How I violated Austrian Law… Without even knowing it

I like to follow the rules; I do not have the steady nerves it takes to enjoy the thrill of doing something I could get in trouble for, especially legal trouble. It completely freaks me out and ruins any pleasure I might have gotten out of it in the first place but even I can get in trouble without trying!

While riding the metro I like to guess where people are from, possibly where they are going, think of back stories for each passenger.

This young couple in front of me for instance, they have been separated for quite some time and have just been reunited. This must be why they cannot resist kissing each other passionately while their hands wander rediscovering their lover’s body amidst all these perfect strangers.

This young woman next to me, she is heading to a job she dreads, dreaming of when she will meet a rich handsome man so she can make beautiful babies and live the rest of her life out in peace.

These three friends in front of me all from different ethnicities, what about them I wonder… just then they whip out badges and begin to question everyone on the train. People begin to panic, some try to walk further down the train trying to avoid contact and some, like me, wonder what chaos is unfolding around them.

I quickly realize they are checking everyone for proper metro tickets, no problem I’ve got mine and confidently pull it out, hand it over and the next thing I know I am being pulled off the train and questioned in German by a stern woman in her 30’s who seems to take great pleasure in finding people who are breaking the law so she can collect a hefty fine from them.

So what was my violation?

I was just buying a one-way ticket, not a round trip ticket and my options were to buy a whole or a half ticket.

Common sense tells me that whole would be roundtrip and half would be one-way, right?


Well this is not the translation Vienna uses, in fact half means child. As in half size.

After the incident I took a photo of the metro screen in English. What do you think? Would you have thought half meant child or possibly a canine companion?


My officer speaks almost NO English so she calls over some backup to help translate where they explain to me that I have bought a children’s ticket and that I am to be fined. I try my best to explain the simple error and how that could be confusing, I use my best “please officer, don’t give me a ticket” face but all this is to no avail. They tell me repeatedly, wrong ticket, you pay.

“Wrong ticket, YOU PAY!”

Getting a ticket from the officer dressed in street clothes as to not tip anyone off that they are about to get ticketed.

Obviously they don’t have any sympathy for travelers who don’t understand that half actually means child and no matter how much I fight and try to explain the misleading translation, offering to just go buy the right ticket. Still no sign that they are going to back down so I reluctantly ask

“How much is the fine for having the wrong ticket?”

Their response is a staggering “$100 Euros

Which is roughly $125 US Dollars! My mouth drops, I once again try to protest this HUGE fine for such a small error but they insist ““Wrong ticket, YOU PAY! Cash or card?”

With all the dread and distain I can manage I hand over $100 Euros which is a week’s worth of travel money.

So on my last day in Vienna rather than wandering through another expensive museum or pay for an over charged tour I decide I would rather head back to my favorite local spot at the Museum Quarter to enjoy Vienna’s local beer, have some lunch and read my book. It was quiet and peaceful and just what I needed to help ease the tension between me and Vienna’s lack of help and understanding to the tourists visiting their city.

My crazy delicious chicken curry sandwich from MQdaily

Have you ever gotten in trouble abroad? Tell us your experience in the comments below.

10 comments on “How I violated Austrian Law… Without even knowing it

  1. What a mess. I bet tons of tourists make the same mistake every day and they know it, hence the steep fine. Great way to make money, right? The translation could easily be replaced with the word child fare or reduced fare or special fare if it’s to refer to anything BUT a regular adult fare. So sorry you had to pay!

    • yeah, It isn’t my favorite memory but it makes for a good story and I am extra careful now when I am in a new city!

  2. Pingback: Round the World Wrap-Up 8/6

    • I know and now I am paranoid about getting a ticket, I wish they would have been more understanding but oh well its just one of the many sacrifices I will be making to the travel gods. lol

  3. Ah – 100 Euros – that stinks!

    yes I have done it too.. violated the law – in Paris…
    it went like this:

    I had gotten into the very bad habit of discarding my ticket once through the turnstile and when I was stopped by the “Metro Police” I learned about this first hand. They did not believe that I had paid and discarded my ticket, despite my insistence. In the finish I told them to call the police to which they replied they would then fine me 65 Euros instead. I said ok but call the police as I am innocent.

    This worked because the next minute all six of them just walked away! There are plenty of people we saw jumping the turnstiles without paying and they wanted to pick on me!

    The lesson has been learned however, and we now hold all the used tickets in a “pile” to present to the Metro Police the next time they ask for proof of purchase!

  4. HAHA!! That’s hilarious… it’s terrifying, but a great story in hindsight.

    When I was in So. Cali. on the mission some cops had shut down our road to get home. My companion told him, “Don’t you know who we are?!? You’re impeding the Lord’s messengers while on His errand!!”

    The police officer then escorted us to the back of his cruiser where he leisurely requested our information for the next hour. We hadn’t actually done anything wrong… my comp was just a jerk. So the guy made us sit on our bums for an hour to remind us that regardless of who sent us, we had to play by his rules.

    I thought my comp was an idiot for what he said/did… so I just sat in the back of car and laughed and laugh… of course, it didn’t hurt that it was 98+ outside and the cruiser had AC.

  5. You are so much better than I am, Heather… because, if it had been me, the situation would have certainly escalated! Anything short of the presence of a police officer and handcuffs, and I probably wouldn’t have handed over the first Euro! But, it was a lesson learned :) This is why, if possible, I always ask for help when purchasing train tickets abroad because the systems are always soo confusing :(

  6. Oh wow that stinks! I can’t tell you how many European Trains I’ve ridden without tickets – most of the time because I couldn’t find the ticket booth. The other issue I had was that I rode for days without validating my ticket which is the same as not having one.

    I actually did get a parking ticket in Israel. We parked in what seemed like a fine street parking spot near a church we wanted to go visit. We were in the church and got a ticket for about $50. The worst part was we had to go figure out how to pay it which involved going to a post office and handing over the cash.

What are your thoughts?