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Austria Travel Guide:

       Tourism Information

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       Tourism Rating    Travel Safety   Entry Requirements  Avoiding Petty Theft

                   Special Note   Road Safety and Conditions   Medical Care

 

 
Tourism Rating   Top of Page  

 

 

Three globes = One of the best vacation destinations

 

Climate Note:

Temperate; continental, cloudy; cold winters with frequent rain in lowlands and snow in mountains; cool summers with occasional showers.  Vienna Climate Innsbruck Climate

Austria: One of the Best Travel destinations (three of four globes)

Austria is a desirable travel destination for either land touring or river cruises. Known as an "alpine delight",  Austria offers  beautiful and historic cities, inviting mountains, and delightful pastoral landscapes  Although small in area, Austria is packed with highly rated tourist attractions. 

  1. Austria is a destination that has much to offer and  is a place to "take your time". We recommend that you sample the cuisine, try the local wines, and attend the opera or a symphony to listen to the music for which this country is so well known (although all types of music are popular in  Austria).  If you have time, try to walk, hike, or bicycle the countryside to gain an understanding of why Austria is regarded as one of Europe's best places to visit.


  2. Austria is an easy country for independent travel.


  3. ThereArePlaces recommended best places to visit in Austria are located at  Austria: Places To Visit.


  4. Additional information on travel to Austria can be found at  the country's official tourism websites http://www.austria.info/  or   http://www.austria-tourism.at/us.


  5. For specific information about Vienna (Wein), see our expanded guide to the wonders of the Imperial City.


  6. When planning your travel, be sure to review the ThereArePlaces Travel Planning Guides for insights on how  to "travel well" and "travel safe".
 
Travel Safety   Top of Page  

 

Green light = safe travel

Overall, Austria is a safe travel destination for tourists. 

  1. No official health advisories, travel advisories, or specific terrorism warnings for Austria have been posted by the U.S. Government at this time.  Before you depart, always check with the Department of State  and CDC to insure that these conditions have not changed.  In addition, you will find that the  Foreign & Commonwealth Office  of the British Government provides excellent travel advisories.
    • Austrian intelligence experts have registered increased radicalization of immigrant Muslim individuals and of small conspiratorial groups, as well as intensified use of the Internet as a propaganda and communications platform. Despite some terrorism-related incidents in 2007 directed against individual Austrian nationals or the Government of Austria, authorities overall believe the likelihood of terrorist attacks in Austria remains relatively low
  2. When visiting a foreign country, avoid public demonstrations (whatever the cause) and do not broadcast either your public opinions or your nationality.

  3. If you have an emergency in Austria, call 112. 112 is a European Economic Community initiative to provide a one telephone number contact for ambulance services, the police, the fire service, air and sea rescue and other emergency services available within a specific country (such as mountain patrol). The 112-telephone number is designed for use in emergencies, especially when life or property is at risk. Calls are answered in English and German.
    • The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Austria is “133.”

  4. "The U.S. Embassy in Vienna is located at Boltzmanngasse 16 in the Ninth District. The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is located in the Marriott Building, on the fourth floor of Pakring 12A, in the First District. The telephone number for both the Embassy and the Consular Section is (43) (1) 31-339 7535. The Embassy also maintains a website, at http://austria.usembassy.gov/index.html  with security updates and other information helpful to American citizens.  See our article on How U.S. Counsels can help Americans abroad.
 
Entry Requirements   Top of Page  
 

A passport is required for entry to Austria.  A visa is not required for business or tourist stays in Austria up to three months in length (that period begins when entering any of the following countries which are parties to the Schengen agreement: Austria, Belgium,  the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg,  Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia Spain, and Sweden.)

The passport used should be valid at least for the period of the intended stay (usually the date of the return flight).  If you do not have a passport, see our article on the Ins and Outs of Passports.  Other important travel documents are covered in our Information Guide on Passport, Visas, Customs.

For further information concerning Austria's entry requirements contact the Embassy of Austria at 3524 International Court, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, Tel: (202) 895-6711, or the Austrian Consulate General in Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York. The Austrian Embassy to the United States maintains a webpage in English that answers, in detail, questions concerning the laws and regulations of Austria, including residency, driver’s license requirements, permission to work and other items of interest: www.Austria.org/

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the parents or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

DUAL NATIONALITY: U.S. citizens who are also Austrian citizens under Austrian law may be subject, while in Austria, to certain aspects of Austrian law such as mandatory voting. Those who may be affected should inquire at an Austrian Embassy or Consulate regarding their status.

In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. For additional information, please see the State Department's  Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet home page at http://travel.state.gov for an explanation of dual nationality issues. U.S. citizens who are also citizens of 
any other nation are reminded that U.S. law requires they enter and
depart the United States documented as U.S. citizens.

   
Avoiding Petty Theft   Top of Page  
 

Before you travel, read our articles on Pickpockets, Con Artists, and ATM safety in the ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Personal Safety for travelers.

Austria has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, and violent crime is rare. However, crimes involving theft of personal property do occur. As such, most crimes involving Americans are crimes of opportunity involving theft of personal belongings. Travelers are also targets of pickpockets who operate where tourists tend to gather. Some of the spots where such crimes are most frequently reported include Vienna’s two largest train stations, the plaza around St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the nearby pedestrian shopping areas (in Vienna’s First District).

Travelers should be particularly careful not to leave valuables at their table while serving themselves from hotel or restaurant breakfast buffets. 

There has been an increase in theft and pick pocketing on public transportation lines, especially on those lines coming in and out of the city center where even the most travel-savvy and alert tourists have lost possessions to gangs of thieves operating in groups.  Travelers are advised to secure personal belongings and always take extreme precautions while on public transportation and in public places such as cafes and tourist areas.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport overseas should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members of friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution for the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney

   
   
Special Note   Top of Page  
  1. Travelers using U.S. issued debit cards in Austrian Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) may encounter problems. If the request for cash is rejected, travelers should check their accounts immediately to see whether the money was in fact debited from their account. If this is the case, notify your  banking institution immediately. Prompt action should result in a refund of the debited amount.

2.  Every year, a number of avalanche deaths occur in Austria's alpine regions. Many occur when skiers/snowboarders stray from the designated ski slopes. Leaving the designated slopes  may pose serious risks and may delay rescue attempts in case of emergency. Skiers/snowboarders should monitor weather and terrain conditions, and use the available avalanche rescue equipment. Avalanche beepers (transceivers) are the most common rescue devices and, when properly used, provide the fastest way of locating an avalanche victim, usually enabling authorities to begin rescue operations within minutes.

3.  Austrian Federal Railroads (Österreichische Bundesbahnen) offer excellent railroad service to all major towns of the country and also direct connections with all major cities in Europe. Trains are well maintained and fares are reasonable. There is also an extensive network of bus lines operated by the Austrian Postal Service (Österreichische Post). All major cities also offer excellent public transportation services.

4.ThereArePlaces makes every attempt to ensure that the travel information we present to you is current. Before you depart, be sure to check with official government sources to determine the status of critical information relating to a particular county.

   
Road Safety and Conditions   Top of Page  
 

Important information for drivers

While in  Austria, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.

The information below concerning Austria is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Excellent

Road conditions in Austria are generally excellent. During the winter, however, roads in alpine areas may become dangerous due to snowfall, ice, or avalanches. Some mountain roads may be closed for extended periods and tire chains are often required. Drivers should exercise caution during the heavily traveled vacation periods (December-February, Easter, July-August). Extra caution is recommended when driving through autobahn construction zones, particularly on the A-1 East/West Autobahn. Reduced lanes and two-way traffic in these zones have resulted in several deadly accidents in recent years. Traffic information and road conditions are broadcast on the English language channel fm4, located between 91 and 105 FM depending on the locale.

A U.S. driver’s license alone is not sufficient to drive in Austria. The U.S. driver's license must be accompanied by an International Driving Permit (obtainable in the U.S. from American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance) or by an official translation of the U.S. driver’s license, which can be obtained at one of the Austrian automobile clubs (OEAMTC or ARBOE). This arrangement is only acceptable for the first six months of driving in Austria, after which all drivers must obtain an Austrian license.

Austria requires all vehicles using the autobahn to display a highway tax sticker “Autobahn Vignette” on the inside windshield of the vehicle. The sticker may be purchased at border crossings, gas stations in Austria, as well as small “Tabak” shops located in Austrian towns. Fines are usually around $120.00 for failing to display a valid autobahn vignette on the windshield of your car .

Austrian law requires that operating motor vehicles have the headlights on at all times, day and night, whether on highways or in cities.

Austrian autobahns have a maximum speed limit of 130 km/hr, although drivers often drive much faster and pass aggressively.

Use of mobile telephones while driving is against the law in Austria.  The fine for violating laws against the use of mobile phone while driving is significant.  If you need to use your mobile phone while on the road, stop your car in a designated parking area and place your call.

Turning right on red is also prohibited throughout Austria.

Tourists driving rented vehicles should pay close attention to the provisions of their rental contracts.  Failure to do so could result in fines or confiscation of the car during your travels.  Make sure that you are familiar with the terms, restrictions and costs related to your car rental (see our article on Rental Car Costs). Many contracts prohibit drivers from taking rented vehicles into eastern European countries. Drivers attempting to enter countries listed as “prohibited” on the car rental contract may be arrested, fined, and/or charged with attempted auto theft. The vehicle can be held by Austrian police for the car rental company.

Speed Limits in Austria:

  1. Built-up areas - 50 km/h
  2. Outside Built up areas (including  dual carriageways) - 100 km/h
  3. Motorways - 130 km/h

Our information on speed limits is as current as possible. Always confirm the speed limits with your rental car agent and observe the posted speeds limits whenever and wherever you drive.

Emergency roadside help and information may be reached by dialing 123 or 120 for vehicle assistance and towing services (Austrian Automobile Clubs), 122 for the fire department, 133 for police, and 144 for ambulance.  The European emergency line is 112.

ThereArePlaces recommends that you do not drink and drive.  In most countries the maximum permitted blood alcohol levels are lower than those enforced in the United States. Penalties and punishments are significant. See our article on drinking and driving in foreign countries for more information.  The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Austria is .05 percent and penalties for driving under the influence tend to be stricter than in many U.S. states.

For specific information concerning Austrian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Austrian government website at http://www.austria.org Additional official tourist information can be obtained from the Austrian national tourist office in New York at tel: 212-944-6880 or in Los Angeles at tel: 818-999-4030.

For information on obtaining international drivers licenses, contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1179.html#safety .

   
Important information for drivers
 
 
Medical Care   Top of Page  
 

Good medical care is widely available in Austria.

Public health conditions in Austria are excellent. The level of community sanitation in Vienna meets or exceeds that of most large American cities. Disease incidence and type are similar to that seen in the major cities of Western Europe and the United States. At the present time, air pollution is not a major health problem in Vienna.

There are an adequate number of hospitals available in Austria. Local hospitals will not settle their accounts directly with American insurance companies. The patient is obliged to pay the bill to the local hospital and later claim a refund from his/her insurance carrier in the United States. MEDICARE payments are not available outside the United States.

The Austrian Medicine Import Act generally prohibits the import of prescription drugs into Austria, with two exceptions:

  •  Travelers residing outside the European Union are allowed to carry with them (as part of their personal luggage) drugs and medicines, but only the quantity that an individual having a health problem might normally carry; and
  • Travelers while staying in Austria may receive drugs and medicines for their personal use by mail. The quantity is limited to the length of their stay in Austria and must never exceed three packages.

Generally, it is recommended that travelers have either a prescription or written statement from their personal physician that the medicines are being used under a doctor's direction and are necessary for their physical wellbeing while traveling.

We strongly urge you to consult your medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, you should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing medical service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your departure, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur.

Your existing medical insurance carrier may cover "customary and reasonable" medical care while you are abroad. Usually, if reimbursement is provided, it is paid at a reduced rate (due to the use of an "out of system" provider). Check with your insurance carrier before you depart to determine the type and amount of coverage that may be provided. If coverage is provided, be sure to ask how claims should be filed and ask them to send some claim forms, in case you require any medical treatment while on vacation.

Read our article on  travel insurance to learn the factors that you should consider before you purchase or decline to purchase a travel related insurance policy.
 

ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Health contains valuable health related advice for the traveler considering a trip abroad.

 

 

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