Austria overland travel guide

View of the Austrian Alps, Innsbruck

Austria, despite its relatively small size, is a pretty big draw for visitors to Europe. Some come for the classical architecture, classical music, art galleries, and atmospheric cafes; others for the mountains, lakes, and forests. I do like all of the above, but fall mainly into the latter category – most of the time I’ve spent in Austria revolved around snowboarding. My first visit there was just for a few days in Vienna as part of an Interrail trip around Europe, but then a few years later I spent a ski season in Innsbruck and Mayrhofen.

Travel to, from, and within Austria overland

Austria has well-developed road and rail networks, both of which are easy ways to get around the country. Austria was part of both of my Interrail trips, and an Interrail pass (for Europeans) or a Eurail pass (for non-Europeans) is a good way to travel to Austria overland as part of a wider European trip.

As a member of the Schengen Area, and being surrounded by fellow Schengen countries, border crossings aren’t something you have to think about much when overlanding through Austria (although police do sometimes board trains near borders to check IDs).

One of the most memorable train journeys I’ve ever done was the beautiful route from Innsbruck to Zurich (passing through Liechtenstein), though the best of the lakes & mountains scenery was on the Swiss side. Another of my most memorable train journeys – for the wrong reasons – was the night train from Vienna to Rome. Long story short, we woke up in Italy with groggy heads (gassed?) and without our passports and wasted a few extra unplanned days in Rome applying for new ones… while Rome isn’t exactly the worst place to get stuck, getting robbed and traipsing around police stations and embassies really sucks. A better plan than the night train to Rome, I’d suggest, would be to take a day train from Vienna to Venice and travel on through Italy from there. I can’t even remember why we decided to skip Venice! (Lack of funds, probably)

Things to do in Austria

Go snowboarding!

Get classical in Vienna and Salzburg. In Salzburg you can wander around the Altstadt (Old Town) and visit Mozart’s house, head up to the castle, and eat Mozart Balls (chocolate & marzipan); and Vienna has all the classical art, music, and architecture you can handle.

Go skiing!

Sit in a grand old Viennese coffeehouse sipping an Einspänner (basically a glass of espresso with a mighty dollop of whipped cream on top) while knowing that Trotsky, Freud, and various others of historical significance (for reasons good and bad) used to do likewise.

Resources and Useful Links for Visiting Austria

Official website for the Interrail pass

Official website for the Eurail pass

World Nomads offer flexible travel insurance you can buy even if already overseas (this can be a key point, as I once found out when I got pickpocketed). Also check out their winter sports cover if you’re hitting the slopes.

Lonely Planet: Europe on a Shoestring

Seat 61 has the details for London to Austria by train

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