Austria, at the geographical heart of Europe, is renowned for its ski resorts set on spectacular mountains, overlooking crystal-clear lakes and voluptuously green valleys. Throughout the country are glorious architectural reminders of the once-powerful Hapsburgs, who dominated central Europe for seven centuries. Nowhere is the legacy more evident than in the capital, Vienna, with its ornate Opera House and the former imperial residence of the Hofburg. Austria’s other cities are similarly infused with a historical magic, notably Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, with stunning Baroque churches set before a backdrop of snow-covered peaks, and Innsbruck, in the centre of the Austrian Alps. But Austria is also a hothouse of striking contemporary architecture, reflecting a modern country at the forefront of engineering, invention and design, and whose modern, efficient social system ensures a high quality of living for most of its residents. Austria has a justifiable reputation for music, literature and the arts, but also boasts a gourmet culture. The legendary Gemütlichkeit – a relaxed enjoyment of life – is in evidence in the cafes, where the art of coffee-drinking has been raised to a high art, and the many Heurigen, where the latest vintages are accompanied by vast quantities of food. Nightlife is versatile, offering laid-back taverns, beer gardens and excellent aprés-ski, as well as trendy clubs and dance venues packed to the small hours.
Area: 83,858 sq km (32,378 sq miles)
Capital: Vienna (Wien)
Geography: Austria is a landlocked country bordered by Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy. It is predominantly Alpine. The imposing Dachstein region of Upper Austria, the massive Tyrolean peaks, the lakes of Carinthia and Salzkammergut, the River Danube and the forests of Styria are outstanding features of the country.
Language: Officially German
Credit Cards: Most major credit cards and travelers checks are accepted in large cities and tourist areas.
Banking Hours: Banks in Vienna are open 8am-12:30pm and 1pm-3pm Monday-Friday. Thursday hours are 8am-12:30pm and 1:30pm-5:30pm (head offices do not close for the break). Different opening hours may be kept in the various Federal Provinces.
Currency Exchange: The exchange counters at airports and at railway stations are generally open from the first to the last plane or train which usually means from 8am-10pm including weekends.
Air: Austria has three national airlines, all of which are part of the Austrian Airlines Group (www.aua.com); Austrian Airlines (OS), Austrian Arrows (formerly Tyrolean Airways) (VO) and Lauda Air (NG). Many European airlines serve Austria, as do some budget airlines.
Approximate flight times:
London to Salzburg is 1 hour 50 minutes and to Vienna is 2 hours and 10 minutes
New York to Vienna is 9 hours
Los Angeles to Vienna is 15 hours
Singapore to Vienna is 14 hours
Vienna (VIE) (www.viennaairport.com) (Wien-Schwechat) is 18km (11miles) east of the city. Airport bus between airport and the city center is available every 20-30 min. from 5am-11:30pm (travel time 20 min.) Rail service is available every hour to and from Wien Nord Station (travel time 35 min.). Rail service is also available fro the airport to the Vienna railway stations of Südbahnhof (travel time 20 min.) and Westbahnhof (travel time 35 min.) hourly. Taxis to the city cost approx. EUR 25-35.
Innsburck (INN) (www.innsbruck-airport.com) (Kranebitten) is 5.5km (3.5 miles) from the city. Bus is available every 10 min. to the city center 9travel time 15 min.). Taxi services are also available and cost approximately EUR10.
Salzburg (SZG) (www.salzburg-airport.com) (Maxglan) is 4km (2.5 miles) west of the city. Bus departs to the city center every 15 min. weekdays, every 30 min. weekends (travel time 17 min.). It is also possible to go by train (travel time – 15 to 20 min.). Taxis cost EUR 12.50 (travel time 17 min.). It is also possible to go by train (travel time 15 min.).
Klagenfurt (KLU) (www.klagenfurt-airport.at) (Wörther See) is 4km (2.5 miles) from the city. Bus and taxi services are available.
Linz (LNZ) (www.linz-airport.at) is 10km (6 miles) from the city. Taxi and bus services are available.
Graz (GRZ) (www.flughafen-graz.at) is 10km (6 miles) from the city. Buses operate, Taxis are available and there are hourly train services.
Social & Business Customs
Austrian cuisine is strongly influenced by southeast European cuisine notably that of Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Dalmatia. Many of the simpler meals are often made with rice, potatoes and dumplings with liquid sauces. Open all day, the Austrian coffee shop is little short of an institution.
Whisky, gin and imported beers are on the expensive side but local wines are excellent and cheap. Most of the wines are white but there are also good reds. Registration laws mean that the quality of the wine will be fully reflected in its price.
The Austrians believe in “early to bed and early to rise” so nightlife in Vienna is relatively quiet. One of the best ways to spend an evening is in one of the wine gardens found outside the towns.
High-quality goods, handbags, glassware, chinaware and winter sports equipment represent the cream of specialist items. A 20% to 30% value-added tax (called MWST) is included in the list price of items sold and tourists can claim a partial refund on this tax on unused goods, which are taken with them when they leave Austria.
Shops and stores are generally open Mon to Fri 8am-6pm. Some shops are open until 9:30pm on Thursday and on Saturday opening hours are until 5pm.
Austrians tend to be quite formal in both their social and business dealings. They do not use first names when being introduced but after the initial meeting first names are often used. Handshaking is normal when saying hello and good-bye. It is considered impolite to enter a restaurant or shop without saying Guten Tag or more usually Grüss Gott; similarly, to leave without saying Auf Wiedersehen can cause offense. If invited out to dinner, flowers should be brought for the hostess. The Church enjoys a high and respected position in Austrian society, which should be kept in mind by the visitor.
is widespread but large amounts are not expected. On restaurant bills a service charge of 10-15% is included, but it is usual to leave a further 5%. Attendants at theatres, cloakrooms, petrol pumps, etc expect to be tipped 50 cents. Railway and airports have fixed charges for portage. Taxi drivers expect EUR 2 for a short trip and 10% for a longer one.
Austrians are quite formal in their business dealings. A working knowledge of German will be very advantageous. Office hours: 8am-4pm Mon to Fri.
Austria enjoys a moderate continental climate. Summers are warm and pleasant with cool nights, and winters are sunny with snow levels high enough for winter sports.