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TRAVEL NEWS
Reader question: What are the rules for commuting between Austria and Slovakia?
Many people cross the Austrian-Slovakian border for work. Here's a look at the latest rules that apply.
Published: 17 January 2022 15:40 CET
A Slovak police officer checks documents at the AUstrian border. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
What are the rules for travel between Austria and neighbour Slovakia for cross-border commuters at the moment?
Entry to Slovakia from Austria
People who are fully vaccinated against Covid can enter Slovakia from Austria for any reason, without needing to quarantine or present a negative test result — although you need to do a pre-travel registration. Note that proof of recovery is not accepted for entry.
If you are a commuter, you also have the option to enter Slovakia with a negative PCR test result no older than seven days (but not an antigen test) even if you are not fully vaccinated. Slovakia considers you to be a commuter if you have permanent or temporary residence in Austria (or another EU country) and work in Slovakia, or vice versa, or if you live less than 100 km from the Slovak border regardless of your purpose of travel.
Austrian or Slovak PCR tests are accepted, but it’s recommended to have the result in either English or Slovak.
If you are entering Slovakia using a PCR test rather than proof of vaccination, you will need proof from your employer that you are a cross-border commuter in case you are asked to show this.
You also need to register on the Slovak government website before you travel using the eHranica registration form. If you are fully vaccinated, you only need to register on this website once every six months (choose the option “I am a fully vaccinated person and I have proof of this”).
If you are a cross-border commuter entering with a PCR test you need to register every month (choose the option “I am not a vaccinated person”; then under the heading “I have an exemption from home isolation, choose the option “I have an exception that requires a negative PCR test result not older than 7 days”, and under Additional entry conditions choose the option “I have a certificate stating that I have an employment relationship, a similar employment relationship…”).
Only a very few kinds of workers are exempt from this registration, primarily transport employees such as bus or truck drivers.
Entry to Austria from Slovakia
People who regularly commute to Austria either for work, study, or for family purposes have a special exception to the general travel rules. If you travel between the two countries at least once per month for one of these reasons, you can enter Austria as long as you have proof of 3G (full vaccination, recent recovery from Covid-19, or a negative PCR test).
Regular commuters may use either a PCR or antigen test. If you cannot meet the 3G criteria, you need to fill out Austria’s pre-travel clearance form before travel and enter quarantine on arrival.
You also need to have proof of your reason to travel in case this is requested. This could include confirmation from your employer that you need to commute for work, for example.
For non-commuters entering Austria from Slovakia, as with most EU/EEA countries, the 2G+ rule applies.
This means that in order to enter Austria from Slovakia, as a general rule you need proof of full vaccination (two doses, or one dose if you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) or medical proof of recovery from Covid-19 within the last 180 days.
As well as this, you also need either proof of a booster dose or a negative PCR test. If you have had a full course of the vaccination and have also recovered from Covid in the last 180 days, you do not need a booster or negative test.
Useful Links
The Slovak government’s Covid information portal
Austria’s Chamber of Commerce has a page (in German) to stay updated on the situation for commuters
The Chamber of Commerce has also created a draft confirmation of employment letter in German, Slovak and English. Download it here
Austria’s entry rules are summarised by the Austrian Health Ministry
The portal to register your travel to Slovakia, if needed, is called eHranica and an English-language version is available here.
The Slovak regulation which sets out the exemption for commuters (in Slovak)
The information in this article was correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication, but The Local cannot provide legal advice and we recommend confirming information with official authorities before you travel.
The Local
news@thelocal.at
@thelocalaustria
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EXPLAINED: How to not be ‘bumped’ from an overcrowded Austrian train
Austrian trains have been overly crowded recently, with some people who had valid tickets having to be removed for "safety reasons". Here's how to make sure you get to your destination.
Published: 19 May 2022 11:59 CEST
Train travel is a safe and relatively comfortable way to get around Austria, but there is still much to do to make these journeys better for travellers, especially for commuters.
In Austria, a combination of high fuel prices, the adoption of the subsidised Klimaticket, and Vienna’s new short-term parking system, combined with other factors including a green surge and nice weather, has led to an increase in the search for train travel.
The operator ÖBB expects an even higher surge in the next few days, as warm weather meets holidays in Austria. This has led to several journeys being overcrowded, with people travelling standing up or being removed from trains when they reach capacity and the number of people compromises safety.
READ ALSO: Half-price Europe train tickets on offer in Interrail flash sale
“Safety is the top priority. If the train is too full to be guided safely, passengers must be asked to get off. If they don’t do it voluntarily, we have no choice but to get the police. This happens very rarely,” Bernhard Rieder from ÖBB told broadcaster ORF during an Ö1 interview.
Why are trains overcrowded?
There are several reasons for the surge in train travel, but they boil down to two things: rising costs for other means of transportation and environmental worries.
With galloping inflation, Austrians have seen prices of fuel climbing, and as the war in Ukraine continues, there is no likelihood of lower petrol prices any time soon.
At the same time, since March, Vienna (the destination for many domestic tourists and commuters) has instituted a new short-term parking system, basically removing free parking in the streets of the capital.
Driving has become more expensive when everything else seems to be costly, and many Austrians turn to train travel. Particularly for those who are holders of the Klimaticket, a yearly subsidised card that allows for unlimited travel for just over €1,000 – early buyers could get a hold of the ticket for under €900.
READ ALSO: Nine German expressions that perfectly sum up spring in Austria
The ticket allows travellers to “hop on and hop off” as they wish, making occupancy more unpredictable. However, it is possible to reserve seats even if you have them, and there are low-budget bundles for commuters.
The Klimaticket was created in an effort with the Environmental Ministry, looking to increase the use of greener transport alternatives in Austria.
The environmental concern is also one of the reasons why train travel is on the rise globally – travelling by train is also more convenient in many cases, with comfortable seats, free wifi, a dining area and the fact that you can start and end your journey in central stations instead of far-away airports.
READ ALSO: OPINION: Trains are in fashion so why is rail travel across Europe still so difficult?
Why won’t ÖBB only sell as many tickets as there are train seats?
A reasonable question, but that is not possible with the way train journeys operate in Austria – and in most countries.
Some tickets are “open” and flexible, meaning that people can board any train from a specific time. These are particularly useful for commuters who might be late leaving work, for example.
Additionally, holders of the Klimaticket and other regional yearly offers don’t need to buy tickets. They only need to show their Klimaticket card with an ID once checked.
READ ALSO: Austria’s nationwide public transport ‘climate ticket’ now available
What is ÖBB doing to avoid overcrowding?
After the several incidents of overcrowding when people even had to leave their trains despite having valid tickets, ÖBB announced it would bring additional trains for the peak season around the holidays (May 26th, June 5th and 6th and June 16th), increasing the number of seats by “thousands”, according to a press statement.
What can I do to guarantee my journey?
Despite the increase in offer, the operator still warns that “on certain trains, demand can still exceed capacity”.
The best way to try and guarantee your journey, according to ÖBB, is by reserving a seat.
READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital
“A seat reservation is the best way to use the most popular train connections. Starting at €3, you can reserve a seat in ÖBB trains in Austria”.
Reservations are available online at tickets.oebb.at the ÖBB app, at the ÖBB ticket counter, and at the ÖBB customer service at 05-1717.
Amanda Previdelli
news@thelocal.at
@aprevidelliEN
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