Austria is one of our favorite destinations in Europe. It has beautiful natural landscapes, historic cities, impressive architecture, fabulous landmarks and it is one of the best places in the world to explore classical culture and art. Naturally, it is a very popular country among travelers.
In this guide, we will help you plan a fabulous trip to Austria, by providing travel tips that allow you to travel easily, stress-free while making the most of what the country has to offer. And believe us, it has more than enough.
So, and to make this information easy to understand, we created the 50 things you need to know before traveling to Austria, while peeking at the best destinations and monuments, how to interact with locals, the best ways to travel, expected costs, ways to save, and much more…
About Austria and the Austrians
#1 With only 83,872km2, Austria is a relatively small country. Located in the center of Europe, it is landlocked and borders Germany and Czechia to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Italy and Slovenia to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west.
#2 Austria is an extremely mountainous country, especially in the western regions. Marked by the Alps, more than 65% of the country is at an altitude above 500 meters, the highest point is the Grossglockner with 3,797 meters of altitude.
#3 Austria is one of the richest and most developed countries in the world, and this is visible everywhere. Not for the luxury and ostentation, but for the organization, cleanliness, and quality of life that is always present.
With a Gross Domestic Product per capita PPP (purchasing power parity) of 60,418 international dollars, Austria is the 14th richest country in the world. In terms of human development, Austria ranked 18th in 2018.
How are Austrians like
#4 Despite its small size, Austria has almost 8.9 million inhabitants, of which 1.8 million (2.8 if we include the metropolitan area) live in Vienna, the capital and largest city. All other Austrian cities are much smaller, the main ones being: Salzburg, Linz, Graz, and Innsbruck.
#5 German is the official language and virtually everyone in Austria speaks German, however, there are some regional languages such as Croatian, Hungarian, and Slovenian, close to the respective borders. The German dialect of Austria is very similar to the Bavarian.
If you speak some German, even just a few words, it will be greatly appreciated. It also helps a lot when you need to follow basic directions and road signs.
#6 But even if you don’t speak any German, a large part of Austria’s population speaks English. In big cities and tourist areas, then, you won’t have any problems. In some more hidden areas that receive few foreigners, you may have a few more problems, but nothing that can’t be solved.
#7 Be that as it may, we always suggest that you learn some expressions in German, as in almost all other countries, locals like tourists to make an effort to communicate in their language.
- Hello – Hallo;
- Good morning/afternoon/evening – guten morgan if it’s morning; guten tag from noon to dusk (but can be used all day); guten abend (after dark)
- Please – Bitte;
- Thank you – Danke;
- Goodbye – Auf Wiedersehen or Tschüss;
#8 Our experience dealing with the Austrians has always been pretty positive. Despite having a reputation for being cold, or distant, they are always very helpful and friendly. They are not latinos, but they are very attentive and if they see us having difficulties doing something, they take the initiative to ask if we need help. In this sense, we find the Austrians quite similar to the Germans in Bavaria.
#9 This brings us to one thing that Austrians really don’t like. Never call an Austrian a German, or confuse Austria with Germany. Although to an outsider, there are many similarities (and especially with Bavaria), confusing or mixing Austria with Germany is a serious faux pas.
In short, they speak German, but they are not German 🙂
#10 One of the things everyone remembers when talking about Austria is the Habsburgs, the former Austrian royal family. For hundreds of years, the Habsburgs were one of the most influential families in all of Europe, making Austria and subsequently the Austro-Hungarian Empire one of the main European powers.
The Habsburgs were also well-known patrons of art and science, and this made Austria and particularly Vienna, one of the main European cities, even rivaling Paris at times.
#11 The Austro-Hungarian empire was really a huge country, which dominated almost all of east-central Europe. This domain ended with the first world war, but many of Austria’s main tourist attractions and monuments were created during this time.
Weather in Austria
#12 In general, the climate in Austria is continental, with cold and relatively dry winters and hot and rainy summers. In alpine areas, precipitation is higher and temperatures are lower.
Winters are quite cold throughout Austria, even in Vienna and the Danube valley, where the average temperature is around 0 degrees. In the valleys, the temperatures are even lower, and in the mountains, much lower, of course.
During the summer, temperatures are pleasant, both in the valleys and in Vienna, but at night it gets quite cold. In Vienna, the average highs reach 25/26º Celsius. Some summer storms with rain and thunderstorms are usual.
When to travel to Austria?
#13 Austria is a tourist destination all year round, offering interesting activities both in winter and in summer. The high season is undoubtedly in the summer, especially in Vienna and Salzburg. So, the best time to travel to Austria depends a lot on your purpose.
If you want to go skiing, then it will have to be in winter, preferably at the end, with February, March, and April probably the best months. Otherwise, in general terms, the best time of year to travel in Austria is in May/June and then in September and early October. Afterward, it can start to be very cold.
In July/August the temperatures are higher, but it is more probable to get rain and especially crowds in more touristy places.
Is it safe to travel in Austria?
#14 Austria is a very safe country, where you will hardly find crime, let alone violent crime. However, as in all countries, it is necessary to pay attention when on public transports and near major tourist attractions, as there is always the possibility of scams and pickpockets.
We never felt the least bit in danger in Austria, and we always felt quite safe, even walking at night. Our experience in Austria has been nothing but positive when it comes to safety.
In the Alps, it is necessary to pay special attention to rapid changes in weather, avalanches, and not getting lost on mountain trails.
Travel in Austria
Tourists in Austria
#15 Austria is a very popular destination, receiving millions of tourists every year. With about 32 million international arrivals, it was the 7th country most visited country in 2019, having generated almost 23 billion dollars. By comparison, Portugal received almost 25 million tourists.
Most tourists in Austria are European, namely from Germany and the Netherlands. The main tourist regions in Austria are Tyrol, Vienna, and Salzburg. As we said initially, it is a popular destination throughout the year, with peaks in winter (February) and summer (August).
UNESCO Heritage in Austria
#16 Austria has 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, some of which are shared with other European countries. Of these 10 places, nine are cultural heritage and only one is natural heritage. You can check the full list here.
In addition to these sites, Austria also has several traditions and cultures that have been considered an intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO, such as the Spanish riding school, the Viennese coffee culture, and the Schemenlaufen also known as the Carnival of Imst.
Where to go in Austria
#17 At first glance we might think that the most popular tourist destination in Austria would be Vienna, but the truth is that the region that receives the most tourists is Tyrol. The Tyrol area is popular both in winter and summer, as it is of extraordinary natural beauty. In conjunction with northern Georgia, is the most beautiful mountainous region we have ever visited.
If in winter, tourists seek out ski resorts and après-ski activities, in summer there are many incredible walking and cycling trails.
#18 Innsbruck is the capital of Tyrol and one of the largest cities in the Alps, and therefore the gateway to the entire region and the Alps. However, Innsbruck is more than just a gateway.
Located by the Inn river, it is surrounded by mountains over 2000 meters high and it is a hub for skiing and other mountain activities such as mountain biking and trails. But the city of Innsbruck itself has many tourist attractions such as:
- Goldenes Dachl – the golden roof
- Imperial Hofburg Palace – official residence of the imperial family in Innsbruck, and one of the most culturally important buildings in Austria
- Schloss Ambras – an impressive palace
- Hofkirche – one of the most beautiful baroque churches in Austria and with the impressive tomb of Maximilian I inside
#19 Vienna is one of the most fascinating European capitals. In terms of architectural wealth, it’s really our favorite. The amount of impressive buildings is incredible and sometimes it even becomes exhausting because at every turn you discover a new museum, a new baroque church, and another historic building or monument.
In our opinion, you should take at least 3 days to visit Vienna because it really is a city that impresses and that concentrates a good part of the most famous Austrian Landmarks.
#20 But in addition to all the monuments, Vienna also has some unique or almost unique characteristics, which end up turning into unforgettable activities for visitors.
Vienna is the capital of classical music, so visiting the Vienna State Opera or visiting the classical music concert is an experience not to be missed, even if you are not a big music fan. Going to the Spanish Riding School and seeing the famous Lipizzans horses is also an amazing experience. In addition to the beautiful building itself, attending a training session or a show is something unique.
#21 Salzburg is another of the best-known and most popular destinations in Austria. The historic center of Salzburg is considered one of the best-preserved among German cities and has been a UNESCO heritage site since 1997.
There are several imposing monuments in Salzburg, such as the Hohensalzburg fortress, the Mirabell palace, the Getreidegasse, and its typical signs, the Hellbrunn castle, among others.
#22 However, Salzburg (and consequently Austria) is very well known for something completely different, the film the sound of music.
This famous film was shot in Salzburg and the mountains around it and is one of the reasons why they are so popular and so well known. So if you’re in Salzburg and feel like you’ve been there, that’s probably why.
#23 Hallstatt is a small village on the shore of Hallstatt Lake. It is one of those one-street villages, but it is one of the most popular destinations in Austria as it is incredibly picturesque, nestled between the mountains and the lake.
Near Hallstatt, we have several other tourist attractions such as the 5 fingers viewpoint, the Mammoth cave, Dachstein ice caves, and salt caves.
Hallstatt is so tiny and so popular that sometimes the large crowds crammed into such a small space make a visit during the high season not very pleasant. So if you can, go in mid or low-season.
#24 Graz is the second-largest city in Austria, but don’t think that it’s a big city or that it receives the same tourists as Vienna or Salzburg. It has only about 300 000 inhabitants. It is a historic city, with Roman and Slovenian roots and was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1999.
The city’s main attraction is its over 1000 historic buildings, some of which date back to the Middle Ages. It is a picturesque city and well worth visiting for anyone who likes history and architecture.
#25 Despite all the destinations and activities mentioned above, what impresses us most in Austria are the great landmarks. Most of these are from the imperial period, but there are also some natural and from other periods. The best known is the aforementioned Schonbrunn Palace on the outskirts of Vienna, but there are dozens or hundreds of monuments worth visiting in Austria.
In collaboration with some bloggers, we made an article exclusively about the most famous Austrian landmarks. When planning your itinerary, don’t forget to try to include as many monuments as possible on this list. It is well worth it.
What to eat in Austria?
#26 Despite being a rather small country, Austria has an incredible variety of traditional dishes that have been influenced by a wide variety of Central European cuisines. This diversity comes mainly from the time of imperial Austria when they, directly and indirectly, dominated a large part of central Europe.
Thus, some of Austria’s most popular dishes are shared with its neighbors, while others were heavily influenced by each of the lands of the former Austro-Hungarian empire and sometimes even further afield.
#27 In this article we will not differentiate between Austrian and Viennese cuisine, however, they are considered two different cuisines. Viennese cuisine shares many characteristics with Austrian cuisine, but it developed separately and with some peculiarities of its own.
Viennese pastries and Schnitzel are some of the most popular dishes in Viennese cuisine, but in this article, we are not going to differentiate their origin, but to talk a little about the foods not to be missed in Austria.
Typical dishes to eat in Austria
#28 The Viennese schnitzel is Austria’s national dish and eating it in Vienna is one of the experiences not to be missed. Its origin is unknown, but it is understood that it was not invented in Austria. However, it has become the most popular dish in the country.
A Schnitzel is a dish made with a slice of meat, breaded and fried. The meat is normally pounded to make it thin and tender. The Viennese schnitzel uses veal ribs, which should be very tender and extend throughout the dish. The outer, breaded part should be crispy.
#29 Another extremely popular dish in Austria is Tafelspitz. So popular that it is also sometimes considered the national dish. It is well-known for being one of the emperor’s favorite dishes but it is a very simple dish.
Tafelspitz consists of beef cut into slices and cooked in a spice and vegetable broth. It is served with chopped apples and horseradish or sour cream with chives. It is a dish with a lot of substance, and of humble origins, but it has become one of the mainstays of Austrian food.
#30 In terms of sweets, apfelstrudel is probably the most popular dessert in Austria and other countries in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Essentially, it consists of an oblong pastry with an apple filling. The filling is made with gratin apple, sugar, cinnamon, and bread crumbs (sometimes it also includes raisins and walnuts). The dough is similar to filo dough in that it is thin, elastic, unfermented, and layered.
This is a very old recipe, there is even a recipe from the 17th century in Vienna’s town hall. Today you can find apfelstrudel in practically every Austrian café and bakery.
#31 The Sacher torte is completely different, both in content and in origin. It was invented in 1832 in Vienna by Franz Sacher and consists of a dense chocolate cake with two layers of apricot jam between the chocolate icing and the cake. Traditionally it is served with unsweetened whipped cream.
Sacher torte is a Hotel Sacher secret, and the original pie can only be purchased at hotel Sacher, Cafés Sacher, or online.
#32 The Viennese Café or Eispänner is also very popular. It is a drink served in a tall glass and consists of a double espresso with a good amount of whipped cream on top which is then covered with powdered sugar and cocoa powder. This is perhaps the most iconic drink of the famous coffee houses in Vienna.
#33 Typical Vienna cafes are really the best places to try Eispänner. First of all, the most typical are beautiful places, very traditional, but full of style. Second, because the drink is excellent. For those who like coffee, it’s an experience not to be missed.
Finally and perhaps even more importantly because they have an excellent atmosphere and a very unique culture, where in addition to consuming the products, you should also enjoy the time you spend there, which is why it is also an experience in itself. It is not by chance that UNESCO declared this culture of the experience of going to these cafes, an intangible heritage of humanity. It is often said these cafes in Vienna are the places where “time and space are consumed, but only the coffee appears on the bill”.
Money and costs of traveling to Austria
Currency, withdrawals and payments
# 34 Austria is a founding member of the Eurozone, so if you come from another Euro country, you won’t have to worry about currency exchanges and exchange rates. You also don’t have to worry about currency exchange costs. You can withdraw money or make payments without any foreign currency charges.
#35 However, despite not having exchange commissions to pay, it doesn’t mean that you don’t pay commissions at ATMs, as there may be ATMs that charge per withdrawal. To avoid this cost you can simply make payments directly with a debit/credit card.
So, our suggestion to save on commissions and similar is to use a Eurozone (if possible) card to make all possible payments. If you need to withdraw money, withdraw as much as possible and pay attention to the information on the screen as it is mandatory by law to come there with cost information.
Costs of traveling in Austria
#36 Austria is a very expensive country to travel to, almost on the level of Israel, the Netherlands and Nordics. It is therefore much more expensive than Portugal or Spain, and it doesn’t even compare to most Eastern European countries. Since the average cost of living is also one of the most expensive in Europe, almost all day-to-day expenses are a little more expensive than elsewhere.
It is difficult to predict how much you will spend per day, as it depends a lot on what type of traveler you are. In our experience, almost always as backpackers, we have spent around 60 Euros per person, per day. However, it is quite easy to reach 150 or 200 Euros a day, without splurging too much, because in high season the prices go up a lot in the most popular places.
#37 As with most places, accommodation is one of the biggest slices of travel costs. In Austria, a bed in a cheap hostel in Vienna or Salzburg will cost 20 Euros a day. While a room for two in a cheap hotel will cost 50-100 Euros, an average hotel can cost between 100 and 200 Euros, and a luxury hotel hardly ever costs below 200 Euros a day. At the peak of the high season, these prices may be even higher.
In Austria, we suggest you use booking.com to book accommodation as it has an immense variety of hotels, guest-houses, hostels, and even local accommodation, at the best prices.
#38 One of our favorite ways to save a few bucks is to eat only one restaurant meal per day, opting for another fast-food (not necessarily pizza or hamburger), street food, or supermarket for the other meal. It’s a kind of 3 in 1, you save money, you waste less time and you can go to the supermarkets to see what the locals usually buy.
#39 As we said before, one of Austria’s biggest attractions is the museums and famous historical monuments. However, practically all these places have paid admission, and the tickets tend not to be cheap at all, so they accumulate and at the end of the week they weigh on the budget.
Obviously, we are not suggesting that you do not visit them, if you are going to a destination it is also to see the attractions, but you should bear this in mind when you are planning the trip so as not to be surprised. The main cities, namely Vienna and Salzburg, have city cards where you can save some money (and time too) if you are thinking of visiting a lot of monuments. In this sense, the Vienna one allowed us to save at least 50 Euros per person.
How to travel in Austria
#40 Due to its central location, Austria has many transport links throughout Europe, both by land and air. It is very easy to catch trains and buses to Vienna or Salzburg.
There are many air routes from all over Europe to the main Austrian cities, including low-cost flights. To search for the best option we usually use the site, rome2rio, because, in addition to providing us options with different means of transportation, it also gives us an estimate of time and price.
#41 If you can’t find any cheap flights to Vienna, we suggest you also look for Bratislava, Slovakia. The Slovak capital is located on the border with Austria, about 20km from Vienna.
#42 The best way to travel to Austria will completely depend on the type of trip you are doing. In the center of some cities, it is a bad idea to drive. For example, driving to Salzburg was a mistake we won’t make twice, and even in Vienna, we simply parked the car and never picked it up again until we left the city.
But driving through the Alps is amazing! The freedom to go wherever we want, to stop wherever we want, to drive on those mountain roads, to go to small lakes and natural monuments is spectacular.
#43 The public transport network in Austria is of excellent quality. Only Vienna has a metro, but the other cities have well-developed urban transport. If you’re thinking of traveling only in urban areas, you don’t need a car as in general urban transport works quite well in practically all cities and are relatively cheap (or at least much cheaper than any other option).
Public transport is very punctual, and it is usually necessary to buy tickets in advance, in machines or kiosks. As in Switzerland, train trips through the Alps are very popular because they are beautiful, but sometimes a little expensive. Buses are much cheaper, but the journey is not as exciting.
Rent a car and drive in Austria
#44 When planning your trip, ask yourself if you really need to rent a car and check if there are good alternatives. If you are planning a more urban trip, it is likely that a car is not necessary, and can even become a source of costs and problems. If you decide to travel by car, note that costs can quickly add up. If you don’t have your own car you have to:
- Rent a car – count on 200 Euros per week, at least.
- Mandatory Insurance – Nothing you can do to avoid it;
- Paying for fuel – which is very expensive in Austria;
- Pay tolls – To use motorways in Austria you have to buy a vignette at the border or at the post office. The vignette allows us to drive on any motorway during its validity period. The 10-day ticket costs around 10 Euros, which turns out to be much cheaper than in most other European countries.
- Parking – in addition to being very difficult to park in large cities and historic centers, it is quite expensive. Don’t overlook this cost.
#45 In general, driving rules in Austria are similar to those in Western Europe, so driving is not a big problem. You drive on the right, and your. The right priority rule also exists in Austria. At roundabouts, priority is given to whoever is on the roundabout, but this is practically always indicated.
Speed limits are a little more permissive than in some countries, with 130 km/h on highways, 100 km/h outside towns, and 50 km/h in urban areas, but all this is very well signposted.
Regarding the driving itself, we would say that if you are used to driving at home, you can drive in Austria. Austrians are the orderly people to drive, although there are also some people with less patience, especially in big cities.
Other tips for travelers to Austria
Internet in Austria
#46 All the accommodations you book should have free WIFI access, so this shouldn’t be a big concern, but we always advise you to check the comments about the quality of the signal.
If you want to use mobile data, you can use the data card of any European country and pay the same amount you pay in the country of origin. So, if you have data in Portugal, you have data in Austria and the rest of the EU.
Cleaning / Pollution in Austria
#47 Generally speaking, Austria is one of the cleanest countries we’ve ever traveled to. It’s not Luxembourg, but it’s close by. There are of course exceptions in some areas in the larger cities, but they are smaller and less severe than in most other countries.
On the other hand, in rural areas and in parks, everything is exceptionally clean. Nothing to point out here, on the contrary, it is often an example to follow.
#48 Power outlets in Austria are of type C and F, with a voltage of 230V and a frequency of 50 Hz, similar to the rest of Europe. Thus, those traveling from Europe do not need any adapter. If you come from countries with other outlets we suggest this power adapter.
Documentation for traveling to Austria
#49 As Austria is part of the Schengen area, EU citizens do not need any special documents to travel to Austria. All you need is a valid identification document, which can be a citizen’s card or passport, and a driving license if you want to drive.
Otherwise, click here for more information on how to enter Austria and the Schengen Zone and which nationalities need a Visa.
Austria Travel Guide
#50 If you want to buy an Austria travel guide, with this and all the information you need to travel, we suggest the Lonely Planet guide You can buy it by clicking here, or on the image below.