American Express -- This company has agents in Vienna and Salzburg. Check its website (www.americanexpress.com) for office locations and hours.
Area Codes -- The country code for Austria is 43; the city code for Vienna is 1, if you're calling from outside the country. Within the country use 01.
Business Hours -- In the federal provinces, banking hours vary according to the region. The exchange counters at airports and railroad stations are generally open from the first to the last plane or train, usually from 8am to 8pm daily. Many stores are open 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to noon on Saturday; they close for 2 hours during the middle of each day.
Drinking Laws -- Upper Austria, Salzburg, and Tyrol prohibit the consumption of distilled beverages below the age of 18, while Carinthia and Styria prohibit drinks containing more than 12% or 14% of alcohol respectively in this age bracket. Carinthia additionally requires adolescents to maintain a blood alcohol level below 0.05%, while Upper Austria prohibits "excessive consumption," and Salzburg prohibits consumption that would result in a state of intoxication. Prohibitions in Vienna, Burgenland, Lower Austria, and Vorarlberg apply only to alcohol consumption in public. Enforcement in supermarkets is quite strict, while in restaurants and bars enforcement is quite lax especially for beer and wine.
Drug Laws -- Penalties for violations are severe and could lead to imprisonment or deportation. Selling drugs to minors is dealt with particularly harshly.
Drugstores -- In Austrian cities, at least one pharmacy stays open 24 hours. If a particular pharmacy is closed, a sign on the door will list the address and phone number of the nearest one that is open.
Electricity -- Austria operates on 220 volts AC (50 cycles). That means that U.S.-made appliances that don't come with a 110/220 switch will need a transformer (sometimes called a converter). Many Austrian hotels stock adapter plugs but not power transformers.
Embassies & Consulates -- The main building of the Embassy of the United States is at Boltzmanngasse 16, A-1090, Vienna (tel. 01/313390). However, the consular section is at Parkring 12, A-1010 Vienna (tel. 01/5125835). Lost passports, tourist emergencies, and other matters are handled by the consular section. Both the embassy and the consulate are open Monday to Friday 9 to 11:30am. Emergency services 8:30am to 5pm.
The Canadian Embassy, Laurenzerberg 2 (tel. 01/531383000), is open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30 to 3:30pm; the British Embassy, Jauresgasse 12 (tel. 01/716130), is open Monday to Friday 9:15 to 10:15am and 2 to 3pm; Australian Embassy, Mattiellistrasse 2-4 (tel. 01/506740), is open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm. The nearest New Zealand Embassy is located in Berlin, Germany, Friedrichstrasse 60 (tel. 030/206210), and is open Monday to Friday 9am to noon. The Ireland Embassy, Rotenturmstrabe 16-18 (tel. 01/7154246), is open Monday through Friday 8:30 to 11am and 1 to 4pm.
Emergencies -- Emergency phone numbers throughout the country (no area code needed) are as follows: tel. 133 for the police, 144 for accident service, 122 to report a fire, and 120 to report a car breakdown on the highway.
Holidays -- Bank holidays in Austria are as follows: January 1, January 6 (Epiphany), Easter Monday, May 1, Ascension Day, Whitmonday, Corpus Christi Day, August 15, October 26 (Nationalfeiertag), November 1, December 8, and December 25 and 26. Check locally when you arrive in Austria. Some of these holidays fall on different days every year.
Internet Access -- It's hard nowadays to find a city that doesn't have a few cybercafes. Although there's no definitive directory for cybercafes -- these are independent businesses, after all -- two places to start looking are at www.cybercaptive.com and wwws.cybercafe.com.
Legal Aid -- Your embassy will give you advice if you run into trouble abroad. They can advise you of your rights and can even provide a list of attorneys (for which you'll have to pay if services are used). But they cannot interfere on your behalf in the legal process of Austria. For questions about American citizens who are arrested abroad, including ways of getting money to them, telephone the Citizens Emergency Center of the Office of Special Consulate Services in Washington, D.C. (tel. 202/647-5225). Citizens of other nations should go to their Vienna-based consulate for advice.
Language -- German is the official language of Austria, but because English is taught in the high schools, it's commonly spoken throughout the country, especially in tourist regions. Certain Austrian minorities speak Slavic languages, and Hungarian is commonly spoken in Burgenland.
Lost & Found -- Be sure to call all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen. Your credit card company or insurer may also require you file a police report and provide a report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. Visa's emergency number outside the U.S. is tel. 410/581-3836; call collect. American Express cardholders should call collect tel. 336/393-1111. MasterCard holders should call collect tel. 314/542-7111.
Mail -- Post offices (das postamt) in Austria are usually located in the heart of the town, village, or urban district they service. If you're unsure of your address in any particular town, correspondence can be addressed care of the local post office by labeling it either POST RESTANTE or POSTLAGERND. If you do this, it's important to clearly designate the addressee, the name of the town, and its postal code. To claim any correspondence, the addressee must present his or her passport.
As an alternative to having your mail sent post restante to post offices, you might opt for the mail services offered in Salzburg, Innsbruck, and Vienna by American Express . There's no charge for this service to anyone holding an American Express card or American Express traveler's checks.
The postal system in Austria is, for the most part, efficient and speedy. You can buy stamps at a post office or from the hundreds of news and tobacco kiosks, designated locally as Tabac/Trafik. Mailboxes are painted yellow, and older ones are emblazoned with the double-headed eagle of the Austrian Republic. Newer ones usually have the golden trumpet of the Austrian Postal Service. A blue stripe on a mailbox indicates that mail will be picked up there on a Saturday.
Newspapers & Magazines -- In major cities, you'll find the International Herald Tribune or USA Today, as well as other English-language newspapers and magazines, including the European editions of Time and Newsweek, at hotels and news kiosks.
Police -- Dial tel. 133 anywhere in Austria to summon the police.
Safety -- No particular caution is needed other than what a careful person would maintain anywhere. Austria is a very safe country in which to travel.
Smoking -- Many Austrians are heavy smokers, and unlike in the United States, smoking is not prohibited in many restaurants. If you're sensitive to smoke, ask the headwaiter to sit you in a nonsmoking section, if possible. If not, ask to be seated away from the smoke or outside on a terrace.
Taxes -- In 1993, all countries belonging to the European Union became a single market by enforcing the Single European Act and merging into a common customs and Value Added Tax (VAT) zone. VAT is a special tax applied to goods and services alike. The rates vary from country to country; in Austria the rate is 20%.
You can arrange for a refund of VAT if you can prove that the goods on which you paid tax were carried out of Austria. To get the refund, you must fill out Form U-34, which is available at most stores (a sign will read TAX-FREE SHOPPING). Get one for the ÖAMTC (Austrian Automobile and Touring Club) quick refund if you plan to get your money at the border. Check whether the store gives refunds itself or uses a service. Sales personnel will help you fill out the form and will affix the store-identification stamp. You show the VAT (MWSt) as a separate item or state that the tax is part of the total price. Keep your U-34 forms handy when you leave the country, and have them validated by the Viennese Customs officer at your point of departure.
Know in advance that you'll have to show the articles for which you're claiming a VAT refund. Because of this, it's wise to keep your purchases in a suitcase or carry-on bag that's separate from the rest of your luggage, with all the original tags and tickets, and the original receipts nearby. Don't check the item within your luggage before you process the paperwork with the Customs agent. In some instances, if your paperwork is in order, you'll receive a tax refund on the spot. If your point of departure is not equipped to issue cash on the spot, you'll have to mail the validated U-34 form or forms back to the store where you bought the merchandise after you return home. It's wise to keep a copy of each form. Within a few weeks, the store will send you a check, bank draft, or international money order covering the amount of your VAT refund. Help is available from the ÖAMTC, which has instituted methods of speeding up the refund process. Before you go, call the Austrian National Tourist Office for the ÖAMTC brochure "Tax-Free Shopping in Austria."
Telephone -- Never dial abroad from your hotel room unless it's an emergency. Place phone calls at the post office or some other location. Viennese hotels routinely add a 40% surcharge, some as much as 200%. For help dialing, contact your hotel's operator, or dial tel. 09 for placement of long-distance calls within Austria or for information about using a telephone company credit card; dial tel. 1611 for local directory assistance; tel. 1613 for European directory assistance; tel. 1614 for overseas directory assistance; and tel. 08 for help in dialing international long distance. Coin-operated phones are all over Vienna. To use one, pick up the receiver, insert a minimum of .10€ (20¢), wait for the dial tone, then dial the number. Know in advance that .10€ (20¢) will allow no more than about 2 minutes of talk time even to a number within Vienna. When your talk time is finished, a recorded German telephone announcement instructs you to put in more coins. To avoid this unwelcome interruption, most Viennese insert up to .40€ (70¢) at the beginning of their call. In theory, the phone will return whatever unused coins remain at the end of your call, although this doesn't always happen. On some older phones, you need to push a clearly designated button before the coins drop into the phone and the call is connected.
Avoid carrying lots of coins by buying a Wertkarte at tobacco/news kiosks or at post offices. Each card is electronically coded to provide 3€ ($4.80), 7€ ($11), 14€ ($22), or 35€ ($56) worth of phone calls. Buyers receive a slight discount because cards are priced slightly lower than their face value.
AT&T's USA Direct plan enables you to charge calls to your credit card or to call collect. The access number, tel. 0800/200288, is a local call all over Austria. For Sprint, dial tel. 0800/200236; for Worldcom, dial tel. 0800/200235; for British Telecom, dial tel. 0800/200209; and for Canada Direct, dial tel. 0800/200217.
The international access code for both the United States and Canada is 001, followed by the area code and the seven-digit local number.
Time -- Austria operates on central European time, which makes it 6 hours later than U.S. Eastern Standard Time. It advances its clocks 1 hour in summer, however.
Tipping -- A service charge of 10% to 15% is included on hotel and restaurant bills, but it's a good policy to leave something extra for waiters and 2€ ($3.20) per day for your hotel maid.
Railroad station, airport, and hotel porters get 1.50€ ($2.40) per piece of luggage, plus a 1€ ($1.60) tip. Your hairdresser should be tipped 10% of the bill, and the shampoo person will be thankful for a 1.50€ ($2.40) gratuity. Toilet attendants are usually given .50€ (80¢), and hat-check attendants expect .50€ to 1.50€ (80¢ to $2.40), depending on the place.
Toilets -- All airport and railway stations have restrooms, rarely with attendants. Bars, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, and hotels have facilities as well. You'll also find public toilets near many major sights.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.