How do I get to a castle hotel?
Austria has excellent public transportation. The train, bus, or a combination of both will get you to the most remote Alpine village. Many castle hotels in the countryside will even pick you up at the train station with advance notice.
Clean, super efficient trains will zip you past spectacular scenery from one end of the country to the other. Train travel is also integrated with other services such as car and bicycle rentals. Just out the front of every station, you’ll find buses, coordinated with train arrivals, ready to take you to where the tracks don’t reach.
With a plethora of complicated rail pass options for those who live in and outside Europe, questions abound over the value of a rail pass. I love the spontaneity of wandering into a train station and hopping on whatever to wherever I fancy, but there’s a price to pay for that sort of freedom. Unfortunately, to maximize your savings, you must think out ahead of time what you might want to do. Do you want to visit neighboring countries? Are there two or more of you traveling together? If you choose a rail pass with a set number of travel days within a period of time, use your pass for long days and pay separately for a short hop to the next town. A Europass Drive combines both train travel and rental car, which is an ideal way of exploring the country. If you plan on staying only in Austria, look into an Austrian Railpass, which is good for three days of unlimited train travel in a fifteen-day period and for discounts on Danube steamers and bike rentals.
The Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichischen or ÖBB) has scheduling information, travel times, and bus connections on its site.
Buses cover those areas where the trains don’t go. Austria has two different bus networks: the Austrian Postal Service and the Austrian Federal Railways. You’ll often find these buses just outside the rail stations. Information about schedules and routings can be found at hotels and tourist offices. Look closely at the train schedules posted at the stations and you’ll find the connecting bus schedules listed as well.
If you plan on using public transportation to reach a castle hotel, ask at the tourist office and they will be able to advise you.
Ideal in the countryside, hellish in the cities, a rental car can take you exactly to where you want to go. Driving is a grand (and sometimes expensive) adventure; if there are two or more of you traveling, it may just work out as a more economical and time-saving option. However, there are two main drawbacks: cars are a burden in the cities—parking is at a premium, streets are impossibly complicated to navigate—and you’re separated from contact with Austrians, preventing you from experiencing one of the most memorable highlights of your trip.
A couple of things to keep in mind if you rent a car:
With its lower rates and taxes, look into renting a car in Germany.
Don’t rent a car at the airport. You’ll be charged a 15% airport tax. Go into town and rent a car there.
Be sure your car has a Autobahnvignette, a small trapezoid-shaped sticker that goes on your windshield, allowing you to drive on the autobahn. As a tourist, you can buy one with a ten-day or two-month validity; they are available at gas stations, tobacconists, or near the border. Count on being fined if your car does not have one! You can get around this, of course, by avoiding the autobahns.
For more information on reaching the castle hotels, check out the individual hotel listings.