Austria Travel Information
When to Go
Visiting Austria at any time of year is a great experience, but remember that the season will influence what you can do. Summer is the obvious time for hiking, mountain biking and lake swimming, but ski conditions also make Austria a fantastic place for winter breaks. Festivals take place year-round, but the majority of music festivals are held between May and October.
For warm weather, aim for the months between April and October, although these two months can be changeable. Crowds and prices peak in the July and August high season, when temperatures can also climb to uncomfortable levels and many famous institutions close down, including the opera, the Spanish Riding School and the Vienna Boys' Choir. Consequently, June and September are often the best times for city trips.
You'll find cities less crowded in winter and (except in ski resorts and over Christmas and Easter) hotel prices lower, although it can get bitingly cold. Winter sports are in full swing from mid-December to late March, with the high season over Christmas and New Year and in February. Alpine resorts are very quiet or close down from late April to mid-June, and in November and early December.
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Austria lies within the Central European climatic zone, though the eastern part of the country has a Continental Pannonian climate, with low rainfall, hot summers and mild winters. The Alps have high precipitation, short summers and long winters, and visitors should be prepared for all temperatures there. Seasons are distinct. Summer falls between June and August and has the highest temperatures, but also the highest levels of rainfall. Winter can bite hard, especially in December, January and February. Spring and autumn bring changeable weather, but quite often the most comfortable temperatures.
Vienna is the main air transport hub for Austria, but Graz, Linz, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Innsbruck all receive international flights. Flights to these cities are often a cheaper option than those to the capital, as are flights to Airport Letisko (Bratislava Airport) which is only 60km (37mi) east of Vienna in Slovakia. With advance booking, no-frills airlines can be very cheap.
Travelling by bus is a cheap but less comfortable way to cross Europe. It's easiest to book with Eurolines, a consortium of coach companies with offices all over Europe.
Getting to Austria by road is simple as there are fast and well-maintained motorways through all surrounding countries. There are numerous entry points into Austria by road from Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland. All main border-crossing points are open 24 hours. Proof of ownership of a private vehicle and a driver's licence should always be carried while driving.
The main rail services in and out of the country from the west normally pass through Bregenz, Innsbruck, or Salzburg on their way to Vienna's Westbahnhof. Trains to Eastern Europe invariably leave from Südbahnhof in Vienna. Express services to Italy go via Innsbruck or Villach; trains to Slovenia are routed through Graz.
Transport systems in Austria are highly developed and generally very efficient, and reliable information is usually available in English. Individual bus and train Fahrplan (timetables) are readily available, as are helpful annual timetables.
Austria's main rail provider is the Österreiche Bundesbahn, which has an extensive countrywide rail network. This is supplemented by a handful of private railways. Wherever trains don't run, a bus usually does. Timetables and prices for many train and bus connections can be found online.
Austria is a pleasure to tour by bicycle - the country is criss-crossed by designated cycle paths and bikes can be transported by trains.
Visas for stays of up to three months are not required for citizens of the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA), much of Eastern Europe, Israel, USA, Canada, the majority of Central and South American nations, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia or New Zealand. All other nationalities require a visa; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website has a list of Austrian embassies where you can apply for one.
Please contact the Austrian consulate for up-to-date information on travel document requirements.
Health and Safety
Austria is one of the safest countries to travel in and crime rates are low by international standards, but you should always be security conscious. Be wary of leaving valuables in hotel rooms; management will look after expensive items if you ask them, even in hostels. Don't leave valuables in cars, especially overnight. In general, let common sense prevail and don't make it easy for thieves by loosely carrying cameras and jewellery around.
In the event of theft or loss, get a police report - this will be necessary for you to claim on your travel insurance. Your consulate should be able to help replace documents if you're left in a desperate situation.