Austria Travel Guide

Austria (German: Österreich, literally "the Eastern Realm" or "Eastern Empire") is a land-locked alpine country in Central Europe bordering Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Germany and Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east and Slovenia and Italy to the south. Austria, along with neighboring Switzerland, is the winter sports capital of Europe. However, it is just as popular for summer tourists who visit its historic cities and villages and hike in the magnificent scenery of the alps.

Austria is a federal republic comprised of nine federal-states:

Carinthia (Kärnten)
Lower Austria (Niederösterreich)
Styria (Steiermark)
Tyrol (Tirol)
Upper Austria (Oberösterreich)
Vienna (Wien)

Vienna (Wien)

Other destinations
Zell am See - one of the most important alpine tourist towns in Austria (Europa Sport Region)
Kaprun - part of the Europa Sport Region
Wörthersee - one of Austria's warmest lakes
Bodensee - a big lake situated in Vorarlberg and shared with Switzerland and Germany
St. Anton - a popular ski resort in Austria on the Vorarlberg-Tyrolian border
Pinswang - one of the most ancient settlements of the North Tirolean Ausserfern, on the border with Bavaria and a short walk or drive to King Ludwig's castles

People from countries within the EU (incl. new EU states), Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland do not require a Visa for entry into Austria. Nationals of the following countries may enter and remain in Austria without a Visa for up to 3 months - United States, Canada, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Mexico . People from African/Arabian/South-American countries as well as people from the CIS states generally require a visa. Austria is a member of the Schengen Agreement so visas are valid for 24 other countries.

By air
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 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)

By bus
EUROLINES 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.

By car
Austria and all its 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 the Autobahnen or Schnellstrassen, a vignette, or tax sticker, must be purchased. 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.

From Germany
Motorway A8 from Munich to 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.

From Italy
Motorway A23 to Villach, Carinthia.
E54 via Brenner to Innsbruck, Tyrol.
[edit] From Slovenia
E652 to Villach,Carinthia.
E57 via Spielfeld to Graz, Styria.
By train
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.

Get around
By train and bus
Trains[3] 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)[4], 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[[5]]. 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.

By car
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.

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.

By air
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 (Wals), servicing Salzburg and Berchtesgaden (Bavaria)
Vienna (Schwechat), servicing Vienna and Lower Austria
Non-domestic airport servicing western Austria:

Altenrhein Airport (Switzerland), servicing Vorarlberg, Liechtenstein, Northeastern Switzerland, and Lake Constance Area
Friedrichshafen (Germany), servicing Vorarlberg, Baden-Württemberg and Lake Constance Area
Source : wikitravel austria

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