By Laura Williamson

Interrailing? City-break? Ski-trip? It can take as little as 2 hours 15 mins to fly to Austria from the UK, but just because you’re close to home doesn’t mean you should assume everything’s the same. Whether it’s public transport, how you act around the cities, or what you’re wearing, there’s laws that, if broken, can lead to hefty fines. Before you go, take a look at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office guide to Austria which, as with every country, has tons of information on what to expect.

For now, here’s a few laws and local customs to uphold to make sure your trip goes smoothly...

  • Always buy (and validate) an U-Bahn ticket

With no ticket barriers at stations, you may feel the temptation to jump onto Vienna’s U-Bahn and hope for the best. What are the chances of a ticket operator getting on? Well, actually quite high. It’s not worth trying to take advantage of the honour system which operates in many Austrian cities. Inspections occur regularly and fines can be as high as 100 euros – hefty if you’re interrailing on a budget, especially when a 24 hour ticket is as low as 7.60 euros. Also, don’t forget to validate your ticket before you use it as you can be fined just as highly for not doing that, too.

  • Know the skiing rules

Austria is a mecca for ski trips, with thousands of students flocking to the slopes every year. Skiing has been the most popular sport in Austria for over 100 years, but the International Ski Federation have rules that everyone must abide by. Make sure you check you have all the adequate equipment and have checked for any weather warnings.

  • Don’t conceal your face

It was only in 2017 when Austria’s Anti-Face-Veiling Act came into force, and although seen as controversial by many, it’s still the law of the land. The policy states that anyone wearing clothes that obscure their face can be fined 150 euros, on the spot. If police ask you to remove it, you must, or face being taken to a police station. It includes all public places and buildings, including courts, schools and transport, and while the intention of the policy is to ban Islamic headdresses, it also applies to surgical masks, fancy dress, and balaclavas worn in certain circumstances. And it’s no joke; in September a man promoting an electronics store wearing a shark costume refused to remove the shark head when stopped by police and was made to pay a fine, despite eventually removing said head.

  • Know your train etiquette

Although it might seem like common courtesy, in Austria you can also be fined or thrown off a train for kissing or eating something which smells a lot. In particular, Wiener Linier, the company who runs Vienna’s transport network, introduced 50 euro fines in 2013 for kissing, talking too loudly, speaking on a mobile phone and eating smelly takeaways. So kiss goodbye to that kebab – or maybe just wave. As in the UK, you can also be fined for putting your feet on train seats.

  • Always have your passport

Wherever you are in Austria, always make sure you have your passport readily accessible at all times. While in some European countries a UK driving licence may suffice, under Austrian law, your passport must be in the same district as you and able to be accessed within a

reasonable amount of  time.

  • Don’t jaywalk

In Austria fines are often given for jaywalking, and the law is enforced by police even if the roads are quiet – you may even be reprimanded by other members of the public. So to avoid a fine, be sure to wait for the green man.

  • Bonus: Don’t build a spherical house and declare independence

In 1976, artist Edwin Lipburger declared the new ‘Republic of Kugelmugel’ independent from Austria after getting into disputes with authorities over the spherical house he had built. After consistently refusing to pay his taxes, only a presidential pardon spared him from jail.


By Laura Williamson