Road tripping in Austria: some useful things to know

Austria, the historical land of Mozart, Wiener schnitzel and high Alpine roads is the perfect place to go for a road trip.

I recently went on a short road trip to Austria with my boyfriend (you can find our itinerary at the bottom), so I now have a few travel tips to share with you. Although you can reach most of the major sights in Austria using public transport, it is always nice to have the freedom of a car and, if you decide for that, here are some useful things to know:

  • Driving on the motorways requires a toll sticker (vignette). The 10 day one is not particularly expensive, so I recommend you get one, as it will make your life much easier.
  • Since most of the country is located in the mountains, Austria has many panoramic mountain roads, such as Grossglockner or Villach Alpine road etc.. They are all very beautiful, but will cost you, as each of them has a toll charge, so check the price and the weather conditions, as there is no point in driving up there, if you can’t see anything or if there is still snow and you would need winter car gear.
  • Some tunnels also have an additional, expensive toll charge, such as the Tauern tunnel, and the costs can really add up, so try to avoid them if you are on a budget (it is usually possible to do that).
  • The roads are generally in good condition, but can be quite steep if you go up in the mountains (we had a 27% incline slope at some point).
  • Make sure you check the price before you fill up your tank: Austria does not have a uniform gas price, so filling up on the highway or in smaller towns can cost you double the normal price. Pay attention to the gas prices you see along the way, so you will know what to expect. Some petrol station companies can also be more expensive than others.
  • There are plenty of picnic spots with benches and tables along the roads, usually at scenic locations, so you can save some money by buying your food in the supermarket and having a picnic.
  • When booking accommodation, check also around the city you are visiting, as Austria has plenty of nice hotels and guesthouses located in the smaller towns and suburbs. If you have a car it doesn’t really make a difference where you stay and you can get great standard for a much lower price than in the city (we stayed in Mühlbach am Hochkönnig and Selzthal for that reason).
  • Austria also has lakes and well-maintained castles practically around every corner, so do not plan your itinerary too tight, as you will want to stop at some of the places you see along the way.
Some site specific tips:
  • Entering Austria from Slovenia – you have 3 options: the Karawanks tunnel (the easiest one), or two mountain passes, Ljubelj (the oldest and steepest mountain pass in Europe) or Podkoren (Wurzenpass). Check the weather conditions and requirements for both of these, as they are often closed due to snow or maintenance, but the roads are very beautiful in the summer.
  • Crossing the Austrian-German border – you can easily cross to Germany at any time, which you may want to do particularly in the Berchtesgaden region, as there shouldn’t be any border crossings due to the Schengen area.
Our road trip itinerary can be found on the map below:

Picnic below the Hochosterwitz castle.

Since we are both from Slovenia, visiting Austria meant only a few hours drive for us, so we packed the car full of picnic gear and off we went. Our itinerary was a bit strange, as we were trying to avoid the 1st of May holiday crowds at Vienna and decided on visiting Salzburg instead, but also wanted to visit some other specific places on the way.

Some random stops on the road:

We were on the road for 5 days, spent about 300 – 350 € each (includes everything), cooked our breakfasts and dinners at our apartment in Mühlbach for the last 3 days, had a picnic the first day and got quite lost on the road a few times, so we were not exactly stingy with our diesel. We stopped wherever we felt like it and ate plenty of treats. However, we have both seen most of these places before, so we skipped some of the major attractions and saved both time and money that we otherwise would not.

This is also the reason I don’t do recommended itinerary posts, as I have a specific style of travelling, strange interests and have seen lots of place around Europe as a child already. I prefer to present the places I’ve seen in my photo travel guides and let you decide if you would like to include them in your own itinerary – planning a trip should be half the fun!

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15 thoughts on “Road tripping in Austria: some useful things to know

  1. driving in different countries has become our favorite. We went to Vienna by train and it was kind of boring, but renting a car in Romania was so much more fun because we got to see so much more of the country.

      1. Some great tips in here. I would have never thought that there might be tolls on the highways. I love driving in the mountains so a roadtrip in Austria would be right up my alley.

  2. I wish I had the courage to drive in another country. We live someplace flat so when it comes to steep mountains, I leave that to my husband. Thanks for providing all the details on the tolls. Those can really add up!

      1. I’m visiting Austria in a couple of weeks. There are so many great tips and recommendations. Adding a few of these to my itinerary!

  3. Wish I had the courage to drive in another country. We live. In a flat city so I leave driving on mountains to my husband! Thanks for the tips on the tolls. Those add up!

  4. Since we are from Italy I well know what does it mean in the winter. Crossing the border is often a big issue since the snow comes down like hell in that area!

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