Destination Austria

This page is divided into to sections. The first section contains general information about Austria, like history, description of culture, currency, visa, ravel to and in the country and crime / safety. The second part contains information about all the cities I have been to.  

General information about Austria
Austria is situated in central Europe. Along with neighboring Switzerland Austria is the winter sports capital of Europe. Austria is just as popular for summer tourists who visit its historic cities and villages and hike in the magnificent scenery of the alps. German is the official language in Austria and there are few differences to the writen German spoken in Germany. There are though some vocabulary differences between Austrian German the Hochdeutsch German used in Germany. Something that struck me as I traveled Austriais that verything is in perfect order. There is no littering to speak of nor no grafitti in public areas.

Travel to Austria
There are 6 international airports in Austria. The most important one is Vienna. Other international airports include Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz, and Salzburg. For traveling to the western states it is recommended to use the very close Munich airport.

Travelling within Austria
ÖBB is the Austrian state Railways and sells tickets domestically using a price based only upon distance traveled, regardless of when you buy the ticket and which train you take. Long distance buses are hard to find in most of Austria. No one checks your ticket at the metro in Vienna but if you are cought without a ticket you get a 70 Euro fine. The metro in Vienna is one of the best in Europe and makes it easy to travel between the different sites in Vienna.

Places to 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 and in smaller towns you can often find families renting flats in bed and breakfast style (look for Pension or Zimmer Frei signs) for ¤15-25. 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. 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. There are many types of tourist accommodation, ranging from hotels, pensions and rented villas. You may use i.e. or to find somewhere to sleep.

Money and banking
ATMs in Austria are called Bankomat. They are wide-spread and you will find them even in smaller, rural villages. Many shops and restaurants offer the service to pay directly with an ATM card. The majority of ATMs accept cards from abroad. All Bankomats in Austria can easily identified by a sign showing a green stripe above a blue stripe. It doesn't matter which Bankomat you use; the transaction fee is always zero (excluding any fees charged by your own bank).

Vaccine and health
Austria has an excellent healthcare system by Western standards. Hospitals are modern, clean, and well-equipped. Healthcare in Austria is funded by the Krankenkassen (Sickness-funds), compulsory public insurance schemes that cover 99% of the population. Most hospitals are owned and operated by government bodies or the Krankenkassen. Private hospitals exist, but mainly for non-life-threatening conditions. Doctor's surgeries on the other hand are mostly private, but most accept patients from the Krankenkassen. Many Austrians choose to buy supplemental private health insurance. This allows them to see doctors that don't accept Krankenkassen and to stay in special hospital wards with fewer beds (which often receive preferential treatment). If you are a traveller from the EU, you can get any form of urgent treatment for free (or a small token fee) that is covered by the Krankenkassen. Non-urgent treatment is not covered. Simply show your European Health Insurance Card and passport to the doctor or hospital. When going to a GP, watch out if the street sign says "Alle Kassen" (all Krankenkassen accepted), or "Keine Kassen" (no Krankenkassen accepted), in which case your EHIC is not valid. Supplemental travel insurance is recommended if you want to be able to see any doctor or go to the special ward. If you are a traveller from outside the EU, and have no travel insurance, you will need to pay the full cost of treatment up-front (with the exception of the emergency room). Medical bills can be very expensive, though still reasonable when compared to the USA.

If you live in another country that is member of the European Union be sure to bring your European Health Insurance Card along with your travel insurance.

Austria is a member of the Schengen Agreement. For EU and EFTA citizens, an officially approved ID card or passport is sufficient for entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length. Others will generally need a passport for entry. There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: Not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. Travel in the Schengen zone is an informative article which provides aditional informastion.

Austria is one of the safest countries in the world. According to the OECD Factbook of 2006, levels of robbery, assault, and car crime are among the lowest in the developed world, and a study by Mercer ranks Vienna as the 6th safest city in the world out of 215 cities. Violent crimes are extremely rare and should not concern the average tourist. Small towns and uninhabited areas such as forests are very safe at any time of the day. Beware of pickpockers in crowded places. Like everywhere in Europe they are becoming increasingly professional. Bicycle theft is rampant in bigger cities, but virtually absent in smaller towns. Always lock your bike to an immobile object.Racism can also be a problem and make your stay an unpleasant experience. Do not walk on the bike lanes (especially in Vienna) and cross them like you would cross any other road. Some bike lanes are hard to recognize (e.g. on the "Ring" in Vienna) and some cyclists drive rather fast. Walking on bike lines is not only considered to be impolite, but it may also happen that you are hit by a cyclist.

Austrian cuisine and drink
The Austrian cuisine is distinctive and delicious, and is traditionally of the stodgy, hearty "meat and dumplings" variety. Wiener Schnitzel (a bread-crumbed and fried veal escalope) is something of a national dish, and Knödel are a kind of dumpling which can be made either sweet or savory 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. When it comes to liquid Austria is most famous for wine, beer and coffee.

Cities I have been to in Austria

Linz is situated in the province of Upper Austria and is the third largest city in Austria. I experienced Linz as more relaxed than both Salzburg and Vienna with a friendly atmosphere. The city is close to the border to Germany and it takes about an hour and a half by train to travel to Munich. In Linz you find the New Cathedral which is the largest church in Austria. The main street and the shopping area are two places you have to visit in Linz. Near the castle, being the former seat of Friedrich the III is Sankt/Saint Martins church. It was built during early medieval Carolingian times. Other sights include St. Mary's Cathedral (Mariendom), Pöstlingbergkirche, Brucknerhaus (the concert hall named after the composer Anton Bruckner), Gugl Stadiu and the Linzer Landestheater. Adolf Hitler was born in a nearby town but moved to Linz with his family when he was young and spent most of his youth in the Linz area. He considered Linz to be his home town and envisioned architectural schemes for it. He wanted it to become the main cultural centre of the Third Reich. In order to make the city economically vibrant, Hitler initiated a major industrialization of Linz. Many factories were dismantled in other cities and then reassembled in Linz. Because of the industry facilities Linz where bombed several timed during WWII.

Salzburg is one of my favourite places in Europe. Its a small town and everything is within walking distance. The old town contains a world famous baroque architecture and is one of the best-preserved city centres in this style. other places to see in Salzburg is the Salzburg Cathedral, the Franziskanerchurch, The St. Peter's cemetery, the Nonnberg Abbey a Benedictine monastery, Mozart's Birthplace and Mozart's Residence. In 1997 the city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Salzburg is the birthplace of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Problaby the best known chockolate in Austria is carrying his name and is from Salzburg. The city was the setting of the musical and film The Sound of Music. The film was released in 1965 and there are numerous tours which takes you to the places where they made the film. Festung Hohensalzburg is situated close to the city center and you may either walk to the top or use tram. The view of Salzburg and the surrounding area is truly stunning and one of the pretties places I ever been to. The castle is sitiated on a hill dominating the old town is one of the largest castles in Europe The Salzach river floats through the river. Salzburg festival is a famous music festival that attracts visitors during the months of July and August each year. A smaller Salzburg Easter Festival is held around Easter each year.

Vienna is the capitalin Austria and is situated in the western part of the country. This city where the first city I visited in Austria and I found the inhabitants rather rude. Luckily this was a phenenomen I didnt fint in other parts of Austria. The city is the former home of the Habsburg court and its various empires and the city still has the trappings of the imperial capital it once was. The most interesting things in Vienna is situated close to the Hofburg Palace which has housed some of the most powerful people in Austria. The Palace is huge and most of what i found interesting in Vienna is situated close to the palace. It takes at least a couple of days to visit all the museums thats situated inside and around the Hofburg Palace. Close to the Hofburg Palace are a couple of parks in whitch they play live classical music. The Museumsquartier is situated across the street from Hofburg Palace and is the eighth largest cultural area in the world. It consists of 60.000 m2 with different buidlings and museums. Of all the museums in the Museumsquartier I liked Leopold Museum the most. Zentralfriedhof, the central cemetery, is the largest cemetery I have ever been to. On this cemetery there are more graves than living residents in Vienna and it is "housing" whoping 1.8 million graves. A public "cemetery bus" line exists within the area. There are lots of famous Austrians resting on this cementery and its worth a visit. Within the cementery is a nice church (Dr. Karl Lueger Gedächtniskirche ) design in Jugendstil ("Jugend-style") and have an aswesome design. The cementery is situated in the outskirts of the city but is easy accesable using metro. Other places you should visit is the Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral) which is a quite large cathedral. Other places worth a visit is Staatsoper (State Opera) and Burgtheater (Imperial Court Theatre). The city is famous for its café 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, hot chocolate and pastries. The inhabitants in Vienna drinks half a litre of coffee each day. The most famous pastery in Austria is Sacher-Torte. It takes almost an hour to drive from Vienna to Bratislava which is the capital of the Slovak Republic so if you have planned to stay in Vienna for a couple of days spend a day in Bratislava. The can easily wiev the interesting places of Bratislava in a couple of hours before you head back to Vienna.