Travel to Austria
Austria is the ultimate destination for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those that also enjoy a bit of a city adventure.
This small landlocked country offers spectacular alpine scenery, world-class museums, quaint cobblestoned streets, old castles, and Mozart.
Austria’s mighty mountainous scenery attracts tourists throughout the year. 62% of the country has an altitude of 500m or more, making it hard to miss the stunning peaks and green valleys. Great for skiing in winter and hiking in summer. Austria is a wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts.
Besides from its breathtaking mountainous landscapes, Austria has another side too. Being one of Europe’s former great powers, Austria offers a wealth of majestic architecture and historic structures. Home to several Medieval and Baroque structures, including the Schönbrunn Palace and other castles as well as grand cathedrals, monasteries and churches.
In every souvenir shop you will find Mozart trinkets and apparel, particularly in Salzburg (the birthplace of Mozart). Going to an opera performance while in Austria is a must do for all visitors!
Austrians tend to be relaxed, gregarious people who love the outdoors as much as a good cup of coffee in a café. The national language is German, though you will find many of the younger locals will be able to communicate in English.
We hope that our Austria travel guide will assist in planning your Austrian adventure.
Visa Requirements for Austria
Austria is part of the Schengen agreement, which allows most of the EU citizens to enter the country only with their ID. When entering by air from a non-Schengen country, you will be expected to fill out a brief form which includes an address in Austria. You most probably won’t have a proper address, so you can use the one of your accommodation. It’s very unlikely that this will be checked, but you will have to enter an address if you want to enter the country.
A stay of longer than 90 days for non-EEA or non-Swiss citizens usually requires a visa, which you need to get before your trip. To make 100% sure what you need, please check with your government officials or on this website.
Important Cultural Information
German is the official language of Austria, with a few varying dialects in the different regions.
Austrians don’t really stand out from their European neighbours as having any great cultural differences. They are generally moderate in their outlook and behaviour. They also have different influences from the different neighbouring countries – a combination of west and eastern Europe influences.
They are generally a formal bunch, in both social and business dealings. Handshaking is customary when saying hello, and you generally won’t use first names when being introduced to someone. The average Austrian on the street will likely be quite friendly, though still somewhat reserved.
General good manners should be observed when in public. For example, when entering or leaving a public place, like a shop or restaurant, always say hello (Guten Tag or Grüß Gott) and goodbye (Auf Wiedersehen).
Tourists often make the mistake of classifying Austrians as Germans, which they not. They tend to be quite sensitive about this, and will state clearly the differences between themselves and their neighbour. Austrians enjoy a high living standard and generally enjoy the good life. A large majority of their time is spent eating, drinking, and enjoying time with friends.
The Church holds a high regard in Austrian custom and should be respected. While there is no defined class system, the rural and urban differences are noticeable. The further west that you travel, the more socially conservative the locals will be.
Cultural tips for Austria
Banking & Money
In Austria you pay with the Euro (€), just like in other 24 European countries. 100 cents makes up 1 Euro.
Each country can produce their own Euro coins, where one side of the coins has their own unique designs, while the other side has a European standard design. You can use the Euro in any of the eurozone countries, without needing to exchange money when crossing the borders.
To exchange money, there are plenty of ATMs, where you can withdraw up to €500, usually for a fee, depending on your own bank conditions. Credit cards are well accepted all over. But it’s always useful to have a few Euro notes, especially in the countryside. In Austria, ATMs are called Bankomats and can be identified by a sign with a green stripe above a blue stripe.
Medical Emergency Information
If there is an emergency, you can call 112 from any phone at no cost. This will get you in touch with the police, firefighters and ambulances.
Wi-Fi and Internet in Austria
Austria has a perfect GSM and 3G (UMTS) network with coverage throughout the country (almost 100%).
If you would like to purchase a local SIM card, local network providers include A1, T-Mobile, Drei (3G, former Orange, former One), Bob, Yess and Vectone Mobile. The last three mentioned are likely to be the cheapest options, while A1 is the biggest operator. You can buy a prepaid card from most supermarkets and post offices, or an official shop.
Another option is to rent a mobile MiFi device, which will be your own hotspot. These cost around €5 per day. There are services, which you can pick up at the airport or which gets delivered to the hotel you are staying at.
Free Wi-Fi is easily available in most hotels, restaurants and cafes. Free Wi-Fi is also available on Railjets, the newer regional trains, on WestBahn trains, and in the main train stations. Just make sure to use a VPN service if you’re using free Wi-Fi hotspots to protect your personal information!
Coworking in Austria isn’t as developed as other more western European countries, though you will be able to find a few coworking spots in Vienna, Salzburg, Graz, Linz and Innsbruck.
Arrival in Austria
Austria has six airports spread throughout the country. The busiest airport is the international airport in Vienna, which has connection flights to all major airports around the world. Other international airports include Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz, and Salzburg. All of these airports also have domestic flights as well as connections to other European countries. Austrian Airlines is the national airline, serving all major airports in Austria.
When traveling to Austria, it’s important to also consider airports in neighboring countries. When traveling to the Western states for example, Munich airport is a popular airport to make use of. This is also prevalent when flying into Austria for a skiing holiday, flying into Vienna may not be the best option as the transfers to the nearest skiing resorts can be fairly long.
Search for flights to Austria on Expedia.
You can also enter Austria via bus. Though, take note that depending on where you are coming from, bus travel is not always the cheapest option. Eurolines Austria is the largest operator of bus travel servicing Austria along with neighboring European countries. There are smaller bus companies servicing Austrian routes.
Austria also has plenty of train routes between its neighbouring countries. You will find hourly (sometimes more) trains to each of its neighboring countries – even Liechtenstein. The ÖBB (Austrian Railways) operate high-speed ICE and RailJet trains from cities like Zurich, Frankfurt, Passau, Munich and Budapest. Eurocity trains are the next fastest trains available along with the Intercity trains which connect the bigger Austrian trains. Regional trains, called EURegio and simply Regionalzug, are also available from all 8 of Austria’s neighbours.
Austria and all its neighbouring countries are Schengen members so in theory there are no border controls. This makes travel by car an easy option when traveling to Austria. Consider Europcar for car hire in Austria.
Areas of Austria
Austria is a federal republic, with nine states.
These states include Burgenland, Carinthia (Kärnten), Lower Austria (Niederösterreich), Salzburg (Salzburg), Styria (Steiermark), Tyrol (Tirol), Upper Austria (Oberösterreich), Vienna (Wien) and Vorarlberg. The main cities in Austria include Vienna (Wien), Salzberg, Bregenz, Eisenstadt, Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz and Villach.
Vienna is Austria’s capital city, along with being the former hub of a great empire. It is the former seat of the once-powerful Hapsburg dynasty. Baroque streets and palaces set the base of Vienna’s artistic and musical culture. It also has a vibrant coffee-house culture and design scene.
You will find endless things to do in Vienna.
Bordering the Czech Republic and Slovakia, this is Austria’s largest province. It’s landscape differs from the alpine regions of Austria, with fertile plains and vineyards. Visitors to Lower Austria typically come on a day trip from Vienna to explore the Vienna Woods (Wienerwald), romanticized in operetta, literature, and the famous Strauss waltz. The other major attraction here is the Wachau-Danube Valley, which includes the ancient towns of Tulln, Krems and Dürnstein.
Located at Austria’s most southeastern tip, Burgenland is made up of plains, lakes and an abundant collection of birdlife. This province is largely agricultural, with a mix of Hungarians, Croats and German-speaking Austrians calling this place home. The lakes are the primary attraction here, which are best visited in the summer months.
Salzburg is where tourists come to follow in the footsteps of Julie Andrews in the fabled 1965 musical, The Sound of Music (join a tour!). Mozart and the von Trapps also put Salzburg on the international tourist maps. Besides from having a rich musical culture, Salzburg is also one of Europe’s premier architectural gems.
Land Salzburg, just outside of Salzburg offers great skiing opportunities with a few popular ski and spa resorts located in the area.
Travel tips for Western Austria
Vorarlberg is home to some of Austria’s most luxurious ski resorts, highest alpine peaks and the most beautiful scenery. Montafon Valley has been called a winter ‘ski stadium’, due to its powdery snow and sun. Its capital city is Bregenz, with Lech and Zürs being two of the most popular resorts in the province.
Bordering Slovenia, Carinthia is most well-known for its rolling hills, hundreds of lakes and beautiful forests. Wörther See is the province’s biggest alpine lake.
Styria is one of the most forested provinces in Austria, ranging from lush valleys to tall alpine peaks. The province also has deep medieval traditions – think loden-coloured jackets and felt hats with feathers! Graz is the capital city, which features one of the best-preserved medieval cities (read our Graz winter guide).
Transportation in Austria
Trains are the best and most common form of public transport in Austria, with an efficient network of trains between major towns and cities.
There is also a decent bus service, though trains tend to be quicker (but more expensive). To access some of the smaller towns, villages, and lakes you will need to make use of the bus system as trains might not cover all routes.
Austrian trains are operated mostly by the state-owned company ÖBB. The only competitor to ÖBB is WestBahn, though this train only travels between Salzberg, Linz and Vienna. If you are traveling between these routes, then WestBahn will likely be a cheaper option than ÖBB.
Driving in Austria is a pleasure with their impeccably maintained roads. You just need to be aware of snow, especially along the alpine routes, in winter – make sure that your car has snow chains. Consider Europcar for car hire. Many popular spots in the mountains are accessible only by car or on foot/ski.
Vienna has an extensive system of metro, bus, and tram public transportation. The metro network has five lines and 104 stations, covering 49.2 miles. For a Vienna metro map, visit this website. All of the other major towns and cities have bus systems for getting around.
Cycling is also very popular in Austria. Bike-only pathways are found in both rural areas as well as the main cities, with several bike rental outlets available.
Accommodation in Austria
Austria has a mix of accommodation options, with something suitable for every budget. It all depends on what you are looking for. You will be able to find budget hostels in the cities along with five-star hotels, classic boutique hotels, designer hotels and apartments. When traveling around the alps, there are loads of villas surrounded by spectacular scenery as well as spa hotels and large ski resorts. Austria ski resorts are among some of the highest standard in Europe.
For something a bit different, consider staying at a working farm in a rustic mountain hut. Or perhaps spend a few nights in one of Austria’s many castle or palace hotels?
There are many hotel chains with properties throughout the country, as well as privately owned hotels. There really is no shortage of accommodation throughout Austria. Note though, because Austria is an extremely popular winter ski destination, you need to ensure that you book well in advance. The same goes for the summer months – the good hotels can book out quickly.
Check out these design hotels in Austria.
Austrian Food & Dining Guide
Austrian food can generally be described as hearty. It is influenced heavily by its southeastern neighbours (namely Hungary, Serbia and Romania) and has a heavy focus on breads, dumplings, broth-based soups, cheeses, and stewed meats. Austria is also renowned for its desserts and cakes.
Austrian specialties to try include:
- Wiener Schnitzel: a bread-crumbed and fried veal escalope. This is basically the national dish.
- Knödel: a kind of dumpling which can be made either sweet or savory according to taste.
- Tafelspitz: boiled beef with potatoes and horseradish, accompanied by clear broth with dumplings and herbs. Traditionally served on Sundays.
- Kletzennudeln: A Carinthian specialty of sweet noodles filled with dried pears and soft cheese.
- Kernöl: a Styrian specialty which is a green pumpkin seed oil used on salads.
- Apfelstrudel: Austria’s most famous dessert, consisting of thin layers of pastry with an apple and raisin filling.
- Sachertorte: a chocolate torte with chocolate icing and filled with apricot jam.
If you want to try out traditional Austrian food go for a Gasthaus or Gasthof, which serve traditional food for reasonable prices. Menus are usually in German, but some may have English menus. You can also try out some of the popular street food in Vienna.
Our best advice is to just dive in and try as much as you can – there aren’t any nasty surprises!
Vegetarians may struggle with finding vegetarian or vegan restaurants, especially outside of the main cities. You can however get vegetarian and vegan products in nearly all supermarkets, and will usually find a few meals on restaurant menus that contain no meat. Plant-based lifestyles are slowly gaining traction in the main cities.
Things to do & see in Austria
Shopping in Austria
Specialist items found in Austria include handbags, glassware, chinaware and winter sports equipment. You will find most of the same shops found throughout the other European countries – including large international chain and boutique shops.
The longest shopping mile in Austria is Mariahilfer Straße in Vienna, followed by Landstraße in Linz. Almost all major department stores can be found on Mariahilfer Straße, including those selling clothes, leather goods, furniture and accessories, books and stationery. Other popular shopping streets in Vienna include Landstraßer Hauptstraße and Favoritenstraße.
Maria Theresien-Straße is the main shopping area in Innsbruck, featuring the jagged peaks of Nordkette in the background. Some of the other main shopping regions in Austria include Kramergasse and Alter Platz in Klagenfurt, the Main Square in Graz, Salzburg’s old Linzergasse, Kremsergasse in St. Pölten, Kaiserstraße in Bregenz and lastly Hauptstraße in Eisenstadt.
Shops are generally open from 8AM to 7PM on weekdays and Saturday from 8AM to 6PM and closed on Sundays.
Nightlife in Austria
Austria has a reputation for live music, literature and the arts, making nightlife quite a cultural event throughout the country. Nightlife is fairly versatile, ranging from relaxed taverns and beer gardens through to trendy nightclubs and fancy opera theatres. There is something for all tastes.
Summer months generally see a lot of outdoor beer gardens as well as wine events and a few outdoor concerts.
Safety Tips for Austria
Austria is one of the safest countries in the world. It is actually ranked the third safest country in the world according to the 2019 Global Peace Index. Levels of robbery, assault, and car crime are among the lowest in the developed world.
Though, like everywhere in Europe pickpockets are becoming increasingly professional. So be aware in crowded places. Also be aware of scams in the form of street begging, fortune telling or other tourist traps. In the bigger cities, bicycle theft can be a problem so make sure to always lock your bike.
Don’t walk on the bike lanes – not only is it considered impolite, but you may also be hit by a cyclist.
To sum Austria up in three words: Architecture, music and mountains. Austria is a beautiful country to visit throughout the year, offering a different experience for tourists in the summer and winter months. It’s an ideal country to experience a little bit of everything: from skiing in the alps or hiking through the Tyrol valleys through to delving into the classical world of Mozart, exploring the Medieval castles, learning more about the past hierarchy and tucking into some pretty hearty (and delicious) cuisine.
An ideal Austria itinerary would include both Vienna and Salzburg as cities to explore as well as the outlying mountainous, lake or forest rich regions. There’s much more to offer than Austria ski holidays, with loads of other Austria tourist attractions scattered throughout the country.