Austria

Austria

The first image of Austria is one of white, snow-capped peaks, stunning natural beauty and charming houses Austria by fvass Flickr Creative Commonsnestled on quiet lakes; but to visit this wonderful country is to see so much more. Austria has something for everyone, regardless of tastes or budgets. Whether you fancy sunbathing, taking in fascinating museums and restaurants, or getting a charge from ice climbing, paragliding or canyoning, you can find it all here.

Situated in the centre of Europe between Switzerland and Hungary with a population of over 8 million, Austria is two thirds mountainous, dominated by the Alps on the Italian border. Within the mountains some glaciers can be found, and most of the peaks rise well above 10,000ft. The Danube is perhaps the country’s most famous natural feature, and its valley is so fertile that 90% of Austria’s food is home grown.

Climate

Austria has a mild climate, though the east has continental weather, Alpine Flowersaveraging above 19C (70 F) in the summer months. Mountains give the country a high rainfall average, though the Alpine valleys tend to escape much of this. Because of its good weather and winter sports, Austria is popular year round with tourists. Summer is a time when many visit and Alpine flowers are in bloom, though it is also the height of the season, and it can get uncomfortably hot in the cities. Winter sports kick into full swing during December-March, when the country is quieter and hotels cheaper outside of sports resorts. If you are skiing in the mountains, you will definitely catch some rays, so be sure to bring sunblock! Glacier skiing is possible year-round, while resort openings depend on the altitude of the location. It is wise to check the snow situation first if you are planning on skiing.

Currency

Austria compares favourably to destinations like the UK regarding expense, which is slightly more expensive than other parts of mainland Europe like Spain, Germany and France. Austria introduced the Euro as its national currency in 2002.
Vienna is not a particularly cheap city, but there are budget options if you look carefully. Staying in one of Vienna’s hostels and living a budget existence will probably cost you around EUR80 per day. To be totally comfortable with moderate accommodation, calculate around EUR200 per day.

US $1 = .74 EURO
GBP £1 = 1.19 EURO

Exchange rate at time of writing.

For an up-to-date exchange rate, visit xe.com.

Please check with your local exchange bureau for up to date currency conversions.

Food

Austrians eat their main meal at lunchtime, and food in general is reasonably priced – from $10, to about $30 a head for dinner at a quality restaurant. Austrians love their meat, and it can be difficult to find vegetarian friendly places. Sausages areStrudel by Michela Simoncini practically a national staple with hundreds of varieties available, some of which are infused with cheese. Ham and cheese are common breakfast staples found in hotels. Austrian cuisine is hearty and filling. Don’t miss out on the fantastic soups like Frittatensuppe – a clear broth with shreds of pancakes, or the creamy beetroot BorschtGoulash and dumpling stews are also popular and tasty, as is the famous Wiener Schnitzel – cutlet covered in a coating of egg and breadcrumbs and fried. Pork and veal are common meats, or if you’re feeling more adventurous you can tuck into some Beuschel – calf’s lungs and heart. Try a shot of fiery Schnapps as an after dinner treat and for dessert, don’t resist one of the many varieties of strudel (hot pastry and fruit cake) made. Tourism has brought demand for a wider range of healthy options and vegetarian dishes so now most eating houses will have something to keep everyone happy.

Language

The main language of Austria is German, though there are regional dialect variations to be found. Croatian and Slovene is a first language for as many as 30,000 people in Austria. The Austrians are a highly educated people, and English is widely spoken, particularly in the bigger cities. Most young people speak it fluently, though attempting to communicate in German will be appreciated!

People

You will not find a great cultural diversity in Austria, even in the larger cities. Native Austrians are largely of white Germanic origin, though there has been influxes of war refugees from former Yugoslavia, as well as people from TurkeyPoland and the Czech Republic. It is not unusual to see old men and women walking around smaller villages still wearing traditional dress such as lederhosen (leather shorts), peaked green caps and long socks, though most Austrians now reserve dressing up for festivals and dancing. Though Austrians have a reputation for being remote and austere, this is in fact far from the truth. Just about everywhere you go, you will find the people to be very friendly and helpful, greeting you with ‘Gruss Gott’ (‘God’s Grace’).

Dress

The Viennese are a conservative people so the pink-haired should expect some strange looks but no more than this. Remember to cover shoulders when visiting the Stephansdom and other religious establishments. If you’re planning skiing or other outdoor snow sports be properly equipped. The alpine breezes can be exceptionally cold in the heart of winter despite the glaring sun, so many layers of clothing included thermals are advisable.

Travel

Train is a popular way of getting around and is, as you would expect, clean and efficient, though it can be expensive. Invest in one of the many different rail passes you can purchase in the country. Or you can travel by the distinctive Austrian postbus – a yellow bus run by the post office – clean and efficient, though somewhat frightening when travelling around hairpin curves!

Visas

Visas are not required by those travelling from the EU, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Visitors from the Middle East, South Africa and Third World countries require a visa, which is valid for up to 3 months. Once in the country, you can stay in Austria for up to three months, 6 if you are Japanese. All EU and Swiss passport holders can stay indefinitely.

Health

Austria is a very safe place to visit, with no major diseases and the tap water is drinkable.

Vienna

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