In this guide, we take an in-depth-look at the Austrian Railways (ÖBB) Railjet train and its travel classes, seats, on-board facilities and tickets.
Railjet is the name of the premium high-speed trains used by the Austrian Railways (ÖBB) and they can reach speeds of up to 230 kilometres per hour (143 mph).
Although Railjet trains predominantly run inside Austrian territory, there are also international Railjet trains linking Austria with destinations in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic (trains to the latter being operated by the Czech Railways instead of ÖBB).
Railjet travel classes
There are three classes on board Railjet trains, namely economy (second class), first class and business class. Unlike planes where first class is a step up from business class, it is actually the reverse on board Railjet as on these trains business class is a sort of premium first class.
Second class has seats arranged in a 2-2 seating configuration, with some seats being in pairs of four around a large, fixed table. The duo seats which do not have a fixed table all have drop-down tables just like you would find on an aircraft. At each seat you can find a power socket.
There is plenty of space on the overhead racks to store your bags. Alternatively, there are also some floor-to-ceiling luggage racks in each Railjet carriage for larger bags.
Railjet first class
A step up from second class is Railjet’s first class, which has leather seats in a 1-2 configuration. Not only do you have more space, but the seats are also more comfortable.
Besides the extra space and comfort you don’t have any other real perks included in your 1st class ticket. Just like in second class, there is a power socket at each seat.
The only extra advantage of first class is that the train steward can take food and drink orders and bring them from the on-board restaurant to your seat if you don’t feel like walking to the dining car. Just like the passengers in all other classes, you’d still have to pay for it as meals and drinks are not included in the fare.
The highest class on board the Railjet train is business class. These seats can be found in spacious semi-compartments in which either 3 or 4 seats are placed.
As the compartments lack doors they aren’t fully enclosed – but the area is generally more quiet than first class, also given the fact that Railjet’s business class is mostly marketed towards business travellers.
The seats are also better than you would find in first class as these leather recliner seats are bigger in size and have adjustable footrests. Each seat has a fold-out tray table in the armrest as well as a power socket and reading light.
Although one welcome drink is included in the business class fare, you have to pay for all other drinks and meals. Just like in first class, a train steward can come to your compartment to take orders and will bring your choice of food or drink to your seat.
As I forgot to take pictures of the business class compartments, you have to do with some screenshots I took from an ÖBB promotional video!
The Railjet train has a restaurant (bistro) wagon where you can sit down for a drink, snack or a full meal. It is of course also possible to take away food and drinks back to your own seat.
Seats in the restaurant wagon cannot be reserved so it really works on a first come, first served basis irrespective of whether you are travelling in second, first or business class.
If it’s crowded on the train and all seats in the dining car are taken, it is polite to vacant your seat after you have finished your drink or meal and not to keep seats occupied unnecessarily long so that other passengers can enjoy the service here as well.
As the food is pre-made in a catering facility and is basically only heated up in the Railjet restaurant wagon, you shouldn’t expect any haute cuisine being served.
That said, I always found the food on board Austrian trains tasty and everything is certainly decently priced. Moreover, eating a meal and having a glass of wine or pint of beer while you watch the scenery pass by is the quintessential European train experience.
Part of the food menu on board Austrian Railways restaurant wagons (including the Railjet) is permanent and includes eternal favourites such as the goulash soup, Wiener schnitzel and Viennese apple strudel.
Depending on the time of the year, you will also find seasonal dishes as well as other temporary, one-time additions to the menu.
Most of the mains are around 10 euro, while a 0.5L bottle of beer will set you back 3.50 euro. Tea, coffee and bottled water cost around 3 euro each.
You can pay both by card or with cash in euro or in local currency. For example, on Railjet trains to Switzerland you can pay in both euro and Swiss francs, while on a Railjet train to the Czech Republic you will be able to pay in both euro as well as in Czech koruna.
Railjet trains are equipped with complimentary WiFi internet. However, do note that there might be a temporary loss of connection in remote mountain areas and in tunnels.
The last 2nd class carriage on the Railjet train (carriage number 21 and 31 normally) has a dedicated family zone which features a children’s cinema and playing area with table games.
If you are after silence, there are also quiet cars on the Railjet train in which passengers are asked to keep their voices down and silence the sounds of any electrical devices such as mobile phones. You can find quiet zones in both second and first class (usually in carriages 23, 27, 33 and 37).
There is a dedicated bicycle space on Austrian long-distance trains such as the Railjet, although you need to reserve a spot for your bike in advance and pay a 3 euro supplement. You can find more information about taking your bike on the train on the ÖBB website.
Railjet ticket prices
There are generally speaking two kinds of train tickets for ÖBB Railjet trains irrespective of travel class, with the cheapest option being the ‘sparschiene’ or ‘sparpreis’, which simply means saver fare.
These saver tickets can be bought for both 2nd and 1st class, have a fixed departure date and time, and are non-refundable. You thus have to take the connection you booked and cannot hop on an earlier or later train with your ticket.
Of course, if you have a saver ticket involving a connection and you miss your onward train due to a delay, you have the right to take any other train to get to your final destination.
Saver fares can sell out, so you are advised to book as early as you can if you want to have the cheapest possible ticket.
Standard tickets (also called ‘flexpreis’) are full-fare tickets which can be cancelled (before the first day of validity) and you can take any train you want on your departure day, giving you more flexibility. Standard tickets cannot sell out and you will always be able to buy one, even last-minute at the station.
It’s always good to compare ticket prices as it can sometimes happen that 2nd class saver tickets are all sold out and that a still-available 1st class saver ticket is cheaper than a full-price 2nd class fare!
A business class ticket will always cost you a 15 EUR supplement on top of any first class ticket fare – it doesn’t matter here whether you have booked a cheap first class saver fare or full-price first class ticket.
You can immediately pay the business class supplement when buying your ticket online at the Austrian Railways website, but you can also do this on board with the conductor (provided there are empty, unreserved seats available).
To give you an idea of the prices for Railjet trips, let’s take a look at the popular Vienna to Zurich route. On this route, second class ‘sparschiene’ tickets start at just 39.90 EUR one-way, while a full fare 2nd class ticket will set you back 121.80 EUR.
If all of the cheapest 39.90 euro sparschiene tickets are sold, the next fare bucket of saver tickets will kick in (59.90 EUR on this route) – so even if you are not able to book far out in advance there might still be some cheap fares available.
A saver ticket in first class will set you back at least 59.90 EUR on the Vienna to Zurich route, while the full fare 1st class ticket costs 213.20 EUR.
Of course, ticket prices are distance-dependent and shorter Railjet journeys will be cheaper. A ticket between Vienna and Innsbruck (roughly half the distance of Vienna to Zurich) has 2nd class saver tickets starting at 24.90 EUR while a full-price standard ticket in second class will set you back 73.10 EUR.
On Railjet trains a seat reservation is optional, so technically tickets can never sell out. If you don’t have a seat reservation you can just take any available seat you want.
It is however best to make a seat reservation in advance if you want to be assured of one, which is certainly recommended on rush hour departures and trips during popular times of the year such as Christmas, Easter or school holidays.
A seat reservation costs 3 euro per person in both second and first class (it’s automatically included in the fare if you buy the business class upgrade).
If you buy your seat reservation on the ÖBB website you can select the exact carriage and seat you want during the booking process, which is handy if you want a specific seat (for example in the quiet car or family area, or a forward facing window seat).
Do note that on other booking websites where you can buy Railjet tickets (such as the German Railways) you cannot select a specific seat but are only able to choose whether you want a window or aisle seat if you make a seat reservation, after which the system will assign you a random seat according to your general wishes.
Where to buy your ticket
You can buy Railjet tickets at the train station on departure or in advance on the website of the Austrian Railways (ÖBB), which is advisable if you want to grab one of the saver fares!
If you travel by train to or from Germany, you could also buy your tickets online at the German Railways website, while for Railjet trips to and from the Czech Republic the Czech Railways website is worth checking too.
The third-party website Trainline can also issue tickets for all Railjet trips and other international train tickets in Central Europe and is generally a bit easier to use than the ÖBB website.
It’s always best to compare prices between websites as sometimes you might be able to find a cheaper ticket! If you book online, you are issued a PDF ticket which you can print at home, although you can also just show the PDF on your mobile phone to the train conductor.
How far in advance can you book?
Normally you can buy a Railjet ticket up to 6 months (180 days) in advance. However, do note that this may not be the case if you are looking to buy a ticket right after the annual timetable change in mid-December.
If you are for example looking in September for a train ticket around Christmas or in January, you may find that you cannot book any tickets with a departure date after 13rd December when the timetables changes.
Only when the new timetables are decided on and are loaded into the system will you (and everyone else!) be able to book these tickets. Normally this happens somewhere in October, but you are well-advised to keep a close watch on the booking websites if you want to grab a cheap saver fare around peak holiday times such as Christmas.
Using a rail pass on a Railjet train
With a valid Interrail or Eurail pass you can use any Railjet train free of charge without having to pay any surcharge, although you will still have to pay for a seat reservation if you want one.
It is possible to buy a seat reservation only on the website of the Austrian Railways by clicking the “seat only – no ticket” option. Do note that the seat reservation in itself is not a valid ticket and you would have to show your Interrail or Eurail pass with it to the conductor.
A Railjet review
If you are curious how a ride on the Railjet is like, you can read my Railjet review detailing a trip between Zurich (Switzerland) and Feldkirch (Austria) which I recently took.
Needless to say, there is plenty of scenic scenery in that Railjet trip report as the train crosses some beautiful Swiss and Austrian landscapes.
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