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Facts at a Glance
 Full country name: The Republic of Austria

Area: 83,854 sq km (32,367 sq mi)

Population: 8,139,000

Capital city: Vienna (pop: 1.64 million)

People: 97% Germanic origin, 2% Slovene & Croat and 1% Turkish

Language: 97% German, plus some Turkish, Slovene and Croat

Religion: 88% Roman Catholic, 6% Protestant

Government: Federal Republic

President: Thomas Klestil

Chancellor: Wolfgang Schüessel


Austria is a pipe-shaped, landlocked country lying in the bosom of Europe. It extends 560km from east to west, 280km north to south, and is surrounded by Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland. The Alps occupy the southern and western portions of the country, and peak at the Grossglockner's 3797-metre summit. The upland forests of the Bohemian Massif run north to the Czech border, while the Danube Valley and the fertile lowlands of the east provide the bulk of Austria's arable land. There are numerous lakes in Carinthia and the Salzkammergut region; Lower Austria, Burgenland and Styria are the most important plonk-growing regions.

Nearly half of Austria is forested, mainly with oak and beech at low altitudes; at higher elevations conifers predominate. Trees yield to Alpine meadows at just over 2000m and orchids, edelweiss and poppies become quite common. In Alpine regions, fauna includes ibex (a mountain goat with huge curved horns), chamois (horned antelope) and marmots (cute little furry creatures unrelated to Marmite).

Austria's tourist calendar has two main seasons: the summer season runs from May to October and the winter ski season runs from December to April. Most of Austria has a moderate central European climate though the eastern part of the country is blessed with a Continental Pannonian climate, which sounds impressive but really only means that average temperatures in July are above 19 degrees Celsius and annual rainfall is less than 80 cm. Be prepared for a range of temperatures dependent on altitude, but unless you're on top of the Grossglockner you can probably count on temps between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius in summer, one and four degrees Celsius in winter, and eight and 15 degrees Celsius in spring and autumn. Be aware that the sun is intense at high altitudes and ski-goggle tan lines look very silly on those who do not take precautions.

Economic Profile
 GDP: US$203 billion

GDP per head: US$25,000

Annual growth: 2.9%

Inflation: 1.7%

Major industries: Machinery, textiles, iron & steel, timber and tourism

Major trading partners: EU (esp. Germany, Italy), US, Hungary & Switzerland

Member of EU: yes

Euro zone participant: yes

Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: EU, US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand citizens do not require visas for stays of up to three months. Nationals of African and Arabic countries generally require a visa - also valid for up to three months.

Health risks: Altitude sickness, hypothermia and sunburn

Time: GMT/UTC +1

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

Tourism: 19 million visitors a year

Money & Costs
 Currency:euro (EUR), formerly Austrian schilling (AS)
Relative Costs:

  • Budget: US$6-10
  • Mid-range: US$10-20
  • Top-end: US$20+

  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$10-40
  • Mid-range: US$40-80
  • Top-end: US$80+
  • In tourist areas, budget travellers can get by on about US$25 per day if camping, staying in hostels, travelling on a rail pass, sticking to student cafés, cheap lunch specials or self-catering, and only having the occasional drink. Staying in a cheap pension and dispensing with self-catering will require about US$50 a day - add US$10 for a room with private bathroom. To stay in a mid-range hotel, have a cheap lunch, a decent dinner, some money to spend on evening entertainment and not be too concerned about how expensive a cup of coffee is, a daily allowance of at least US$80 would be needed. Off the beaten track, the main saving will be from lower accommodation prices.

    Exchanging cash and travellers' cheques is rarely a problem in Austria. Changing cash attracts a negligible commission but the exchange rate is usually 1% to 4% lower than for cheques. American Express is the best place to change, especially if you have its cheques. Post offices have low commissions but not great exchange rates. A surprising number of Austrian shops and restaurants refuse to accept any credit cards but Bankomats (ATMs) are extremely common in Austria, even in small villages: you can withdraw cash from credit and debit accounts 24 hours a day.

    Hotel and restaurant bills include a service charge, but hotel porters and cleaning staff usually expect something for their services. It is also customary to tip in restaurants and cafés. Round up smaller bills and add an extra 5% to 10% to larger ones: simply say the total amount you want them to take when handing over the money (it's not usual to leave the tip on the table). Taxi drivers will expect around 10% extra. Tour guides, cloakroom attendants and hairdressers are also usually tipped. Bargaining is not common except in flea markets, but you can try for a discount if paying for major purchases in cash and it never hurts to haggle for a better hotel rate in the low season if you're staying for more than a few days.

    When to Go

    Summer sightseeing and winter sports make Austria a year-round destination. The summer high season is in July and August, when crowds will be bigger and prices higher. It can be uncomfortably hot in the cities over summer and many famous institutions close down. Consequently, June and September are also busy months. During winter you'll find things less crowded in the cities and the hotel prices lower (except over Christmas and Easter). Winter sports are in full swing from mid-December to late March with the high season over Christmas, New Year and February. Alpine resorts are very quiet from late April to late May and in November. Spring in the Alps is in June, when the Alpine flowers start coating the mountains with colour.

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