Land-locked Austria is never at a loss for spectacular scenery and long, invigorating walks. A true Alpine country, 68% of its land lies above an elevation of 1,640 feet. Austria’s highest point stands at 12,461 feet. The Eastern Alps spill in from Switzerland and comprise most of the country’s land area. Alpine foothills drape out from the Alps eastward toward Hungary and Slovakia, rolling into the Pannonian Plain. In the northeast, the flat Vienna basin was cut over millennia by the Danube River.
It is perhaps because of its overwhelming natural beauty that Austria is among one of the world’s most peaceable nations. With a rich legacy in music, architecture, the humanities and cuisine, it is one of Europe’s most beloved nations. Austria is a federal republic. The capital city is Vienna.
German is Austria’s official language. While knowledge of the local language is not necessary, you may want to learn some fun and useful phrases to use during your walking tour. The effort seldom goes unappreciated and by trying some greetings and salutations with a smile, your interactions are likely to grow into rewarding exchanges that capture the local gemütlichkeit, the spirit that celebrates life’s finer moments. See bbc.co.uk/languages/german for helpful hints.
Life in Austria
Shopping and banking hours: Shops and stores are generally open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; in small towns they may close for one to three hours for lunch; we recommend checking locally before you set out to explore. Banks are open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday to Friday (and until 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays).
Meal times: Breakfast is served at hotels from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The vast majority of restaurants serve lunch from noon to 2:00 p.m. and dinner is served from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Tipping: Gratuities in restaurants and bars are included (at 15 percent) in the total bill; for exceptional service, it is customary to round up the total or leave one to two euros. Taxi drivers typically receive one to three euros above the rounded-up total. For luggage assistance, a tip of one to two euros per bag is appropriate.
Austrian public holidays: Austrian public holidays, festivals, or calendars of events may affect your travel planning. Visit the Austrian tourist board’s website at austria.info, navigating to “Basic Facts” and “Practical Information.”
Austrian food is wholesome and hearty, with meat and dumplings taking center stage, often in the form of the famous breaded and fried veal or pork cutlet known as wienerschnitzel. Dumplings, called knödel, can be made either sweet or savory according to taste. Beef, sausages, potatoes, and broth soups all are on the menu. You’re likely to see fresh lake fish served in Austria’s lake region. Desserts and baked goods are also key components of the Austrian diet. Almost every village has a bakery with a large selection of white and rye rolls.
Well-loved desserts are, of course, apfelstrudel (apple strudel), linzertorte (a flaky cake with raspberry jam), and sachertorte (two tiers of chocolate cake separated by a thin layer of apricot jam and topped with chocolate icing).
Austria has a number of tempting beverages, from its famous coffee, often served with whipped cream, to first-class wines and high-quality lager brews. After dinner, locals and visitors alike also appreciate schnapps, a fruit brandy from pear, apricot, or raspberry.
Though Austria is in a temperate climate zone, three distinct regions produce distinct climate patterns. Most of the country enjoys the four seasons to their fullest, with cold winters and warm and pleasant summer months ranging from May to September, with peak temperatures in July and August. Eastern Austria benefits from milder winters and low precipitation. At higher altitudes, an Alpine climate brings high precipitation and long winters. Mountaintop and evening temperatures can be considerably lower than those at lower elevations and during the daytime.
U.S. citizens: Passports are required and must be valid for at least three months beyond the dates of travel. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days. For more information, see travel.state.gov.
Austria uses the euro (EUR). The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 1 EUR. Exchange rates can vary greatly month to month, so we recommend you visit oanda.com for the latest.
Many businesses in Europe will no longer accept credit cards without PIN numbers (chip and pin cards). Contact your bank or your credit-card company for details on fees and card use when travelling, and to inform them of your travel destination and dates so they do not freeze your accounts when they see charges appear from a foreign country.
We recommend having a variety of payment options readily available to help you start your trip: ATM card(s), credit card(s), some U.S. dollars to exchange, and some euros in small denominations.
No immunizations are required to enter Austria. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.
Electricity: Alternating current of 230V and 50Hz is used in Austria. Plugs have either two round pins and a hole, or just two round pins. For a full listing of electrical outlets worldwide, see electricaloutlet.org. If you are bringing your own hair dryer or other electrical device, you will need a travel converter, available at most hardware, travel, or consumer electronic stores. For laptops or an electronic device with a dual voltage switch, you will only need the adapter plug, not the converter.
Phone: Austria’s country code is “+43.” Cell phone coverage throughout Austria is extensive, but we cannot guarantee adequate signals on all American phone models or while on walking trails or in remote areas. For more information regarding international phone use, please refer to this blog post.
Internet: Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages; however, all of the hotels used on our tours do not necessarily provide it, or they provide it at an additional cost. Details regarding Wi-Fi availability in each hotel are available in the Itinerary Overview that you’ll receive once you’ve reserved.
Austria is in the Central European Time Zone, Eastern Standard Time plus 6 hours. For more information on worldwide time zones, see: worldtimezone.com.
A wealth of travel information is available at austria.info.
International Airports in Austria
- Graz Airport
- Klagenfurt Airport
- Innsbruck Airport
- Linz Airport
- Salzburg Airport
- Vienna International Airport
Austria’s national train company is ÖBB. You may book your train travel directly with them. Or, if you plan to travel for longer periods, consider Rail Europe, a U.S.-based company that provides schedules, reservations, and ticketing for all European train networks. Their multi-day, -week or -month passes in one country or combinations of countries may be a more economical and convenient choice. For more information, go to raileurope.com or call 800.622.8600.
Other local transportation
Direct flights from the U.S. are available to Vienna, with short internal flights available to smaller cities such as Salzburg (salzburg-airport.com/en) and Innsbruck (innsbruck-airport.com/en). From airports, reaching any destination in Austria is easy on an excellent rail network or via extensive regional bus lines.
Taxis are available at all major airports, train stations, and in smaller towns, and can be reserved in advance (your hotel can usually provide assistance). Most major car rental agencies have offices at Austrian airports and train stations. For more information about driving in Austria, go to austria.info and click on “Basic Facts,” then “Practical Information,” and “Driving Regulations.”