Arguably the world's capital of classical music, Austria is home to many of history's greatest musical minds.
Mozart is, of course, the country's favorite son, and visitors on pilgrimages inspired by the prodigal musician will find windows into Mozart's life in the house where he was born and his later residencies in Salzburg and Vienna, but the musical landmarks don't stop there. The Vienna State Opera is world famous, the Haus der Musik demonstrates the creation of music down to the scientific mechanisms of sound reverberation, and Salzburg's ball season offers dancing until the early morning in the birthplace of the waltz.
This music scene comes into the modern age with a vision to the country, where melodies old and new seem to hang in the air like electricity. You may find public outdoor symphony concerts in Vienna that draw attendees of all ages to stand, sway, chat with neighbors, and pop open bottles of wine.Classical music has never felt more casual and enveloping. In Salzburg, side effects of The Sound of Music settings may include running, skipping, and spinning with arms outstretched. Here, the city does seem to be alive with the sound of music, and visitors may find the voice of Queen Julie Andrews (this title is legitimate, just ask the people of Genovia) rattling around their heads, seemingly with no end.
Meanwhile, Austria is a sight to behold, a stunning vision of mountains and man-made edifices wishing they could be mountains, too. Cities boast architectural works that reach for the skies, from the towering Gothic spires of the Rathaus and St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna to the clunky hilltop fortress of Salzburg that cradles the clouds in its own right. In Hallstatt, hillside churches and sharp, elongated steeples sit alongside a glistening lake, nestled between mountains. Home to its own corner of the Alps, the road through Austria winds among jagged peaks and sparkling bodies of water. Here, you'll find the air fresh, the language German, and the living easy.
SAFETY AND HEALTH
Local Laws and Police: Police in Austria are reliable if you need assistance, but always have your passport with you when interacting with police officers, as they may ask to see it. Under Austrian law, you must either have your passport with you, or be able to produce it within one hour.
Tobacco, Drugs, and Alcohol: The drinking age in Austria is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for distilled alcohols. Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol tend to be stricter than in the United States. The legal blood alcohol limit for driving in Austria is 0.05%. Use or possession of illegal drugs in Austria can come with long prison sentences and harsh fines. Tobacco stores are the place for purchasing tobacco products in Austria and are marked with a sign depicting a cigarette. It is also common to purchase tobacco products in grocery stores and even occasionally restaurants. It is illegal to sell tobacco to persons under the age of 18.
Prescription Drugs: Austrian medical centers will not accept American medical insurance, so you will have to pay out of pocket for services and then seek a reimbursement from your insurer independently. Carry any prescription medications in their original packaging.
Tipping: Tipping in Austria is common in interactions with most service workers. Generally, tip by simply rounding up tot the next convenient number. Tipping about 5% is standard and a tip should not surpass 10%. It is common for a service charge to be included in the bill, so look on menus and bills to find out whether the tip has already been included.
Taxes: Many goods in Austria are subject to a value added tax (VAT) of 20%, included in the purchase price of goods. The VAT is a standard rate, though it fluctuates based on the goods purchased, so you should ask the retailer for exact rates. Non-EU visitors taking the goods home unused can apply for a VAT refund for goods exceeding €75 at one retailer. To apply for this refund, ask the store for a VAT refund form and carry your passport with you as retailer may ask to see it. Present the refund form and be prepared to show the unused goods you are exporting at the customs office at your point of departure from the EU. Refunds usually must be claimed within 90 days of the original purchase.