You can live like a king in a real castle in Austria or get by on a modest budget. Starting at the lower end, you can find a room in a private house or on a farm, or dormitory space in a youth hostel. Next up the line come the simpler pensions, many of them identified as a Frühstückspensionen (bed-and-breakfasts). Then come Gasthäuser, the simpler country inns. Fancier pensions in cities can often cost as much as hotels; the difference lies in the services they offer. Most pensions, for example, do not staff the front desk around the clock. Among the hotels, you can find accommodations ranging from the most modest, with a shower and toilet down the hall, to the most elegant, with every possible amenity. Increasingly, more and more hotels in the lower to middle price range are including breakfast with the basic room charge, but check when booking. Room rates for hotels in the rural countryside can often include breakfast and one other meal (in rare cases, all three meals are included).
Lodgings in Austria are generally rated from one to five stars, depending mainly on the facilities offered and the price of accommodation rather than on more subjective attributes like charm and location. In general, five-star properties are top of the line, with every conceivable amenity and priced accordingly. The distinctions get blurrier the further down the rating chain you go. There may be little difference between a two- and three-star property except perhaps the price. In practice, don't rely heavily on the star system, and always try to see the hotel and room before you book. That's said, lodging standards are generally very good, and even in one- and two-star properties you can usually be guaranteed a clean room and a private bath.
These German words might come in handy when booking a room: air-conditioning (Klimaanlage); private bath (Privatbad); bathtub (Badewanne); shower (Dusche); double bed (Doppelbett); twin beds (Einzelbetten).
All hotels listed in this guide have private bath unless otherwise noted. Lodging price categories from to $$$$ are defined in the Where to Stay sections of the Vienna and Salzburg chapters and in the opening pages of each regional chapter.
Most hotels and other lodgings require you to give your credit-card details before they will confirm your reservation. If you don't feel comfortable e-mailing this information, ask if you can fax it (some places even prefer faxes). However you book, get confirmation in writing and have a copy of it handy when you check in.
Be sure you understand the hotel's cancellation policy. Some places allow you to cancel without any kind of penalty—even if you prepaid to secure a discounted rate—if you cancel at least 24 hours in advance. Others require you to cancel a week in advance or penalize you the cost of one night. Small inns and B&Bs are most likely to require you to cancel far in advance. Most hotels allow children under a certain age to stay in their parents' room at no extra charge, but others charge for them as extra adults; find out the cutoff age for discounts.
Assume that hotels operate on the European Plan (EP, no meals) unless we specify that they use the Breakfast Plan (BP, with full breakfast), Continental Plan (CP, continental breakfast), Full American Plan (FAP, all meals), or Modified American Plan (MAP, breakfast and dinner), or are all-inclusive (AI, all meals and most activities).
Vienna Tourist Information (01/24555. www.wien.info.)
Apartment & House Rentals
Rentals are an important part of the accommodations mix in Austria, with one-, two- or four-week rentals becoming increasing popular. Most of the rental properties are owned privately by individuals, and often the main rental organizers are simply the local tourist offices. For rental apartments in Vienna, check out www.apartment.at or www.netland.at/wien/.
Schlosshotels und Herrenhäuser in Österreich, or "Castle Hotels and Mansions in Austria," is an association of castles and palaces that have been converted into hotels. The quality of the accommodation varies with the property, but many have been beautifully restored and can be a memorable alternative to standard hotels. The Web site is in English and has plenty of photos. The association also links a scattering of castles in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Italy.
Schlosshotels und Herrenhäuser in Österreich (62/459-0123. www.schlosshotels.co.at.)
With a direct home exchange you stay in someone else's home while they stay in yours. Some outfits also deal with vacation homes, so you're not actually staying in someone's full-time residence, just their vacant weekend place.
Home Exchange.com (800/877-8723. www.homeexchange.com. $119.40 for a 1-year silver membership.)
HomeLink International (800/638-3841. www.homelink.org. $119 for a 1-year membership.)
Intervac U.S. (800/756-4663. www.intervac-homeexchange.com. $99 for 1-year membership.)
Austria has more than 100 government-sponsored youth hostels, for which you need an HI membership card. Inexpensively priced, these hostels are run by the Österreichischer Jugendherbergsverband and are popular with the back-pack crowd, so be sure to reserve in advance.
Hostelling International—USA (301/495-1240. www.hiusa.org.)
Österreichischer Jugendherbergsverband (01/533-5353. www.oejhv.at.)
Local Do's & Taboos
Customs of the Country
Austrians are keen observers of social niceties, and there are strongly embedded cultural norms for guiding behavior in all sorts of public interactions, ranging from buying a piece of meat at the butcher's (be extremely polite) to offering your seat on the metro to an elderly or disabled person. In general, always err of the side of extreme politeness and deference (particularly to age).
Greetings are an important part of day-to-day interaction with strangers. On entering a shop, for example, it's customary to say Grüss Gott or Guten Tag, "good day," to the shopkeeper as if he or she were an old friend. Don't forget to say a hearty Auf Wiedersehen, good-bye, on leaving. Austrians do like their academic titles. PhDs go as "Frau/Herr Doktor"; those who have earned M.A.s or M.S.s are addressed as "Frau/Herr Magister."
Out on the Town
In restaurants it's not uncommon to have to share a table with strangers—particularly in crowded places at meal times. You're not expected to make conversation across the table, but you should at least offer a tip-of-the-hat Grüss Gott when sitting down and a farewell Auf Wiedersehen on leaving. When your neighbor's food arrives, turn and wish him or her Mahlzeit, literally "meal time," the Austrian-German equivalent of "Bon Appetit." When it comes to table manners, there are a few departures from standard American practice (beyond how one holds a knife and fork). Toothpicks are sometimes found on restaurant tables, and it is normal to see people clean their teeth after a meal, discreetly covering their mouth with their free hand. Austria is a dog-loving society, and you will often find dogs accompanying their masters to restaurants.
If you have the pleasure of being invited to someone's home for a meal, it's customary to bring a small gift, like a bouquet of flowers or a nice bottle of wine.
Austrians tend to be far more comfortable with public nudity than Americans. Women routinely remove their tops on public beaches and sauna facilities at hotels and resorts with saunas are usually used in the buff by both sexes and the towel is optional.
German is the official language in Austria. One of the best ways to avoid being an Ugly American is to learn a little of the local language. In larger cities and most resort areas you will usually have no problem finding people who speak English; hotel employees in particular speak it reasonably well, and many young Austrians speak it at least passably. However, travelers do report that they often find themselves in stores, restaurants, and railway and bus stations where it's hard to find someone who speaks English—so it's best to have some native phrases up your sleeve. Note that all public announcements on trams, subways, and buses are in German. Train announcements are usually given in English as well, but if you have any questions, try to get answers before boarding.
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