Austria is well known throughout the world as the backdrop for the movie Sound of Music. Indeed, much of Austria is a paradise of snow-capped mountains and lush green valleys. However, major cities like Innsbruck and Salzburg are tourist magnets with a reputation for clean streets, world-class restaurants, and a friendly atmosphere. Vienna, the capital, reaches the top of lists every year as one of the world’s most livable cities.
Passports & Visas
Passports are required upon entering and leaving the European Union of which Austria is a member. Visas are not required for US citizens for visits of less than 90 days. For longer visits, contact the nearest Austrian embassy.
Obtaining a US passport
The US Government Website is where to start.
Citizens of countries other than EU member states must apply for a Visa at the Austrian emabassy or consulate in their home country if they desire to remain in Austria for more than 90 days within a six month period.
American Consular Services are available in Vienna, which should be able to handle most tourist queries.
US Embassy in Austria
American Citizen Services
Tel.: (+43-1) 31339-7535 (no visa questions)
Fax: (+43-1) 512 58 35
Opening hours are 8-11:30 Monday to Friday.
Austria Tourist Information
Culture and History
See the following link for a brief history of Austria
Currency in Austria
The currency in Austria is the Euro €. Traveler’s checks are still accepted throughout the country, but credit cards and Euros are really the most acceptable way to pay for your purchases. ATMs are now very easy to find. The best exchange rates are often found with the use of credit or debit (ATM) cards. Banks tend to have better exchange rates than local exchange bureaus. While Austrian banks do not charge fees for foreign credit cards, be aware your bank might.
Driving in Austria
Driving in Austria can be a breathtaking experience in itself – the roads are some of the best in Europe, and sections like the Star drive (road 188) through the Alps and the Albert Pass are as memorable as days in the cities. Keep your focus on the road, though, and remember you need a motorway pass (vignette) to drive on motorway or expressways. Portions of the A13, A10, and A9 use video tolls, so don’t forget to factor in these extra costs. Headlights must be on in poor weather conditions and you’ll need to carry snow chains between 1 November and 15 April. Do not use your horn in Vienna or outside of hospitals.
Electricity in Austria
Electricity is 230volt/50Hz and takes continental European two-prong plugs. Make sure your appliances can accept the higher voltage of power (American outlets provide 120 volts) or you’ll need a converter and an adapter. Some appliances and computers can accommodate either 120 or 220 volts either automatically or with just the flip of a switch on the appliance. (Check it out before you buy.)
Etiquette in Austria
Austrians are generally quite conservative. They take pride in their homes and their families; weekends are devoted to outdoor activities and spending time with family. Generally, only close friends and associates are invited into the home of an Austrian. They generally plan well ahead for events and are quite punctual. Use a person’s title and last name until invited to do otherwise.
Public Hours in Austria
Shopping hours Monday-Friday are typically 8 or 9AM until 6PM. In smaller towns, shops may close for lunch. On Saturdays, stores are only open from 8 or 9AM until Noon or 1PM, with the exception of the first Saturday of the month where stores stay open until 5PM. All shops are closed on Sunday.
Safety in Austria
Austria is one of the safest countries in the world. Like many European countries, pickpocketing is your worst problem, especially in crowded areas in Vienna. As mentioned above, be sure to take proper precautions appropriate equipment if you’ll be hiking in remote areas in the mountains.
Tipping in Austria
It used to be sufficient to round the bill upwards to provide a tip. However, it is becoming more common to leave a modest tip for good service. Given that a service charge is typically levied on a restaurant bill, a 10% tip is more than enough.
Weather in Austria
Being one of the most mountainous countries of Europe, weather in Austria can vary somewhat due to elevation or just being on one side of the mountains or the other. The southeast of the country has the hottest summers, but summer brings rain across the entire country – although normally in the form of short, heavy thunderstorms, not all day rain. Winters are distinctively chilly, especially when winds from Eastern Europe and Russia come rolling in. As noted above, events and activities throughout the year make Austria an appealing destination in all seasons.
Main Sights in Austria
Getting Around in Austria
Vienna Airport is the country’s largest airport, home to Austrian Airlines. However, given Austria’s geographic location there are many air options. Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz, and Salzburg all have their own airports, but it is easy to fly into neighboring countries such as Germany (Munich), Slovakia (Bratislava), or Hungary (Budapest) and catch fast and frequent train services into Austria.
Eurolines provides most of the bus service throughout Austria. If you’re booking in advance, check trains or planes first as these are often less expensive.
The OBB (Österreichische Bundesbahnen) is Austria’s rail operator. Rail service is frequent and of high quality; travel through the mountains is scenic and the best way to sit back and take in all the sights.
Car Rental companies are the standard set of brands, and it is recommended to make your booking before leaving home. A U.S. driver’s license alone is not sufficient to drive in Austria. The U.S. driver’s license must be accompanied by an international driver’s permit.
Taxis can normally not be hailed off the street; you must go to one of the taxi stands located throughout a given city. For a rural pick up or door-to-door service, you must phone ahead. Your hotel or accommodation can do this for you.
Health care in the Austria is of high quality and you should have no trouble finding English speaking service providers. If you require medical assistance, contact your accommodation to get in touch with a local physician. Be forewarned that while you are covered for basic emergency services, your home insurance will not cover you for injuries sustained while hiking in the mountains. For serious injuries, the authorities will be quick to order one of their many mountain rescue helicopters for transporting you to a hospital and you will bear the cost.
No permit is required to carry medication in your luggage. However, you should pack your medication in its original containers and/or have your doctor’s prescription with you. Customs officials will have to be satisfied that you are not importing more than would be necessary for your personal use, taking into account the drug type and length of stay (for no more than three months).
Lodging in Austria
If you’re staying in Vienna you’ll be overwhelmed with choice – from small, charming inns to massive, luxurious chain hotels. Just choose somewhere central and you’ll be assured a good stay. For the smaller cities or mountain towns, the choice is still superb; you can stay in old castles, luxury hostels, or what Austrians call a “pension”, which is quite similar to a hostel but can vary a bit more according to price. Check out the star rating of the property, which should give you a good guide as to what you’ll be getting.
Public Holidays in Austria
New Year’s Day (1 Jan)
Epiphany (6 Jan)
National Holiday (1 May)
Corpus Christi (11 Jun)
Assumption (15 Aug)
National Day (26 Oct)
All Saints’ Day (1 Nov)
Immaculate Conception (8 Dec)
Christmas Day (25 Dec)
Boxing Day (26 Dec)
Telephones in Austria
To dial a number in Austria from the USA, dial ‘011’ plus the country code of ‘43’. If the number then starts with 0222, it is Vienna, so drop all four digits and dial a ‘1’, then dial the rest of the numbers. If the number is not Vienna, just drop the 0 and dial the rest of the digits.
Example (Vienna): +43 1 534444 (was 0222 534444)
Example (not Vienna): +43 662 875444 (was 0662 875444)
To dial a number while in Austria, drop the city code if you’re in the same city, otherwise dial the four digit city code plus the number.
Example, when calling in Vienna: 534444
Example, when calling outside of Vienna: 0222 534444
Take note that Austrian numbers are not a standard length – the number of digits varies per region.
Useful Country Codes:
USA and Canada 1
In an emergency, always dial 112; the operator will direct you to police, ambulance, or the fire department based on your situation.
Returning to the US
Customs,VAT & Duty Free
When you return to the U.S., you’ll need to declare everything you brought back that you did not take with you. If you are traveling by air or sea, you may be asked to fill out a Customs Declaration Form provided by the airline or cruise ship. Keep your sales slips. Try to pack the things you’ll need to declare separately. Read the signs in the Customs area; they contain helpful information about how to clear Customs.
For complete information on Customs, look at the U.S. Government Customs Website
Value Added Tax (VAT) Refund Information
We have found it such a hassle to try to reclaim the VAT tax that we simply do not bother. If however, you will be spending a great deal of money, it might be worth the many steps you will need to go through. Also, remember that a 10 percent V.A.T. (Value Added Tax) tax is added to rates for all restaurants and hotel rooms. Service is included. This 10% V.A.T. tax on services is not refundable.
Travelers to Austria from outside the EU are entitled to a reimbursement of the 20 % V.A.T. (Value Added Tax) they pay on all purchases as long as the purchases add up to no less than 90 Euros in the same store and on the same day. The vendor must provide the purchaser with a duly filled out invoice which includes the price of each good, the V.A.T. paid for each item, as well as the identification (name and address) for both vendor and purchaser. The goods must be brought out of the European Union within three months from the date of purchase.
At the time of departure Austria and final departure from the European Union territory, and before checking in your baggage, you must bring your invoice(s) and the merchandise purchased to the Austrian Customs in order for them to process your V.A.T. refund claim (there is a specific booth for this purpose just prior to the entrance to the international area at the international port, gate or airport).
If you are a U.S. or Canadian resident, you may qualify for a personal exemption which allows you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying customs duties, excise taxes, or Value Added Tax.