Austria has few peers as a year-round holiday destination, with plenty of winter sports in the Alps, some of the most impressive and overblown architecture in Europe and an unrivalled musical tradition that even couldn't sully. Read more...
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Cities and Destinations in Austria
Austria has few peers as a year-round holiday destination, with plenty of winter sports in the Alps, some of the most impressive and overblown architecture in Europe and an unrivalled musical tradition that even couldn't sully.
Austria is a federal republic comprised of nine federal-states:
Burgenland Carinthia (Kärnten)
Lower Austria (Niederösterreich)
Salzburg (state) Salzburg Styria (Steiermark)
Upper Austria (Oberösterreich)
There are 5 airports in Austria with scheduled flights.
The most important international airport is Vienna which has connection to all major airports of the world. Other international airports include Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz, and Salzburg (city) Salzburg which provide domestic flights as well as connections to some European countries. Those airports are particularly popular with cheap airlines such as Ryanair.The most common airports to visit Vorarlberg are Altenrhein (Austrian), Friedrichshafen (Ryanair, Intersky) and Zurich (Swiss)
EUROLINES http://eurolines.blaguss.at has bus schedules from Austria to all major European countries and back. If you make use of special offers and/or book in advance, traveling by plane or train is normally cheaper than by bus, however, the bus may be the cheapest option if you want to travel at short notice or if you have large amounts of luggage.
Austria and all it's neighbouring countries, except Switzerland and Liechtenstein are Schengen members so in theory there are no border controls. However for Euro 2008 these border controls will be reinstated and identity checks are still commonplace. For using highway toll has to be paid ( Vignette ). Costs are approx €70 for one year, €20 for 8 weeks, or about €7 for 10 days.
On some Saturdays in July and August expect traffic jams on the motorways between Germany, Austria and Italy when millions of German tourists head south at the beginning of school vacations. A delay of about 2 hours is not unusual. The motorway A10 between Salzburg and Villach is especially notorious. It's best to avoid those Saturdays.
Motorway A8 from Munich to Salzburg (city) Salzburg.Motorway A93 from Rosenheim via Kufstein to Innsbruck, Tyrol. E43 (A96) from Leutkirch via Wangen to Bregenz Vorarlberg.E56 from Regensburg to Passau, Upper Austria.
Motorway A23 to Villach, Carinthia. E54 via Brenner to Innsbruck, Tyrol.
E652 to Villach, Carinthia. E57 via Spielfeld to Graz, Styria.
Austria's connections with neighboring Germany are excellent, and all other neighbors 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 trainspotters
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 power lines run with 110 kV. In contrast to normal power lines, these employ a number of conductors that is not divisible by 3-most power lines for the single phase AC grid of the traction power grid have four conductors.
By train and bus
Trains http://www.oebb.at/pv/en/ 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, and intercity coaches (long distance buses) are hard to find in most of Austria.
Since August 2007, if you are traveling in a group of 2 to 5 persons and you don't mind taking local regional trains, you can buy an Einfach-Raus-Ticket (ERT) http://www.oebb.at/pv/en/Travelling_cheaper/Groups/Einfach-Raus-Ticket/index.jsp, good for unlimited travel within a day, viz., after 9am on weekdays and all day weekends/holidays, on all regional trains of ÖBB within Austria. The cost is only 29 EUR for 2 to 5 persons. The ERT is patterned after the popular group Bavaria Ticket (Bayern-Ticket). Unlike the Bavaria Ticket, there is no ERT for a single. Note: If your German is not very good, you could remember ERT as the Easy Roam Ticket.
VorteilsCard http://www.oebb.at/pv/en/Servicebox/VORTEILScard/index.jsp. 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.
Be aware that buying a train ticket at an Austrian Railways ticket machine does not tie you to a specific schedule. If you buy a ticket from Salzburg to Vienna, that ticket is valid for any train that takes you to Vienna.
Ticketing machines at train stations (unlike the ones in Germany) do not print itineraries and many train stations only display basic timetables. It is best to find an itinerary on the Austrian Railways website by setting up a ticket reservation (without actually reserving the ticket, just print the itinerary). Stations also provide pamphlets with detailed timetables, but this assumes you know which line to board to get to your destination.
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. Comprehensive maps of Austria, specific regions within Austria (including city maps), as well as maps from neighbouring countries can be bought at any petrol station. (expect to pay around €7 for one map)
As in many European cities, parking in cities is subject to fee on work days. Usually those parking zones are marked by blue lines on the street. Some cities (e.g. Vienna ) have area-wide zones which are not denotated by blue lines). Fees vary from town to town as do the fines, which are charged if you have no valid ticket. (generally between €20 and €30) Tickets can be usually bought from kiosks, some cities (e.g. Graz) have ticket machines on the street. A cheap alternative is to park your car a bit outside of the town in parking garages called Park and Ride which can be found in any bigger city.
Traveling on Austrian motorways (autobahnen) or Schnellstraßen 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 or at the border. Vignetten can be bought for 10 days (€7, 60), 2 months (€21, 80) or one year (€72, 00). Driving a car on a motorway without a vignette is punished with either payment of a substitute toll of €110 (that allows one to travel on the motorways for that day and the day immediately following) or a fine of upwards of €400, and if the fine is not paid on the spot, valuables may be seized from your vehicle and person to ensure that the fine is paid. You must affix the vignette to the top-center or on one of the driver's side corners of 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. The maximum speed allowed on motorways is 130km/h.
Additional tolls are payable on certain roads, especially mountain passes, which you need to pay in bank notes (not coins!), as they got mad if you give them a hand of coins.
·Some insurance will not cover you in Austria despite covering you in the rest of Europe. Do not assume: ensure that your insurance does cover you before entry.·Do not, under any circumstances, share a vignette with another vehicle, as doing so renders the vignette invalid. The penalty for doing so is either payment of a substitute toll of €220 or a fine of up to €4000, and payment may be guaranteed with the seizure of valuables from your car.
Take special care when driving in winter, especially in the mountains (and keep in mind that winter lasts from september to may in the higher parts of the alps and snowfall is in general there possible any time of the year). 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 tires are strongly recommended by Austrian motoring clubs. When there is snowfall, winter tires 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 tire 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 off-road vehicle in winter (though a 4x4 is helpful). In fact, small, lightweight cars are better at tackling narrow mountain roads than sluggish off-road 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.
Petrol is cheaper in Austria than in some neighboring countries, but still expensive compared to American standards.
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, Sky Europe, Welcome Air:
Graz (Thalerhof), servicing eastern Styria and southern Burgenland Innsbruck (Kranebitten), servicing Tyrol Klagenfurt ( Wörthersee-Airport), servicing Carinthia Linz (Hörsching), servicing Upper Austria Salzburg (city) Salzburg (Wals), servicing Salzburg and Berchtesgaden ( Bavaria )Vienna (Schwechat), servicing Vienna and Lower Austria
Non-domestic airport servicing western Austria:
St Gallen Altenrhein Airport ( Switzerland ), servicing Vorarlberg, Liechtenstein, Northeastern Switzerland, and Lake Constance AreaFriedrichshafen ( Germany ), servicing Vorarlberg, Baden-Württemberg and Lake Constance Area
When to go
Austria is a very safe country. According to the OECD Factbook of 2006, levels of robbery, assault, and car crime are among the lowest in the developed 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, 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. 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 senior 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.
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.
Austria has a dense network of helicopter ambulances that can reach any point in the country within 15 minutes. Beware: Mountain rescue by helicopter is not covered by your EHIC, or indeed most travel insurances. If you have a medical emergency while you are in the mountains (eg. break a leg while skiing), the helicopter will be called on you regardless of whether you ask for it or not, and you will be billed upwards of €1, 000. Mountain sports insurace is therefore highly recommended.
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. Also be aware that there is a small, endangered population of sand vipers in the south.
Tap water is of exceptional quality and safe to drink in 100% of Austria. The quality of water in Vienna is supposedly comparable to that of Evian.
In its early years, the land that became Austria was invaded by a succession of tribes and armies using the Danube Valley as a conduit-Celts, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, Huns, Avars, Slavs all came and went. Charlemagne established a territory in the Danube Valley known as the Ostmark in 803, and the area became Christianised and predominantly Germanic.
By 1278 the Habsburgs had gained control and this mighty dynasty managed to rule Austria right up until WWI. Although the Habsburgs were not averse to using a bit of muscle, they preferred less barbaric ways of extending their territory and so Austria gradually expanded thanks to judicious real estate purchases and some politically-motivated marriages. One such marriage produced two sons: the eldest became Charles I of Spain, who mutated three years later into Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire; the younger son, Ferdinand, became the first Habsburg to live in Vienna and was anointed ruler of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia. In 1556, Charles abdicated as emperor and Ferdinand I was crowned in his place. Charles' remaining territory was inherited by his son, Phillip II, splitting the Habsburg dynasty into two distinct lines-the Spanish and the Austrian.
In 1571, when the emperor granted religious freedom, the vast majority of Austrians turned to Protestantism. In 1576, the new emperor, Rudolf II, embraced the Counter-Reformation and much of the country reverted, with a little coercion, to Catholicism. The attempt to impose Catholicism on Protestant areas of Europe led to the Thirty Years' War, which started in 1618 and devastated much of Central Europe. Peace was finally achieved in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia. For much of the rest of the century, Austria was preoccupied with halting the advance of the Turks into Europe. Vienna nearly capitulated to a Turkish siege in 1683 but was rescued by a Christian force of German and Polish soldiers. Combined forces subsequently swept the Turks to the southeastern edge of Europe. The removal of the Turkish threat saw a frenzy of Baroque building in many cities, and under the musical emperor Leopold I, Vienna became a magnet for musicians and composers.
In 1740, Maria Theresa ascended the throne and ruled for 40 years. This period is generally acknowledged as the era in which Austria developed as a modern state. During her reign, control was centralised, a civil service was established, the army and economy were reformed and a public education system was introduced. But progress was halted when Napoleon defeated Austria at Austerlitz in 1805. European conflict dragged on until the settlement at the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15. Austria was left with control of the German Confederation but suffered upheaval during the 1848 revolutions and eventual defeat in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War. This led to the formation of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867 under emperor Franz Josef and exclusion from the new German empire unified by Bismarck.
Austria began the 20th century in prosperity but its expansionist tendencies in the Balkans and its annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908 led to the assassination of the emperor's nephew in Sarajevo in June 1914. A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, the Russians came to the Serbians' aid and the slaughter of WWI began in earnest.
At the conclusion of the war, the shrunken Republic of Austria was created and forced to recognise the independent states of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia which, along with Romania and Bulgaria, had previously been under the control of the Habsburgs. The new republic suffered economic strife, which led to an upsurge in Nazi-style politics. Austria's embrace of fascism meant that German troops met little opposition when they invaded in 1938 and incorporated Austria into the Third Reich. A national referendum in Austria that year supported the annexation. For its troubles, Austria was bombed heavily in WWII and by 1945 it had been restored to its 1937 frontiers by the victorious Allies. It was divided into four zones by occupying American, British, French and Russian troops who remained entrenched for a decade before withdrawing and allowing Austria to proclaim its neutrality.
In the post-war years Austria worked hard to overcome economic difficulties and established a free trade treaty with the European Union (EU, then known as the EEC) in 1972. Apart from the election of former German army officer and UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim to the Austrian Presidency in 1986, Austrian politics became a rational zone of consensus rather than conflict. Increases in Eastern European immigration following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc resulted in the rise of the right-wing anti-immigration Freedom Party in the late 1980s. Concern among moderates has been exacerbated by the recent influx of refugees from the former Yugoslavia.
The Austrian people heartily endorsed their country's entry into the EU in a referendum in 1994 and formally joined the Union on 1 January 1995. Since then most Austrians have been rather ambivalent about the advantages of EU membership.
In elections in 2000, the right-wing Freedom Party came in just behind the Social Democrats, forming a ruling coalition with the moderate right People's Party. Freedom Party leader and alledged Nazi sympathiser Jörg Haider handed the leadership to Susanne Riess-Passer, seen as less extreme, but the EU imposed sanctions on Austria despite the move. The Danube flooded in August 2003, sanctions were lifted in September because they were seen as counterproductive, and in November the People's Party made sweeping electoral gains at the Freedom Party's expense, but was nevertheless obliged to form a governing coalition with the latter despite divisions. Pension reforms, restitution for Holocaust crimes and strict asylum laws are some of the other issues that have dominated public debate.
In late 2003 the country mourned president Thomas Klestil, who died two days before the end of his term in office and in 2004 Austrian Elfriede Jelinek was awarded a Nobel Laureate in Literature, recognising her powerful poetic voice. In the first half of 2006 Austria held the temporary, six-month EU presidency and attempted to reinvigorate the establishment of the European Constitution. Domestically the nation was confronted by two controversial criminal matters. In March, historian David Irving was imprisoned for three years for denying the Holocaust (he was released and deported in December). In August year 18-year-old Natascha Kampusch, who had disappeared in 1998, escaped from the underground cell where she had been imprisoned. Her captor, Wolfgang Priklopil, subsequently committed suicide. Austria went to the polls later in the year and a coalition government of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPO) and the conservative People's Party was formed in January 2007, with the SPO's Alfred Gusenbauer as chancellor.
Quick Facts about Austria
8,199,783 (July 2007 est.)
German spoken by 99% of the population, regional Slovenian , Serbo-Croatian , Hungarian
Country Dialing Code