Austria conjures up images of Alpine peaks, sounds of Mozart, and flavors of chocolate and lager. To be sure, Austria has all those to offer, but it has so much more as well. This country of 8 million has something for everyone. This is a nation that appreciates the arts, the outdoors, cuisine, and culture and is ready to share them with you.
On a tour of Austria, you’ll experience the baroque imperial legacy of the Hapsburgs and the silent flower-speckled foothills of the Alps. You’ll sample fresh cheeses and wines at their source in the Wachau Valley. You’ll hear classical melodies immortalized by great Austrian composers as well as the ribald beer-garden songs that inspired them.
One thing is for sure, after visiting Austria you’ll want to return. There simply is too much to offer for just one trip. That’s a good thing because in this country there’s more to experience than you could hope for. This guide is here to help you make sense of it all as you plan your trip to Austria!
You may have heard that the hills are alive with the sound of music in Austria. On a music tour, you can experience just how true that is. You’re in the homeland of some of the greatest musicians after all. From the opera houses of Vienna and Salzburg to alpine taverns, you’ll hear the melodies of greats such as Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, Haydn, and Beethoven who were inspired by the people and beauty of Austria to compose some of their greatest works.
The Austrian Alps are a trekker's paradise. For generations, Austrian trekking organizations have maintained a series of huts and bunkhouses along popular routes allowing high-altitude fanatics to cross glaciers and alpine forests in relative ease. Trekking tours cater to all abilities, so grab your hiking boots and get ready to yodel from the mountaintops!
At first glance, Austria’s culture might seem German, but it isn’t, and a cultural tour will show you just what it means to be Austrian. You’ll visit Hapsburg palaces, world-class museums, attend festivals, and visit bohemian coffee houses. You’ll meet Austrian dairy farmers, vintners, students, and artists. By the end, you’ll have a true appreciation of what really makes Austria a unique destination.
The Danube River and its tributaries flow smoothly across Austria making them a great method to tour the country from the comfort of your own small cruise ship cabin. On a river tour, you’ll float past castles, bucolic farms, and into cities like Vienna and Linz. Enjoy a glass or two of Blaufränkisch as you float your way through the Wachau Valley on your way to Benedictine abbeys and small towns steeped in tradition.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit Austria
While the summer high season offers sunny days and many festivals, prices will soar along with the crowds. Consider the Spring and Fall shoulder seasons, which still provide pleasant weather, but with smaller crowds and lower prices. If you're into Christmas markets and snow sports, winter is a great time to visit Austria.
What to Look for in a Tour to Austria
Be aware of what is included in your tour’s price as Austria is not a cheap destination. Look for a tour with a detailed itinerary of activities that interest you and always read reviews before you sign up. There’s a lot of competition out there, so take your time to choose the best tour for you. When in doubt about anything, get directly in touch with the tour provider to have your questions answered.
Typical Tour Cost
Austria may not be the most economical destination, but a tour will help keep prices down with shared transportation and group tickets. A two-week tour in Austria may cost up to $4,000, but this usually includes transportation, some meals, lodging, and activity fees. Some more bare-bones tours will cost less. Keep in mind that airfare and transportation to and from the tour’s start and end location are usually not included.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
What you pack depends on what activities you’ll be doing. Ask your tour operator what they suggest based on your tour. If you’ll be spending time in cities, bring something somewhat fashionable for an evening out as well as comfortable shoes for daytime touring. If you’ll be heading to the hills, keep in mind that the Alps can get quite chilly, even in the summer. Don’t forget rain gear as it can rain any time of year.
Other Tips for Travel in Austria
As part of the Schengen Agreement, Austria allows most non-EU citizens to enter visa-free for up to 90 days.
English is commonly understood by most Austrians, but it’s always appreciated to sprinkle in a little German when you can. If you can drop some Austrian slang like leiwand (awesome or cool) or Grüß Gott (a standard greeting) you’ll be sure to impress your hosts.
Greetings are important in Austria. Whenever entering a shop or restaurant, be sure greet the proprietor with a smile and "Grüß Gott" and a “Wiedersehen” when you leave.
Don’t call Austrians Germans. There is quite a rivalry between them and their much larger neighbor to the North. Austrian is a separate nationality and mistaking the two will likely lead to immediate and emphatic correction.
Health & Safety
Austria’s public hospitals are well-equipped and well-run. Hopefully, you won’t need to visit one, but should you have to, rest assured that you are in capable hands. Just keep in mind that non-emergency care requires payment up front, and it’s not cheap, although still less expensive than the United States.
Austria has some of the lowest crime rates in the world and you shouldn’t worry about being the victim of a crime as long as you take the same common-sense precautions that you would at home. That being said, always keep your valuables in sight and be mindful of pickpockets when in crowded places.
Stay on marked trails when hiking to avoid getting lost or falling on steep rocky terrain. Although Austria has a great helicopter rescue service, the exciting story of your airborne rescue probably isn’t worth the €1,000 bill they’ll send you. Sign the trail registry when heading out and carefully check yourself for ticks afterward.