For a traveler in search of immersive history and world class architecture, you can’t do worse than Austria. From Austria’s myriad of beautiful mountain villages to its stunning major cities, there is more to see in Austria than in most countries in the world. Of course, as with any travel destination, if you’re not observant you might run into some trouble. Whether you’re stumbling into irreversible social faux pas to outright law-breaking, Austria is not a place where you want to be in the red. If you’re traveling to Austria in the near future, here are some things to consider to avoid staying out of trouble.
1. If You’re in Vienna, Get Out of the Way of Old Ladies
It’s always a good idea to show some consideration and let the elderly get in front of you in line or take your seat on public transportation. It’s just respectful. Whether you agree with that sentiment or not, when you’re visiting Vienna it won’t matter, because little old ladies feel aggressively entitled to this kind of respect. If you don’t let them cut in line, they’ll just elbow past you like rockstars. Even worse, the people around you will think you’re the one who did something wrong.
2. Leave a (Small) Tip
When visiting Europe, the “tipping” question varies from country to country. In Austria, members of the service industry expect a little gratuity, though it’s usually only 10 percent of the bill.
3. Don’t Rush on to Public Transportation
This is just good advice whenever you’re visiting a crowded urban area in any country in the world. Let people get off the subway or street car before you get on. It’s common courtesy — and if you try, you’re likely to get mowed down by a wall of exiting commuters.
4. You Can’t Sit Everywhere in the Subway
Austrian public transportation has special seats designated for the blind, pregnant, elderly, etc. These seats are clearly defined, so don’t sit there unless you fit the description. It’s rude.
5. Starting in 2018, Don’t Wear a Burqa
Austria is far from the only country to have rules that are so blatantly xenophobic, but they still exist. So, beginning in 2018, you should consider leaving any religious face coverings at home, because they can get you fined up to €150.
6. Carry Change Around When You’re Traveling
A lot of public restrooms will charge you a small fee to use them; when nature calls, you don’t want to have to rush around trying to find a free place to relieve yourself, so just keep some change on hand to pay the fee.
7. Don’t Expect Everyone to Speak English
The official language of Austria is German. While a lot of Austrians do speak some English, don’t just assume that everyone can. It’s best to learn a few conversational German phrases before you travel.
8. Keep Your Eyes Open When Using Public Transportation
When you’re on trams or subways, make sure to watch out for pickpockets. This type of street crime is common in urban areas. Pickpockets have even been known to work in small groups, even going so far as to use children.
9. You’ll Have to Ask for the Bill
In Austrian restaurants, the custom is to sit and talk with your fellow diners once the meal is done. As a result, wait staff won’t bring your bill until you specifically request it. They don’t want to rush your dining experience.
10. Watch Where You’re Walking
Austria is a dog-loving country; especially in the urban areas, you can expect to see not only a bunch of canines, but a bunch of canine poop, too. Seriously, the dogs sh-t indiscriminately and you should watch where you step.
11. Don’t Expect Stores to Stay Open Late
There are some (very rare) exceptions to the rule, but by and large every store will shut down around 6 p.m. and most places are completely closed on Sundays. As a result, it’s always a good idea to get your shopping done early.
12. No, Seriously, the Shop Is Closing … Leave
In America, retail stores will allow new customers to come in and poke around right up until closing (for the record, employees really, really hate this policy). In Austria, consumers don’t have that luxury. If you’re still browsing as closing time approaches, you can expect to be chased out of the store by an employee who’s anxious to not be at work anymore.
13. Don’t Visit During the Tourist Season
Unless you’re in Austria to do some skiing, it’s probably best to avoid the country during the winter months. The country is also enormously popular with summertime hikers, so summer is also a good time to avoid. Stick to the fall, when the country is utterly gorgeous anyway.
14. Don’t Expect a Non-Smoking Section
Some restaurants have begun to include non-smoking sections in public spaces, but a big portion of Austrians are still fairly heavy smokers. As a result, you can expect to see people lighting up everywhere from restaurants to the work place.
15. Austrian People Are Very Direct
Don’t expect Austrians to suffer from the same paralyzing “politeness” that you’ll find in other nations. They’re a direct people. That doesn’t mean they’re mean or rude, it simply means that a lot of them don’t see the need for pointless social courtesies or small talk. If you strike a conversation with an Austrian, expect one of the first questions out of their mouth to be: “How could you people have possibly elected Donald Trump?”.