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LOCATION AND TRAVEL

This page is intended to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the more important rules and regulations associated with driving in Austria.  Links to additional websites have been provided as further information resources.

Although we endeavour to keep all information current, rules and regulations are subject to change and we accept no responsibility for out-of-date information presented here.

DRIVING IN AUSTRIA

The first thing you need to know about driving in Austria is that most vehicles are left-hand-drive and travel on the right hand side of the road.  For most Europeans this is quite normal, however if you are visiting from Australia or the UK it can take a bit of getting used to.   If you are traveling to Austria in your right-hand-drive car be aware that some junctions and turnings can be "blind" and take extra care when visibility is poor and when overtaking.

LEGAL REQUIREMENTS

In the Vehicle...

European driving laws have become much more stringent in recent years and anyone driving in Austria must ensure that they have the following equipment in their vehicle:

Reflective Jacket or Waistcoat

First Aid Kit

Warning Triangle

The Motorcycle laws are a bit vague.  It states clearly that Motorcylists must carry a first aid kit but only "recommends" that a reflective jacket and warning triangle are carried.   There are high fines for car drivers found without this equipment in their car, so we advise that all motorists take the recommendations seriously!

www.theaa.com

The AA provide a useful and downloadable reference table of mandatory inclusions for Europe.

Click HERE to view (opens pdf document in a new page)

The AA also promote a very useful online Shop where all necessary equipment can be purchased at quite good value.  Click HERE to visit or follow the links at the bottom of the page.

Right-Hand-Drive Vehicles...

There are various rules and regulations listing what you should and shouldn't do with your headlights.  Right-hand-drive vehicles designed to drive on the left hand side of the road have the biggest issue, whilst the vehicle's headlights point the wrong way for the Austrian roads.  The legal requirement is vaguely put as "not to cause dazzle to oncoming drivers" rather than specific regulations regarding adjustments to the headlamp beam pattern.  However, in poor visibility and especially at night the headlamps direction can be an issue.   This does not mean that you have to replace your headlamps to travel to Austria.  Check you car handbook - it is possible that a simple adjustment done by your Car Dealer can alter the beam pattern.  Alternatively you can buy for reasonable money, a Headlamp Beam Converter Kit.  These do not necessarily fit every car so please read the applications carefully.  

The AA is once again a good source of advice, and headlamp beam converter kits can be bought directly from their Online Shop shop for about £5.00.

If you are traveling to Austria from the UK you need to ensure that your car is adorned with a GB sticker, this is usually stuck to the number plate.  Cars registered after March 2001 have Euro number plates including the GB Euro-symbol which should make the GB sticker unnecessary for travel with the EU.  However in some countries it is required even with EU plates and failure to comply could result in an on-the-spot fine!

Driving in Winter...

From 1st November to 15th April each year, Austrian Law states that any vehicle (up to a weight of 3500kg) driving on the roads in Wintry Conditions - Snow, Slush or Ice -  must be fitted with Winter Tyres or have Snow Chains fitted to the Driving Wheels.

If you are involved in an accident during these Winter months and it is found that your car is not fitted with the designated equipment the consequences include a fine of up to €5,000, the Vehicle may be impounded and there is every possibility that your insurance will be deemed Void!

The wording of the law is open to interpretation, and it indicates that Snow Chains on Summer Tyres can be used as an alternative to Winter Tyres.  However, apart from the inherently difficult mounting of Snow Chains and the conditions in which this is often done (road side, bad weather, freezing cold, etc), this equipment can only be used when the road is covered by a complete or scarcely broken snow cover or sheet of ice.  In practice, because road conditions cannot be predicted and the weather is very changeable, the use of Winter Tyres is effectively compulsory and Snow Chains must be carried within the vehicle.

Acceptable Winter, All Weather and Studded Tyres are those labeled with "M + S", "MS" or "M & S" symbol.   Tyres must also have an acceptable tread depth - at least 4 - 5mm.

www.theaa.com

Click HERE to view the AA guide to Winter Tyre and Snow Chain regulations throughout Europe

(opens a new page)

Further Information resources can be found at the bottom of this page.

In addition to tyres, we recommend adding a good anti-freeze to your car radiator - something that will go down to around minus 20°.  It is also a good idea to do the same for your windscreen washers.

If you intend to hire a car for your winter journey, be sure to select the "Winterisation" option and make sure that your hire car is fitted with all of the appropriate equipment.  Please do not assume that the hire company will automatically do this for you - in the eyes of the Law it is your responsibility.

AUSTRIAN MOTORWAYS

The Vignette...

Austria boasts a very good network of well maintained Motorways called Autobahns.  These roads often stretch to multiple lanes with a maximum speed limit of 130km/h (81m/h).  In order to drive on the Autobahn you must purchase a Vignette.  This is an Austria Motorway Tax Sticker which is placed inside your vehicle to the top left of the front Windscreen.  Click on the Vignette image to the right to find out more (opens a new page).

A Vignette can be purchased from most Garages, Post Offices and Motorway Stops and can be purchased for 10 days, 2 months or 1 calendar year.  For further information and to order online click HERE

Below you can see the prices for 2015.  Motorbikes riders can enjoy a reduced tarif.

10 Days

€8,70

The fine for being caught driving without a Vignette can be up to €3,00.00 !!

This is also important information for those of you out there who are hiring a car for the journey.  Make sure that the car either comes complete with a Vignette or purchase one before you get Autobahn.

2 Months

€25,30

1 Calendar Year

€84,40

 

Toll Roads...

Many of the Autobahn tunnels charge an additional Toll for driving through them - an example being the Tauern Tunnel en-route to St Michael.  Be prepared and carry plenty of Euro change.

Using a good Map of Europe or a GPS device you can avoid Autobahns and Toll Roads altogether.  The resulting journey will take you along scenic routes throughout the Landscape which are undoubtedly slower but a rewarding experience for those of you not in a hurry.  Please be aware that even with a car fitted for Winter, some of the Mountain Roads can be very dangerous in Slush, Snow and Icy Conditions.

FURTHER RECOMMENDATIONS

Vehicle and Travel Insurance...

Make sure that you have at least 3rd Party Vehicle insurance before traveling to Europe.  Often Insurance companies will add the additional European Cover for the period of your holiday, therefore not affecting you yearly premium.  We recommend arranging the details with your insurance company well in advance of your departure date.

Additionally, make sure that your personal or family travel insurance covers you for your journey - loss of cases/theft/delay - and for your intended vacation - ski/extreme sports cover.

Breakdown Insurance and Recovery...

If you already have breakdown cover it is worth while checking to see if this can be, or already extends to Europe.

We do not recommend traveling across Europe without some form of Breakdown assurance.

Important Documents...

When you drive or ride through Europe, make sure you carry your vehicle registration documents (the originals) or vehicle hire information, your passport, driving licence (valid for Europe!), insurance certificate, breakdown certificate/breakdown information and your European Health Insurance Card.  We also recommend keeping a note of the contact numbers for Haus Bellevue.

Out of experience, it is worthwhile photocopying or scanning all of your important documents before traveling - Passport, Driving Licence, Birth Certificate,etc.  Then if any should get lost during your travels, you will have a back up to aid in obtaining replacements.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

The following websites will provide you with additional resources and links for further information.

The AA Guide to Motoring in Austria

The AA General Advice for Driving in Europe

The AA Shop - for the purchase of all mandatory equipment, including headlight beam converters.

E-Tyres - Winter Tyre Laws in Austria, also a source for purchase

Austrian Info - Practical Driving Regulations in Austria, including Vignette and Toll Road Information

Euro Legal - An brief overview of how to follow Austrian Driving Legislation

ÖAMTC - Austria's most popular breakdown and Motor Company, providing an overview of Austrian Winter Driving Laws and requirements.

The ÖAMTC is a very useful site but it is in German.  For help with translation click HERE.  If you are viewing the page through Google Chrome you can get your browser to do the translation for you.

Advice for Motorcyclists - personal advice driven by interest and travel experience and provided by a non-commercial website.

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