How to Travel to Hallstatt: Most FAQs
Several years ago I published a post on how to get to Hallstatt by bus, train and ferry.
That post has drawn a number of questions and I’ve done my best to answer them. A number of details have changed since then, but the major concerns of travelers to Hallstatt have remained the same. So I decided to compile the most common questions and provide up-to-date answers reflecting current conditions.
I’m leaving the original post in place, and there you can read all about how to get to Hallstatt from Salzburg or Vienna by various means. Of course, you should browse through the comments. For the time being, I’ll also continue to answer questions there.
On this page, you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions in a more readable format without having to browse through the comments. Just click on any of the icons to expand the tab, and then again to collapse it.
The questions are more or less organized by topic. Feel free to contact me with comments, questions and feed-back.
Your first stop is the Hallstatt train station where you catch the ferry to take you across the lake. This is the station you select when you look at OEBB schedules. You can also select Hallstatt Markt, but note: the ferry trip is not included in the train fare.
Hallstatt Markt is across the lake from the train station, near the center of town, and the place where the ferry called Stefanie lands and departs.
Hallstatt Lahn is another part of town just a little south of the center. Here is where the Hallstatt Bypass intersects the old highway, where tourist buses find a place to park and disgorge their passengers, and it’s also a local bus station.
The funicular to the top of the Salzberg, where you can find the Rudolfsturm, the saltmines and the necropolis, departs from a station in Hallstatt Lahn. You can see it when you get there. Hallstatt-Lahn is also a stop for the tourist sight-seeing boat cruising Hallstatt Lake.
Hallstatt-Gosaumühle is another bus stop several kilometers north of Hallstatt. It’s where you would have to change buses if you were to travel to the Gosau Lakes, for instance, or by bus to Bad Ischl.
The OEBB site has become more user friendly since I first started to consult it, but it still has a ways to go. Sometimes it has a tendency to return information it thinks you need, and not the one you want, and it gives you circuitous information at times. And it has this odd quirk of sometimes requiring German language skills even if you select the English option.
I’ll say more about the OEBB in a future post, but all-in-all: the OEBB travel portal is your friend.
Going back is the reverse, of course.
If you need help with suitcases, perhaps you’ll find a friendly hand from a fellow passenger. You can find taxi service across the lake in Hallstatt where the ferry lands. However, many hotels, pensions, or private accommodations will pick you up and help with luggage if they know you are coming.
Questions About Buying Tickets
I recommend you purchase round trip train tickets either online or at your point of departure. You can buy them at any train station, but if you come from Salzburg buy them no later than Bad Ischl. Technically you could also buy your return train ticket in Hallstatt, but you won’t save any money and it might put you in a bind.
It's better to have you return train ticket in hand. For one, the ferry is more or less coordinated with train schedules. It arrives about 15 minutes before the train. If there are a lot of people you don’t have much time to buy tickets.
Also, last time I was in Hallstatt, the station was delapidated and its ticket machine was not functioning. I assume it was temporary, but it would have been a bad place not to have a return ticket.
Finally, you won’t be able to buy a train ticket when you board the train. Not only that, if you don’t have a valid ticket when the conductor comes around, you’ll have to pay a substantial fine on top of the price of your train ticket.
Buy your train tickets in advance.
If you know you are coming back the same day, I recommend you purchase a day pass. It costs about the same as buying a round-trip ticket, but it gives you more flexibility. It allows you to get off and back on the bus at any town on the route.
That is a good way to spend a day in the Salzkammergut, but if you have Hallstatt as a destination in mind, you really don’t have a lot of time on your hands for other sightseeing. In that case a day pass is as good as a round trip ticket and it will save you a little time when you board your bus back to Salzburg.
Online: Buying tickets online is self explanatory. Depending on your situation, there may be a couple of advantages to buying them online - see travel discounts below.
Ticket Vending Machines: just about every train station has them, in fact they are more common now than ticket counters. At some stations it’s the only way you can buy tickets.
They issue tickets at any time, even days in advance, or when ticket counters are closed. They also accept all types of payment: credit cards, coins of all sizes and bills. But come prepared. Sometimes your credit card won’t work - it’s not personal - make sure you have enough coins or bills to pay for your tickets.
The tickets you get from a machine don’t provide route information, so you will have to come up with that some other way.
Ticket counters: The staff behind ticket counters are an excellent source of information. If you are at all unsure about the train system, if you have a question about connections, or if you want to know the best way from there to somewhere else, the man or woman behind the counter is your best resource. They know the transportation system by heart, they may even have memorized every possible connection in all of Austria. They will also provide you with a printed schedule and route information. There are three basic ways to buy your train tickets: on-line, at a ticket machine, and at a ticket counter.
Each different transportation mode requires separate tickets.
Somewhere, sometime a discount card might offer just such a combination, but I have never heard about it.
Last time I traveled, a bus ticket from Salzburg to Bad Ischl cost about €10.40, one way. A round trip ticket was twice the price and a day pass was also double the price of a single ticket. If I were planning to return to Salzburg the same day, I would buy a day pass and have all eventualities covered,
Train Ticket from Bad Ischl: €4.70, one way.
If you are buying train tickets from Salzburg or Vienna to Hallstatt, I highly encourage you to check the OEBB Travel Portal
Ticket prices vary from day to day and even within a day on the same type of train. So use the prices below as guidelines.
From Salzburg to Hallstatt via Attnang Puchheim, a one way ticket costs about €27.20
From Vienna, for the route via Attnang Puchheim, ticket prices appear to be more variable. The prices I noticed on a quick check for a day chosen at random day were: €19, €29, and €50.70.
From Vienna, the route via Stainach-Irdning has more consistent pricing and can be the least expensive. I saw one way trips costing €19 and €24, depending on time of day.
As far as I can determine, the range of prices is related to travel demand and a discount program called SparSchiene.
In many cases, the earlier you buy your ticket the less it costs. The price increases as you get closer to any given departure date. It is moderated by demand and the number of tickets sold, but I’m really at a loss explaining all of the variation I see.
Ferry - the ferry currently costs €2.50 each way.
Sometimes its easier to make reservations on-line, and it may be less expensive. I’ve noticed different pricing structures for the same route, same types of trains, at different times of day. I believe it’s related to demand and to a discount program called SparSchiene
Also, it’s not possible to make a reservation for a bus.
And finally, making reservations for the ferry is neither necessary nor possible.
If you are taking the bus from Salzburg to Bad Ischl, and if you plan to return the same way on the same day, you might benefit from buying a day pass (Tageskarte). Although it won’t save you any money, it allows you to get on and off as you please. As I mentioned previously, it’s a great way to stop and enjoy some of the best parts of the Salzkammergut.
There are several available discounts that might apply to you.
You don’t have to do anything for this discount. You can see the discounted prices on the OEBB tavel portal, they automatically applied when they are available. If you see a range of prices for the route you select, the lowest ones are often a result of a SparSchiene discount. Typically, they are available as long as seats are available. I believe prices increase as more and more seats get sold, so here is a reason to buy your tickets early.
Einfach-Raus (Simply Go) Ticket
From Monday to Friday, a group of two to five people can travel the Austrian rail system (with a few exceptions), at prices starting at a mere 33 Euro. The tickets are valid from 9:00 am to 3:00 am of the next day.
You can buy Einfach-raus tickets at the ticket counter, at ticket vending machines, and of course online.
If you are taking the train from just about anywhere in Austria to Hallstatt, you will save money. If you are a single traveler, find a fellow traveler and share the cost.
Senior Discount Card
This card pays for itself rapidly if you are planning to travel in Austria on public transportation.
Anyone over the age of 61 may purchase a senior discount card for 29 Euros. That card will give you a 50% discount on train tickets and a 40% discount on bus tickets (but not on the ferry). In other words you’ll just about break even after a round-trip to Hallstatt. From then on you’ll travel at half the cost.
The following questions relate to amount of time it takes to travel to Hallstatt and the amount of time you need to see it.
How Long Does It Take to Get to Hallstatt?
It doesn’t matter much if you do the entire trip by train, or by bus and then train, it takes about 2hrs and 35 minutes until you arrive at the Hallstatt train station. By the time you arrive at the other side of the lake, another 20 - 30 minutes will have passed.
As a rough calculation, allow three hours travel time.
Traveling via Attnang Puchheim usually takes less time than traveling by way of Stainach Irdning.
Add 20-30 minutes to your train travel time for taking the ferry, and you can figure out how much time you need to allot for a round trip and how much time that leaves you in Hallstatt.
Remember, the last ferry leaves the dock at Hallstatt Markt at 6:15pm (terribly early, if you ask me). If you miss the ferry, its still possible to return to the rest of the world, but your options can become quite convoluted (see below).
The long of it is: you shouldn’t.
With ideal connections, it’ll take you nearly 3 hrs to reach Hallstatt. So if you leave Salzburg at 7:00 in the morning, you’ll get to Hallstatt around 10am. This gives you until 6:15 - the time the last ferry leaves the dock - to take in all of the sites. It makes for a day crammed with activity, but you can do it.
All of the above applies if you come from Vienna, only you’ll have even less time in Hallstatt. You’ll have a long afternoon around town before you get back on the ferry that takes you to the train that takes you back to Vienna.
It’s exactly the kind of tourism that ruins Hallstatt these days. When you consider that Hallstatt itself is the main attraction, you might realize that it will take time to soak in. Even if you discount the time it takes to see all of its attractions, there is still the totality of Hallstatt and its environment. Its unique, and an afternoon isn’t nearly long enough for it to sink in and become a part of you. However, even spending only a short afternoon is better than the the practice of thousands of tourists who arrive by bus every day, make their way along the Seestrasse to the now famous Hallstatt view, line up for selfies, do little shopping if time allows, and depart 45 - 90 minutes later.
Can you do it in one day? I bet you’ll only think so once.
The last buses with connections to trains leave Hallstatt around 7:00pm. If you miss those buses, as I have, you need to make your way to Obertraun across the lake, and from there catch trains that connect you to Salzburg or Vienna.
The last train to Attnang Puchheim, your most direct connection to Salzburg, leaves Obertraun at 7:30 pm. The last train to Stainach-Irdning departs Obertraun at 9.30pm. You can get to Salzburg by way of Stainach-Irdning, too, or you can try to find lodgings for the night somewhere along the way, but as you can see, leaving Hallstatt too late in the day can complicate your life.
Three hours from Salzburg to Hallstatt;
Four hours from Hallstatt to Vienna;
In a 14 hour day, that leaves you seven hours to sight-see Salzburg, Hallstatt and Vienna. If you think that’s enough time to tour three ancient cities with an endless array of must-see places, go for it.
But here is my unvarnished opinion: people who ask these kinds of questions practice a hit-and-run kind of tourism that destroys the very thing they want to enjoy.
Just visit Hallstatt, observe the bus loads of tourists who stop there for 90 minutes before they move on to their next target, and ask: what kind of impact do they have on the town. Then go to Salzburg and observe. And then ask yourself - how would you like that if it were your town?
The rest of the questions are about getting to the salt mines, the Skywalk Platform above Hallstatt, available discounts, and of course: the weather.
Miscellaneous about Salt Mines, Skyview Platform, Discounts and the Weather
The easy way is to take the funicular to the top of the Salzberg and from there walk a short distance to the salt mines. There is also a restaurant at the top of the mountain located in the Rudolfsturm. On sunny days you can sit on its terrace and enjoy an extraordinary view of the country around you.
If, you are more daring, you can step out into space over Hallstatt on the Skywalk, a triangular viewing platform just below the restaurant. Last time I checked it still cost nothing to step out and look down with nothing but air (and a platform) between you and Hallstatt some 1000’ (350m) below.
The more strenuous way is to hike up to the restaurant and the salt mines beyond. You’ll be hiking a historic trail, the one people took to and from the mines in bygone days. The women salt carriers made this trip several times a day. On their way down they carried heavy loads of rocksalt on their back.
Hiking this trail will take you perhaps 1.5 hours going up, and on the way you’ll be rewarded with a unique view of Hallstatt. You will also get an appreciation for women who wrack their bodies for a pittance.
In Hallstatt you get discounts on riding the funicular to the Rudolfsturm and the salt mines beyond, admission to the saltmines (as well as every other salt mine in the region), and the Hallstatt Museum.
Just across the lake, near Obertraun, you’ll be able to take one of the most exiting cable car rides in the world for less. In a breath-taking ascent it’ll take you to the top of the Krippenstein - the tallest mountain you see from Hallstatt. If you don’t want to go that far, you can stop at the Ice Caves or the Mammoth Caves above Obertraun and get discounted tours.
Although the discounts individually may not add up to much, the Salzkammergut Card doesn’t cost much and you can quite easily get your money’s worth.
Here is the link: Salzkamergut Erlebnis CardAccordion Sample Description
So - it rains a lot in Hallstatt, on average it rains perhaps on 2 days out of three, and the rest of the time is often cloudy or overcast.
Also, the sun disappears from Hallstatt sometime in November and doesn’t return until sometime in March. The sun won’t touch large parts of Hallstatt even on clear days. For that reason, and because of its topography, Hallstatt is a so-called “cold hole”. I can also tell you that by March residents are sick of living in the shade, especially people who live in the Echerntal, a narrow valley that branches off into the mountains at Hallstatt-Lahn, who haven’t seen the sun for months.
So come prepared for rain and hope for sunshine.
Personally, I never go to Hallstatt without an umbrella. If you didn’t bring one, quite a few shops will sell you one. Walking with umbrellas is a way of life in this part of Austria, I find it preferable to rain suits. Also umbrellas will shield your camera from rain and you can get interesting shots without fear of getting raindrops on the lens or damaging your equipment.
You should also come prepared with three layer clothing. Even in summer you may find a sweater agreeable, even if it doesn’t rain. And should the sun shine, its easy to strip to shirts.
Needless to say, you also should wear a good pair of walking shoes if you plan on walking around town. Except for the Seestrasse next to the lake, everything in Hallstatt is either up or down. Light shoes can make walking around uncomfortable.