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.
In case of emergencies the telephone numbers are:-
Mountain Rescue: 140
Austria is a member of the Economic and Currency Union and the currency is the Euro.
The following Euro-banknotes and coins are in circulation:
Banknotes: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500.
Note that increasingly €500 notes are not accepted in a number of shops due to problems with forgeries.
Coins: €1 and €2 denominations as well as 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents. There are 100 cents in a Euro.
ATMs in Austria are called Bankomat. They are wide-spread and you will find them even in smaller, rural villages. Many shops (and some restaurants too) offer the service to pay directly with an ATM card. The majority of ATMs accept cards from abroad. All Bankomats in Austria can easily be 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).
The national language is German but there is an Austrian dialect. There are also differences in vocabulary with Austrian version of words used.
English is widely spoken in the cities and main tourist spots.
There is a highly efficient network of buses within Salzburg and it is a great way to get around. Tickets are available from machines at the main bus stops or from the driver.
For longer distances there are both local and Intercity trains. Travel to Munich is about 2 hours and Vienna can be reached in just under 3. Both cities are therefore viable destinations for day trips.
In Austrian restaurants you must ask to pay. Get the attention of your server and say: “zahlen, bitte” (to pay, please). They will then bring you the bill, or tell you the amount of the bill verbally. Then, the proper way to pay in Austria is to give your cash and say the amount you wish to pay, including tip.
Servers are not dependent on tips and it is not appropriate to tip a large amount. Generally round up to the nearest 1 euro of the cost for each person. This should usually be 5-10% for a full meal.
Saying “danke” (thank you) when paying means keep the change! Alternatively, you can say the amount of the bill plus your tip and will only get change above that amount (for instance, if you pay with a €20 bill, the amount is €16.50 and you say “Siebzehn Euro” (seventeen euro), the server will give you €3 change and keep the €0.50 as tip).
Austria has an excellent healthcare system by Western standards. Hospitals are modern, clean, and well-equipped.
If you are a traveller from the EU, you can get any form of urgent treatment for free (or a small token fee), 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 there is a sign that says “Alle Kassen” or “Keine Kassen” , in which case your EHIC is not valid.
Travellers from outside the EU with no travel insurance 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.
Travel Insurance is always recommended especially if you are taking part in winter sports or other risky activities. Austria has a network of helicopter ambulances that can reach any point in the country within 15 minutes. 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 insurance is therefore highly recommended; you can obtain this from your health insurer.
Tap water is of exceptional quality and safe to drink in Austria.
Driving in Austria
In Austria you drive on the right. Speed limits are 130km/h on the Autobahn and 100km/h on main roads. Expect limits in built up areas of 50-80km/h.
Traffic lights switch from red to red and yellow before turning green. At the end of the green phase, the green light flashes before turning to yellow. Right turn on red is not allowed. At night, some traffic lights will flash yellow continuously. This means that no-one has right of way and proceed with caution.
In Salzburg there are a number of parking garages around the city. Outside of the city, parking is allowed on the streets where there are blue lines. If the parking is free when parking in these areas it is important to display a “clock card” that shows the time you arrived. Failure to do so may result in a fine.
When travelling on the Autobhan you must display a “Vignette”. These are available at any petrol station or at the border. Hire cars will have one of these as standard.
Driving a car on the Autobhan without a vignette is punished with either payment of a substitute toll of €120 (€65 for motorcycles) or a fine of upwards of €300. 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. Motorway police regularly check for vignettes so be warned.
Between 1 November and 15 April, passenger cars and trucks with a permissible maximum weight of up to 3.5 t may be operated in winter conditions such as snow-covered tracks, snowy slush or ice only if winter tyres have been installed on all wheels. During this period , hire cars will be equipped with the appropriate tyres.
Austria has a temperate continental climate. Summers last from early June to mid-September and can be hot in some years and rainy in others. Day-time temperatures in July and August are around 25°C (77°F), but can often reach 35°C (95°F).
Winters last from December to March (longer at higher altitudes) and are cold in the lowlands and very harsh in the Alpine region with temperatures often dropping below -10°C (14°F). Also in the mountains, large temperature fluctuations occur all year round and nights are chilly even in high summer.
The Salzburg area can have a lot of rain at times so check the weather forecast and be prepared.
Electricity is supplied at 220 to 230V, 50Hz. Outlets are the European standard or Europlug types.
Generally speaking, travellers from the UK just need an adapter. US and Canada should pack an adapter and a converter for these outlets if they plan to use North American electrical equipment in Austria.