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Quick Facts
CapitalVienna
Governmentfederal republic
CurrencyEuro (EUR)
Areatotal: 83,858 sq km
water: 1,120 sq km
land: 82,738 sq km
Population8,169,929 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageGerman
ReligionRoman Catholic 78%, Protestant 5%, Muslim and other 17%
Calling Code43
Internet TLD.at
Time ZoneUTC +1

Austria (German: Österreich) is a land-locked alpine country in Central Europe bordering with Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Germany and Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east and Slovenia and Italy to the south.

Regions

Austria is a federal state comprised of nine states:

  • Burgenland
  • Carinthia (K�rnten)
  • Lower Austria (Nieder�sterreich)
  • Salzburg
  • Styria (Steiermark)
  • Tyrol (Tirol)
  • Vienna (Wien)
  • Vorarlberg

Cities

  • Graz
  • Hall
  • Innsbruck
  • Klagenfurt
  • Linz
  • Salzburg
  • Vienna (Wien)

Other destinations

  • Hallstatt
  • Wolfgangsee - lake surrounded by picturesque mountain towns
  • W�rthersee - one of Austria's warmest lakes
  • Bodensee - a big lake situated in Vorarlberg/Switzerland/Germany

Understand

History

Once the center of power for the large Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria was reduced to a small republic after its defeat in World War I. Following annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938 and subsequent occupation by the victorious Allies in 1945, Austria's status remained unclear for a decade. A State Treaty signed in 1955 ended the occupation, recognized Austria's independence, and forbade unification with Germany. A constitutional law of that same year declared the country's "perpetual neutrality" as a condition for Soviet military withdrawal. This neutrality, once ingrained as part of the Austrian cultural identity, has been called into question since the Soviet collapse of 1991 and Austria's entry into the European Union in 1995. A prosperous country, Austria entered the European Monetary Union in 1999.

Culture

Austrians aren't easy to categorise. In fact, the only reason Austrians stand out from their European neighbours is that they don't stand out from the rest for anything in particular. Austrians are moderate in their outlook and behaviour. Being at Europe's crossroads, their culture is influenced from several sides. The stereotype of the yodelling, thigh slapping, beer swivelling xenophobe may apply to a few individuals in rural areas but it certainly doesn't apply to the majority of Austrians.

The average Austrian on the street is likely to be friendly yet somewhat reserved and formal, softly spoken and well mannered, law abiding, socially conservative, rooted, family oriented, conformist and somewhat nepotistic, a catholic at heart, not particularly religious but a follower of tradition, well educated if not as cosmopolitan as his/her European cousins, nationalistic yet cynical, and equipped with a dry, sarcastic sense of humour. Most Austrians enjoy the good life. They spend a lot of time eating, drinking and having a good time with friends in a cosy environment, and are therefore very hospitable. Members of the older generation can be conservative in the sense that they frown upon extremes of any shape and form and, in general, are averse to change. They enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world and want to keep it that way.

Austria doesn't have a well defined class system. However, cultural differences between the urban and rural populations can be huge. Culture also varies from region to region, but to a lesser extent. As a very general rule, the further to the West the location and the more rural the environment, the more socially conservative people become. Many Austrians derive their identity from their Bundesland, or Province. For instance, the typical inhabitant of Carinthia would say he/she is Carinthian first and Austrian second.

It's important to stress that Austrians are not Germans. Or at least they don't think of themselves as such. Argueably, Southern Germany and Bavaria in particular is a close cultural relative of Austria in many ways. You may not even notice any change at all in people's accent and appearance when crossing the border between the two countries. But Northern and Eastern Germany are a different world alltogether and no more similar to Austria than, say, its southerly neighbour Italy. Whatever the similarities and differences between Austria and Germany may be, comparisons will not be appreciated by Austrians, neither will they use of terms like "German", "Teutonic" or "Germanic" for things that are Austrian.

Geography

Contrary to popular perceptions, Austria is not all about mountains. In fact, the Alps only occupy about half of the country. A diverse mix of landscapes is packed into a relatively small area. Glaciers, meadows, alpine valleys, wooded foothills, gently rolling farmland, vineyards, river gorges, plains and even semi-arid steppes can be found in Austria.

One quarter of of Austria's population lives in Greater Vienna, located where the Danube meets the Easternmost fringe of the Alps, not far from the border with Slovakia. Virtually all government, financial and cultural institutions, as well as national media and large corporations are based in Vienna. Thus, the capital dominates Austria's cultural and political life.

Climate

Austria has a temperate continental climate. Summers last from early June to mid-September and can be hot in some years and rainy in others. Day-time temperatures in July and August are around 25 C, but can often reach 35 C. Winters are cold in the lowlands and very harsh in the Alpine region with temperatures often dropping below -20 C. Winters last from December to March (longer at higher altitudes). In the Alpine region large temperature fluctuations occur all year round and nights are chilly even in high summer. The northern Alps are generally a lot wetter than the rest of the country. The South East (Styria and Carinthia) is dry and sunny. The area around Vienna often experiences strong easterly winds.

Electricity

Electricity is supplied at 220 to 230V 50Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, but non-grounded, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types. Generally speaking, U.S. and Canadian travelers should pack an adapter for these outlets if they plan to use North American electrical equipment in Austria.

Get in

People from countries within the EU, the United States, Canada, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand do not require a Visa to enter Austria. They are allowed to stay up to three months. People from Africa and Arabian countries as well as people from former soviet republics generally do require a visa.

By air

The most important international airport is Vienna which has connection to all major airports of the world. Other international airports include Graz, Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck which provide domestic flights as well as connections to some European countries. Those airports are particularly popular with cheap airlines such as Ryanair.

By bus

EUROLINES ([[1] (http://eurolines.blaguss.at/|http://eurolines.blaguss.at/)]) has bus schedules from Austria to all major European countries and back.

By car

Austria has numerous border crossings to its neighbouring countries. Be aware that border crossings to Hungary, Czechia and Slovenia can be congested at the beginning of national holidays.

On some Saturdays in July and August traffic jams hundreds(!) of kilometres long can form on the motorways between Germany and Austria, when millions of German tourists head south at the beginning of school vacations. The motorway A10 between Salzburg and Villach is especially notorious. It's best to avoid those Saturdays.

From Germany
  • Motorway A8 from Munich to Salzburg.
  • Motorway A93 from Rosenheim via Kufstein to Innsbruck, Tyrol.
  • E43 from Leutkirch via Wangen to Vorarlberg.
  • E56 from Regensburg to Passau, Villach, Carinthia.
  • E54 via Brenner to Innsbruck, Tyrol.
From Slovenia
  • E652 to Villach,Carinthia.
  • E57 via Spielfeld to Graz, Styria.

By train

Austria's connections with neighbouring Germany are excellent, and all other neighbours are connected by at least two trains per day. Check out the so-called Eurocity trains, which are the fastest trains available as well as the trains connecting the bigger Austrian cities called Intercity.

Information for railway freaks

In Austria many railways run electrically. There are many interesting mountain railways of all types.


In Austria most electric trains get their power from a single phase AC network. This network uses its own powerlines run with 110 kV, which have in opposite to normal powerlines a number of conductors not dividable by 3 (most powerlines for the single phase AC grid of the traction power grid have four conductors)

Get around

By train and bus

Trains are the best way to get around if you're visiting cities. Comfortable and moderately priced trains connect major cities and many towns; buses other towns and lakes. The two forms of transport are integrated and designed to complement each other, so coaches (long distance buses) between cities are hard to find in most of Austria.

VorteilsCard. If you are under 26 and plan to spend more than 40 EUR on rail travel get a VorteilsCard (photo needed) for EUR 19,90 and have 45% discount on all trains in Austria and 25% abroad in Europe. If you have a Vorteilscard you can get a further 5% discount if you buy the tickets at the ticket machines, which sell national as well as regional tickets. The Vorteilscard is also available for those over 26 but costs 100 EUR.

  • EN 246 Wien Westbahnhof (22:20) - St.P�lten Hbf - Amstetten(A) - St. Valentin - Linz Hbf - Wels Hbf - Attnang-Puchheim - Jenbach - Innsbruck Hbf - �tztal - Imst-Pitztal - Landeck - St. Anton am Arlberg - Langen am Arlberg - Bludenz - Feldkirch - Hohenems - Dornbirn - Bregenz (7:51)
  • EN 247 Bregenz (21:45) - Dornbirn - Hohenems - Feldkirch - Bludenz - Langen am Arlberg - St. Anton am Arlberg - Landeck - �tztal - Innsbruck Hbf - Jenbach - W�rgl - Attnang-Puchheim - Wels Hbf - Linz Hbf - St. Valentin - Amstetten(A) - St.P�lten Hbf - Wien H�tteldorf - Wien Westbahnhof (7:33)
  • E 6104 Wien S�dbahnhof Bstg. 11-19 (7:54) - Wien Meidling - Wien Ottakring - Wien Heiligenstadt - Klosterneuburg-Kierling - Tulln - Absdorf-Hippersdorf - Kirchberg am Wagram - Hadersdorf am Kamp - Krems a. d. Donau - Stein-Mautern - D�rnstein-Oberloiben - Wei�enkirchen in der Wachau - Spitz a. d. Donau - Willendorf in der Wachau - Aggsbach Markt - Emmersdorf a.d.Donau - Weitenegg - Klein P�chlarn - Marbach-Maria Taferl - Persenbeug - Sarmingstein - St. Nikola-Struden - Grein Stadt - Grein-Bad Kreuzen - Dornach(A) - Saxen - Baumgartenberg - Arbing - Perg-Schulzentrum - Perg - Aisthofen - Schwertberg - Mauthausen - St. Pantaleon - St. Valentin (12:39)
  • E 6105 St. Valentin (13:53) - St. Pantaleon - Mauthausen - Schwertberg - Aisthofen - Perg - Perg-Schulzentrum - Arbing - Baumgartenberg - Saxen - Dornach(A) - Grein-Bad Kreuzen - Grein Stadt - St. Nikola-Struden - Sarmingstein - Persenbeug - Marbach-Maria Taferl - Klein P�chlarn - Weitenegg - Emmersdorf a.d.Donau - Aggsbach Markt - Willendorf in der Wachau - Spitz a. d. Donau - W�sendorf-Joching - Wei�enkirchen in der Wachau - D�rnstein-Oberloiben - Unterloiben - Stein-Mautern - Krems/Donau Campus-Kunstmeile - Krems a. d. Donau - Hadersdorf am Kamp - Fels - Kirchberg am Wagram - Absdorf-Hippersdorf - Tulln - Klosterneuburg-Kierling - Klosterneuburg-Weidling - Wien Heiligenstadt - Wien Ottakring - Wien Meidling - Wien S�dbahnhof Bstg. 11-19 (18:59)

By car

Rural or sparsely populated regions in Austria are easier to explore by car as bus services can be infrequent. Many popular spots in the mountains are only accessible by car or on foot/ski. Renting a car for a couple of days is a good way to go off the beaten track. Driving in Austria is normally quite pleasant as the country is small and the roads are in good condition, not congested and offer fantastic scenery. Beware of dangerous drivers however. Austrians are generally a very law-abiding bunch, but when behind a wheel they seem to make an exception to their considerate attitude.

Travelling on Austrian motorways (the so-called autobahn) means you are liable to pay tolls. You have to buy a Vignette toll pass, in advance, which can be purchased at any petrol station. Vignetten can be bought for 10 days (�7,60), 2 months (�22) or one year (about �70). Driving a car on a motorway without a vignette is punished with a fine of �100. You have to stick the vignette pass to the windscreen of your car, otherwise it is not valid, which is a common mistake made by foreigners in Austria. The motorway police regularly check for vignetten.

Take special care when driving in winter, especially in the mountains. Icy roads kill dozens of inexperienced drivers every year. Avoid speeding and driving at night and make sure the car is in a good condition. Motorway bridges are particularly prone to ice. Slow down to 80 km/h when going over them.

Winter tyres are strongly recommended by Austrian motoring clubs. When there is snowfall, winter tyres or snow chains are required by law on some mountain passes, and occasionally also on motorways. This is indicated by a round traffic sign depicting a white tyre or chain on a blue background. It is always a good idea to take a pair of snow chains and a warm blanket in the boot. Drivers often get stuck in their car for several hours and sometimes suffer from hypothermia.

Contrary to popular belief there is no need to rent an offroad vehicle in winter (though a 4x4 is helpful). In fact, small, lightweight cars are better at tackling narrow mountain roads than sluggish offroad vehicles. Virtually all roads in Austria open to the public are either covered in tarmac or at the least even surfaced. The problems normally encountered are ice and steepness, not unevenness. When driving downhill the only remedy against sliding are snow chains no matter what vehicle you are in.

By air

Although you'll miss out most of the stunning Austrian Landscape, it is possible to travel by plane within Austria. Domestic flights normally cost in the region of �300-500 return, and since the country is small, the total journey time is unlikely to be shorter than by rail or car. In other words, don't bother flying unless you are on a business trip.

Following domestic Airports are serviced by airlines like Austrian Arrows, Intersky, Styrian Spirit:

  • Vienna (Schwechat), servicing Vienna and Lower Austria
  • Linz (H�rsching), servicing Salzburg (Wals), servicing Salzburg and Berchtesgaden (Bavaria)
  • Graz (Thalerhof), servicing eastern Styria and southern Burgenland.
  • Klagenfurt (W�rthersee-Airport), servicing Carinthia
  • Innsbruck (Kranebitten), servicing Tyrol

Non-domestic airport servicing western Austria:

  • Altenrhein Airport (Switzerland), servicing Vorarlberg, Liechtenstein, Lake Constance Area
  • Friedrichshafen (Germany), servicing Vorarlberg, Baden-W�rttemberg and Lake Constance Area

Talk

The national language of Austria is German. The Austrian dialect is related to the Bavarian dialect, but distinct in accent from the German of the rest of Germany, and uses some different words and phrases. In the Bundesland of Vorarlberg the dialect is related to the alemanic dialect of Switzerland. English, however, is widely spoken, and the only area most tourists have linguistic problems with is translating food. In parts of Vienna, with many foreign visitors, such languages as Italian and French will often be understood as well. Italian is also widespread in those Austrian regions bordering Italy.

In rural places many people don't speak good English, especially those older than 40, so a learning few basic German phrases can be helpful. Local accents can be very strong in many alpine valleys where even native German speaking tourists have trouble understanding the locals.

See

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Do

Skiing

see Skiing in Austria

Cycle Touring

Austria is famous for its scenic cycle routes along its largest rivers. Though Austria is a mountainous country, cycle routes along rivers are flat or gently downhill, and therefore suitable for cycling. The most famous route is the Danube cycle path from Passau to Vienna, one of the most popular cycle paths in Europe, drawing large crowds of cyclists from all over the world each summer. Other rivers with well-developed cycle routes are the Inn, Drau, Moell and Mur. Most routes follow a combination of dedicated cycle paths, bridleways, and traffic calmed roads.

Music

Many visitors come to experience Austria's musical heritage. Salzburg and Vienna offer world renonwed opera, classical music and jazz at moderate prices, but perfomances of high standards are also widely available throughout the rest of the country. There are dozens of Summer festivals for all tastes, the most famous being the avant-garde Salzburg festival (Salzburger Festspiele) but because they're aimed at tourists prices can be high. Austria's strong musical tradition is not confined to classical music alone. Austrian folk music (Volksmusik) is an integral part of rural Austria, and is said to have influenced many of the nation's big composers. In the Alps almost every village has its own choir or brass band (Blasmusik), and you'll often see groups of friends sitting down to sing Lieder in rural pubs. Traditional Alpine instruments are the accordeon and zither. In Vienna a type of melancholic violin music known as Schrammelmusik is often performed in Restaurants and Heurigen.

Hiking

It is normally safe to hike without a guide in the Austrian Alps, as there is a dense network of marked trails and mountain shelters. However, a few lethal incidents do happen every year as a result of carelessness. Walkers are strongly advised not to stray off the trails and hike in bad weather or without suitable equipment. Before setting off, always check with the local tourist office whether the trail corresponds to your abilities. Also check the weather forecast. Sudden thunderstorms are frequent and are more likely to happen in the afternoon. A rule of thumb is that if you haven't reached the summit by noon it's time to give up and return to shelter.

Though the scenery is by all accounts majestic, don't expect an empty wilderness. The Alps can be very crowded with mountaineers, especially in high season (there are even traffic jams of climbers on some popular mountains). Littering is a no-no in all of Austria, but especially in the mountains, and you will enrage fellow walkers if you're seen doing it. If you really want to show respect pick up any litter you happen to see in your path and dispose of it at the end of your hike (it's a bit of an unwritten rule). Long distance trails are marked with the Austrian flag (red-white-red horizontal stripes) painted onto rocks and tree trunks.

Most trails and mountain huts are maintained by the Austrian Alpine Club. Some are run by other equivalent organisations, such as the German, Dutch and Italian Alpine Clubs. Mountain huts are meant to be shelters, not hotels. Though they are normally clean and well-equipped, standards of food and accommodation are basic. Don't expect a high level of customer service either. A sleeping bag is not required as blankets are provided. During the high season (August) it's a good idea to book in advance. Mountain huts will not turn anyone down for the night but if they're full you'll have to sleep on the floor.

Buy

Currency

Austria is a member of the European Union and the Eurozone. Consequently, the national currency is the Euro. The best rates for changing money are offered by banks.

Prices

The prices are comparable with Western European countries, and a bit higher than the USA because of 20 % sales tax (which is included in the prices). A can of coke will cost you about 40 cents, a good meal 10 Euros. Prices in tourist areas (Tyrol, Vienna, Salzburg) are a lot higher than the averages.

Shops

Shops are generally open from 09.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. on weekdays and Saturday and closed on Sundays except for gas station shops (expensive), shops at railway stations and restaurants. Be aware that paying by credit card is not as common as e.g. in the United States. In smaller towns and villages you normally find one or two small shops or bakeries, which carry nearly everything, called "Grei�ler", albeit they are more and more killed off by bigger shopping centres.

ATMs

ATMs in Austria are called Bankomat. They are wide-spread and you will find them even in smaller, rural villages. Many shops (and some restaurants too) offer the service to pay directly with an ATM card.

Bargaining

Bargaining is not common throughout Austria except at flea markets.

Eat

Austrian food is distinctive and delicious, and is traditionally of the stodgy, hearty "meat and dumplings" variety. Wiener Schnitzel (a breadcrumbed and fried veal escalope) is something of a national dish, and Kn�del are a kind of dumpling which can be made either sweet or savoury according to taste. In Vienna the Tafelspitz (boiled beef with potatoes and horseradish) is traditionally served on Sundays, and is normally accompanied by clear broth with dumplings and herbs. Apart from these, Austria is renowned for its pastries and desserts, the most well-known of which is probably the Apfelstrudel.

The best advice is to dive into the menu and give it a go - there are no nasty surprises!

Restaurants

If you want to try out traditional Austrian food go for a Gasthaus or Gasthof, which serve traditional food for reasonable prices. Usually they offer menus including a soup and a main dish and in some cases a dessert too. Prices are typically around �5 to �7 for this menu (except for very touristy areas). Keep in mind that tipping is expected throughout all restaurants in Austria. Rounding up the price given on the bill is usually enough tip. Paying the dutch way (this means splitting up the bill, if you are in a group) is common except in very expensive restaurants.

Local specialities

  • If you have the chance to try Kletzennudeln you should definitely do it. They are an exceptional Carinthian speciality you can very rarely get anywhere: Sweet noodles filled with dried pears and soft cheese.
  • Some salads are made with Kern�l (green pumpkin seed oil), a Styrian speciality. Even though it looks frighteningly (dark green or dark red, depending on lightning conditions) it has an interesting nutty taste. A bottle of good, pure Styrian Kern�l is very expensive (around 10-20 Euros), but maybe one of the most Austrian things to take home. (Beware of cheap Kern�l, sometimes sold as "Salat�l". be sure to seal the bottle appropriately, the oil expands when slightly heated and leaves non removable stains. Just in case, sun light occasionally removes them, though.) Kern�l or pumpkin seed oil is also available in some online shops.
  • Manner Schnitten are a very Viennese sweet speciality, but just the square form factor and pink packaging are really unique. You can buy them everywhere. (Maybe you've already seen these as a product placement in some Hollywood movies or for example in "Friends" and wondered what they are.)
  • Sachertorte is chocolate torte with chocolate icing and filled with apricot jam. It should be be served fresh with freshly beaten, lightly sweetened cream, which the Austrians call "Schlagobers". It is available in Vienna in the Cafe Sacher, but also on the internet.

Drink

Vienna is famous for its caf� culture, and there are coffee houses all over the city, many of which have outdoor terraces that are popular in the summer. Visit them for coffee (of course), hot chocolate and pastries. Most famous is Sacher-Torte. Most likely you will find the "top" coffee houses at the Ring, the K�rnter Strasse, Graben, and some other (maybe difficult to find) places in the first district (Innere Stadt). There are also very nice old coffee houses a little outside of the Ring at the districts within the G�rtel. Please do never just order "coffee" as you find dozens of different sorts from Kleiner Schwarzer (small black coffee) and Gro�er Brauner (big coffee with cream), Melange (coffee with milk) to specialities like Kapuziner (small black coffee and a drip of cream) and Kaisermelange (coffee, milk, eggyolk and cognac) on the menu and the Viennese Ober (the "senior" waiter) takes pride in this variety.

Information On Viennese Coffeehouses (http://www.wiener-kaffeehaus.at/Start.asp?SID=900354286141843)


Austria has also some first class wines, mostly whites, slightly on the acid side. Wine can be drunk pure or mixed with mineral water, called "G'spritzter" or "Spritzer". The best place to do so is at the "Heurigen" in the suburban areas of Vienna. Originally the "Heurigen" was open only in summer, but more recently you can have your "Spritzer" throughout the year with a little self-served snack.

Sleep

Although hotels can usually even be found in smaller cities they are quite expensive (even more so in bigger cities) cheaper possibilities in big cities are youth hostels (http://www.jgh.at/) and in smaller towns you can often find families renting flats (http://www.netland.at/wien/) in bed and breakfast style (look for Pension or Zimmer Frei signs) for 15-25 EUR. In the countryside many farmers will rent out rooms for a couple of nights, both officially and unofficially. To find a place to stay, simply knock on the door of a farmhouse and ask - if they don't have a room they'll probably know someone nearby who does. A great page to find private rooms and appartments is (http://www.tiscover.at/)

You can also find a lot of camping grounds (some of them are open the whole year round) but while they are exceptionally clean and often provide additional services, they are also a bit more expensive than in other countries in Central Europe.

Austrian law requires anyone to register at their resident address, even if it's only for one night and even if it's a campsite. Hotels will therefore ask you to hand over your passport or driving license and may refuse to give you accommodiation if you don't have any ID on you. Don't worry too much about handing over your passport. In many countries such a practice would raise concern but in Austria it's a standard procedure. Your passport will be returned.

Learn

Austria has many great universities, and Graz in particular is renowned as a centre of learning, with no less than six universities. Only Vienna has more universities:

  • Universit�t Wien
  • Medizinische Universit�t Wien
  • Technische Universit�t Wien
  • Universit�t f�r Bodenkultur Wien
  • Wirtschaftsuniversit�t Wien
  • Veterin�rmedizinische Universit�t Wien
  • Akademie der bildenden K�nste
  • Universit�t f�r angewandte Kunst in Wien
  • Universit�t f�r Musik und darstellende Kunst in Wien

Work

Good work is difficult to find for non-fluent German speakers. If you speak no German at all the best option is probably looking for jobs advertised outside Austria. Another possibility is giving private tuition in foreign languages, though you are unlikely to earn a full time income this way and it takes several months to build up a base of clients.

There is plenty of unskilled work in the tourism industry. As long as you have a work permit, finding a job can often be as easy as simply turning up at a hotel and asking. Seasonal work in large ski resorts is the most promissing option.

Stay safe

Austria is one of the safest countries in the world. Violent crimes are extremely rare and normally confined to Vienna. Small towns and uninhabited areas such as forests are very safe at any time of the day.

Beware of pickpockets in crowded places. Like everywhere in Europe they are becoming increasingly professional. Bicycle theft is rampant in bigger cities. Always lock your bike to an immobile object.

Racism can also be a problem and make your stay an unpleasant experience. However, levels of racism are comparable to other Western nations and it is almost never seen in a violent form. In more remote parts of Austria people of non-white origin are a rare sight. If you see locals giving you strange looks here don't feel threatened. They are probably just showing curiosity or a distrust of foreigners and have no intention of doing any physical harm. A short conversation can often be enough to break the ice.

Marijuana is not officially decriminalised in Austria. Be aware that Austrian law makes no difference between Marijuana and other illegal drugs. Penalties are severe and offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. However, consuming it in central Vienna or Graz will not attract too much attention and the police will rarely arrest you for carrying less than a few grams. In more rural parts of Austria it's a completetly different story. If you get caught consuming marijuana here you'll get into a lot of trouble.

Cope

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Stay healthy

Certain regions in Austria (Carinthia, Styria, Lower Austria) are affected by tick borne encephalitis. For those who plan doing outdoor activities in spring or summer a vaccine is strongly recommended.

Respect

Austrians (especially those over 40) take formalities and etiquette seriously. Even if you are the most uncharismatic person in the world, old-fashioned good manners (Gutes Benehmen) can take you a long way in a social situation. On the flip side, there are endless possiblities to put your foot in it and attract frowns for breaking an obscure rule.

In public many people can be impolite and pushy however. Many tourists perceive Austrians as unfriendly on the street and in shops, but in many cases this is directness and formality mistaken for unfriendliness. You may find for example that a shop assistant tells you off only to be extremely helpful a minute later. In Vienna a cafe isn't considered a real cafe without bad-tempered and arrogant waiters.

Perhaps surprisingly for a rather conservative nation, Austria's attitude towards nudity is one of the most relaxed in Europe. The display of full nudity in advertising can be a shock for many visitors, especially those from outside Europe. It is not uncommon to see women bathing topless in beaches and recreational areas in summer. Though swimming costumes must normally be worn in public pools, when invited to a private beach or pool it is normally OK to take one's clothes off. Nudity is compulsory in Austria's many nude beaches (FKK Strand), health spas and hotel saunas.

Some basic Etiquette (Of course most of this doesn't really matter when you are in a younger crowd)

  • When entering and leaving public places Austrians always say hello (Guten Tag or Gr�� Gott) and goodbye (Auf Wiedersehen).
  • Don't raise your voice or shout in public. It might be interpreted as aggression.
  • When being introduced to someone, always shake them by the hand, keep the other hand out of your pocket, say your name and make eye contact. Failing to do so is considered condescending and rude, though foreigners may get away with it far more often than nationals.
  • When drinking alcohol you don't drink until you have toasted ("ansto�en"). Say "prost" or "cheers" and most importantly make eye contact when toasting.
  • If you have drunken all your wine and want more it's okay to pour some more into your glass, but only after you've kindly asked everyone around you at the table if they need any more.
  • If you really want to show your manners while eating, let your unused hand rest on the table next to your plate and use it occasionally to hold your plate while eating, if necessary.
  • In some Austrian households it is customary to take off one's shoes. This is partly because Austrians value cleanliness, but also because grit and slush from the pavements can cause havoc to a flat in winter.
  • Austrians love their titles like no other European nation. People who think of themselves as being respectable always expect to be addressed by their proper title, be it Prof., Dr., Mag. (Master's), Dipl.Ing. (Master's in Engineering) or even Ing. (Technician). This is especially true for older people.

Contact

Calling Austria

International code is +43. From the UK Austria can be called at local rate by dialling 0845 2442442 followed by the phone number.

When calling Austria from abroad, if the number starts with the city code 0222, it's in Vienna. Drop all four of those digits and replace it with a 1, then dial the remaining digits of the phone number. 0222 was the former dialing prefix for Vienna. It should be replaced by 1 also for domestic calls to Vienna.

If the number doesn't start with 0222, simply drop the initial zero from the city code and dial the remaining digits.

Phones

Public phones are available in postal offices. Phone boxes are getting rare since the use of cell phones got very popular over the last years. Phone boxes usually operate with prepaid cards which can be obtained from postal offices and kiosks (German:Trafik).

Cell phones

Austria has a perfect GSM network coverage of nearly 100%. If you bring your own cell phone with you assure yourself that it operates on 900Mhz or 1800Mhz. There are cell phones that operate at 1900Mhz (e.g. networks in the United States) which are not supported in Austria. If you plan a longer visit in Austria it might be useful to buy a new mobile with a prepaid card from a local cell phone network provider. Be aware that some remote areas (especially mountainous areas) do not have network coverage yet, though this rather the exception than the rule.

3G has now been successfully rolled out in Austria.

The probably cheapest mobile provider right now is Yesss (http://www.yesss.at/). A prepaid card costs 13 Euro including 60 minutes talking time. Then you pay 9 cent per minute to all Austrian networks. The SIM card is only available at the discounter Hofer (http://www.hofer.at).

Internet

Internet cafes are common in bigger cities. Hotels in cities do normally have internet terminals, more expensive hotels provide internet access in the rooms itself. Wireless hotspots in restaurants and cafes are becoming more and more popular as well.

External links

  • [[2] (http://fahrplan.oebb.at/bin/oebb.w02/query.exe/en|http://fahrplan.oebb.at/bin/oebb.w02/query.exe/en)] - Query Austrian train schedules online.