Many have been enchanted by Austria’s Empress Sisi, swept away with the romance of “Before Sunrise, or intrigued by underground exploration in “The Third Man” – but there are many other reasons that make Austria and its capital Vienna one of the most interesting places to move to. Maybe you’re coming here to study or to start a new job, whatever the reason, moving to a new country is a daunting venture. And a lot of the guides that you’ll find online are just collections of stereotypes or written with tourists in mind. That’s why we are providing you with the details that really matter.
Once you've cleared all the hurdles involved in getting a residency permit for Austria, it’s time to prepare for your trip.
One thing you will want to start arranging before you arrive is your accommodation. If you have the means to rent a short-term AirBnB while you search for long-term rental, then that is usually the best option. We don’t recommend trying to rent a long-term apartment online. If this option doesn’t work for you, some real estate agents have begun offering virtual viewings.
General things to know about renting in Austria:
The housing market in Vienna is fairly competitive and you may have to counteract perceived disadvantages that landlords may see in you. One common tactic is to provide a bank guarantee that covers 6+ months' of rent.
Note: At workineurope.com we help you apply for a Rot-Weiß-Rot card and as part of our Full-Service offering we can even help you with accommodation in Vienna in addition to all the little questions that pop up as you get settled.
Alternatively, you could join a flat-share (similar to co-living) where the occupants are usually more accommodating with showing you the flat via video call and are more likely to offer short-term rentals (3-6 months) at cheaper rates. An added benefit of this option is that you’ll be immersed in Austrian culture right away.
Places to search for flatshares are:
General real estate sites are:
Most likely you’ll be arriving at Vienna International Airport. It’s also called Wien Schwechat because it is situated about 30 min outside of the capital near a city called Schwechat.
If your final destination is not Vienna, your best and quickest option is usually to catch a train from the airport with the national rail service “ÖBB” or their main competitor “Westbahn”. The train network in Austria is very good and you can usually get to remote places in just a few stops.
Train tickets can be purchased at the red ticket machines located in the foyer above the train platforms. Simply enter your current location and your destination and then choose from one of the upcoming trains (or train connections). Alternatively, you can buy your tickets in advance online at the ÖBB or Westbahn websites.
When exiting the airport you will see signs for the CAT (“City Airport Train”). This train leaves every 20 minutes and takes you to the train station called “Landstrasse”, but as it is a private train company it is a lot more expensive than using the ÖBB’s “S-Bahn” (“Schnellbahn”, i.e. the fast train).
The S7 train takes a couple of minutes longer and runs every 40 instead of 20 minutes but it’s about 10 EUR cheaper than the CAT. Because the S7 makes more stops on the way into the city, you may be able to disembark even closer to your destination...
Note: Due to the pandemic CAT is not operational until Spring 2022.
More often than not, you will also get out at the Landstrasse station (also called “Wien Mitte”) and then use the subway (in German “U-Bahn”, stands for underground railway) to get to your final destination. You can plan your route using either Google Maps (switch to public transportation in the planner) or using the dedicated website for Vienna’s public transportation (called “Wiener Linien” or “VOR”) where you’ll also find the ticket prices.
Tip: If you are going to spend at least a year in Vienna, we suggest buying the “Jahreskarte” for 365 EUR (1 EUR per day). This is a year-round ticket that covers all of the public transportation within Vienna. However, it is important to remember that the Jahreskarte is not enough to get you to the airport. As mentioned above, the airport is located just outside the city limits. This means that even with your Jahreskarte you will need to buy a supplementary ticket from the “Stadtgrenze” (German for “city limit” which is the city “Schwechat”) to the airport.
Alright, so you’ve arrived at your new place and need to stock up on some food. In Vienna and most other major cities in Austria, there is an abundance of supermarkets. You will find one every few blocks. Billa and Spar are common chains that usually provide good-quality groceries. If you’re on a budget, there are also lots of discount supermarkets around. Hofer (the Austrian version of Aldi), Lidl, and Penny all offer fresh fruit and vegetables, dry goods, and alcohol at discounted prices.
If you’re feeling adventurous you can also visit one of the many markets in Vienna that often offer fresh and local produce as well as cooked food delicacies, flowers, and pastries.
One of the most famous markets is the "Naschmarkt". The name literally means “snacking market”, and oh boy... that’s what the vendors will try and make you do. The beautiful stands are filled with samples of their amazing, olives, cheeses, sausages, and falafel. This market is one of the biggest tourist attractions, so be aware that prices are very high and the vendors can be a bit pushy.
Note: Paying by card is fairly common in Vienna and most of Austria, but there are still a lot of places that only accept cash. This is especially true the more remote you are. Usually, there will be a hand-written sign indicating their preference hanging on the door. So you don’t get caught out, we recommend traveling with at least 20 EUR in cash in your wallet.
Obviously, we encourage you to get acquainted with Austrian food, but if you are craving for a taste of home or something international, there are several specialized shops:
It can be said that one of Vienna's disadvantages is the working hours. On weekdays everything is open until 7-8 pm, on Saturdays some facilities until 5 pm, and some until 6 pm, while on Sundays nothing is open except a few “essential” shops usually situated near or in a train station.
In general, Austrians take Sundays very seriously. They consider it a day of rest, so avoid doing noisy chores like vacuuming or bringing out the recyclables if you don’t want to risk getting into an argument with your neighbors.
The groceries we mentioned above will often stock non-food items like toothpaste, shampoo, and toilet paper as well. But if you are looking for a bigger selection of nutritional supplements, healthy snacks, cosmetics, and hair products, we recommend checking out BIPA or DM (“drogerie markt”).
Confusingly, although DM stands for “drogerie markt” (which literally translates to “drug market”) they do not sell prescription medications. You will need to go to a pharmacy (in German “Apotheke”) for medicine and prescriptions.
In Austria, certain items are “apothekenpflichtig”. If this is written on the package it means that the item can only be sold by a pharmacy. The other big category is called “verschreibungspflichtig” or “rezeptpflichtig” which means you will need a doctor’s prescription.
In Austria, hospitals are reserved for emergencies. For everything else, you need to visit your “Hausarzt” (general practitioner). If necessary, they will forward you to a specialist (this process is called “Überweisung”). If you need specific lab work, imaging, or other services the GP or specialist will transfer you (unless they provide the service in-house).
You must have insurance either provided by your employer or private insurance that is covering your stay. If you are covered by the state insurance (in most cases called the "ÖGK – Österreichisches Gebietskrankenkasse") then you can visit “Kassenärzte” or “auf Kasse” which means your insurer will be directly billed and you won’t have to pay anything upfront.
If the doctor’s website states “Nur privat” or “Keine Kassenverträge” they do not have a contract with the state insurance. You can still go to these doctors even if you are not privately insured, but you will have to pay at the end of the appointment. You can try to get reimbursement from the state insurer later, but they will usually only reimburse a very small amount of the cost.
Some useful links:
Within three days of your arrival, you need to get the infamous “Meldezettel” (your “registration certificate”, not to be confused with a “residency permit” or “Rot-Weiß-Rot” card). To get this “zettel” (German for “Piece of paper”) which says you have successfully registered with the state you must fill out a registration form (available online).
It’s best to bring this form when you sign your rental agreement. Often the landlord is represented by a housing agency and will have copies for you, but don’t rely on it. The landlord needs to sign the form and you fill out your personal information. Then you bring it to the local “Meldeamt” for filing.
There is a Meldeamt for each district which you can find online at the above link. Vienna is split into 23 “Bezirke” (German for district). To find out in which district you are in, you can always look at the street signs.
The middle two numbers of your postcode also show your district. For example, 1030 is the third district and 1100 is the tenth.
You’ve already heard about the great public transport in Vienna. You’ll find similar regional public transportation systems, but Vienna is the only city with an actual subway.
But there are some other interesting options you should know about, especially for Vienna :
Tip: If you’re looking for some second-hand furniture, electronics, or even a bike then willhaben.at is the place to go. Willhaben is both an app and a website that allows locals to list wares for sale or to giveaway. Some gems can be found in the “zu verschenken” section (this translates as “to give away”). Ebay does exist in Austria, but “Willhaben” (German for “I want that”) dominates the market and you can pretty much buy and sell anything there with ease. If you want to browse second-hand wares in person, Carla Caritas has a number of warehouses across the city.
You can’t talk about Vienna without mentioning coffee houses. While they exist all around Austria they are very specific to Vienna. You will find many older establishments where the waiters are just as old. The employees at these establishments are very often VIPs in their own right and will let you know your place if you step out of line. We’re only partly kidding... they are known for their “attitude”, so don't be surprised if they ignore you.
Instead of hesitating with unfamiliar coffee terms on the menu, why not open yourself up to the possibilities of the Austrian coffee culture. This means trying out the famous “Verlängerter” (German for “stretched”), which is espresso with a bit more water than usual. Or a “Melange” would be an excellent choice if you like something a bit more frothy and milky. But the art of coffee making really needs an expert and we gladly refer to Mark from Visiting Vienna and his guide to coffee in Vienna.
Generally, you can get around with English, especially in Vienna, but if you’re staying here for a longer period why not learn some German? The Austrians will appreciate any effort taken to learn their language and you will be rewarded with insights that you probably miss if you’re not speaking their mother tongue.
There are numerous language schools in Vienna with different price tags. The University of Vienna could be a good place to start, it offers an intensive semester course for great value even for non-students. The Wiener Arbeitnehmer Förderung - WAF (German for Vienna Employment Promotion Fund) pays up to 90% of German course fees for immigrants if you are employed in Vienna.
Viennese people have a distinctive vocabulary compared to other regions of Austria. German words solely unique for Vienna (the "Wienerisch" dialect) are “oida” (buddy), “leiwand” (great), and the usual salutation is “Grüß Gott” or “Servus” (hello).
Another interactive way to learn the language and get to know new people is to find a so-called “Sprachtandem” (German for “language pairing”). You pair up with a German native speaker that wants to learn your language. This setup can help you improve your language skills in a more casual setting and gain a new connection in a foreign city. These are also often offered by a so-called “Sprachcafé” (German for “speech coffeehouse”). These meetups are quite popular in Vienna, but you will also find similar concepts in the other major cities.
Vienna has a big international community with many events and meet-ups. So try and join a group, whether it’s sports, music, theatre or arts - whatever you like to do in your free-time chances are you can find like-minded people and meet locals and internationals alike.
So you’ve got the essentials and have settled into your new life in Austria. Now it’s time to get a look at those cultural highlights you’ve heard so much about. Most of these recommendations are focused on Vienna. But don’t worry if you’re living somewhere else, you can take a weekend trip to Vienna by train or drop us an e-mail and tell us where you live we’ll put together some recommendations for your location.
Let’s start with the architecture. Wandering around Vienna you will have already noticed the many older buildings around the central ring. The ring is a circular road that engulfs the most central and oldest part of the city. Around the ring road, you will see a lot of impressive architecture, big fancy hotels, and impressive museums.
Our first recommendation is to grab a CityBike and ride from Michaelerplatz to Museumsquartier - this will give a nice introduction to the imperial past of the city. On this short bike ride, you can feel the history of Vienna. Be prepared to stop a lot and be amazed by all the marvelous architecture.
Afterward, have a lookout for a “Würstelstand” (German for sausage stand). You’ll usually find one on every corner because it is typical Viennese fast food and is especially common after a late night out. There are several types of sausages - Grillwurst, Bratwurst, and the infamous Käsekrainer (cheese sausage). We recommend the Käsekrainer, but be careful... we’ve burned the top of our mouths with the hot cheese that squirts out way too many times to count. Typical condiments are mustard, kren (horseradish), and ketchup.
If your German is good enough, you should take in a performance at Burgtheater (the emperor’s theatre) or Volkstheater (people’s theatre). Sometimes these theatres offer English productions, but the English theatre puts on great productions for non-German speakers. Less dependant on language, you might find a performance or ballet at the opera appealing. If you’re more into musicals the “Vereinigte Bühnen Wien” (German for Combined Stages Vienna) usually has 2-3 shows running at any given time.
Tip: there is a vast array of museums in Vienna and it feels like each one is dedicated to a specific subject. The best list we know of is actually on Wikipedia, so have a look at what topic you’d like to dig into (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_museums_in_Vienna).
We don’t think you’ll ever get fed up with Vienna, but if you want some nature head out into the outer districts such as Nußdorf where you’ll come across green hills and wine fields. Keep a lookout for a sign that reads “Ausg’steckt” (German for “stuck out”), which means the wine farmer is selling the wines of the season. The small, local wineries offering drinks are called “Heuriger”. This tradition dates back to medieval times, but their official date of birth is August 17, 1784, when Emperor Joseph II issued a decree allowing farmers to directly sell their wines and juices. Viennese Heurigen are tucked in between green fields and offer a range of fine wine and a basic but usually delicious buffet of food. The atmosphere in late autumn or early spring is ideal.
If you want more green and less wine, then enjoy one of the 12 “Stadtwanderwege” (German for city hiking path). Many guide you through beautiful nature reserves and let you forget you’re close to a bustling metropolitan area.
Our favorites are:
Looking for an adrenaline boost? Take the subway to the Praterstern and follow the signs to enter a world of ferris wheels, rollercoasters, haunted houses, parlor games, and the like.
It’s also called the “Würstelprater” (which combines the name “Prater” with the comic figure of “Hanswurst”, a bit of a baffoon). The name has nothing to do with sausages, but obviously, they sell them there too.
It’s a fun day out that you can end with a meal at the traditional “Schweizerhaus”, but if you’re going on a weekend or public holiday you’ll most likely need a reservation, especially in summer.
Tip: There’s also the “Böhmischer Prater”, which is a much smaller amusement park on the edge of Vienna. Despite being almost completely destroyed by a bomb attack in the second world war it still operates some small rides that are more than 100 years old.
Vienna is fabulously diverse and getting settled here is fairly easy. We hope our guide has given you a headstart on your adventure, but feel free to let us know if you have any additions, corrections, or would like to know about anything else via e-mail.