About Austria

The listed services are just a few companies and products that we have heard of. This list is by far not a complete list of service providers in Austria. We haven’t tested all of these services, we cannot guarantee that they are cheap, good or even available. IAESTE Austria is in no way affiliated with the companies providing these services.

Train

VORTEILScard <26 for 19,90 EUR is a discount card which would give you a discount of 45%-50% of all trips (50% if you buy yourself on the machine or in the internet) and 45% when you are going to the ticket counter. If you are owner of this card, you can buy the „summerticket“ for 69 Euro which is an all-inclusive-ticket for all trains within the borders of Austria. You must be under 26 years then you can buy this ticket for 69 Euro. When are you plus 26 years, it costs you 100 Euro. Just go to a ticket counter and bring a passport photo and valid id with you. To fill out the form and to queue takes some time, so do not buy the ticket right before your journey.

Summerticket: To get the Summerticket you need the „VORTEILScard <26“. The Summerticket costs 69 Euro and with this ticket you can travel from 30. June to 09. September 2012 for free within the border of Austria. The ticket is valid from Monday – Friday from 8 – 24 o’clock, on whole Saturday, Sunday and Holidays. So during the week you are not allowed to enter the train before 8 in the morning with this ticket. Just go to a ticket counter or to a ticket machine and bring your VORTEILSCard with you. So if you want to go e.g. from Vienna to Bratislava and you have a Summerticket, you have to pay only from the border of Austria to Bratislava. Just ask the guy at the ticket counter.

SparSchiene: With SparSchiene ticket you can travel to many European cities already starting from 19 Euro.

Westbahn: Going from Vienna in western direction (e.g. Linz, Salzburg), there is now a private rail company that competes with the Austrian National Railway. The prices are sometimes cheapter, depending on your age and your discount cards. https://westbahn.at/ (link is external)

Airlines

If you want to take a plane, check out some metasearcher

But you should also check the websites of the airlines directly

National Calls

Some cheap options for national calls:

http://www.bob.at – cost: 15 Euro inclunding 100 free minutes. (you have to buy a EUR 10 coupon within the first 4 weeks, otherwise your account will get deactivated). The prepaid card option costs you 6,8 Euro Cents per Minute. The contract version is 4 Euro Cents per minute. You can buy bob at post.at, saturn, mediamarkt, niedermeyer, schlecker, hartlauer, libro, interspar. A data plan is also available for 4 Euro / GB.

http://www.yesss.at – it is similar to bob, 9 Euro including 90 free minites with the same costs per minute but yesss is offering also an international package with good rates to over 50 countries worldwide. You can get yesss at the supermarket Hofer (visit hofer.at).

Other providers:

a1.net
t-mobile.at
drei.at

International Calls

„eety“ is a special sim card for international phone calls. you can buy it e.g. at hartlauer, libro, post.at, niedermeyer, petrol stations, billa. www.eety.at/

For cheap international calls with your Austrian mobile e.g. http://www.voipbuster.commay be an option. It offers VOIP calls with your mobile starting from 8ct/min (incl. dial-in). For more information please visit the operators’s home page.

From your computer use e.g. www.skype.com, just search for „skype out“

Internet

In gerneral, you can access internet by WLAN in your dormitory for free or for a small fee (EUR 20 / month). In addition mobile phone operators (see above) offer mobile internet in mobile data plans or prepaid at very reasonable rates (starting at EUR 10 for 10 GB per month). Currently drei.at has a special offer called „iniative 100%“: free mobile internet limited with 20 MB / day. Good enough for checking mails; the SIM cards are available at eg Libro or Niedermeyer. Austrian bank account required. Additional data volume is available for EUR 4 / GB.

Customs and habits in Austria

Tips: It is common to give tips to waiters, taxi drivers and hair dressers. Typically the tip amounts to up to 10% of the bill. In general you give tips by announcing the total amount you want to pay, so don’t just leave money on the table and walk away.

Cash: You should always bring enough cash. In many bars and restaurants it’s not possible to pay with credit cards. There are many ATMs in the cities, whereas they can be quite scarce on the countryside.

Opening hours: Opening hours of stores are strictly regulated. Shops open from Mon-Fri until 20.00, SAT until 18.00. SUN closed.

Dress code: In general there is no dress code for public places. Only in churches and similar places you should cover your shoulders and knees. If you want to visit special events like operas or classical concerts, elegant clothing will be required.

Punctuality: Austrians place great emphasis on punctuality, so you will also be expected to be on time. If you are supposed to meet someone at 9:00, then you should be there at 9:00. If it’s not possible for you to show up on time then inform the other person immediately, apologize and give a reason for your delay – especially regarding work.

Titles: Many Austrians are very formal. They are often possessed with academic titles; also, it is not common to address strangers and colleagues by their first name in the beginning. So stay formal: if you know that a person has an academic degree use it (especially in emails) unless the person asks you to omit it and use the surname unless the respective person offers you to use the first name (then you can of course drop the title too).

Fire alarm: There is a public fire sirens test every Saturday at 12:00pm in all of Austria except in Vienna. Don’t be scared 🙂

Shop opening times: Most supermarkets are open from Monday to Saturday from 7:30am or 8:00am till 7:00pm or 7:30pm. Most of the other shops are open from Monday to Saturday from 9:00am to 6:00 or 7:00pm. All shops are normally closed on Sundays, there are just a few exceptions – ask in your LC if you need one.

Working times: People usually work from Monday to Friday 8 hours per day. Normally work starts between 8am and 9am and ends between 5pm and 6pm (one hour lunch break in between).

Meals: Austrians usually have three main meals – breakfast (between 7:00am and 9:00am), lunch (between 12:00pm and 2pm) and dinner (between 6pm and 8pm). Many restaurants offer lunch specials, which are usually quite cheap.

Equality: Antidiscrimination laws aim to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, gender, marital status, homosexuality, and physical and mental disabilities. That means amongst others that women have the same rights and opportunities as men and homosexuality is perfectly legal.

There are special laws prohibiting National Socialist activities. It is considered an offence to trivialize, deny, legitimate or approve National Socialism. Moreover, it’s not advisable to make fun of Hitler and the NS time in public.

Hygiene: Spitting is considered to be very rude, even on the streets. If you need to clear your nose, you should use a handkerchief or tissue. It is against the law to urinate, defecate or to be sexually indecent in public. When using western style toilets you should sit. Here and in most European countries people use toilet paper after using the toilet and flush it. They also clean it if necessary. Sanitary pads or tampons should not be flushed down the toilet.

Austria is a very safe and clean country 🙂 Moreover, it is a is a very well developed country, the living standard is very high. Mobile reception is available almost everywhere. Most modern restaurants and bars offer WLAN for free.

Greeting: People usually shake hands when they meet.

Couples often don’t hide their relationship in public. Kissing or holding hands in public is very common.

If you talk to people look into their eyes. Averting the eyes is considered to be impolite. In some cultures it is an insult if someone gives you something with the left hand – in Austria it makes no difference. Austrian people sometimes touch others when talking to them but they don’t like it when you stand too close to them.

Directness: Austrians tend to be quite direct, which can sometimes seem awkward if you’re not used to it. Don’t be offended when issues might be embarrassing to you, just say “I would rather not talk about that”.

Saying thank you: When somebody does you a favour, you’re expected to express your gratitude. You should always say thank you to people (in German: „Danke“), even if they are just doing their job. Unlike in other languages, usually there is no reply to „thank you“ (i.e. Austrians will frequently not say „You’re welcome“ (or „Bitte“ in German)).

Social invitations: An invitation to a restaurant usually means, “We’d like you to come with us, but we’ll all be paying for ourselves.” Of course, colleagues and acquaintances might insist on paying the bill, but you should not rely on that. Always bring enough money!

Music: In almost every city you’ll have the opportunity to visit classical concerts, operas,… During summertime there are excellent classical music festivals in many places. In general there are many summer festivals and open air parties during this time.

Architecture: The heritage of the former dual monarchy is omnipresent. You can find beautiful romantic and gothic buildings as well as many wonderful baroque masterpieces all over the country.

Food: Typical Austrian cuisine is rather substantial, consisting of large amounts of meat, often fried, and sweet dishes. To digest you might well need a Schnapserl (strong distilled alcohol) – at least that’s what the locals will tell you.

Clothes: Traditional clothes are called “Dirndl” for women and “Lederhosn” for men. People mostly wear them to entertain tourists, except for the countryside, where traditional clothing is still more common.

Alps: You can enjoy natural beauty and diversity in the alps, which spread across many regions – hiking and Skiing in the alps are very popular all over the year.

Balls: The most famous ball in the world is the Vienna opera ball. However, there are many other balls in the whole country mostly during carnival time (11.11. – mid of February) or in spring.

Water: Tap water has a very high quality. You can use it as drinking water without any risks.

International Student Identity Card (ISIC): With this card you often get reductions at cinemas, theatres, concerts, public baths, etc. In general you should always ask if it’s possible to get a student discount.

Tickets: It’s sometimes necessary to buy tickets for public transport before the start of the journey. Always inform yourself before you enter a train or bus, otherwise it can be very expensive.

Trains: For timetables and other information see www.oebb.at (link is external). There is a reduction card for students (“euro<26”) which enables you to travel up to half-prize.

Drinking habits: If you’re over 18 you are allowed to drink every kind of alcohol. Before Austrians drink the first sip, they usually raise their glasses and say “Prost” to each other, cling the glasses and look each other in the eyes while doing that.

Smokers: You’re allowed to smoke cigarettes from the age of 16. Restaurants usually have to offer a special non-smoking room. If there’s an ashtray on the table you’re allowed to smoke otherwise if there’s no non-smoking sign you’ve to ask whether it’s allowed or not.

Important Phone Numbers:
Fire department 122
Police department 133
Ambulance 144
First-aid doctor 141

Finally, you should know that in general Austrians are quite liberal and relaxed. Many foreigners live here – that means people are used to other cultures and lifestyles. So normally, you won’t get into troubles if you break one of these rules. Don’t be afraid 🙂

Taxes and Tax return in Austria

When it comes to taxation in Austria, many people have the feeling that tax rates are too high and tax laws are too complicated. At least in your case high taxation rates can be fought by filing a tax return or claiming VAT in certain circumstances. The following article will give you a brief overview on taxation in Austria relevant for trainees and employees from abroad. It is not be understood as a tax consultancy service. The provided information is based on the tax legislation in force as at May 2013.

Please note: Pursuant to local legislation IAESTE must not give advise on taxation in any kind. Do not rely on the information furnished below without seeking advise from a professional tax consultant. The information provided is not complete and/or may not outline specific matters relevant for you.

As a trainee/employee from abroad you will be taxed as employee pursuant to Austrian Income Tax Act (AIT). As a rule, the tax and the social insurance contribution is levied by way of withholding by the employer.

Relevant for your tax situtation is, whether you are a limited taxpayer or an unlimited taxpayer in Austria. As unlimited taxpayer the worldwide income you generate (eg wages, capital gains,…) – for the term you have the unlimted taxpayer status in Austria – is in principal subject to taxation in Austria (exemptions are likely). As limited taxpayer only income with connection to Austria is subject to taxation in Austria (eg. wages from employed work in Austria).

Am I a limited or unlimited taxpayer?

This question requires an analysis of your situation. Nevertheless, some examples:

  • your work contract is 4 months, only, and you intend to leave Austria after the term => (in general) limited taxpayer (according to tax literature)
  • your work contract is longer than 6 months and you have a permanent residence in Austria (eg rented appartment) => unlimited taxpayer (in principle)
  • you spent more than 183 days per year in Austria => unlimited taxpayer (in principle)

Taxation regime for Unlimited Taxpayers

  • it is mandatory to annouce your status as unlimited taxpayer to the relevant tax office within 30 days. No special form required. Failing in doing so, might result in a fine of up to EUR 5,000 and more
  • in principle worldwide income is subject to Austrian taxation (many exemptions)
  • advantage: income of EUR 11,000 p.a. is free of taxes
  • not required to file tax return
  • if you earn less than EUR 11,000 p.a. and/or if you have high deductible expenses, filing of tax return is recommended

Taxation regime for Limited Taxpayers

  • voluntary filing of tax return for non-self-employed income
  • if tax return is filed an amount of EUR 9,000 is added to your income
  • advantage: income from foreign sources is in general not subject to Austrian taxation. Only „Austrian“ income will be taxed.
  • filing of a tax return is in general not recommended for limited tax payers

Opting-in as unlimited taxpayer

Limited taxpayers may opt-in to be deemed an unlimted taxpayer in Austria, if the following prerequisits are met:

  • Austrian income >90% of worldwide income or foreign income < EUR 11,000 (foreign tax office must confirm income)
  • Filing of application for unlimited taxpayer status
  • In general only for EU or EEA (Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein) citizens

Does it pay off to file a tax return?

For unlimted taxpayers or those who can opt-in as unlimted taxpayers:

  • In general the more you earn, the higher your potential return is.
  • If you earn around EUR 1000 a month, you would often get a return of EUR 110, only.

Limited taxpayers:

For non-self-employed income, filing is not mandatory and in general not recommend

How do I claim the potential tax return?

In general the tax return must be filed using a online tool from the financial authorities after year end (Finanzonline). In order to receive the maximum return, it might be required to deduct additional expenses from your income. Please note that there might be bilateral agreements between your home country and Austria; such agreement will include additional rules regarding taxation.

Please let us know in time if you intend to file a tax return to make sure you have access to neccessary information.

Do I need a tax advisor to file the return?

Not neccessarily, there is no legal obligation to use such services. Please be aware that the Austrian nominal tax rate is comparable high, on the other hand Austrian tax law offers many examptions and tax deductible items, which you may take advantage of. Especially, if you moved to Austria for working it is advisable to seek professional tax consultation in order to reduce your tax burden. In addition, the fee for tax consulting services are tax deductible if paid during your term in Austria (advance payment possible). The fee for tax consulting services will range from about 250 to 400,- EUR, therefore please estimate your potential tax return (see table above), whether it pays off to engage a tax advisor.

Tourists including trainees might be eligible to claim VAT on purchases in the European Union upon departure under the following conditions:

  • no residence within the European Union (data in passport is relevant)
  • export in the personal luggage
  • bill/invoice exceeds 75,- EUR (incl VAT)
  • export within 3 months after purchase

In practice the process is as follows: after shopping tell the shop assistant that you are a tourist and he/she will fill-in the applicable form „U34“ for you. Upon departure this form has to be presented to the EU customs officers at the airport or at the outer-border of the European Union (when travelling by car or train) and you will receive a customs stamp. The stamped form must be returned to the shop, and you will receive the VAT return.

Many tourists use also the services of companies specialized in VAT returns such as global-blue or taxfreeworldwide.

In most cases you will be obliged to declare customs and settle import VAT once you return to your non-EU home country.