a similar experience on a train from Salsburg to Vienna where I thought I had bought the correct ticket but it wasn't and had to pay on the spot, sometimes you just have to let it go and move forward, we ended up having a great trip!

Posted by
13086 posts

Can you explain what type of ticket you bought so others can learn from you experience and not repeat the mistake?

Here is the ticket chart:

http://homepage.univie.ac.at/horst.prillinger/ubahn/english/fares.html

Was it the two-journey senior ticket as Emily suggests? If so, perhaps it is not meant to be shared by two people? Or one did not meet the age qualification?

I don't see where it specifies the age requirement.

Posted by
4690 posts

Lola - two people can use the senior (reduced) ticket at the same time, you just have to validate both ends. Age is 62.

Posted by
13086 posts

Thank you, Emily. We will be in Vienna for a week in 2017 ( home exchange). We mostly walk everywhere, but it is good to know how to use that discount ticket if we want to go farther. We do qualify by age and will be sure to validate both ends of the ticket.

Posted by
518 posts

I was more concerned that this would end up being a story about how the police officer turned out to be a con artist and had just scammed you out of 100 euros. I can understand the frustration, but they probably have to do this sort of thing all day long. Maybe they even get in trouble if they're caught not enforcing the law. I hear lots of stories about fake station agents and police officers intimidating, even coercing tourists into paying fake "fees" and "penalties." It's good though that the officer in your story properly identified himself.

Posted by
2893 posts

So sorry this happened to you but as noted above, this is common in Europe for people to fined instantly with the fine amount increasing if not paid on the spot. Think of it from the ticket inspector's side, every person stopped has a "reason" for the lack of proper tickets. There is really no reason to let tourists off the hook for this but every once in a while an inspector might but usually you have to really speak the language of the country and explain the error or he or she has to speak very good English so you can really explain the problem. Don't let this fine leave a bad taste in your mouth about Vienna. It sounds like you were selected at random instead of targeted as tourist and we all make mistakes and learn from them.

Posted by
9 posts

Well, "you live and learn". It seems there is little doubt we were in the wrong and expected too much. Thank you all for your input. This helps me readjust my thinking. In spite of this, Vienna was wonderful and we do plan on returning.

Posted by
4690 posts

KC - please be assured that fake station attendants collecting fines under false pretenses is not an issue here in Vienna. Attendants carry badges and work in teams. Fraudulent activity like this would not be tolerated by the public.

I would also note that there is no such thing as random checks, or profiling. The checks are done for the entire subway car, bus, tram, by a team who announce loudly what they are doing and show ID. Occasionally on the subways, when you exit the platform you will find a line of attendants backed up by police also checking everyone (not random).

To put all this into perspective, I get checked maybe 5 times/year - and I take public transport 2-3 times every day. So that's about a .5% chance each time you ride (at least for my routes).

Posted by
12895 posts

That's a stiff penalty. I thought (mistakenly here) that the fine was 60 Euro. Since my return trips to Vienna starting in 2009, I can recall having been checked at least once, still it surprised me. It was on a tram, honor system where you just hop on in the middle if you have the ticket. I had a valid general city ticket given by the hotel I was staying at.

In receiving this ticket did that prompt you to cut short the stay in Vienna, or was that your planned departure day anyway?