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About Austria

Austria (German: Österreich) is a land-locked alpine country in Central Europe bordering with 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 is a federal state comprised of nine states:

  • Burgenland
  • Carinthia (Kärnten)
  • Lower Austria (Niederösterreich)
  • Salzburg
  • Styria (Steiermark)
  • Tyrol (Tirol)
  • Upper Austria (Oberösterreich)
  • Vienna (Wien)
  • Vorarlberg


  • Graz
  • Innsbruck
  • Klagenfurt
  • Linz
  • Salzburg
  • Vienna (Wien)


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 are cold in the lowlands and very harsh in the Alpine region with temperatures often dropping below -10° C (14° F). Winters last from December to March (longer at higher altitudes). In the Alpine region large temperature fluctuations occur all year round and nights are chilly even in high summer. The northern Alps are generally a lot wetter than the rest of the country. The South East (Styria and Carinthia) is dry and sunny. The area around Vienna often experiences strong easterly winds.

Get in

Austria has numerous border crossings to its neighboring countries. Be aware that border crossings to Hungary, Czechia and Slovenia can be congested at the beginning of national holidays. For using highway toll has to be paid ("Vignette"). Costs are approx EUR 70 for one year and €10 for 4 weeks

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.

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 (the so-called autobahn) 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. Vignetten can be bought for 10 days (€7,60), 2 months (€22) or one year (about €70). Driving a car on a motorway without a vignette is punished with a fine of €100. You have to stick the vignette pass to 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.

Take special care when driving in winter, especially in the mountains. 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.

Speed limits in Austria are:

  • 130 km/h - motorway
  • 100 km/h - open road
  • 50 km/h - town

A driver's blood alcohol level is not allowed to exceed 0.25 mg/litre

Local specialties

  • If you have the chance to try Kletzennudeln you should definitely do it. They are an exceptional Carinthian specialty you can very rarely get anywhere: Sweet noodles filled with dried pears and soft cheese. Be best Kletzennudeln are the hand made ones made with minced dried pears, rather than the lower quality version using pear powder. 
  • Some salads are made with Kernöl (green pumpkin seed oil), a Styrian specialty. Even though it looks frighteningly (dark green or dark red, depending on lightning conditions) it has an interesting nutty taste. A bottle of good, pure Styrian Kernöl is very expensive (around 10-20 Euros), but maybe one of the most Austrian things to take home. (Beware of cheap Kernöl, sometimes sold as "Salatöl". Be sure to seal the bottle appropriately, the oil expands when slightly heated and leaves non removable stains. Just in case, sun light occasionally removes them, though.) Kernöl or pumpkin seed oil is also available in some online shops. 
  • Manner Schnitten are a very Viennese sweet specialty, but just the square form factor and pink packaging are really unique. You can buy them everywhere. (Maybe you've already seen these as a product placement in some Hollywood movies or for example in "Friends" and wondered what they are.) 
  • Powidl is a type of savoury prune jam with alcohol, another speciality from Vienna. It makes a good present as it tastes exotic and is hard to find anywhere else in the world. 
  • Sachertorte is chocolate torte with chocolate icing and filled with apricot jam. It should be be served fresh with freshly beaten, lightly sweetened cream, which the Austrians call "Schlagobers". The original is available in Vienna in the Cafe Sacher, but similar cakes are very common in many other vienese Cafes.

Modified: 2007-02-11 08:41:50+01
Source: http://wikitravel.org/en/Austria


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