Travelling in Austria presents very few health risks. The water everywhere can be safely drunk from the tap, while the water in lakes and streams is for the most part excellent and poses no risk of infection.
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Before You Go
If you’re an EU citizen, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), available from your healthcare provider, covers you for most emergency medical care in Austria.
Travellers from countries with reciprocal healthcare agreements with Austria will be covered for treatment costs here; travellers from those countries without reciprocal agreements – including the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – will need to purchase travel health insurance for their trip.
Make sure you get a policy that covers you for the worst possible scenario, such as an accident requiring an emergency flight home. Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures, and whether it covers all activities (like skiing or climbing).
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that, regardless of their destination, all travellers should be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, as well as hepatitis B. A vaccination for tick-borne encephalitis is also highly advisable.
Wasps & Mosquitos
Wasps can be a problem in the countryside in midsummer but are only dangerous for those with an allergy or if you get stung in the throat. Look before you take a sip outdoors from a sweet drink.
Mosquitoes can be a nuisance around lakes.
Ticks can carry Lyme disease and encephalitis (TBE), and pose a serious outdoor hazard to health in many parts of Europe. They are usually found at altitudes below 1200m, in undergrowth at the forest edge or beside walking tracks.
Wearing long trousers tucked into walking boots or socks and using a DEET-based insect repellent is the best prevention against tick bites. If a tick is found attached to the skin, press down around the tick’s head with tweezers, grab the tick as close as possible to the head and rotate continuously in one direction, without pulling, until the tick releases itself. Pharmacies sell plastic or metal tweezers especially for this purpose (highly recommended for hikers). Avoid pulling the rear of the body or smearing chemicals on the tick.
Also known in German as Borreliose, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by ticks and has serious long-term consequences if left untreated; the treatment is a course of antibiotics. It is often possible to recognise in the early stage by a rash or red infection around the bite. There is no vaccination against it.
Tick-borne Encephalitis (TBE)
Tick-borne Encephalitis (TBE) – called FSME in Austria – is a serious infection of the brain. Vaccination is highly advised for at-risk groups (especially campers, climbers and hikers) and in high-risk areas. Austrians who are in these groups or live in these areas have usually been vaccinated.
Distribution of tick-borne encephalitis is uneven; the website www.zecken.at (scroll down to Verbreitungsgebiete der FSME in Österreich) has an interactive map showing dangerous areas. Local pharmacists always know whether FSME is a danger in their region and can advise if you’re bitten.
Tap water in Austria is perfectly safe to drink – and it's actually of a very high standard in many mountainous parts of the country. Don't expect it to be free in restaurants, however; bottled water (either still or sparkling) is the norm.
Availability & Cost of Health Care
A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover you for medical emergencies. Otherwise, expect to pay anything from €40 to €75 for a straightforward, non-urgent consultation with a doctor.
Health care in Austria isn't cheap, and treatment for a skiing injury, for instance, can quickly amount to thousands, so ensure that you have adequate travel health insurance before travelling.