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Vienna transport

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The primary means of transportation for Vienna's residents and visitors alike is the public transit system, especially the streetcars and subways. The inner neighborhoods of the city are webbed by an extensive network of subway and streetcar lines, with transport in the suburbs supplemented by buses and commuter trains. Public transportation in Vienna is fast, safe, and inexpensive.

There are no turnstiles in the transport system, and there is no one to check tickets as you board a train or bus. This makes for swift and easy access, but it doesn't mean that public travel is free. Tickets must be purchased at a vending machine or convenience store. Vending machines are found throughout the subway stations and in the vicinity of many streetcar and bus stops. There are smaller machines inside streetcars and buses that let you purchase single-fare tickets at a slightly elevated price.

If you plan to use public transport more than twice a day, a day pass is more economical than purchasing single fares. Passes may also be purchased for three days or eight days at increased savings.

If there is a commotion on the train or bus, it is most probably a squad of public-transport officers coming through to check tickets. These checks take place rarely enough—on fewer than one percent of voyages— that you may be tempted to board without a ticket. You then risk the unpleasant surprise of being caught and heavily fined. To ensure carefree travel, purchase a multi-day pass upon your arrival in Vienna and carry it everywhere in your wallet.

The full German name of the subway is Unterbahn, or U-bahn for short. The U stands for “under”, although the Viennese subway travels above ground in several parts, especially over the Danube. The subway lines are color-coded on maps and signs. The purple line, named U2, runs in a semi-circle around the inner city. The red line, U1, cuts through the center of the city and takes you out over the New Danube, onto Danube Island, and into the Old Danube area. The green line, U4, stops at the City Park and at Schönbrunn Palace in the suburbs. These are the three subway lines that tourists will find most useful.

The streetcar system is called Strassenbahn, which means “street rail”. An alternative German name for it is “tramway”, so local English speakers will generally refer to an individual streetcar as a “tram”. Streetcars run throughout the city, outnumbering even the buses. Tourists will be interested in the number 1 and number 2 streetcar lines, which run clockwise and counter-clockwise around the Ring road that encircles the inner city.

As you travel toward the outer neighborhoods of Vienna, especially to the forest and wine districts in the hills, buses become more prevalent. In these parts, you may also find it convenient to take the Schnellbahn, meaning “fast rail”, or S-bahn for short. These are commuter trains that travel partly inside Vienna, but are best for going outside the city into the scenic landscape and quaint riverside towns of Lower Austria.

If you rent a bicycle in Vienna, you can take it with you on the subway and on commuter trains, but not on streetcars or buses. If you must take a taxi in Vienna, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that most cabs are Mercedes sedans, but you will be less delighted by the expensive rates. If you are going to take to the roads very often, it is likely to be more economical to rent a car for the duration of your stay. Lastly, don't forget that Vienna is exceedingly pedestrian-friendly, with vehicle-free zones covering much of the inner city.
 

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