- Austria in a nutshell
- Things to arrange in advance
- Public transport
- Additional information
- Our Top 5
1. Austria in a nutshell
Austria is a landlocked, German speaking country of 8.4 million inhabitants in Central Europe. Austria shares its borders with Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, and (the) Czech Republic. The origins of modern-day Austria date back to the time of the Habsburg dynasty. Nowadays, Austria is a federation of which each of its nine federal states (Bundesland) has a unique and distinct culture. Many Austrians derive their identity from their state. For instance, typical inhabitants of Carinthia would say that they are Carinthian first, Austrian second and maybe European third. Vienna is the only major city in Austria in the east of the country.
This movie features our "Foothills of the Alps" in the Hohe Tauern Area (with English speaking guides of course...)
Austria has a good reputation for winter sports. However, it is just as popular for summer tourists who visit its historic cities (beautiful hotels in Vienna) and villages and hike in the magnificent scenery of the Alps. The diverse mix of landscapes is packed into a relatively small area of size. Glaciers, meadows, alpine valleys, wooded foothills, gently rolling farmland, vineyards, river gorges, plains and even semi-arid steppes can be found in Austria.
Most Austrians like to enjoy the good life. They are all proud of their beautiful palaces and ‘their’ Mozart, but they are unlikely to be flag-wavers. Still, they are very hospitable and welcome tourists with open arms year round.
- The German name for Austria is Österreich, which means ‘Eastern Empire’, referring to the time when Austria was a part of the Holy Roman Empire.
- In 1867, Austria and Hungary joined together to create the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This joint empire ended at the end of World War I (1918).
- Over 60% of Austria’s electricity is supplied by renewable sources.
- About one fourth of the population of Austria lives in Vienna.
- Tiergarten Schönbrunn of Vienna, founded in 1752, is the oldest zoological garden in the world.
- Austria has 13 peaks above 9,843 ft / 3,000 m and 34 above 6,562 ft / 2,000 m. About 62% of Austria's total land area is covered by the Austrian Alps.
- Founded in 803 as Stiftskeller St. Peter, Haslauer is the world's oldest inn/restaurant still in operation, and the oldest company in Europe.
- Many Austrian cities and towns encourage cyclists through designated cycle lanes. There are many beautifully tended cycling routes throughout the country, especially in areas of natural beauty such as along the Danube (Donau) river.
You can also view our Flickr photo album about Austria.
- Travel documents: Canadians and Americans only need a valid passport, which will allow you to remain in Austria for a maximum period of 90 days.
- Driving license and registration: For none EU-members a valid driver’s license is sufficient, however when renting a car it’s advised to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). Austria requires all vehicles using the autobahn to display an “Autobahn Vignette” highway tax decal on the inside of the vehicle’s windshield. The decal can be purchased (about € 8) at border crossings, gas stations in Austria, and small “Tabak” shops located in Austrian towns. Fines for failing to display a valid autobahn vignette on the windshield of your car are usually around €120.
- Medical passport: If you are using medication, ask your doctor for a ‘medical passport’. This can be a signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names which details your affliction and what medicines you need to use. Bring medications in their original, clearly labelled containers. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity.
- Insurance documents (travel/health)
- Tickets and reservations
- Money and credit cards
Austria has the euro as it’s currency. The seven euro notes come in denominations of € 500, € 200, € 100, € 50, € 20, € 10 and € 5. The eight euro coins are in denominations of € 2 and € 1 and of 50, 20, 10, five, two and one cents.
With the number of ATM's, the practice of carrying large amounts of cash around has become obsolete. It is, however, worth keeping a small amount in a safe place for emergencies. In Austria ATM's are known as Bankomaten. They are extremely common and are accessible till midnight, some are 24 hours. Even villages have at least one machine; look for the sign with blue and green horizontal stripes. ATMs are linked up internationally, have English instructions and are usually limited to daily withdrawals of € 400 with credit and debit cards. Check with your home bank before travelling for charges for using a Bankomat.
The use of credit cards is less widespread than in Canada or USA and not all stores, hotels or restaurants will accept them. When they do, MasterCard and Visa are the most popular. Train tickets can be bought by credit card in main stations. Credit cards allow you to get cash advances at most banks.
All major traveller’s cheques are widely accepted, especially American Express, Visa or Thomas Cook. A record of the cheque numbers and the initial purchase details is vital when it comes to replacing lost cheques.
Tipping in Austria
Tipping is a part of everyday life in Austria; in restaurants, bars and cafes and in taxis it’s customary to give about 10%. Add the bill and the tip together and hand it over in one lump sum. It also doesn’t hurt to tip hairdressers, hotel porters, cloak-room attendants, cleaning staff and tour guides one or two euros.
Austria has an excellent health care system by Western standards. Austria boasts internationally acclaimed hospitals and clinics which feature top-of-the-range technology and first-rate facilities. However, make sure you have a good health insurance as medical services comes with a price tag. English-speaking doctors or doctors speaking any other language can be easily found. Emergency treatment is provided at the emergency room of all hospitals and is known as the ‘Notaufnahme’.
Pharmacies (Apotheke) sell medicines in Austria and operate 24/7 in most large towns and cities. Even the smallest mountain villages usually have at least one. Drugstores (Drogerie) only sell toiletries, herbal remedies and a range of self-administered tablets like vitamins.
A prescription (Rezept) can only be given by a doctor or specialist consultant. Austrian law is very strict about the prescription of medicines and many medicines that are available over-the-counter in other countries, must be prescribed by a doctor, this even includes some painkillers. There is a small additional fee (‘Zuzahlungspflicht’) for each drug of about € 4.50.
4. Public transport
Public transport throughout Austria is generally well-organized and efficient, with reliable information on routes and schedules available in German and English. Most large cities and towns feature some form of public transport, including underground systems, buses, tram lines and suburban railways which means getting around without a car is generally not a problem.
Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen, ÖBB) is the national railway system of Austria (and the administrators of Liechtenstein's railways). The ÖBB group is owned entirely by the Republic of Austria.
Austria's rail network is comfortable, reliable and fast. Trains are the best way to get around if you are visiting cities. Comfortable and moderately priced trains connect major cities and many towns. The main rail website (http://www.oebb.at/en/) offers excellent information on timetables, services and discounts. Besides, Austria has plenty of connections with all its neighbouring countries daily.
The Austrian Railways operate high-speed ‘ICE’ and ‘RailJet’ trains from cities like Zurich, Munich and Budapest. ‘Eurocity’ trains are the next fastest trains available as well as the trains connecting the bigger Austrian cities called ‘Intercity’. Regional trains called ‘EURegio’ and simply ‘Regionalzug’ are also available from all 8 of Austria's neighbours.
- S (S-Bahn/Schnellbahn), commuter trains offered in several regions and suburban areas
- RSB (Regio S-Bahn), an express version of the S-Bahn making limited stops
- R (Regionalzug), slow local trains, stops everywhere
- REX (Regionalexpress), fast regional trains, stop at more significant stations
- IC (InterCity), long-distance trains connecting major towns and cities
- EC (EuroCity), international long-distance trains
- ICE (InterCityExpress), German high-speed trains
- RJ (Railjet), Austria's home-grown high-speed trains
Buses are the main way of local transport in Austria. Towns that require some form of public transport will at least have a local bus system; it will be well used, comprehensive and efficient. Keep alert when you’re about to get off a bus: if you haven’t pressed the request button and there’s nobody waiting at the bus stop, the driver will go right past it.
The ‘Postbus’ network not only provides a back-up to train service, it’s quite useful for reaching remote destinations and small villages that aren’t serviced by the trains. Bus service is usually reliable, and bus departure areas are normally found in front of rail stations. For travel to remote destinations, planning ahead and travelling on a weekday is recommended. Service frequency is generally reduced on Saturdays and there may be no service at all on Sundays.
Many of Austria’s larger cities, such as Graz, Linz and Vienna supplement their bus systems with convenient and environmentally friendly trams. Most towns have an integrated transport system, meaning you can switch between bus and tram routes on the same ticket.
Vienna has an extensive system of metro, bus, light rail and tramway services. Most routes have a flat fare, and there are pre-purchase multi-journey tickets and passes. The Vienna Card entitles visitors to 72 hours of unlimited travel by underground, bus and tram within four days. It also entitles the holder to reductions at several museums and other tourist attractions in the city, as well as shops, cafes and wine taverns. The card can be purchased at hotels or at Vienna Transport’s ticket offices.
All taxis in Austria should be metered. They come in all colours and are simply recognized by their roof taxi signs. Taxis normally can’t be hailed off the street, you must go to one of the taxi stands located throughout a city or outside hotels and train stations. For a rural pick up or door-to-door service you must phone ahead; your hotel or accommodation can do this for you. Tipping is expected, but rounding up to the nearest euro is often enough.
Austria is considered one of the safest countries on the planet and the violent crime rate is low. There are pickpockets and gypsies working in Vienna and Salzburg as well as in some of the other larger cities, but common sense is the best defense against petty crime. If you travel by public transport, keep track of your purse/suitcase/wallet. Following the local crime alerts and keeping valuables in hotel safes will make the trip more secure and pleasurable.
In case of an emergency, you can dial the following numbers when you’re in Austria:
112-General emergency call
122-Fire department emergency
An authentic cattle parade in Tirol.
- Bring an adapter for the 220Volts/AC system to charge your phone, computer, etc. (European - two round pins, 220Volts/50 Hz.).
- Austria is in the Central European Time zone (GMT +1).
- The international access code for Austria is +43. To call from Canada or the U.S. to Austria you have to dial 011 + 43 + City Area Code + Number.
- National holidays in Austria: 1 January (New Year’s Day), 6 January (Epiphany), Easter Monday, 1 May (Labour Day), Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Corpus Christi (Thursday after Trinity Sunday), 15 August (Assumption Day), 26 October (Austrian National Day), 1 November (All Saints’ Day), 8 December (Immaculate Conception), 25 December (Christmas) and 26 December (St. Stephen's Day).
- Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951), automotive engineer/founder of Porsche
- Romy Schneider (1938-1982), actress
- Arnold Schwarzenegger (1947), bodybuilder, actor and politician
- Nicki Lauda (1949), former Formula One racing driver and entrepreneur
- Johann Hölzel aka Falco (1957-1998), pop musician
- Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
- Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
- Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
- Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
- Apfel Strudel (classic apple pudding)
- Wiener Schnitzel (breadcrumbed and fried veal escalope)
- Kaiserschmarrn (dessert of shredded pancake and stewed fruit)
- Cheese Danish (wafer-thin pastry filled with sweet cheese and raisins)
- Sachertorte (chocolate cake filled with apricot jam)
- Ernst Happel (1925-1992), football trainer and player
- Gerhard Berger (1959), racing
- Anita Wachter (1967), alpine skiing
- Thomas Muster (1967), tennis
- Hermann Maier (1972), alpine skiing
- Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), father of psychoanalysis
- Baron Von Trapp (1880-1947), Navy officer, modeled in The Sound of Music
- Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), führer of Nazi Germany
- Oskar Schindler (1908-1974), industrialist and WWII hero
- Simon Wiesenthal, (1908-2005), pre-eminent nazi hunter