The currency used in Austria is the Euro which is made up of 100 Cent. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, 0.50C, 0.20C, 0.10C, 0.05C, 0.02C and 0.01C.
The official language is German but the most common second spoken language is English. If you are heading to more remote parts of the country, however, it is useful to learn some German phrases in case of emergency.
While the climate varies throughout the country, Austria is described as having a moderate continental climate. Both rainfall and snowfall are higher in the west than in the east but temperatures are higher in the latter. Average summer temperatures are usually in the low twenties whereas winter temperatures regularly fall to below freezing.
Austria is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time from October to March and two hours ahead for the rest of the year.
In general shops are open from 8.00am to 6.00pm from Monday to Friday and from 8.00am until midday on Saturday with the exception of the first Saturday of every month when they open until 5.00pm. Larger department stores and shopping centres remain open until 7.30pm and until 5.00pm every Saturday but most stores remain closed all day Sunday. Banks vary from branch to branch but as a general rule, they open between 8.00am and 12.00pm and again from 1.00pm until 4.00pm from Monday to Thursday and from 8.00am until 1.00pm on Friday. Finally, office hours are between 8.00 and 12.30 and 13.30 and 5.30 from Monday to Friday.
Electricity in Austria is 220 volts AC, 50Hz.
In Austria value added tax (VAT) is calculated at a rate of between 20% and 34%. This is usually included on a quoted price but you should confirm this prior to purchasing anything to avoid any confusion when it comes to payment. For non-EU residents, however, the good news is that you can get the tax back on any item for which you pay over S1,000. In order to avail of this incentive, you need to complete a U-34 form when you are making your purchase. When you are leaving the country, you present both the item and the cheque at customs, the officials will stamp it for you and you can then cash your cheque at any of the booths with the Tax-Free logo and Cash Refund sign. This is only applicable where you are leaving the country within three months.
Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and US citizens can stay for a period of up to ninety days with a valid passport without a visa but if you intend staying for a period which extends this you will need to obtain a visa before travelling. Citizens of South Africa are among the nationalities that do need a visa to enter Austria and this should be obtained from the Austrian Embassy in advance of travelling. Furthermore, if you are in any doubt as to whether or not you may need a visa to enter the country or wish to work while you are in Austria, you should also contact the Austrian Embassy in your home country.
You will find a tourist office in every town in Austria, usually with at least one English speaking attendant. In more remote areas where this may not be the case, however, there are multilingual brochures so you need not stress yourself or the staff out too much with pidgin German.
While traveller’s cheques are widely accepted, there are some places which will refuse to do so, particularly in more remote parts of the country. Therefore, it is advised that you change them into schillings as soon as you arrive in the country. For all currency exchange, banks are generally the most reliable and offer the best rates. There are also exchange offices at all major airports and train stations whose opening hours are usually more convenient but the commission is more expensive.
All major credit cards are also widely accepted and if you have the PIN you can use these to receive cash in compatible bank machines. The same applies to bankcards which are members of any of the international banking networks or Eurocard.
The country code for Austria is 43 so if you are calling from abroad you need to dial 00, followed by 43, the local area code and the local number. The same instructions apply when you are making an international call from within the country. You should also note that you need to omit the 0 from the local area code where applicable.
Austrian phone booths are plentiful and easy to use. Most have instructions in four languages (including English). It is also worth noting that Austria's telephone system is one of the most expensive in the world so be prepared, even when making a local call. A lot of telephones take phone cards (Telefonkarte), which are available from all post offices, tobacconists and some other shops.
Because the service charge is normally included on most bills, tipping is not compulsory. If the service you receive is particularly good, however, it is customary to leave a small additional amount. If the service charge is not included a tip of between 10% and 15% is sufficient. With regard to taxi drivers, it is usual to tell them to keep any small change.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Austria they take place on January 1st and 6th, Easter Monday, May 1st, Ascension Day, first Monday in June, Corpus Christi, August 15th, October 26th, November 1st and December 8th, 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.