Bargaining in shops is not really a part of Austrian culture. Flea markets are the exception; or when negotiating a longer than usual period of rental for, say, a kayak or a bicycle, you can ask whether there's a cheaper rate they can offer.
Dangers & Annoyances
Austria is a very safe country. Visitors will generally have no trouble walking around at night in cities.
- Theft Take usual common-sense precautions: keep valuables out of sight (on your person and in parked cars). Pickpockets occasionally operate on public transport and at major tourist sights.
- Natural Dangers Every year people die from landslides and avalanches in the Alps. Always check weather conditions before heading out; consider hiring a guide when skiing off-piste. Before going on challenging hikes, ensure you have the proper equipment and fitness. Inform someone at your hotel/guesthouse where you're going and when you intend to return.
Various discount cards are available, many covering a whole region or province. Some are free with an overnight stay (eg Neusiedler See Card in Burgenland and Zell am See Card in Salzburgerland); others cost a few euros (eg Salzkammergut Erlebnis Card). Others, such as the Kärnten Card in Carinthia and the Innsbruck Card, must be purchased, but yield more substantial benefits such as free entry to museums and attractions as well as discounts on public transport.
- Senior Cards In some cases senior travellers will be able to get discount admission to sights, but local proof is often required. (It can’t hurt to ask and show proof of age, though.) The minimum qualifying age for Austrians is 60 or 65 for men and 60 for women.
- Student & Youth Cards International Student Identity Cards (ISIC) and European Youth Card (Euro<26; check www.euro26.org for discounts) will get you discounts at most museums, galleries and theatres. Admission is generally a little higher than the price for children.
220V/50Hz. Plugs are the European type with two round pins.
Emergency & Important Numbers
To dial listings from outside Austria, dial your international access code, the country code, the city code and then the number.
|Austria's country code||43|
|International access code||00|
|International operator & information||11 88 77 (inland, EU & neighbouring countries); 0900 11 88 77 (other countries)|
|Emergency (police, fire, ambulance)||112|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Paperwork A valid passport is required when entering Austria. The only exception to this rule is when entering from another Schengen country (all EU states minus Britain and Ireland, plus Switzerland); in this case, only a national identity card is required.
Border procedures Formal border controls have been abolished for those entering from another EU country or Switzerland, but spot checks may be carried out at the border or inside Austria itself.
Austrian customs regulations are in line with all other EU countries. Items such as weapons, certain drugs (both legal and illegal), meat, certain plant materials and animal products are subject to strict customs control. All goods must be for personal use. The Ministry of Finance website (http://english.bmf.gv.at) has an overview of regulations.
Below are some key guidelines for anyone 17 years or older importing items from an EU or non-EU country. The amounts in brackets are for items imported from outside the EU; if tobacco products don’t have health warnings in the German language, these too are limited to the amounts given in brackets.
- Alcohol Beer 110L (16L); or spirits over 22% 10L (1L); or spirits under 22%, sparkling wine, wine liqueurs 20L (2L); or wine 90L (4L).
- Cigarettes 800 (200); or cigarillos 400 (100); or cigars 200 (50); or tobacco 1kg (250g).
- Money Amounts of over €10,000 in cash or in travellers cheques (or the equivalent in cash in a foreign currency) must be declared on entering or leaving the EU. There is no limit within the EU, but authorities are entitled to request accurate information on the amount you are carrying.
A valid passport is required when entering Austria. The only exception to this rule is when entering from another Schengen country (all EU states minus Britain and Ireland, plus Switzerland); in this case, only a national identity card is required.
Austria is part of the Schengen Agreement. A visa generally isn't necessary for stays of up to three months, but some nationalities need a Schengen visa.
Visas for stays of up to three months are not required for citizens of the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA), much of Eastern Europe, Israel, USA, Canada, the majority of Central and South American nations, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia or New Zealand. All other nationalities, including Chinese and Russian travellers, require a visa; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (www.bmaa.gv.at) has a list of Austrian embassies where you can apply for one, and the Austrian embassy in Washington (www.austria.org/going-to-austria/entry-a-residence-permits) lists all visa-free nationalities. Apply at least three weeks in advance.
If you wish to stay longer than three months you should simply leave the country and re-enter. For those nationalities that require a visa, extensions cannot be organised within Austria; you’ll need to leave and reapply. EU nationals can stay indefinitely but are required by law to register with the local Magistratisches Bezirksamt (magistrate’s office) if the stay exceeds 60 days.
Austria is part of the Schengen Agreement, which includes all EU states (minus Britain and Ireland) and Switzerland. In practical terms this means a visa issued by one Schengen country is good for all the other member countries and a passport is not required to move from one to the other (a national identity card is required, though). Austrians are required to carry personal identification, and you too will need to be able to prove your identity.
Visa and passport requirements are subject to change, so always double-check your home country's foreign travel or Austrian embassy website before travelling.
Austrians are fairly formal and use irony to alleviate social rules and constraints rather than debunk or break them overtly.
- Telephone Always give your name at the start of a telephone call, especially when making reservations. When completing the call, say auf Wiederhören ('goodbye'), the customary telephone form.
- Greetings Use the Sie (formal 'you') form unless you're young-ish (in your 20s) and among peers, or your counterpart starts using du (informal 'you'). Acknowledge fellow hikers on trails with a Servus, Grüss di (or the informal Grüss dich) or Grüss Gott (all ways of saying 'hello!').
- Eating & Drinking Bring chocolate or flowers as a gift if invited into a home. Before starting to eat, say Guten Appetit. To toast say Zum Wohl (if drinking wine) or Prost! (beer), and look your counterpart in the eye – not to do so is impolite and reputedly brings seven years of bad sex.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Vienna is reasonably tolerant towards gays and lesbians, more so than the rest of the country. Austria is these days close to Western European par on attitudes towards homosexuality.
Online information (in German) can be found at www.gayboy.at, www.rainbow.at, and www.gaynet.at. The Spartacus International Gay Guide, published by Bruno Gmünder (Berlin), is a good international directory of gay entertainment venues worldwide (mainly for men).
No matter how long or short your trip, make sure you have adequate travel insurance or are at least covered for the cost of emergency medical treatment. If you are not an EU citizen and your country doesn’t have a reciprocal arrangement with Austria for treatment costs, don’t leave home without travel health insurance. (The USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand don’t have reciprocal agreements.)
Components of insurance worth considering include repatriation for medical treatment; burial or repatriation in the event of death; search and rescue; the cost of returning home in case of illness or the death of a close relative; personal liability and legal expenses; the loss of your passport; luggage loss or delay; and expenses due to cancellations for a variety of reasons.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Wi-fi This is available in most hotels, numerous cafes and bars, and (increasingly) for free in public spaces. Many tourist offices also have WLAN ('vee-lan') as it's called in German. A wi-fi icon in our listings means a venue has wi-fi access either for free or for a moderate charge.
Network (LAN) Cable Some hotels have wi-fi in the foyer and cable access or occasionally power LAN (through the electricity socket) in rooms. A cable is usually in the room or available from reception. We mention whenever you need to bring your own. Cable-only access in hotels is noted in reviews (without the wi-fi icon).
Internet Terminals Many hotels have internet terminals that guests can use for free or for a small cost. Icons in our listings indicate these places.
Public Access Prices in internet cafes vary from around €4 to €8 per hour. Small towns often won’t have internet cafes but the local library will probably have a terminal.
Internet on Smart Phones Available but expensive if you are roaming. GPS and navigation work fine in most areas. If you don’t want to use local hot spots you can buy prepaid SIM cards without formalities.
Hot Spot Resources See www.freewave.at/en/hotspots for free hot spots in Vienna, and www.freewlan.at for Austria-wide hot spots.
Carry your passport or a copy of your passport with you at all times, as police will occasionally do checks. If you are arrested, the police must inform you of your rights in a language that you understand.
In Austria, legal offences are divided into two categories: Gerichtsdelikt (criminal) and Verwaltungsübertretung (administrative). If you are suspected of having committed a criminal offence (such as assault or theft) you can be detained for a maximum of 48 hours before you are committed for trial. If you are arrested for a less serious, administrative offence, such as being drunk and disorderly or committing a breach of the peace, you will be released within 24 hours.
Driving while drunk is an administrative offence, even if you have an accident. However, if someone is hurt in the accident it becomes a criminal offence. Possession of a controlled drug is usually a criminal offence. Possession of a large amount of cannabis or selling it (especially to children) could result in a five-year prison term. Prostitution is legal provided prostitutes are registered and have a permit.
If you are arrested, you have the right to make one phone call to ‘a person in your confidence’ within Austria, and another to inform legal counsel. If you can’t afford legal representation, you can apply to the judge in writing for legal aid.
As a foreigner, your best bet when encountering legal problems is to contact your national consulate for advice.
ATMs are widely available. Maestro direct debit and Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted in most hotels and in midrange restaurants. Expect to pay cash elsewhere. Travellers cheques are not accepted.
Bankomaten are extremely common everywhere and accessible till midnight; some are 24 hours. Most accept at the very least Maestro debit cards and Visa and MasterCard credit cards. There are English instructions and daily withdrawal limits of €400 with credit and debit cards. Check with your home bank before travelling for charges for using a Bankomat; there’s usually no commission to pay at the Austrian end.
Like other members of the European Monetary Union (EMU), Austria’s currency is the euro, which is divided into 100 cents. There are coins for one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and for €1 and €2. Notes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500.
The ubiquity of ATMs means you don’t need to carry large amounts of cash or use money-changing facilities. It is, however, worth keeping a small amount in a safe place for emergencies. Western Union (www.westernunion.com) money offices are available in larger towns for emergency transfers.
Visa and MasterCard (EuroCard) are accepted a little more widely than American Express (Amex) and Diners Club, although a surprising number of shops and restaurants refuse to accept any credit cards at all. Upmarket shops, hotels and restaurants will accept cards, though. Train tickets can be bought by credit card in main stations. Credit cards allow you to get cash advances on ATMs and over-the-counter at most banks.
For lost or stolen credit cards:
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
- Hotels One or two euros per suitcase for porters and for valet parking in top-end hotels. Leaving loose change for cleaners is appreciated.
- Restaurants Tip about 10% (unless service is abominable). Round up the bill, state the amount as you hand the bill back or leave tip in the bill folder when you leave.
- Bars About 5% at the bar and 10% at a table.
- Taxis About 10%.
Banks 8am or 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday (to 5.30pm Thursdays). Many smaller branches close 12.30pm to 1.30pm.
Cafes Hours vary considerably: 7am or 8am to 11pm or midnight; some traditional cafes close at 7pm or 8pm.
Offices & government departments Open 8am to 3.30pm, 4pm or 5pm Monday to Friday.
Post offices 8am to noon and 2pm to 6pm Monday to Friday; some open Saturday mornings; many are open all day weekdays.
Pubs & bars Close anywhere between midnight and about 4am.
Restaurants Generally 11am to 2.30pm or 3pm and 6pm to 11pm or midnight. Kitchens may closes an hour earlier in the evening.
Shops 9am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday (often to 9pm Thursday or Friday in cities); from 9am to 5pm Saturday.
Seasonal Opening Hours
Opening hours can vary significantly between the high season (April to October) and winter – many sights and tourist offices are on reduced hours from November to March. Opening hours we provide are for the high season, so outside those months it can be useful to check ahead.
- Austria's postal system (www.post.at) is reliable, inexpensive and reasonably quick. Stamps are available at post offices and authorised shops and tobacconists. Post boxes and vans are bright yellow.
- The cost of sending a letter depends on its weight – letters weighing up to 20g cost €0.68 in Austria, €0.80 to anywhere in the EU and €1.70 to the rest of the world.
New Year’s Day (Neujahr) 1 January
Epiphany (Heilige Drei Könige) 6 January
Easter Monday (Ostermontag) March/April
Labour Day (Tag der Arbeit) 1 May
Whit Monday (Pfingstmontag) 6th Monday after Easter
Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt) 6th Thursday after Easter
Corpus Christi (Fronleichnam) 2nd Thursday after Whitsunday
Assumption (Maria Himmelfahrt) 15 August
National Day (Nationalfeiertag) 26 October
All Saints’ Day (Allerheiligen) 1 November
Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis) 8 December
Christmas Day (Christfest) 25 December
St Stephen’s Day (Stephanitag) 26 December
Unless a separate room has been set aside, smoking is not allowed in restaurants, wherever food is served or in all but the smallest, one-room drinking venues. That's the theory. In practice Austria is a smoker's paradise as controls are lax. It’s legal to smoke anywhere on outdoor terraces. Most hotels stick to the smoking ban. A total ban will come into force in 2018.
Taxes & Refunds
Mehrwertsteuer (MWST; value-added tax) in Austria is 20% for most goods (included in the price). Look for shops with a ‘Global Refund Tax Free Shopping’ sticker to reclaim about 13% on single purchases over €75 (by non-EU citizens/residents); see www.globalrefund.com. Refund desks are at department stores Gerngross and Steffl (Vienna) and Kastner & Öhler (Graz), as well as Vienna and Salzburg airports. It’s best to claim refunds before leaving the country.
- Austria’s country code is 0043.
- Each town and region has its own area code beginning with ‘0’ (eg ‘01’ for Vienna). Drop this when calling from outside Austria; use it for all landline calls inside Austria except for local calls or special toll and toll-free numbers.
- Austrian mobile (Handy) telephone numbers begin with 0650 or higher up to 0699 (eg 0664/plus the rest of the number). All 0800 numbers are free; 0810 and 0820 numbers cost €0.10 and €0.20 per minute (respectively); 0900 numbers are exorbitantly charged and best avoided. Some large organisations have ‘050’ numbers, which do not need an area code (a local call from a landline, but more expensive from a mobile phone).
- Public telephones take phonecards or coins. Thirty cents is the minimum for a local call, which are charged by length of call (and by distance rates if not local). Call centres for domestic and international calls are also widespread, and many internet cafes are geared for Skype calls.
- There’s a wide range of local and international Telefonwertkarte (phonecards), which can save you money and help you avoid messing around with change. They are available from post offices, Telekom Austria shops, call shops and Tabak kiosks.
To direct-dial abroad, first telephone the overseas access code (00), then the appropriate country code, then the relevant area code (minus the initial ‘0’ if there is one), and finally the subscriber number. International directory assistance is available on 0900 11 88 77.
Tariffs for making international calls depend on the zone. To reverse the charges (call collect), you have to call a free phone number to place the call. Some of the numbers are listed below (ask directory assistance for others):
Australia (0800-200 202)
Ireland (800-200 213)
New Zealand (0800-200 222)
South Africa (0800-200 230)
UK (0800-200 209)
USA (AT&T; 0800-200 288)
Travellers from outside Europe will need a tri- or quad-band (world) mobile phone for roaming. Local SIM cards (about €15) are easily purchased for ‘unlocked’ phones.
The Handy (mobile phone) network works on GSM 1800 and is compatible with GSM 900 phones; it is not compatible with systems from the US unless the mobile phone is at least a tri-band model that can receive one of these frequencies. Japanese mobile phones need to be quad-band (world phone) to work in Austria. Roaming can get very expensive if your provider is outside the EU.
Prepaid SIM Cards
Phone shops sell prepaid SIM cards for making phone calls or SIM cards capable of being used on smart phones for data (ie using internet apps) as well as making calls. Typically, you pay about €15 for a SIM card and receive about €10 free credit. To use one, your mobile phone must be not locked to a specific carrier.
Make sure your data transfer capability is deactivated while roaming. Austria has lots of wi-fi hot spots that can be used for surfing or making internet calls (such as on Skype) using smart phones with wi-fi capability.
Austria has summer and winter time. Daylight saving time (Sommerzeit) begins on the last Sunday in March; all clocks are put forward by one hour. On the last Sunday in October, normal Central European Time begins and clocks are put back one hour.
Note that in German halb is used to indicate the half-hour before the hour, hence halb acht means 7.30, not 8.30.
When it’s noon in Vienna (outside of daylight saving time):
|Berlin, Stockholm & Paris||noon|
|Los Angeles & Vancouver||3am|
- Public toilets are generally widely available at major stations and tourist attractions, but you'll always need a €0.50 coin handy (it helps to have a stash of these – exact change is required).
- Bars and cafes don't take kindly to passers-by using their facilities without buying a drink at least, but they might let you if you ask nicely.
- Most towns and villages have a centrally situated tourist office and at least one of the staff will speak English. They go by various names – Kurort, Fremdenverkehrsverband, Verkehrsamt, Kurverein, Tourismusbüro or Kurverwaltung – but they can always be identified by a white ‘i’ on a green background.
- Staff can answer enquiries, from where to find vegetarian food to hotels with wi-fi in isolated areas. Most offices have an accommodation-finding service, often free of charge. Maps are available and usually free, often including some great hiking and cycling maps, too.
- The tourist office may have a rack of brochures hung outside the door, or there may be an accommodation board you can access even when the office is closed. Top hotels usually have a supply of useful brochures in the foyer.
Austria Info (www.austria.info) Excellent information on walking in Austria, from themed day hikes to long-distance treks. Also has details on national parks and nature reserves, hiking villages and special walking packages. Region-specific brochures are available for downloading.
Burgenland Tourismus (www.burgenland.info)
Kärnten Information (www.kaernten.at)
Niederösterreich Werbung (www.niederoesterreich.at)
Oberösterreich Tourismus (www.oberoesterreich.at)
Salzburgerland Tourismus (www.salzburgerland.com)
Steirische Tourismus (www.steiermark.com)
Tirol Info (www.tirol.at)
Tourist Info Wien (www.wien.info)
Vorarlberg Tourismus (www.vorarlberg-tourism.at)
Travel with Children
With its parks, playgrounds and great outdoors, Austria has plenty to keep the kids amused.
- Regional tourist offices often produce brochures aimed directly at families.
- Museums, parks and theatres often have programs for children over the summer holiday periods, and local councils occasionally put on special children's events and festivals.
- Many lakes have a supervised beach area, with children's splash areas and slides and games for little ones.
- Family walks ranging from gentle to challenging abound, even in high Alpine terrain.
- Many museums in Vienna are free for those under 18 or 19 years.
For helpful travelling tips, pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children by Cathy Lanigan.
Facilities Facilities for travellers with kids are good. Some museums (especially in Vienna) have a children’s play area; restaurants have high chairs; and many hotels have rooms that are connected by a door, making them especially suitable for families. In most hotels and pensions, children under 12 years receive substantial discounts, depending on exact age. Midrange and better hotels have cots (but book ahead). Family- or child-friendly hotels are highlighted in our listings.
Restaurants Most midrange restaurants have a child’s menu or will prepare smaller portions for children if you ask. A few have a play area.
Travelling with Babies In bigger cities, breastfeeding in public won’t cause eyelids to bat. Everything you need for babies, such as formula and disposable nappies (diapers), is widely available (in Drogerien, or drug stores). Nappy-changing facilities are commonly available in major restaurants, hotels and train stations.
Getting Around with Kids Rental car companies can arrange safety seats. Newer public transport, such as trams and buses in Vienna, are easily accessible for buggies and prams, but the older models can prove a nightmare. Children under six years usually travel free on public transport, or half-price until 15 years of age.
Resources Log on to www.kinderhotels.at for information on child-friendly hotels throughout the country.
Travellers with Disabilities
The situation in Austria for travellers with disabilities is good in Vienna, but outside the capital it's still by no means plain sailing. Ramps leading into buildings are common but not universal; most U-Bahn stations have wheelchair lifts but on buses and trams you’ll often be negotiating gaps and one or more steps. Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel Guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
For distance travel, ÖBB has a section for people with disabilities on its website. Change to the English-language option, then go to the menu and select ‘Accessible Booking’. Use the 05 1717 number for mobility assistance (you can do this while booking your ticket by telephone). Staff at stations will help with boarding and alighting. Order this at least 24 hours ahead of travel (48 hours ahead for international services). No special service is available at unstaffed stations. Passengers with disabilities get a 50% discount off the usual ticket price.
The detailed pamphlet Accessible Vienna is available in German or English from Tourist Info Wien (www.wien.info). A comprehensive list of places in Vienna catering to visitors with special needs can be downloaded from www.wien.info/en/travel-info/accessible-vienna. In other cities, contact the tourist office directly for more information.
Some of the more expensive hotels (four-star or above, usually) have facilities tailored to travellers with disabilities; cheaper hotels invariably don’t.
There is no national organisation for the disabled in Austria, but the regional tourist offices or any of the following can be contacted for more information:
Behinderten Selbsthilfe Gruppe Maintains a database at www.barrierefreierurlaub.at listing hotels and restaurants suitable for those with disabilities.
Bizeps A centre providing support and self-help for people with disabilities. Located two blocks north of Messe-Prater U-Bahn station in Vienna.
WUK Faktor.i Offers information to young people with disabilities. Located just north of the Pilgramgasse U-Bahn station.
Upper Austria Tourist Office (www.barrierefreies-oberoesterreich.at) Information and listings for people with disabilities travelling in Upper Austria.
Volunteering is a good way to meet people and get involved with local life, with projects lasting anything from a week to 18 months or more. In Austria, maintaining hiking trails is popular, but other volunteer projects range from joining a performance group on social issues to repairing school fences outside Vienna. Hook up with the networks in your home country and/or, if you speak German, approach an Austrian organisation directly.
Bergwald Projekt Excellent volunteer work programs protecting and maintaining mountain forests in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Generally, the Austrian programs last one week.
Freiwilligenweb (www.freiwilligenweb.at) Official Austrian government portal for volunteer work.
International Voluntary Service Great Britain (www.ivsgb.org) The UK organisation networked with the Service Civil International (SCI).
International Voluntary Service USA (www.sci-ivs.org) The US organisation networked with the SCI.
International Volunteers for Peace (www.ivp.org.au) An Australian organisation networked with the SCI.
Service Civil International (SCI; www.sciint.org) Worldwide organisation with local networks.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Austria uses the metric system.
- EU, EEA and Swiss nationals may work in Austria without a work permit or residency permit, though as intending residents they need to register with the police.
- Non-EU nationals need both a work permit and a residency permit, and will find it pretty hard to get either unless they qualify for a Red-White-Red Card, which is aimed at attracting highly skilled workers. Your employer in Austria must apply for your work permit. You must apply for your residency permit via the Austrian embassy in your home country.
- Teaching is a popular field for expats; look under ‘Sprachschulen’ in the Gelbe Seiten (yellow pages) for a list of schools. In professions outside of that and barkeeping, you’ll struggle to find employment if you don’t speak German.
Some useful job websites:
Arbeitsmarktservice Österreich (www.ams.or.at) Austria’s Labour Office
StepStone (www.stepstone.at) Directed towards professionals.
Virtual Vienna Net (www.virtualvienna.net) Aimed at expats, with a variety of jobs, including UN listings.