A Vienna to Salzburg Train ride is most definitely the best way to travel between the Austrian cities.
In this post, you will learn how to do exactly that and what you need to look out for. The tips here also apply for the other way around, Salzburg to Vienna
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🗺️ Train Route
Vienna (called Wien in German), is the capital of the Austrian country, and it’s located to the east.
Salzburg city is the capital of the Salzburg Region, which is centrally located in Austria.
The train from Vienna to Salzburg, or vice versa, will take you across rural Austria. The distance is about 180 miles or 300 kilometers.
You will cross the Lower Austria region (Niederösterreich), the Upper Austria region (Oberösterreich) and the Salzburg region at last.
This part of the country is hilly and at times flat, and you will cross some larger lakes such as the Mondsee.
🚉 Train Options
You have two options when picking a train from Vienna to Salzburg.
The ÖBB is the national railway system (short for Österreichische Bundesbahn). Most trains that cross Austria are ÖBB trains. The trains are usually red, and the wagons come in various colors.
When choosing an ÖBB train, pick the quickest option, the ones that stop less frequently at smaller stations.
The Railjet Xpress and the Railjet (classic version) are the only trains on this route where you won’t have to change train. The Xpress is the high-speed train.
Try to avoid Regional S2 trains and the ICE because you will have to switch train and it and the train ride will take more than 4 hours.
The Xpress ride takes about 2h 20 mins, the regular Railjet takes about 2h 50 mins to reach. The former has only 3 stopovers, Wien Meidling, St.Pölten and Linz. The regular Railjet, on the other hand, has about 10 stopovers.
You can get in at the Wien Hauptbahnhof (main station) or at the Airport Wien Schwechat. Salzburg has one main train station, which is called Salzburg Hauptbahnhof.
The Railjet Xpress and the regular Railjet both operate every hour. The last trains are somewhere between 10 pm and 12 am, and the first one at 5 am.
They also offer a nightjet sleeper train between this route, but that train ride can take more than 3 hours. An Euronight or Eurocity train operated late at night from Vienna to Salzburg, but not the other way around.
The ÖBB has a great functioning App in German and English, and the ÖBB website is also easy to use. You can choose a train and pay in one go.
The Westbahn has been operating trains on the Austrian rail network, but so far, only between Vienna and Salzburg. They just opened a new route to Munich in Bavaria Germany and next year they have announced to tackle Innsbruck in Tyrol.
Their trains operate every 30 minutes from 6 am to 10 pm, and you don’t have to change train to get from A to B. the ride itself is about 2h 30 mins.
You get in at the Wien Westbahnhof or Wien Hütteldorf. This is the main difference to the ÖBB train, the Westbahn’s last stop is the Westbahnhof, and they don’t go any further to the Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) or to the Vienna Airport.
The stop in Salzburg is always the same one, the main train station.
The Westbahnhof has a couple of stopovers, but that doesn’t seem to slow down the train if you compare it to the ÖBB.
The App and Website are ok, but not as smooth as the ÖBB app and Website.
🎫 Ticket Cost
Train ticket prices can vary from one day to another.
Especially ÖBB tickets are very variable. The cheapest ticket we ever got was €23 per Person for one way, and that was a Sparschiene Ticket. Those tickets are for budget travelers and the ticket is set for that particular train.
Sparschiene tickets are usually set at odd times, so getting them is not a guarantee. But getting them on the same day is a possibility.
Most ÖBB Tickets average at €55 per Person. Last-Minute Tickets are always more expensive, especially if they are during rush hours or weekends.
The Westbahn, on the other hand, is selling €45 Tickets. They have 3 tier groups for tickets, the standard price, the super price and a special rate price for those who have a membership card.
The Westbahn Super price resembles the ÖBB Sparschiene Ticket, which costs also the same.
I think you should compare between the trains to see which one suits you best and then check if you need to get in at the Airport, main station or the Westbahnhof station.
Know that both, the ÖBB and the Westbahn Tickets, do not include a reservation to your ticket-fare. You have the option to buy that along for €3 per seat.
Reserve a seat if you are traveling on a busy timing of the day or just before a holiday or a weekend. The trains can be rather crammed and if there are too many people standing, they will ask those without a reservation to leave the train due to security concerns (Yep, that happens).
🆚 ÖBB VS Westbahn
Both trains are good but each has pros and cons.
The ÖBB has a better app and they stop at the airport. Their trains are a bit older, that’s a con, and the conductor takes longer to come. Those trains tend to be more full too with students moving up and down.
The Westbahn rates are always the same and at times cheaper. The trains are new double-decker trains, and you can check in with a QR code when you sit down so that the conductor doesn’t have to come. They have trains every 30 mins but they don’t stop at the main station nor the Vienna itnernational airport.
- You can buy tickets at the train station on a ticket counter or online. They take cards and cash at the counter.
- Online tickets are either mobile tickets or printed. You have to choose between the two. The default is mobile because they are climate-friendly. The mobile ticket is a large QR Code with your details mentioned under that.
- You can’t reserve a seat once you are in your train. You have to do it before.
- If you didn’t reserve a seat, look above the seat to see whether it is reserved or not. A reserved seat will mention two destinations or will appear with a lit number.
- You can buy 1st class or 2nd class tickets. The second class tickets are valid for the family zone and the peace zone.
- You get free descent WIFI in all trains.
- There is space in the train to keep your luggage
- The main station in Vienna and the Westbahnhof in Vienna are both easily accessible from the city center with the Metro or Tram network.
- The train station in Salzburg is a bit away from the old city. Tram, bus or taxi can get you there but you can also just walk there.
- From Salzburg city you can get to other destinations such as Hallstatt, Zell am See or Kaprun.