The E5 Trans-Alp
This small, land-locked and mountainous central European country lies south of Germany, east of Switzerland and north of Italy. Whilst on its eastern frontiers, Austria is also exposed to a range of influences from countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia. The capital, Vienna, a city of 1.75 million people and home of the United Nations, is located in the north-eastern corner of the country. German is the national language and the currency is the euro. The Eastern Alps extend across the western and southern portion of Austria and there are lots of impressive peaks, such as the Grossglockner, Wildspitze and Weisskugel that approach 4000 metres. Amongst Austria's Alpine regions, there are many high valleys, popular with skiers during the winter, whilst during the summer months, these same high valleys provide lots of opportunity for trekking and climbing above picturesque villages, verdant pasture and clanging cow bells. Here, too, there are well-established long-distance walking routes and these are well served by comfortable mountain refuges. If you are looking for classic Alpine hiking on relatively quiet trails, Austria is a good choice.
The time in Austria is GMT + 1 hour. It does change to DST (Daylight Saving Time) in the summer.
The main native language of Austria is Austro-Bavarian, which is similar to German. German is actually the official language of the country. Many people that you will encounter in the Austrian Alps will speak a good standard of English. However, we recommend that you learn some simple German phrases and greetings. This is part of the fun of travelling and will be appreciated by the people you meet.
Austria enjoys a moderate continental climate: summers are warm and pleasant with cool nights - perfect for hiking and biking in the Alps. Winters are sunny, with snow levels high enough for widespread winter sports. Ski season is from December to March.
The unit of currency in Austria is the Euro. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com. You should take some euros with you on your holiday to Austria. These are readily available at most banks. If you run out of euros, dollars and sterling (cash or travellers cheques) can easily be exchanged once you are in Austria, although not every bank will provide this service. Credit and debit cards can be used widely and you will also be able to obtain currency at cash machines (ATM's) in the usual way.
You will need a valid passport. Nationals of the EU, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia do not require visas to visit Austria as tourists for up to a three month visit. Nationals of other countries should check the visa requirement with the relevant embassy in their own countries.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. No special vaccinations are required. Before travelling UK residents should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and covers any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip, because of either illness or an accident. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only, and you'll be treated on the same basis as an 'insured' person living in the country you're visiting. Remember, this might not cover all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS in the UK. You may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care. You can obtain an EHIC from the Department of Health by phone, online, or at the post office.