Think of Austria and you will probably think of something like the opening scene to The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews singing and skipping across the countryside. Well Austria will not disappoint with endless rolling hills and more natural beauty that you can shake a stick at. You will find amazing scenery, mountain ranges, soaring peaks, remote woodlands and any other type of breath-taking scenery you can imagine. The clean mountain air and diverse climate is great if you love the outdoors from extreme winter sports to gentle summer strolls. Head in to an alpine village, steeped in history with traditional timber framed buildings draped in beautiful flowers and little coffee shops offering tasty morsels like mouth watering strudel. But no matter where you are in Austria, it will be spotlessly clean and impeccably tidy.
Austria is one of the most expensive countries in Europe but to be fair, we did spend money on some ‘once in a life time’ adventures. Hiking inside a glacier, driving over Grossglockner alpine road, trekking through worlds largest cave, visiting Swarovski crystal museum and chilling to a bit of Mozart.
For us there is one thing that we just love about Austria, it has the most amazing motorhome drive in the WORLD, The One & Only Grossglockner Alpine Road.Time of visit: Summer 2014 and Autumn 2015 Our average daily spend: €33.98 Official language: German Emergency phone number: 112 Medical emergency – 144 Police – 133 Fire brigade – 122 Currency: Euro
Food & Groceries
When it comes to food shopping in Austria then head to the outskirts of the town or to one of the many retail parks. Austria has a good range of modern and well stocked supermarket chains that cover the full range from bargain and everyday to exclusive and something special. The supermarkets tend to be purpose built, low rise units that have absolutely no character from the outside but inside, they are modern, organised and a perfect example of how a supermarket should be stocked and run. No fuss, no hassle, no queues and no empty shelves. The Lidl supermarkets are reasonably priced and offer the normal range of products you expect from a Lidl but the other supermarkets like Billa and Spar tend to stock branded goods, which are a lot more expensive.
Supermarket chains such as Spar, Billa, Aldi and Lidl are the most popular in Austria. Spar and Billa tend to also offer smaller supermarkets and local convenience stores. Parking is not a problem and height restrictions are rare.
Austria has quaint little villages that are beautifully decorated and offer some of the most amazing Austrian dishes. However, dining out is usually expensive, so if you are on a budget and fancy eating out then lunchtime menu’s are more reasonably priced.
Austrian fare is all about hearty, homemade food to keep you warm like a spicy goulash or dumpling stew. A must to try – wiener schnitzel, goulash, sachertorte, strudel and of course an indulgent hot chocolate made with fresh cream.
Most shops and supermarkets close on Sundays.
Austria has a mixture of campsite and overnight parking spaces for motorhomes. Most towns or villages have a motorhome stopover, which are called wohnmobil stellplatz. In the main, an stellplatz offers camper services such as fresh water, black water, grey water and electric. The price to stop on an stellplatz varies from free to a few euro’s for 24 hours. Services tend to either be included or a small nominal charge for fresh water and electricity.
We managed to find a number of wild camping sites in Austria but it isn’t easy as police discourage wild camping and the locals frown upon it. As we have said before, we are sensitive campers and do not like to upset anyone, so most of the time it did not feel it was right to wild camp. We tended to stay on the permitted motorhome stellplatz, car parks or the ‘camping card’ campsites.
Parking a motorhome in Austria is difficult in towns and cities but easy in the countryside. Austrian’s like rules and rules must be followed, so take note of the car park rules or the street restrictions, as fines will be issued. It is worth noting that street parking is only permitted on the right of the street and not permitted in front of yellow or red road markings. Do not double park, block the road or disobey a sign because Austrian’s will not tolerate rule breakers they will just phone the police and they will deal with you, firmly. Many a time we spotted the Italian motor homer waving his hands to try and debate their way out of a parking fine.
Most of the city parking is paid during the hours of 9 in the morning and 9 in the evening with a maximum duration of 1 to 2 hours. Park and ride options can be more cost effective and less hassle.
If you are travelling along the dual carriageway or motorway you will find plenty rest areas with parking options.
You must be 18 years old and have a valid UK driving licence, insurance, proof of ID and vehicle documents in order to drive in Austria. A pink format or photo card UK licence is accepted. If you don’t own the vehicle you’re driving, you should get written permission from the registered owner.
Your vehicle number plate must indicate the country of registration. If not, you need to purchase a country (i.e. GB) sticker and place on the rear of the motorhome. Radar detectors are not permitted.
You must form an emergency corridor as soon as traffic ceases to progress and congestion is imminent on motorways or dual carriageways and highways, regardless of whether emergency vehicles are already in the vicinity or not
You need to carry warning triangle, first aid kit, reflective jacket, head lamp beam deflectors.
You must winterise your vehicle which means winter tyres or snow chains between November and April.
If driving on the motorway, you must carry a toll sticker or vagnette (see below). Failure to have one will mean a heavy, on-the-spot fine. You can get a motorway vignette at all major border crossings into Austria and at larger petrol stations.
Driving regulations: we use AA or RAC for up to date driving regulations & restrictions.
The roads in Austria are excellent and well maintained just remember that all Austrian motorways (‘Autobahn’) and ‘S’ roads are subject to toll. Before we entered Austria we thought a lot of the roads were toll only and it would be impossible to cross the country without having to pay extortionate tolls. When in fact, a lot of the Austrian roads are free and it is very easy to drive around the country without the use of motorways or tolls just set your GPS system to ‘avoid’ tolls and off you go.
You drive on the right hand side of the road and all speed limits are shown in kilometres.
Motorway: 130 km/h
Open road : 100 km/h
Town : 50 km/h
There are 4 types of roads
A – motorways or autobahn
S – dual carriageways or schnellstraße
L or LB – B road or landesstraße.
P – private road
Please note that tunnels can also carry a toll charge.
The Austrian GO BOX
We found the vignette ticket and Go Box completely confusing. We researched before we entered Austria, we phoned the Go Box customer service and we even asked Austrian people but still, it did not make any sense. Some people say you need it and some said you don’t but when it came to the basic question of why do need one no then one could answer the question. So, we aired on the side of caution and on our 1st visit we purchased a prepaid Go Box at Brenner boarder crossing for about €80. Expensive..yip but that was not the end. From here it went down hill. The registration of the Go Box then needs to be completed on-line and the documentation you need to send was endless. We had a big problem with the proof of euro class as we just did not have proof…our old motorhome was made before euro class system came in to force, so we had no documented proof. The manufacturers would not issue for older vehicles but instead they sent us a link which provided ‘generic’ proof of the class. However, the Go Box customer service did not care and would not do anything without a document showing the exact class for the registered vehicle. In fact, they threatened fine us if we did not submit within a given timeframe. Ultimately, this timeframe became our exit date from Austria and the return the unused, unloved and unfriendly Go Box. Thankfully, we got our money back excluding a small administration fee.
Whilst in Austria, we asked the police the exact rules on the Go Box and Vignette system. If you do not use the motorway or toll roads then you do not need, it is purely to use the Austrian toll system. The non toll roads are excellent and it means you get to see more of the beautiful countryside. However, if you wish to use the toll system then you must
- If your vehicle is under 3.5 tons then you buy a sticker and place in your window. The rates vary dependant on the duration of your stay but check out the rates here http://www.asfinag.at/toll/toll-sticker
- If your vehicle is over 3.5 tons then you will need to purchase a Go Box. The actual website for the http://www.asfinag.at/toll/toll-for-hgv-and-bus
You can buy fuel from a supermarket station or fuel station. We found fuel stations to be grouped together on the edge of a town or near the retail parks. In Austria, the fuel stations seemed to be a lot more competitive than the rest of Europe with prices the same if not a little bit cheaper than the supermarkets. Increasing more popular are the self serve stations where you insert your card or cash before you fill up.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, although they probably won’t work at automatic pumps. At many garages in rural areas only automatic pumps are available at lunch time, during the evening and weekend, so make sure you’re topped up. It’s a good idea to let your card issuer know you will be travelling abroad. This ensures they don’t suspend your card if they spot it being used in unfamiliar places, which they sometimes do as an anti-fraud measure.
Your tank must be EN1949 European Standard compliant. To fill your cylinders you will need a dish connector or ACME connector. LPG is readily available across Austria and we never had a problem finding it at most fuel stations and sometimes referred to as autogas or LPG
Austria is well known for a generous social system. Although spending has been reduced in recent years, you will still find very good healthcare and a strong social security system. There is an extensive network of hospitals and doctors covering even the remotest areas of Austria. If you are a tourist or just staying temporarily in Austria coming from a European Union country you are automatically entitled to free basic health care due to reciprocal agreements among EU countries.
You need to apply for a European Health Insurance Card, which simplifies the procedure when receiving medical assistance. Note that this health card is not an alternative to travel insurance, so private costs are not covered by this card.