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 center 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 cafés, 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 après-ski, as well as trendy clubs and dance venues packed to the small hours.
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 goodbye. 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 offence. Social pleasantries and some exchange of small-talk is appreciated. 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. It is customary to dress up for the opera or the theater.
Widespread, but large amounts are not expected. On restaurant bills a service charge of 10 to 15 per cent is included, but it is usual to leave a further 5 per cent. Attendants at theaters, cloakrooms or petrol pumps, expect to be tipped &Euro;0.15-0.25. Railway and airports have fixed charges for portering. Taxi drivers expect &Euro;0.25-0.50 for a short trip and 10 per cent for a longer one.
Austria has three national airlines, all of which are part of the Austrian Airlines Group (website: www.aua.com): Austrian Airlines (OS), Lauda Air (NG) and Tyrolean Airways (VO). British Airways offer frequent services to various destinations in Austria, as do low-cost airlines such as Flybe and Ryanair.
Approximate flight times
From Innsbruck to London is two hours and from Salzburg is one hour 50 minutes. From Vienna to London is two hours 10 minutes, to Los Angeles is 15 hours, to New York is nine hours, to Singapore is 14 hours and to Sydney is 25 hours.
Vienna (VIE) (Wien-Schwechat)is 18km (11 miles) south-east of the city. Airport facilities include duty-free shops, banks, bureaux de change, post office, restaurants, cafes, left luggage, conference facilities, medical facilities, tourist information, car hire, car park and nursery. Airport buses run between the airport and the city center (Hilton Hotel) every 20 minutes, 24 hours a day (travel time – 20 minutes); and between the airport and two stations (Vienna Südbahnhof and Vienna Westbahnhof) approximately every hour (0530-0010; travel time - 25 and 35 minutes respectively). Rail service is available at frequent intervals (from 0500-2258) to and from two other stations (Vienna Mitte and Vienna Nordbahnhof; travel time – 32 minutes). Local rail (S-Bahn) services also run to the Vienna railway stations of Südbahnhof (travel time – 20 minutes) and Nordbahnhof (travel time – 35 minutes). The City Airport Train travels express from the City Airport Terminal located at Vienna Mitte (travel time - 16 minutes). Taxis are available to the city and can be found north of the Arrivals Hall, costing approximately &Euro;25-30. A chaffeur-driven car service is also available from the Arrivals Hall.
Buses also run to Budapest four times a day (travel time – three hours 30 minutes); to Bratislava (Slovak Republic) about seven times a day (travel time – one hour 10 minutes).
Innsbruck (INN) (Kranebitten) is 5.5km (3.5 miles) west of the city. Airport facilities include duty free shopping, currency exchange, restaurant, medical facilities and car hire. Bus services are available every 20-30 minutes to the city center (travel time – 20 minutes). Taxi services are also available.
Salzburg (SZG) (Maxglan) is 4km (2.5 miles) west of the city. Airport facilities include duty-free shopping, currency exchange, post office, restaurants and snack bars, bar, left luggage, conference rooms and car hire. Bus no. 2 departs to the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) in the city center every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes at the weekend (travel time – 20 minutes). It is also possible to go by train (travel time - 15-20 minutes). Taxis are available from the front of the main building for approximately &Euro;13.08 (travel time – 15 minutes). Some hotels have courtesy coaches.
Klagenfurt (KLU) (Wörther See)is 4km (2.5 miles) from the city. Bus and taxi services are available. Airport facilities include a bar, duty-free shop and car hire.
Linz (LNZ) is 10km (6 miles) from the city. Taxi and bus services are available. Airport facilities include a bar, duty-free shop, bank and car hire.
Graz (GRZ) is 10km (6 miles) from the city. Taxis are available to the city (travel time – 20 minutes). Buses depart about 16 times a day and there are frequent train services. Airport facilities include a bar, restaurant, bank and car hire.
Airports have fixed charges for portering.
Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB) (Austrian Federal Railways) operates a wide network of trains throughout and beyond Austria. International connections from Vienna include trains to Germany (Berlin), to the Russian Federation (Moscow, via Warsaw/Kiev and Minsk), to Romania (Bucharest, via Budapest), to Greece (Athens) or Turkey (Istanbul, via Belgrade) and to Italy (Venice, Milan or Rome). The most common routes are from Brussels or Paris (Eurostar connection from London) to Vienna (see Channel Tunnel, below, for further details). For further details contact Österreichische Bundesbahnen, Elisabethstraße 9, A-1010 Wien (tel: (1) 930 000; fax (1) 25000;
Several international rail passes permitting unlimited travel in a number of European countries are valid in Austria. The Euro and Eurail passes are available to non-European residents and must be bought outside Europe. The Euro pass is valid for travel over practically the whole of the European rail network, while the Eurail pass has more limited validity The Interail pass is available to European residents. Prices vary according to age, zones covered, time period, flexibility and class of travel. For more information, contact Rail Europe (tel: (08705) 848 848;
The Channel Tunnel
The quickest route by train from the UK is through the channel tunnel with connections from Brussels or Paris to Austria. Eurostar operates direct high-speed trains through the channel tunnel from London (Waterloo International) to Paris (Gare du Nord) and to Brussels (Midi/Zuid). From London to Paris, the journey time is 3 hours; from London to Brussels the journey time is 2 hours 40 minutes. From Brussels there is a morning train to Vienna leaving at 0828 (travel time - approximately 13 hours) and a night train leaving at 1910 (travel time - approximately 14 hours); from Paris (Gare de l’Est) there are two trains to Vienna, one at 0749 and another at 1717 (travel time - 14 hours 45 minutes). For further information and reservations contact Eurostar (tel: 0870 6000 792 (travel agents) or 08705 186 186 (public; within the UK) or 1233 617 575 (public; outside the UK); or Rail Europe (tel: 08705 848 848). Travel agents can obtain refunds for unused tickets from Eurostar Trade Refunds, 2nd Floor, Kent House, 81 Station Road, Ashford, Kent TN23 1PD. Complaints and comments may be sent to Eurostar Customer Relations, Eurostar House, Waterloo Station, London SE1 8SE. General enquiries and information requests must be made by telephone.
There are numerous and excellent road links with all neighboring countries. For information on traffic regulations and required documentation, see the Travel - Internal section. Coach: Coaches run regularly to a large number of European destinations. Eurolines, departing from Victoria Coach Station in London, serves destinations in Austria. For further information, contact Eurolines (tel: (08705) 143 219;. Some tour operators offer package holidays to Austria by coach from the UK. A full list is available from the Austrian National Tourist Office (see General Info section). The Channel Tunnel: Eurotunnel operates trains 24 hours per day through the Channel Tunnel between Folkestone in Kent (with direct access from the M20) and Calais in France. All vehicles from motorcycles to campers can be accommodated. Eurotunnel operates three to four passenger trains per hour at peak times. The journey takes approximately 35 minutes. For further information see France, Travel - International section or contact Eurotunnel Reservations (tel: (08705) 353 535;
There are regular ferry services across the English Channel. The quickest and most practical route from London to Vienna is via the Dover-Ostend ferry (crossing time – three hours 30 minutes). The distance by road is approximately 1600km (1000 miles). It is one day’s drive in summer, but can take longer in winter. Munich is four to five hours from Vienna; Milan and Zurich are a good day’s drive.
DDSG-Blue Danube Schiffahrt operates a passenger service on the Danube from Germany (Passau) to Vienna. For information and reservations, contact them at Friedrichstrasse 7, A-1010 Vienna (tel: (1) 588 800; fax: (1) 588 8440; The German operator Wurm und Köck offers both passenger services and cruises to Linz. Overnight cruise packages from Passau to Linz include hotel accommodation for only slightly more than the regular one-way passenger fare. Evening and music cruises are available in the summer. For further information, contact Wurm und Köck, Untere Donaulände, 4020 Linz (tel: (732) 783 607; fax: (732) 783 60720;DDSG-Blue Danube Schiffahrt also operates a hydrofoil service from the Praterlande hydrofoil dock in Vienna to Hungary (Budapest; travel time – 6 hours). Ardagger operates services between Linz and Germany (Krems) (tel: (7479) 64640; fax: (7479) 646 510; Brandner concentrates its services between Melk and Krems. For further information, contact Brandner at Ufer 50, A-3313 Wallsee (tel: (7433) 259 021; fax: (7433) 259 025; A regular hydrofoil service also runs three times daily during the summer months from Vienna to the Slovak Republic (Bratislava) (travel time – one-and-a-half hours). International rail tickets are valid on Danube river boats. More information on the above services, and connections to Serbia and Montenegro (Belgrade), Turkey (Istanbul) and Ukraine (Yalta), can be obtained from the Austrian National Tourist Office (see General Info section).
The following goods can be taken into Austria without incurring customs duty by travelers over 17 years arriving from countries outside the EU:
200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; 1l of spirits over 22 per cent or 2l of fortified wine or spirits up to 22 per cent or 2l of sparkling wine or liqueur and 2l of still wine; 500g of coffee or 200g of extracts, essences or concentrates of coffee; 50g of perfume or eau de toilette; goods up to a value of &Euro;175.
Abolition of duty free goods within the EU
On 30 June 1999, the sale of duty-free alcohol and tobacco at airports and at sea was abolished in all of the original 15 EU member states. Of the 10 new member states that joined the EU on May 1st 2004, these rules already apply to Cyprus and Malta. There are transitional rules in place for visitors returning to one of the original 15 EU countries from one of the other new EU countries. But for the original 15, plus Cyprus and Malta, there are now no limits imposed on importing tobacco and alcohol products from one EU country to another (with the exceptions of Denmark, Finland and Sweden, where limits are imposed). Travelers should note that they may be required to prove at customs that the goods purchased are for personal use only.
Vienna is connected to Graz, Klagenfurt, Linz and Salzburg by Tyrolean Airways (VO). Rheintalflug (WE) also operates internal services. Charter: There are companies offering charter services for single- and twin-engined aircraft and executive jets.
A number of operators run cruises along the Danube, and from Switzerland (Bregenz) across Lake Constance. On some cruises, a passport is needed; they last from one to eight days depending on the itinerary. These services run between spring and autumn. Ferries: There are regular passenger boat services from mid-May to mid-September along the Danube and on Austria’s lakes. The Danube steamer services are run by DDSG Blue Danube Schiffahrt (tel: (1) 588 800) and private companies.
Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB) (Austrian Federal Railways) runs an efficient internal service, with a 5,700km network of tracks throughout Austria. There is a frequent intercity service from Vienna to Salzburg, Innsbruck, Graz and Klagenfurt, and regular motorrail services through the Tauern Tunnel. Information and booking can be obtained from railway stations or Austrian Federal Railways (see Travel – International for contact details). Local information can be obtained on (1) 1717. For bookings from the UK, contact Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) (tel: (0870) 243 5363;or Rail Europe (tel: (08705) 848 848). The most scenic routes are Innsbruck–Brenner, Innsbruck–Buchs, Innsbruck–Bruck an der Mur–Vienna, Innsbruck–Feldkirch–Innsbruck, Innsbruck– Garmisch– Zugspitze, Innsbruck–Salzburg– Innsbruck, Linz–Selzthal–Amstetten–Linz, Salzburg–Zell am See–Innsbruck, Salzburg– Gmunden–Stainach–Salzburg, Salzburg–Vienna, Salzburg–Villach– Salzburg, Vienna– Puchberg am Schneeberg– Hochschneeberg–Vienna, Vienna–Bruck an der Mur–Innsbruck, Vienna–Klagenfurt– Udine–Trieste. Railways have fixed charges for portering. Tickets can be obtained from any station ticket office (Reisebüro am Bahnhof) or from most Austrian travel agents. For further information consult Austrian National Tourist Office (see General Info section). Discount fares: Throughout Austria, up to two children under 6 years who are accompanied or require no seat travel free and a third child qualifies for a 50 per cent discount. Children aged 6 to 15 pay half fare. The Vorteilscard is available to purchase, and offers a 45% discount on rail travel within a 1-year period. This ID card can be purchased at all Austrian railway stations. Senior citizens (women 60 and over and men 65 and over) may buy train and bus tickets at half price after purchasing the Vorteilscard for approximately &Euro;25.50; those under 26 years of age pay approximately &Euro;17.90. Austria offers a number of discount rail passes including the Euro Domino and Euro Domino Junior, both valid for three to 8 days within a 30-day period. The Austrian Rail Pass is available to foreigners. Reductions are also available for groups of more than six people. For more information, contact the Austrian Railways Head Office (see Travel – International section) or enquire locally.
Austria has an excellent network of roads. Traffic drives on the right. Help is readily given by the Austrian Motoring Association (ÖAMTC); there is a fee for non-members. For emergency breakdowns, dial 120 or 123. Tolls must be paid on all Austrian motorways. Tourists can purchase either 10-day, two-month or one-year discs which are available at all major border crossings and at post offices. The weekly disc is valid for up to 10 days and costs approximately &Euro;7.63 for cars up to 3.5 tons. The two-monthly disc, valid for two consecutive calendar months costs &Euro;21.80 for cars below 3.5 tons. Heavy vehicles pay higher tariffs and motorcycles pay less. Seat belts must be worn and children under the age of 12 and under 150cm tall may not sit in the front seat unless a special child’s seat has been fitted. Both driver and passenger on a motorcycle must wear helmets, and the vehicle must have lights on at all times. Speed limits are 50kph (31mph) in built-up areas (the speed limit in Graz is 30kph), 100kph (62mph) outside built-up areas and 130kph (81mph) on motorways. Bus and coach services are run by federal and local authorities, as well as private companies. There are over 1800 services in operation. Some 70 international coach services travel to or through Austria and 22 routes with timetables and prices can be found in the Austrian bus guide which can be consulted via the Austrian National Tourist Office. For further information, contact Central Bus Information (tel: (1) 794 440; Coach excursions and sightseeing tours run from most major cities. Car hire: There are car hire firms with offices in most cities, as well as at airports and major railway stations. Documentation: National driving licenses issued by EU countries, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are accepted, and enable holders to drive in Austria for up to one year. UK licenses without a photo must be accompanied by some form of photo ID such as a passport. The minimum legal age for driving is 18. Car registration papers issue in the UK are also valid in Austria. A Green Card is compulsory.
Vienna has an extensive system of metro, bus, light rail and tramway services. Most routes have a flat fare, and there are pre-purchase multi-journey tickets and passes. The Vienna Card entitles visitors to 72 hours of unlimited travel by underground, bus and tram. It also entitles the holder to reductions at several museums and other tourist attractions in the city as well as shops, cafes and wine taverns. The card can be purchased at hotels or at Vienna Transport’s ticket offices. Those trams marked schaffnerlos on the outside of the carriage do not have conductors, but tickets can be bought from machines on board. Tickets are available from newspaper shops or tobacconists called Trafik. The classic way to travel round the capital is by horse-drawn carriage (Fiaker); fares should be agreed in advance. There are bus systems in all the other main towns, and also tramways in Linz, Innsbruck and Graz, and trolleybuses in Linz, Innsbruck and Salzburg.
The following chart gives approximate travel times (in hours and minutes) from Vienna to other major cities/towns in Austria.
Austria is a landlocked country, bordered by Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy. It is a mountainous country, nearly half of which is covered with forests. Austria’s nine Federal Provinces form a political entity, but reflect a diversity of landscapes falling into five sections: the Eastern Alps (62.8 per cent), the Alpine and Carpathian Foothills (11.3 per cent), the Pannonian Lowlands (11.3 per cent), the Vienna Basin (4.4 per cent) and the Granite and Gneiss Highlands or Bohemian Massif (10.1 per cent). Austria’s highest mountain is Grossglockner (3798m/12,465ft). On its way from the Black Forest in southern Germany to the Black Sea, the River Danube flows approximately 360km (220 miles) through Austria. The vegetation changes according to the climate: the lower regions are densely wooded, with fir predominating above 1600ft and giving way to larch and stone-pine beyond 4000ft; the Alpine foothills consist predominantly of arable land and grassland (above 2000ft). The Pannonian region is characterized by scrub and heathland.