Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, lies incredibly close to Vienna, the capital of neighbouring Austria. Both cities are well connected to each other with multiple trains a day.
The trains between Vienna and Bratislava are jointly operated by the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) and the Železničná spoločnosť Slovensko (ZSSK) – the Slovak national railway operator. All services are classified as “REx” (Regional Express) services, with travel times averaging between 1 hour and 1 hour 7 minutes.
I had the opportunity to travel from Vienna to Bratislava in January 2017, and here are my impressions of the short train journey.
First published 27 May 2017. Updated 5 February 2023.
Booking my ticket
The first train to Bratislava departs Vienna’s central station (Wien Hauptbahnhof) at 05:17am. All departures thereafter are hourly with the last train of the day at 10:17pm.
I booked my ticket for the 12:16pm departure on the ÖBB ticketing website, but you can also book yours on the ZSSK website if you prefer. My ticket cost €10.30, which appears to be the capped price for all REx services on this route. The REx trains are free-seating and have no seat reservations.
2023 Update: ÖBB now sells tickets for this route at €10.20, while ZSSK sells it for €11.50. The price difference is negligible, to be honest.
You should note that Bratislava has two (2) main stations – Bratislava hlavná stanica (Bratislava Central Station), and Bratislava-Petržalka. The former is located on the northern side of the city, whereas the latter is in the Petržalka district in the south. If you’re a tourist visiting, you are most likely staying in the northern side, unless you booked accomodations in Petržalka instead.
ÖBB-ZSSK has separate services to both stations, so be careful and double check your booking before you pay!
Departure experience at Wien Hbf
The service was operated by a locomotive-drawn push-pull consist with a mixture of ÖBB coaches and Slovak coaches. In my case, the set consisted of 1 Slovak coach and 3 ÖBB coaches, with the rearmost ÖBB coach being the Driving Van Trailer.
We departed Wien Hbf on time, and were soon zooming past the wintery Austrian countryside on our way eastwards.
Cabin & Onboard Amenities
The interior was that of a standard regional train. If you looked closely at the pictures above, you’ll see the ÖBB coaches carry the brand “Cityshuttle” – this is ÖBB’s branding for the local regional trains in Austria.
There are no catering cars onboard the service due to the short distance, and the fact that this was a regional train service. The REx services are also 2nd class-only with no fancy 1st Class onboard. There is a toilet onboard, but I didn’t get a look at it.
Where should I sit?
Anywhere, really. You’re getting regular 2nd class seats onboard. All seats are in a 2 – 2 configuration in both the ZSSK and ÖBB coaches.
If I really had to pick, I’d choose sitting in the ZSSK coaches. They are taller than the ÖBB coaches which made them slightly airier than the smaller ÖBB ones. The seats in the ZSSK coaches are also slightly more comfortable than the ÖBB ones.
I’ve also since learnt that the ZSSK coaches are the only ones with air-conditioning installed, which is something to consider if you’re taking this train in the summer.
The rearmost ÖBB coach also featured push-down seats and grab handles for the standing area. I suppose this could be useful if the train is full and you couldn’t grab a seat in time.
Arrival at Bratislava hlavná stanica
The ride was pretty uneventful. We departed Vienna on schedule and trundled through the cold winter afternoon. Before we knew it, we had crossed into Slovakia where it got a lot colder with more snow by the sides of the tracks than in Vienna.
We arrived on time, and stepping out into the cold Slovak winter air was quite the wake-up call.
Bratislava hlavná stanica is well connected to the rest of the city by a variety of bus services as well as at least 2 tram lines that terminate there. There is also a covered walkway that leads down to the nearest intersection, running parallel along the tram route if you don’t want to spend money on a ticket just yet.
I liked that the train was a fuss-free experience. I’d definitely recommend taking the train to Bratislava – it gets you there safely and comfortably.