Don't Buy Discount Cards
As you research your trip to Vienna, you will find mention of cards and passes you can buy which will save you money. The main ones are the Vienna PASS and the Vienna Card. The Vienna Pass gets you free entry to many attractions for 1, 2, 3, or 6 days (€59, €87, €109 or €136), and the Vienna Card gets you discounts on entry to attractions and concerts, as well as in shops, restaurants, and cafes.
Sounds good? Well, it depends. If you are truly on a budget, you are likely to spend more than you save.
These discount cards are worth it for some tourists. If you want to visit lots of the tourist attractions, take the sightseeing bus, and go in loads of the art galleries and museums, they will save you money. For example, if you go into three or more paying tourist attractions each day, then the Vienna PASS is worth it for most visitors.
The Vienna Card will also save you money if you use it enough, but not all the discounts are that big. Unless you are smart about it, you are likely to end up spending more just to make use of your discount.
Before you buy either of these cards, think carefully about how you want to spend your time in Vienna. Remember you can do things in Vienna for free. Some of my suggestions are below.
Travelling to Vienna: Best Value Travel From the Airport
On arrival in Vienna airport, don't follow the obvious signs to get the City Airport Train, go to platforms 1 or 2 instead. Budget conscious travellers can save by getting the standard train. (either the S-Bahn 7 - which is one of the local Vienna train lines ...
...or one of the long distance trains that stops off in Vienna (Wien Hauptbahnhof) before going further out of the city).
The City Airport Train is the fastest way to Wien Mitte train station, but it only saves 9 minutes. The other trains stop at more stops, so depending where you are staying they may take you to a closer train stop, so you end up saving time.
Remember you need to buy your ticket before boarding the train
The cheapest way to get around Vienna is to walk. The city is not that big, and most of the main tourist destinations are within walking distance of each other.
You may wish to plan your route well, so you don't double back on yourself.
There are some tourist attractions which are a bit further out. For example, Schönbrunn Palace, the 18th century residence summer residence of the Austrian royal family is a few miles out of the centre of Vienna. It has beautiful gardens which are open to the public.
However, if you really wanted to you could walk there- it is 6.5 kilometres from the centre. Vienna is not that big a city.
Walking around is the cheapest option, but public transport in Vienna is well organised and efficient if you prefer not to walk. Plan ahead and think about how often you will use public transport before you buy your tickets.
Transport is integrated which means that the same tickets are valid on the U-bahn (underground), S-bahn (local train services), buses and trams.
If you plan on using lots of transport every day of your ticket then consider a pass which is valid for a specific time period. These can be valid for 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, or a week.
However, if you are going to take the U-bahn or S-bahn only once or twice a day, you are will be better buying single tickets.
Beware, tickets need to be validated in a ticket machine before you get on a train, or when you board a tram or a bus. There are hefty fines if you get caught fare dodging.
A good way to get an initial sense of Vienna is to take a trip around the Ringstrasse. This is a road that goes around the centre of the old historical part of the city. When I first went to Vienna, this was a trip my Austrian host took us on. Going around the Ringstrasse gives you a very good sense of the main historic buildings in Vienna.
There are special sightseeing tours that travel the Ringstrasse, including the special Vienna sightseeing tram. The money saving version of this is to take the municipal trams 1 and 2, and change lines at the Opera House.
Museums and Galleries: How to Save
There is no shortage of excellent art to see in Vienna. Unfortunately, many of the art galleries have expensive entrance fees. It sometimes costs upwards of 15 euros for a single ticket!
You can see the outside for free, and it is worth walking past to admire the architecture of many, but entrance will usually cost.
There are certain days of the year when you can get free or reduced admission.
Travel on the 26 October, Austria's National Day and many galleries and museums will have either free or reduced entry.
If you are travelling to Vienna near the beginning of October, check whether you can get tickets for the 'Lange Nacht der Museen' (Long night of the museums). This is a day when most of the city's museums open their doors in the evenings. This is not free - tickets are around 15 euros, but this is well worth it if you want to go to several different galleries.
I have provided information above about the free options in Vienna. However many of the paying Art Galleries and Museums in Vienna are excellent, and it is worth paying to visit some of them if you are interested in art. Some famous Austrian artists are Schiele, Klimt and Hundertwasser. You can also see works by the artists Bruegal and Albrecht Dürer.
Given the number of galleries, I recommend researching before you arrive so you can decide what you really want to go and see. Unless you are going on a long trip it will be difficult and expensive to go to all the excellent art. If you have a budget you need to prioritise.
One of the main attractions in Vienna that you cannot miss is 'Stephansdom' or St. Stephen's Cathedral. The cathedral is hundreds of years old, dating back to the fourteenth century.
You can still see parts of the Cathedral for free, so you should at least pop in. There are various options for paid tours if you want to see more or go up the tower. If you are willing to spend a little, I recommend the catacombs tour. At 6 euros the price to go underground isn't bad, and when I went on the tour it was really interesting. You don't emerge where you would expect.
Countless coffee houses and extensive dining options all housed in the grandest architecture imaginable. This popular destination has much to offer holiday makers.
As ingrained in the culture as football is in Britain, baseball in the U.S., or barbeque in Australia, coffee houses have graced the streets of Vienna for centuries and are the perfect venue for a break in a busy schedule. Sit down, relax and enjoy a coffee, perhaps some cake.
Each cafe has its own unique personality, so with a little exploration, you will be sure to find the one for you.
Visiting Vienna without making at least one shopping trip would mean missing out on a lot of what the city has to offer, even if you don't buy anything. Local specialty goods made of porcelain, leather, and wrought iron abound. On Karntner Sorasse and Maria hilfer Strasse you can find a pleasing mix time of local crafts, second-hand shops and traditional food outlets.
If it is fashion you are after, head to the district of Neubau, where you can pick up the latest from international designers as well as affordable offerings from many local designers.