Austria travel guide
Despite its small size, Austria has a long-established international reputation, which is why most visitors arrive with heads full of Habsburg, Mozart and Alpine visions. Some expectations are delightfully met – the mountain scenery is breathtakingly real, there are the omnipresent fingerprints of the old empire in Vienna, and home-grown musical icons Mozart, Schubert and Strauss are championed everywhere – but Austria also has a few surprises up its sleeve in the form of contemporary art, cutting-edge architecture and innovative cuisine.
Austria is frequently cited as one of the best places to live in Europe, and it is not difficult to see why. Remarkably safe and clean, it offers plenty of affordable culture, natural beauty and elegant Baroque and neoclassical architecture, as well as an efficient public transport system.
It’s also surprisingly varied. You can hurtle down a black run in the skiing paradises of Kitzbühel and St Anton, or cosy up with a hot drink in one of Vienna’s famous coffee houses. You can skate across icy lakes in winter or seek out wildflower meadows on summertime hikes. You can wonder at the intricate church interiors and the ostentatious opulence of the old Habsburg palaces, or indulge in a more low-key aspect of Mitteleuropa culture over a steaming goulash in a rustic country inn. Or you can ride a horse through pretty wooded tracts, get an eyeful of Rubens, Raphael and Rembrandt, and marvel at Hundertwasser House in Vienna – a fantastical housing complex characterised by its vivid patterns and mismatched colours.
Don’t try to squeeze it all in though. More than anything, Austria is a place to recline, relax and relish. Its natural beauty is the result of many millennia of natural activity and its grand art, architecture and culture was painstakingly created by many hands over many centuries. These aren’t sights to be hurriedly ticked off a list; allow yourself plenty of time to luxuriate.
83,871 sq km (32,382 sq miles).
8,580,012 (UN estimate 2016).
103 per sq km.
President Alexander van der Bellen since January 2017.
Chancellor Christian Kern since 2016.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There will be no change to the rights and status of EU nationals living in the UK, nor UK nationals living in the EU, while the UK remains in the EU.
From 1 October 2017, it’s illegal in Austria to wear in a public place any clothing or object that conceals the face and makes facial features unrecognisable.
Immigration controls may temporarily be in place at some road and rail border crossing points with Germany, Hungary, and Slovenia. You should carry your passport with you when crossing the border into, or from Austria, monitor local media and check with your transport provider or the Austrian Railways (OBB) website for updates.
There are complex driving laws in Austria, especially for caravan and motor-home owners.
There’s a danger of avalanches in some areas. Even during summer time this danger still exists for snow covered areas.
Around 774,000 British nationals visit Austria each year. Most visits are trouble-free.
Don’t carry your passport around with you. Leave it in your hotel safe and carry a photocopy instead.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Austria. You should be vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.
If you need to contact the emergency services call 112.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
There is a low rate of crime, but petty crime does occur and you should take the usual precautions to avoid becoming a victim. Do not leave valuables unattended. Be especially vigilant around major public transport hubs and city centre parks after dark. Safeguard your valuables against pick-pockets, especially in the major cities when tourists can be targeted for passports and money. If you’re travelling on international trains to or from Austria you should be especially aware of your luggage.
If you are planning a skiing holiday, for advice on weather and safety conditions before you travel contact the Austrian Tourist Agency by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 00800 400 200 00. Off-piste skiing is highly dangerous. You should follow all safety instructions carefully given the danger of avalanches in some areas and in particular in times of heavy snow. Always check with the local tourist offices on current snow and weather conditions on arrival. Avalanche beepers (receivers) are the most common rescue devices and when properly used provide the fastest way of locating an avalanche victim. You can get information about the risk of an avalanche occurring by email: email@example.com or by visiting the websites of the Tirol Avalanche Warning Service or the European Avalanche Warning Service. Take extra care during the spring season, as this is when avalanches most commonly occur.
Read more about how to stay safe on the slopes.
When driving in Austria, you should always carry your full British licence, ownership documents and insurance details. You must be at least 18 years of age to drive in Austria unless you are learning under supervision and have met the relevant legal requirements.
In 2015 there were 475 road deaths in Austria (Source: Department for Transport. This equates to 5.5 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2015.
The legal drink driving limit in Austria is 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The limit is 10 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood for coach/HGV drivers and those who have had a licence for less than two years. Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are severe.
You must carry a high visibility warning vest and wear it when exiting the vehicle on the hard shoulder or in the event of breakdown. You must also have a first aid kit and a warning triangle inside the car. Only ‘hands free’ mobile telephones can be used whilst driving.
It is no longer compulsory for cars to be driven with headlights switched on throughout the day all year round. If you are travelling in a right-hand drive car you will need headlamp converters in the form of stickers that can be put on your headlights when you are driving on the right.
Motorists in Austria must form an emergency corridor as soon as traffic ceases to progress and congestion is imminent on motorways or dual carriageways and highways, regardless of whether emergency vehicles are already in the vicinity or not.
If you use Austrian motorways (‘Autobahn’) and ‘S’ roads you must display a motorway vignette (sticker) on the inside of the windscreen of your vehicle as you enter Austria. Failure to have one will mean a heavy, on-the-spot fine. You can get a motorway vignette at all major border crossings into Austria and at larger petrol stations.
All vehicles above 3.5 tonnes maximum permitted laden weight using motorways and expressways must have a small device – called the ‘GO-BOX ‘ – attached to the windscreen. This includes larger private vehicles like motor caravans that are above the weight limit. If your vehicle is close to the weight limit you should carry proof of the maximum permitted laden weight. If your registration documents don’t clearly state this, you will need to produce alternative certification, eg from a weighbridge
The GO-BOX uses the high frequency range to communicate with toll points, making it possible to effect an automatic toll deduction without slowing down or stopping. They can be obtained for a one-off fee of Euro 5.00 at sales centres in Austria and neighbouring countries, or online.
If you are stopped by police on the motorway the police officer will identify him or herself. Unmarked vehicles will have a flashing electronic sign in the rear window, which reads ‘Stopp’, ‘Polizei’ and ’Folgen’. If you are in any doubt, contact the police on the emergency number 133. Drivers have the right to ask to speak to uniformed patrolmen.
There is a ban on all lorries over 7.5 tonnes laden weight (without a trailer) or over 3.5 tonnes (with a trailer) which applies throughout the year on all motorways on Saturdays between 15:00 and 24:00 and all day on Sundays and public holidays. Lorries over 7.5 tonnes laden weight are also prohibited from using motorways throughout the year between 22:00 and 05:00. There is a ban on lorries over 7.5 tonnes laden weight overtaking on several motorways. Look out for special signs.
The Transport Ministry and ASFINAG (the semi-privatised motorway operator) carry out stringent checks on HGVs. All vehicles must be roadworthy and correctly documented. Vehicles found to have defects are likely to be impounded until the completion of necessary repairs.
Road travel in winter (1 November to 15 April)
All vehicles must be adapted to winter road conditions between 1 November and 15 April. Snow chains on the driving wheels will only be allowed as an alternative where the road is fully covered by snow and/or ice and the road surface will not be damaged by the chains. Chains or summer tyres will not be allowed for slush conditions. Heavy fines or temporary loss of vehicle may be imposed on those who ignore this legislation.
If you use an individual paper ticket on a bus, tram or train, make sure you validate it in the machine on the vehicle or in the station. If you don’t validate your ticket, you may have to pay a high, on-the-spot fine.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Austria. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. You should be vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Drug laws are similar to those in the UK. Possessing or trafficking drugs will be dealt with severely. If convicted a lengthy prison sentence is usual.
Under Austrian law, you’re required to have your passport readily accessible at all times. If you don’t carry your passport with you, your passport must be in the same district as you, and you must be able to access it within a reasonable time. A UK driving licence isn’t recognised as an official form of ID.
From 1 October 2017, it’s illegal in Austria to wear in a public place any clothing or object which conceals the face and makes facial features unrecognisable. Failure to comply with this law is punishable by an on-the-spot fine of up to €150. You could also be required to attend a police station if you refuse to uncover your face once asked, or if your identity is impossible to determine. The law applies to both residents and visitors. See the website of the Austrian Interior Ministry for more information on the law and a list of exemptions.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
You don’t need a visa to enter Austria but you must hold a valid British passport.
Travelling with children
If you are a single parent, or travelling with a child who is not your own, you will need documentary evidence of parental responsibility and a letter of consent. For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration contact the Austrian Embassy in London.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Austria.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
If you’re visiting Austria you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Austrian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
The currency of Austria is the Euro.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.