COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
Austria is a highly developed stable democracy with a modern economy.
Austria remains largely free of terrorist incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Austria's open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.
Austria has a low crime rate, and violent crime is rare. However, crimes involving theft of personal property have increased in recent years. Travelers can become targets of pickpockets and purse-snatchers who operate where tourists tend to gather. Some of the most frequently reported spots include Vienna's two largest train stations, the plaza around St. Stephan's Cathedral and the nearby pedestrian shopping areas (in Vienna's First District).
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Austrian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Austria are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad.
Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Good medical care is widely available. The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Austria is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:
Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Excellent
Road conditions in Austria are generally excellent. During the winter, however, roads in alpine areas may become dangerous due to snowfall, ice, or avalanches. Some mountain roads may be closed for extended periods and tire chains are often required. Drivers should exercise caution during the heavily traveled vacation periods (December-February, Easter, July-August). Extra caution is recommended when driving through autobahn construction zones, particularly on the A-1 East/West Autobahn. Reduced lanes and two-way traffic in these zones have resulted in several deadly accidents in recent years. Traffic information and road conditions are broadcast on the English language channel fm4, located between 91 and 105 FM depending on the locale.
A U.S. driver's license alone is not sufficient to drive in Austria. The U.S. driver's license must be accompanied by an international driver's permit (obtainable in the U.S. from American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance) or by an official translation of the U.S. driver's license, which can be obtained at one of the Austrian automobile clubs (OAMTC or ARBO). This arrangement is only acceptable for the first six months of driving in Austria, after which all drivers must obtain an Austrian license.
Austria requires all vehicles using the autobahn to display a highway tax sticker "Autobahn Vignette" on the inside windshield of the vehicle. The sticker may be purchased at border crossings, gas stations in Austria, as well as small "Tabak" shops located in Austrian towns. Fines for failing to display a valid autobahn vignette on the windshield of your car are usually around $120.00.
Austrian autobahns have a maximum speed limit of 130 km/hr, although drivers often drive much faster and pass aggressively. The use of hand-held cell phones while driving is prohibited. Turning right on red is also prohibited throughout Austria. The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Austria is.05 percent and penalties for driving under the influence tend to be stricter than in many U.S. states.
Tourists driving rented vehicles should pay close attention to the provisions of their rental contract. Many contracts prohibit drivers from taking rented vehicles into eastern European countries. Drivers attempting to enter countries listed as "prohibited" on the car rental contract may be arrested, fined, and/or charged with attempted auto theft. The vehicle can be held by Austrian police for the car rental company.
Emergency roadside help and information may be reached by dialing 123 or 120 for vehicle assistance and towing services (Austrian Automobile Clubs), 122 for the fire department, 133 for police, and 144 for ambulance.
For specific information concerning Austrian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Austrian government website at
Additional official tourist information can be obtained from the Austrian national tourist office website at
and by telephone in New York at 212-944-6885 or in Los Angeles at 818-999-4030.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Austria's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Austria's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
Please also refer to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.
June 25, 2004