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Living in Austria
What You Should Know About Living Costs and More in Austria
Our Austria country facts section tells you all about the main features of living in the Alpine country, such as how to drive there, and where to find the main embassies and airports. We also tell you about the cost of living, as well as the most expensive and cheapest cities in Austria. This way, you will have a better idea of where you can afford to live and the approximate salary or earnings you will require.
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The cost of living in Austria varies from city to city but, on the whole, accommodation can be expensive. This is especially true if you want to buy property. Most practicalities, like grocery shopping, are simple and there is a range of supermarkets, including Spar—which has five different stores—Lidl, Merkur, and others.
Communications in Austria are well-developed and there are several internet and telephone service options to choose from. Driving and public transportation is also relatively easy to access and roads are well-maintained, providing a generally comfortable and safe experience. There are buses and trams in the major cities, and Vienna even has a metro. Always remember to purchase your tickets before traveling as you may need to validate your ticket before departure. Cyclists will also enjoy Austria for the high-quality roads and some of the most amazing scenery in the world.
Cost of Living
Is it expensive to live in Austria? In some ways it is. For example, you will probably find that housing is more expensive in Austria than in the United States in terms of the space you get for your money (meaning, you will pay more for a smaller space). However, housing options in Austria are more than 10% cheaper than in neighboring Germany, and on average nearly 30% cheaper than in France.
Your expenses will also depend on where you settle. The cost of living in Austria varies significantly between different provinces and cities. In general, Vienna and Innsbruck are consistently ranked the most expensive cities in Austria, while the cheapest, or most affordable, cities include Graz and Klagenfurt.
Although Vienna is expensive by Austrian standards, there are excellent public housing developments in the city, most of which were built after 1920. You can apply for public housing if you earn up to 48,400 EUR (53,225 USD). About 60% of Vienna’s residents live in social housing.
Living Expenses in Austria
A recent report by CEOWORLD Magazine ranked Austria as the 18th most expensive country to live in the world. Neighboring Switzerland was ranked the most expensive.
The following is a look at some Austrian food, alcohol, and grocery prices, plus the costs for eating out, transportation, and other expenses.
Average Food Prices in EUR (USD in brackets)
- Milk: 1.10 (1.20)
- A loaf of bread: 1.80 (2)
- Chicken 1kg: 10.50 (11.60)
- Apples 1kg: 2.20 (2.40)
- Bananas 1kg: 1.70 (1.90)
- Potatoes 1kg: 1.30 (1.40)
- Water bottle 1.5 liters 0.60 (0.70)
- Wine 1.5 liters 7 (7.70)
- Beer bottle 0.5 liters: 1.10 (1.20)
- Cigarettes 20: 5.50 (6.10)
Average National Rent
- One-bedroom apartment: 720 EUR (790 USD)
- Three-bedroom apartment: 1,330 EUR (1,470 USD)
Eating out normally costs around 12 to 50 EUR (13 to 55 USD) depending on the restaurant. A monthly gym pass is 32 EUR (35 USD), while a cinema ticket costs approximately 10 EUR (11 USD).
Utilities bills in Austria are calculated based on the size of the home rather than the resources consumed. For example, Austrian households pay an average of 20 EUR (21 USD) per month for electricity. For internet, prices range from around 9 to 83 EUR (10 to 91 USD) depending on the supplier and speed. Generally, the faster the internet the more expensive it is.
Natural gas in Austria costs most households an average of 19 EUR (20 USD) per GJ. Households in Austria tend to use between 20 and 200 GJ of natural gas per year. Water is typically paid together with waste removal, land tax, and sewage charges. This bill will also typically include charges for maintenance, repairs, and building insurance. On average, residents can expect to pay between 1.80 to 3.50 EUR (2 to 3.90 USD) per month for this bill.
Cost of Education
Austria has a free public education system and around 90% of Austrian children go to these schools. On the other hand, private secondary schools can cost as much as 55,000 EUR (60,600 USD) if the child is boarding there and around 35,000 EUR (38,550 USD) if they are only attending from Monday to Friday.
A year at an international primary school can cost 13,000 EUR (14,500 USD) per year but there are schools that charge as little as 5,000 EUR (5,505 USD). Boarding at an international school can cost 64,000 EUR (71,400 USD) for a year.
Cost of Living in Austria in Different Provinces and Cities
To give you an idea of the average cost of living in Austria, see the table below for examples of monthly expenses in the most expensive and most affordable cities.
Generally, living costs are higher in the cities, but you should shop around and consider where best fits your budget and desired way of life. For example, Graz is Austria’s second-largest city, but it is one of the most affordable places to live in the country. Graz is also a UNESCO world heritage city, which is reflected in its eye-catching architecture.
Linz is generally cheaper than popular Vienna and Salzburg. Linz has the River Danube, which is a popular leisure area for residents in the summer. The city also has a comprehensive tram and bus system.
As the capital city, Vienna has an excellent cultural offering—it is more expensive than smaller cities, but the cost of living is still cheaper than other major cities around Europe. Salzburg is quintessentially Austrian, with some spectacular Alpine views, plus the Salzach River that runs through the city, and nearby Mondsee Lake.
In the capital of Vienna, the average housing space per residence is 38 square meters (409 square feet), while the average number of residents for each apartment is 2.05. This means, the average apartment size is approximately 77.9 square meters (839 square feet).
Average Monthly Rents for One and Three-Bedroom Apartments in Austria
|Apartment size||Monthly Price (EUR)||Monthly Price (USD)|
Average Monthly Rents for One-Bedroom Apartments in Major Cities
|City||Monthly Price (EUR)||Monthly Price (USD)|
Average Monthly Rents for Three-Bedroom Apartments in Major Cities
|City||Monthly Price (EUR)||Monthly Price (USD)|
Apartments are around 12 to 20 EUR (13.30 to 22.30 USD) per square meter to rent in Vienna, 13 to 17 EUR (14.50 to 19 USD) per square meter in Salzburg, and 10 to 13.50 EUR (11.10 to 15 USD) per square meter in Graz.
Social security pays for about 45% of total healthcare costs in Austria. If you are employed in a full-time or part-time position (and you earn at least 438 EUR/488 USD a month), 18.12% of your salary goes to social security. However, your employer will contribute half of this. Public health insurance covers about 99% of the Austrian population.
A prescription can cost around 6 EUR (7 USD). If you have private health insurance, you might be able to get the prescription for free when you collect it, or you can send your receipt to the insurer for a reimbursement.
Once you are insured in Austria you will receive an e-card. You must show this to doctors and pharmacists for cheaper (or free) care and medication.
Seeing a Private Doctor
It costs around 100 EUR (111 USD) to see a private doctor for a 15-minute appointment.
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) Benefits
If you have an EHIC, you can enjoy a range of healthcare benefits, such as seeing a doctor, who is affiliated with one of Austria’s regional health insurance organizations (Gebietskrankenkasse), for free. Be sure to look for the Kassenarzt or Alle Kassen sign. You can also receive certain dental treatments under the state healthcare. Treatment is free if the dentist is contracted to a regional health insurance organization. Again, look for the Kassenarzt or Alle Kassen sign.
Hospital treatment is free at university and regional hospitals that have a contract with the healthcare fund of their associated federal state, Landesgesundheitsfonds. You will need a referral from a doctor to get hospital treatment, unless it is an emergency. For a stay in hospital, you will be charged between 14 to 23 EUR (15 to 25 USD) a day (2019).
Travel and Transportation Costs
A single trip on public transportation in Austria costs between 1.80 and 2.20 EUR (2 to 2.45 USD). Journeys on buses and trains in rural areas cost an average of 2 EUR (2.25 USD) every five kilometers (3.1 miles).
If you drive, you will have to pay a toll to use the motorways. You will also need a motorway sticker (Autobahnvignette). You can buy these at post offices, Trafik shops, border posts, and service stations.
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Did you know 65.5% of Austria is made up of parts of the Alps mountain range and is around 1,600 feet (480 meters) above sea level? That means there is ample opportunity to witness epic high-altitude scenery and you might even have a spectacular view from your back yard. In addition, nearly a quarter of the population lives in the capital city Vienna, the former home of legendary classical music composers Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Austria is made up of nine states, also known as Länder. They are, from east to west: Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg, Carinthia, Upper Austria, Styria, Lower Austria, Burgenland, and Vienna.
Austria’s country code is +43. Below are the country’s emergency numbers.
- Ambulance: 144
- Police: 133
- Fire brigade: 122
- General emergencies in the EU: 112
Most international embassies in Austria are found in Vienna, but there are a few in Linz and Salzburg as well. You can find a comprehensive list of all the foreign embassies in Austria on the government’s website.
Main Airports in Austria
- Vienna Airport
- Salzburg Airport
- Innsbruck Airport
- Graz Airport
- Linz Airport
- Klagenfurt Airport
Public Holidays in Austria
These are the public holidays observed throughout Austria:
- 1 January: New Year’s Day (Neujahr)
- 6 January: Epiphany (Heilige Drei Könige)
- Easter Monday (Ostermontag)
- 1 May: National Holiday (Staatsfeiertag)
- Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt): 39 days after Easter Sunday
- Whit Monday (Pfingstmontag): Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, 49 and 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ
- Corpus Christi (Fronleichnam): First Holy Eucharist Last Supper. Thursday after Trinity Sunday (60 days after Easter Sunday)
- 15 August: Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Mariä Himmelfahrt)
- 26 October: National Day (Nationalfeiertag), day of the Declaration of Neutrality
- 1 November: All Saints’ Day (Allerheiligen)
- 8 December: Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis): retail stores are allowed to open for Christmas shopping
- 25 December: Christmas Day (Christtag)
- 26 December: St. Stephen’s Day (Stefanitag)
These holidays are only observed in certain states or industries:
- 19 March: Saint Joseph’s Day (Josefstag): Carinthia, Styria, Tyrol and Vorarlberg
- 2 days before Easter Sunday: Good Friday (Karfreitag). All states, recognized as bank holiday but not a federal public holiday
- 4 May: Saint Florian’s Day (Florian): Upper Austria
- 24 September: Saint Rupert’s Day (Rupert)—Salzburg
- 10 October: Plebiscite Day (Tag der Volksabstimmung)—Carinthia
- 11 November: Saint Martin’s Day (Martin)—Burgenland
- 15 November: Saint Leopold’s Day (Leopold)—Lower Austria and Vienna
- 24 December: Christmas Eve (Weihnachten)—all states, recognized as bank holiday but not a federal public holiday.
- 31 December: New Year’s Eve (Silvester)—all states, recognized as bank holiday but not a federal public holiday.
Culture and Social Etiquette
Austria is culturally similar to Germany. This is reflected in the country’s formality, politeness, personal presentation, and punctuality. If you try your best to be respectful of others’ personal space, say “please” and “thank you,” and dress appropriately for every occasion, this will go a long way to keeping your new Austrian friends and peers happy.
Etiquette: Pay Attention!
When you meet someone, a handshake is an appropriate greeting, whether in a professional or social setting. If you are female, try not to be shocked if a man tries to kiss your hand. However, this practice is usually only done by Austrian men; foreign men should avoid kissing an Austrian woman’s hand.
There is no harm in making eye contact. And remember, you are expected to use someone’s proper title until you are invited to use their first name. If you enter a room full of people, you should shake everyone’s hand, even children.
As a Dinner Guest
It is important in Austria to always arrive to dinner on time! Also, don’t forget to put some effort into your attire. When you arrive, ask if you should take off your shoes. And once you get to the dining room, wait until you are invited to sit down at the table, as you may be placed in a certain seat.
If given a napkin, place it on your lap. Your fork will usually be placed on the left while your knife will be on the right. There is a certain way to eat: try to cut your food with the side of your fork—it is a compliment to the cook, showing the food is tender.
At restaurants, do not be surprised if you are expected to pay a 10-15% gratuity.
How you dress is important, so make a good first impression. Business formal is the way to go. Men should wear a dark suit and/or a white shirt. Women should wear a suit as well, or a smart dress, with appropriate accessories.
When expanding your circle of business contacts, it is better but not imperative, to be introduced to a new business associate by a mutual contact. An outstanding university education could help you gain a new partner’s trust and respect, however, experience is just as important. The longer you have been in business, the more likely people will take you seriously.
People do not take business lightly in Austria and you should aim to approach proceedings the same way. In conversation, remember to use the formal “Sie” not “du,” to address business associates. And do not assume people will call you by your first name—initially, this is not usual practice. Sometimes Austrians can be very straight-to-the-point in an effort to make progress. Try not to take offence.
Austria’s capital, Vienna, is thought of by many as Europe’s musical heart. However, nature also plays a big part in the lives of Austrians, from National Park Neusiedler See in the East to Lake Constance in the West.
When it comes to music, it is hard to beat Austria’s history. It is the world capital of classical music, where Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Johann Strauss, and Alban Berg were born and worked. Ludwig van Beethoven also lived and performed here.
As you can imagine, Austrians are proud of this musical heritage and regularly celebrate it by putting on modern interpretations and traditional concerts at spectacular venues, including the State Opera House, Volksoper, and the Wiener Concert House. Every year around the end of May, the Summer Night Concert takes place in the grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. You should also make sure to pay a visit to the Musikverein, the stunning home of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra.
When you think of life in Austria, coffee may not be the first thing that springs to mind. However, cafés play a major role in city life throughout the country. What better way to spend a winter’s morning or afternoon than heading to a cozy café for a local coffee and a piece of Sachertorte, Imperial torte, or Punschkrapfen?
Vienna’s coffee houses were recently included in UNESCO’s list for Intangible Cultural Heritage, which means they will benefit from respect and safeguarding, so locals and tourists can continue to enjoy them for years to come. Vienna’s coffee houses have become known as “the city’s public living room,” so feel free to find one and while away several hours, or all day if you want.
Because Austria has no coastline, you might pine for the sea while living in the country. However, there are bountiful lakes to enjoy that are teeming with wildlife and offer memorable vistas. In fact, there are more than 160 lakes in Austria, and they are popular places for swimming. Some of the most beautiful lakes are Lake Hallstatt, Lake Schlegeis, Plansee Lake, Mondsee Lake, Lake Durlassboden, and Traunsee Lake. Lake Hallstatt is one of the most popular “Instagrammable” spots in Austria, where you are sure to see someone taking photographs.
Driving in Austria
Driving in Austria provides some of the best scenery in the world. Meandering on winding Austrian roads provides beautiful, mountainous vistas, some of which seem to stretch forever. To experience this breath-taking scenery, you will want to ensure you are legally able to drive while living in the Alpine country.
How to Get an Austrian Driving License
Driving in Austria with a UK, US, European, or EEA license is possible. If you have a driver’s license from an EU or EEA country, it will be valid until it expires. However, if you have a driver’s license from a country outside the EU or EEA, it will be valid for six months after you become an official resident in Austria. It is important to note that if your license is not in German, you will need an international driving license or translation into German.
You can convert your EEA or EU driving license to an Austrian one at any time. The process of converting your license can take several weeks as the authority in Austria must contact the state in which the license was issued.
The Austrian driving license authorities include:
- Federal Police Headquarters or Landespolizeidirektion (where they exist)
- In Vienna: the Motor Vehicle Department or Verkehrsamt
- The district administrative authority or Bezirkshauptmannschaft (where there is no Federal Police Headquarters and in municipalities)
- The Municipal Authority (Magistrat) in Krems and Waidhofen an der Ybbs
- The Federal Police Headquarters (Landespolizeidirektion) Burgenland in the statutory city of Rust.
To convert your license you will need the following documents (originals and copies). The documents needed will vary slightly depending on if you are from an EU/EEA country or not.
Those with an EU/EEA driving license need:
- passport or identification card (Personalausweis)
- current driving license
- 35mm x 45mm photo of you
- extract from the driving license file of the issuing country with a translation – occasionally required (sometimes the extract without translation will be enough)
- Residence Registration Form (Bestätigung der Meldung) – occasionally required
Those with a license from a non-EU/EEA country need:
- current driving license
- 35mm x 45mm photo of you
- medical report
- Residence Registration Form or Bestätigung der Meldung – occasionally required
Conversion costs around 60 EUR (70 USD). To get your license converted faster, there is an express service which will cost an extra 18 EUR (20 USD).
Driving in Austria Rules
- You must have a reflective safety vest stored in your car at all times. If you are renting a car in Austria, you must confirm with the rental company that there will be a safety vest in the vehicle.
- You must use your headlights at night.
- Children under 12 years of age and under 150cm in height must sit in child-safety seats.
- A maximum of 0.5 grams of alcohol per liter of blood is allowed.
- Wearing a seatbelt is required by law.
- Cell phones can only be used with a hands-free device.
- Motorcyclists must wear a helmet. Dipped headlight must be on even during the day.
- Unleaded regular-grade 91 octane petrol, as well as Euro-Super (unleaded 95-octane) petrol, are available at all gas stations.
Cars and motorcycles:
- Between local road signs in towns: 31 mph (50 km/h)
- Country roads: 62 mph (100 km/h)
- Highways: 80 mph (130 km/h)
Age for Driving in Austria
The minimum age to ride a motorcycle is 16, to drive a car it is 18, and to drive a bus or cargo vehicle, you must be 21.
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Public Transportation in Austria
Compared to European countries with a similar population size, Austrians travel on public transportation as much as anyone. Austrian residents travel an average of 3,405 kilometers (2,116 miles) each year with the Öffis system. Some 38% of general transportation use in Vienna is public transportation. This is much higher than in Berlin, Germany, for example. Nevertheless, there are still congestion problems on Vienna’s roads, indicating that people still rely on cars too much. Motorists in the country travel twice the distance as those using railways, buses, or street cars.
To minimize the use of cars further, Austria has “cycle to work” campaigns at least once a year. In 2017, people rode a total of five million kilometers to get to work in the country. This represented reduced carbon dioxide emissions of 800 tons (900 US tons).
How is Public Transportation in Austria?
Public transportation in Austria is extensive and modern. If you don’t want to miss your ride, always be on time according to the transit schedules as they are generally reliable. You can purchase tickets to cover more than just a return journey and there are several options depending on your circumstances. Vienna is the only city with a metro. Rural areas receive support from special bus services.
Short-Term Tickets (trains, trams, buses, and metro)
The cost of public transportation in Austria is reasonable, especially as you are allowed to share certain passes with friends and family, and with some tickets you can ride several forms of transport.
If you would like a daily, weekly, or monthly pass for trains in Austria, you should look for passes specific to the town or city you wish to travel around. The options in Vienna, for example, are:
- Daily ticket: A 24, 48, or 72-hour ticket: 8, 14.10, and 17.10 EUR (9, 15.75, and 19 USD). This is valid on all forms of transport in Vienna. They can only be used by one person.
- Weekly ticket: 17.10 EUR (19 USD). This is valid for seven days and can be used on the underground, trams, and buses in Vienna. It can be used by different people.
- Eight-day ticket: 40.80 EUR (45.50 USD). This is valid on any eight days, not necessarily in succession. This ticket can be used by several people who are traveling together.
- Monthly pass: 51 EUR (56.90 USD). You can use the monthly pass on an unlimited number of times in Vienna and on all forms of public transportation. Monthly passes issued in a paper format from a ticket machine or at a ticket and information office can be used for several people, so you can share it with your friends and family, if you want to. Tickets purchased online or with the app can only be used by one person.
- Annual ticket: 365 EUR (407 USD). This can be used on all forms of public transportation. You can travel with two children under 15 years old, and a dog or bicycle for no extra charge (on the U-Bahn and S-Bahn).
A Eurail Austria Pass costs between 146 and 258 EUR (163 and 290 USD) for an adult second-class ticket. This pass allows you to
- take three to eight travel days in a one-month period;
- travel using the rail network in Austria;
- take several train journeys each day;
- take children under 12 years old at no extra charge, making this pass ideal for families;
- travel when and where is convenient for you.
The Eurail Austria Pass comes as a paper document and is available for 1st or 2nd class travel. This pass gives discounts to people under the age of 28 and over 60.
In areas where there are no links via rail, bus, or street car, you might be able to hitch a ride on the Postbus. This service is run by postal companies in sparsely-populated rural areas where it would not make sense to provide a regular bus service. Passengers pay the same fare they would for a regular bus journey.
Journey fees in cities are controlled by meters. The minimum price is approximately 3.80 EUR (4 USD) between 6am and 11pm, Monday to Saturday, and 4.30 EUR (5 USD) at other times. You must also pay 1.40 EUR (2 USD) per kilometer. If you call to reserve a taxi, it will cost an extra 2.80 EUR (3 USD) and most taxi drivers will expect a 10% tip.
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