Monthly Archives: March 2010

Vienna part 2: more comparisons of the transportation systems

My first post on Vienna focused mainly on my first impression of the city of Vienna based on coming in by rail, from Munich, and comparing the trains.  I feel public transportation is extremely important when visiting most major European capitals, because lets face it:  I walk at least 12km/day and when I’m on vacation it’s got to be double that because my whole body falls apart.  So, to at least minimize this, public transport is a must.

In Munich I’m spoiled.  Our public transport is one of the best in the world.  Of course there are flaws (the ticketing system is difficult for even Germans to figure out), but the network is set up better than any I have seen yet. (…and yes, I have been to Paris, Madrid, Rome, Berlin, New York, etc.)

So anyways, I thought I’d do a quick direct comparison of the local transport of Vienna and Munich.


There are 4 main ways to get around town:  S-bahn, U-bahn, Trams, and buses.

The S-bahns are the commuter trains that are almost always above ground, but are underground for 5 stops.  These are by far the most useful and used part of the public transport system for tourists.  They are the fastest way from the main train station (where most hotels are located) to the center of town and back.  The S-bahn is also the cheapest and easiest way to get from the city center to the airport or vice versa.

The U-bahn is the underground system (subway).  These are almost always under ground at all times.  U-bahns are useful for commuters, but not so much for tourists as most of them merely take tourists away from the sights and do not connect them (easily at least) to the places they want to go.  As with anything there are exceptions of course:  the soccer stadium is on the U6 and the Olympic park is on the U3.

The Trams are the street cars.  They are either on the road itself of in the median of the road at all times…always above ground.


There are 4 main ways to get around town:  S-bahn, U-bahn, Trams, and buses.

The S-bahns are more like regional trains than commuter trains and are about 20 years older than Munich’s.

The U-bahns are above and below ground randomly.  (They’re fairly similar to Munich’s as far as comfort though.)

The Trams in Vienna are the main way tourists get around town and are strongly encouraged by all the guide books as well as the tourist information.  They are sometimes above ground, sometimes below…so good luck with that.  None of them go through the city center.

Below is a picture of Petra standing next to the tram tracks at an underground tram stop.

Vienna's Tram....underground and ghetto  

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was very irritated by the Vienna public transport system.  It always got us where we wanted to go with a fairly minimal wait…but everything was…well, dilapidated and archaic looking and feeling compared to Munich.  The terminology the city chose to describe the various parts of the system doesn’t tell you if you should look on the street or under it, which annoyed me immediately.  I dunno, I was irritated.

Next up I should probably talk about actual sight seeing, eh?  Well…I guess.  It’ll have to be in another post, though, as there are a lot of really cool things to see in Vienna…and we tried to see most of them.

Vienna part one: first impressions, comparison to Munich

Vienna.  Well, the first questions everyone seems to ask are “Did you like it?” and “how was it?”. 

Both of those are loaded questions, in my opinion.  As with anything there is good and bad.  Did I enjoy my vacation in Vienna?  Yes.

I finally got to see a lot of things I’ve wanted to see since I first heard of them many years ago and also discovered cool things that I wasn’t expecting necessarily.  This is why I travel…and is nearly always the case.  After many years living in Munich, Vienna isn’t a huge departure culturally, but is definitely not the same.  A friend of my wife’s that we met in Vienna kept repeating a slogan from the local tourist board “Vienna is different”, and it was.  Not better, or worse, but different.

On the train home from Vienna I thought about all the things I wanted to say about the trip here on the blog, but unfortunately I don’t have a direct link from my brain to the computer, so these things take time as I’m always distracted at the computer by all the random people that want things from me.

I thought I would start with my first impressions of the city…transportation and the hotel.

We took the new rail Rail Jet which is, and I very jokingly quote: “Austria’s high speed train”.  It tops out at 200km/hr, which is reasonably fast…but you have to consider that 90% of the time it’s going 80-100km/hr.  In comparison, you can look at Germany’s high speed train, the ICE, which regularly travels at speeds up to 320km/hr.  The Rail jet, although a comfortable train with friendly service, is not a high speed train by European standards.  Anyways, it was a nice fairly short ride to Vienna and into the West train station.

Our hotel was the “Allegro”, which has a decent location and worked rather well for our purposes.  It is a 3-star hotel for under 50 bucks a night…can you really go wrong there?  Breakfast was included and quite decent as well….better than average in fact.

We came into town, went to a ticket machine for the S-bahn, U-bahn, and trams of Vienna…and their ticket machine was very easy to figure out.  In comparison to Munich, that was SUPER-easy.  The S-bahns and U-bahns, on the other hand…are a bit, umm…I think I would say “ghetto” in comparison to Munich.  Being extremely used to public transportation, we got to our hotel very quickly and without a hassle at all.  Most of this was expected, though, as Vienna has a reputation as being a very comparable city to Munich.  I guess I expected their transportation system to be updated like Munich’s has been…but apparently they don’t have the money to do it there.

Anyways, I think I’ve written enough for this post, I’ll write more on Vienna later, in parts 2-56.

Have a good one