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Thirteen things I learned as I cycled along the Danube in Austria from Passau to Vienna

Along the Danube Cycle Path between Passau and Vienna
Along the Danube Cycle Path between Passau and Vienna

I recently cycled along the Danube from Passau to Vienna, a beautiful 320 kilometre ride. You can read my in-depth report here. Here are thirteen things I learned as I cycled along the Danube in Austria from Passau to Vienna and which may come in handy when you do one of our self-guided cycling tours, be it along the Danube or elsewhere in Europe.

Seasonal bike ferry on the Danube
Seasonal bike ferry on the Danube

1) Ferries are seasonal

I did my trip towards the end of April. While I found the ferries I needed to be operating, some which could have enhanced my trip, only operated from May to September. Ferries typically cost between 3 and 4 euros and leave on demand. During April and October they typically operate between 9am and 5pm, in May & September between 8an and 6pm and in high season (June, July, August) from 8am to 7pm.

Also of note is that from May to September you can take a bike boat from Ottensheim to Linz. The journey takes 20 minutes and bypasses a rather busy stretch of roads.

2) Get your bike fitted

When you first take possession of your bike, make sure it fits you. Your travel agent will have asked for your height to get the right bike size, but not every person is built the same.

In my case my handle bar was too low for me and, if I didn't concentrate on sitting upright, it gave me cramps between my shoulders

3) Inspect your gear

The Danube Bike Path from Passau to Vienna is one of the most popular cycling holidays in Europe and as a result the gear operators provide is used constantly. It means there is a lot of wear and tear. When you take possession of your gear, inspect all straps, zippers and fasteners. Also make sure you are given a bike pump, spare inner tube and repair kit.

Make sure you get the number of panniers you have been promised. I received two and used them to the max, packed with rain gear, lunch items, camera, sweater etc.

If you get a handlebar bag with a map flap, make sure the plastic is not discoloured as it makes reading your phone and maps difficult.

Picnic spot along the Danube cycling path in Austria
A tranquil picnic spot complete with swing

4) Never pass a toilet…

You know the saying - men over 50 should never pass a toilet without using it. And while there are lots of picnic spots along the path, there are few public toilets. So anytime you stop for a coffee, lunch or drink, be sure to use the facilities

5) Sunday closed, Montag Ruhetag

On Sunday most of the shops are closed. If you plan to have a picnic on Sunday you should think ahead and purchase your food on Saturday. Meanwhile, Monday many of the restaurants, bars and coffee shops are closed, as it is Ruhetag (Restday). This then is a good day to count on having a picnic.

6) Water

Bring plenty of water - on a nice spring day I went through about 3/4 litre of water an hour. On a hot summer day you may need a lot more. There are few spots to refill your bottles - cafes being pretty much it, so you will want to bring enough reserve and fill up whenever you can.

7) Keep the change

As you make small purchases you will be given change back. Keep it handy for entry fees to sight along the route as well as for ferries

8) Bummed out no more

A good accessory to bring is a bum bag so you can have easy access to your phone, map and wallet.

Rain on a cycling tour along the Danube in Austria
A rainy ride

9) Towel dry

I cycled one day in torrential rain and I wish I had a towel with me, if only to dry my hair when I sat down for lunch. In summer you may find a beach along the way and if you want to have a dip in the Danube, a towel, along with swim gear are handy to have

10) Pack dry

No matter how good your panniers may look in keeping out rain water, no piece of luggage is ever completely waterproof. Pack your gear in bin liners inside your panniers to ensure it stays dry on rainy days.

11) Traffic

I found Austrians, outside of Vienna, to be careful and polite drivers to the extreme. I remember one place where I had to cross the road and the one car within sight stopped about fifty metres short of the crossing to wave me across.

12) No fun, no greetings

When I was in Austria on a hiking trip, hikers greeted you all the time with a cheery “Grüß Gott!”. Not so when they cycle though. When Austrians are cycling they rarely greet each other. My cheery “Grüß Gott!’s” were never acknowledged although on occasion I might get a slight nod of the head (but only if I gave one first).

Austrians also don’t give the impression that they are having a whole lot of fun when they are out cycling. Most will look sternly ahead. Perhaps it is so they can pretend they didn’t see you and therefore don’t have to greet you?

13) Useful words

Fähre - ferry

Brücke - bridge

Radfahrer - cyclist

Ausgesondert (or ausgenommen) - excepted. As in “Ausgesondert Radfahrer”

Radweg - cycle path

Ruhetag - rest day (if you see this on a restaurant door it means it is closed)

Unterführung - underpass

Treppelweg - tow path. Much of the cycle path follows the old Treppelweg

Umleitung - detour

Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung - motor vehicle indemnity insurance. It’s the longest word in the German dictionary but you should not have to use this.

Krems on the Danube in Austria
Krems on the Danube


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