Communications

Austria (German: Österreich, literally “the Eastern Realm” or “Eastern Empire”) is a land-locked alpine German speaking 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 neighboringSwitzerland, is the winter sports capital ofEurope. However, it is just as popular for summer tourists who visit its historic cities and villages and hike in the magnificent scenery of theAlps.

Currency Euro (EUR)

Area 83,858 sq km

Population 8,404,252 (Jan 2011)

Language German (official), Austro-Bavarian Dialect ((of German(native, except in Vorarlberg)), Alemannic (native in Vorarlberg), regional Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian, Hungarian

Religion Roman Catholic 78%, Protestant 5%, Agnostics and Atheists 12%, Muslim and other 5%

Austriahas no well-defined class system. The rural and regional difference tend to be greater than in neighboring countries. Generally, the further to the west and the more rural you go, the more socially conservative people are.

Visa

Minimum validity of travel documents

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, as well as non-EU citizens who are visa-exempt (e.g. New Zealanders and Australians), need only produce a passport which is valid for the entirety of their stay inAustria.Other nationals who are required to have a visa (e.g. South Africans), however, must produce a passport which has at least 3 months’ validity beyond their period of stay inAustria.

More information about the minimum validity of travel documents is available at the Austrian Foreign Ministry’s website.

Austria is a member of the Schengen Agreement.

There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty – the European Union (exceptBulgaria,Cyprus,Ireland,Romaniaand theUnited Kingdom),Iceland,NorwayandSwitzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union.

Airports inEuropeare thus divided into “Schengen” and “non-Schengen” sections, which effectively act like “domestic” and “international” sections elsewhere. If you are flying from outsideEuropeinto one Schengen country and continuing to another, you will clear Immigration and Customs at the first country and then continue to your destination with no further checks. Travel between a Schengen member and a non-Schengen country will result in the normal border checks. Note that regardless of whether you are travelling within the Schengen area or not, many airlines will still insist on seeing your ID card or passport.

Nationals of EU and EFTA (Iceland,Liechtenstein,Norway,Switzerland) countries only need a valid national identity card or passport for entry – in no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length.

Nationals of non-EU/EFTA countries will generally need a passport for entry to a Schengen country and most will need a visa.

Only the nationals of the following non-EU/EFTA countries do not need a visa for entry into the Schengen Area: Albania*, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia*, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro*, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia*/**, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan*** (Republic of China), United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, additionally persons holding British National (Overseas), Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR passports.

These non-EU/EFTA visa-free visitors may not stay more than 90 days in a 180 day period in the Schengen Area as a whole and, in general, may not work during their stay (although some Schengen countries do allow certain nationalities to work – see below). The counter begins once you enter any country in the Schengen Area and is not reset by leaving a specific Schengen country for another Schengen country, or vice-versa. However,New Zealandcitizens may be able to stay for more than 90 days if they only visit particular Schengen countries – see [2] for the New Zealand Government’s explanation.

If you are a non-EU/EFTA national (even if you are visa-exempt, unless you are Andorran, Monégasque or San Marinese), make sure that your passport is stamped both when you enter and leave the Schengen Area. Without an entry stamp, you may be treated as an overstayer when you try to leave the Schengen Area; without an exit stamp, you may be denied entry the next time you seek to enter the Schengen Area as you may be deemed to have overstayed on your previous visit. If you are unable to obtain a passport stamp, make sure that you retain documents such as boarding passes, transport tickets and ATM slips which may help to convince border inspection staff that you have stayed in the Schengen Area legally.

Shops

Shops are generally open from 8AM to 7PM on weekdays and Saturday from 8AM to 6PM and closed on Sundays except for gas station shops (expensive), shops at railway stations and restaurants. Be aware that paying by credit card is not as common as in the rest of Europe or as in the United States but all major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners Club) are accepted at almost every gas station and at bigger shops, especially in shopping malls. In smaller towns and villages you normally find one or two small shops or bakeries, which carry nearly everything, called “Greißler”, although they are under threat from bigger shopping centers.

ATMs

ATMs inAustriaare called Bankomat. They are wide-spread and you will find them even in smaller, rural villages. Many shops (and some restaurants too) offer the service to pay directly with an ATM card. The majority of ATMs accept cards from abroad. All Bankomats inAustriacan easily identified by a sign showing a green stripe above a blue stripe. It doesn’t matter which Bankomat you use; the transaction fee is always zero (excluding any fees charged by your own bank).

Bargaining

Bargaining is not common throughoutAustriaexcept at flea markets. It may be okay to ask for a discount, but accept No as an answer.

Greetings  

Man greeting Man – Men shake hands when greeting one another while maintaining direct eye contact.  A firm but fairly brief handshake is the norm. With friends, a simple hello will often suffice.

Woman greeting Woman- At a first meeting, women generally shake hands while maintaining direct eye contact. Between good friends and family a light hug and exchanging kisses on one or both cheeks is common.  The kisses are more like air kisses, touching cheeks instead of kissing with the lips.

Greeting between Men & Women - At a first meeting a regular handshake will do. It is usually best to wait for the women to initiate. Between good friends and family a light hug and exchanging kisses on one or both cheeks is common. The kisses are more like air kisses, touching cheeks instead of kissing with the lips.

Note: Austrians tend to say “Gruss Gott” in formal circumstances and “Gruss Dich” in more casual situations. The latter is like saying hello when you walk into a shop or pass someone you know on the way.

Personal Space & Touching  

  • An arm’s length of personal space or more is expected during conversations.
  • Unless you are having an intimate conversation, any closer than arm’s length may be considered an infringement of personal space.
  • Austrians do not generally touch very often when speaking as it can be seen as an invasion of privacy.  This is not always the case with friends and family.
  • Between friends and family, hand holding, walking arm in arm and hugging are commonplace.
  • Austrians aren’t exactly touchy-feely and they don’t tend to get in your space. This is true regardless of gender. Family members and good friends will be closer, but it’s rare you’ll have more contact than a handshake in business contexts.

Eye Contact

  • It is polite to look others in the eye during conversation, however one avoid staring.
    • Direct eye contact is considered a sign of respect and interest during conversation.

Taboos

  • Screwing the forefinger into the temple of the head is a rude gesture that means, “You‘re crazy”.

Calling Austria:

International code is +43.

When callingAustriafrom abroad, if the number starts with the city code 01 (former 0222), it’s inVienna. Drop all four of those digits and replace it with a 1, then dial the remaining digits of the phone number.

If the number doesn’t start with 01, simply drop the initial zero from the city code and dial the remaining digits.

Phones

Public phones are available in postal offices. Phone boxes are getting rare (and exchanged by boxes with internet access) since the use of cell phones got very popular over the last years. Phone boxes usually operate with prepaid cards which can be obtained from postal offices and kiosks (German:Trafik).

Phone numbers have an area code followed by the phone number itself. Mobile phone numbers use the prefix 0650, 0660, 0664, 0676, 0699, 0680, 0681 or 0688. Toll-free numbers are denoted by 0800, service lines priced like local calls are setting off with 0810 whereas numbers starting with 0900, 0901, 0930 or 0931 are expensive service lines charging up to 3,63€ per minute.

To enjoy cheap international calls fromAustriayou can use low-cost dial-around services such as pennyphone, austriaphone or fuchstarife. Dial-around services are directly available from any landline inAustria. No contract, no registration is required. Most dial-around services offerUSA,Canada,Western Europeand many other countries at the price of a local call so you can save on your phone expenses easily. They also work from public payphones.

Cell phones

Austriahas a perfect GSM and 3G (UMTS) network coverage of nearly 100%. If you bring your own cell phone with you assure yourself that it operates on 900MHz / 1800MHz (GSM) or 2100Mhz (3G WCDMA). There are cell phones that operate at 1900MHz (e.g. networks in theUnited States) which are not supported inAustria. If you plan a longer visit inAustriait might be useful to buy a new mobile with a prepaid card from a local cell phone network provider. Be aware that some remote areas (especially mountainous areas) do not have network coverage yet, though this rather the exception than the rule. Even theViennaunderground lines do have perfect coverage.

Despite being a rather small country,Austriahas a large number of cell network providers including A1, T-Mobile,Orange(former called One) , Drei (3G), Telering, Tele2, Bob and Yesss.

The probably cheapest prepaid mobile providers right now are Bob and Yesss. A prepaid card costs €13 including 60 minutes talking time. Then you pay 6.8 cent per minute to all Austrian networks (as of June 2008) and 70 cents to the most important other countries. The Yesss SIM card is only available at the discounter Hofer. Yesss also sells cheap UMTS data cards (that are different from the normal SIM cards). The starter kit includes 1GB traffic and is available for 20 Euro. In order to prevent the SIM card from expiring, you need to recharge it once per year.

If you have an Austrian bank account, you can purchase a registered (non-prepaid) Bob SIM card. Calls then only cost 4 cent per minute to all other Austrian networks. There is no basic fee and no minimum charge.

The new provider eety has a prepaid SIM card with very cheap international rates (13 cents toGermany, 9 Cent for Short Messages (SMS) worldwide). Online available at www.eety.eu and also sold in a few stores in major towns.

You may often purchase a prepaid SIM card forAustriabefore you depart from an online vendor which can be convenient as you get instructions in English and your cell phone number before you depart.

Internet

Internet cafes are common in bigger cities. Hotels in cities do normally have internet terminals, more expensive hotels provide internet access directly in the rooms. There are many free WiFi Hotspots (“Gratis WLAN”), each McDonald’s has free Wifi (unlimited Time and Traffic) and for example in Mariahilferstrasse inVienna

Mobile broadband providers inAustriaare some of the cheapest and fastest inEurope, and 3G coverage is excellent most populated areas. Several providers offer pay-as-you-go plans that are open to non-residents, don’t require registration, and can be topped up with vouchers available in stores, at the ATM, or online.

Bob offers a SIM or Micro-SIM with 1 GB of traffic on a pay-as-you-go plan. Additional traffic can be booked on a data plan (“Datenpaket”  at a rate of €4 per GB. Beware of higher rates for traffic (6,8ct/MB) if no data plan is booked. Available at all post offices and some supermarkets. (Ask for “Bob Breitband Startpaket”). SIMs come with a working cell number, and are also available bundled with a USB Modem without a contract. [updated 9/2011]

Yesss  (anOrangesubsidiary) offers SIM or Micro-SIM-cards with 1 GB of traffic for €9,90 and a pay-as-you go plan. Additional traffic can be bought for €20 for 2GB. Available at Hofer Supermarkets (ask for “Yesss startpaket” at the cashier). SIMs come with a working cell number, and are also available bundled with a USB Modem without a contract.