You've probably heard that Austria's tech industry is on the rise. Over the past fifteen years, nearly 3,000 startups have sprouted not just in Vienna but throughout the country, leaving many in the expat community pondering, “what’s it like living in Austria?”
While Austria was ranked as the world's second most liveable country in 2019 due to its economic stability, public education, healthcare, and safety measures, many expats find that initially moving to Austria can be a bit isolating and challenging. This guide is designed to help you understand the basics of living in Austria before you make your decision.
Austria ranks #3 on the 2022 EF English Proficiency Index, meaning the Austrians virtually handle English as a second language. The country is used to receiving almost 40 million tourists per year, meaning its museums, restaurants, and cinemas operate within a bilingual system. Still, German is their national language. So investing time in learning the language is always recommended, especially when looking for jobs.
Knowing how to speak German can open up more job and school opportunities for you. But there's a tricky part — Austria, has its own way of speaking German that's a bit different from the pronunciation you’d find in Berlin or Cologne. Many expats agree that, even though they know a bit of German, the Austrian dialect and accent differ from how they speak in Germany, making it hard to understand at first.
Whether you are looking into an alpine cottage or a studio flat in the city, renting a property in Austria is a fairly easy process for an expat, as real estate agents usually lead it. Renting so easily in Austria seems like a fitting outcome for a country historically so invested in social housing.
If you intend to stay for less than three months in Austria, we highly recommend looking into sublet apartments, which basically means the leaseholder rents the property to a third-party wanting to and gives you the possibility to relocate before the duration of your lease has finished. The famous Berlin WG lodging, shorthand for Wohngemeinschaften, is even a legally typified figure endorsed by the Austrian government.
But, if you intend to stay for a longer run, there is a three-year duration tenancy law for all primary lease agreements. This means that if you would like to relocate, you should give your tenant at least a three-month notice. So, before you look into that type of commitment, make sure to have everything you need: from paperwork to securing furnish (as most flats and houses are rented unfurnished).
Paperwork needed to rent:
- Proof of employment
- Rental history
- Security bond
Agencies that specialise in expat rentals:
- Crown Consulting: helps with rental property searches and the registration of residence permits and relocation
- Immototal: a European real estate agency located in Vienna, which specializes in rentals of luxury real estate (flats, apartments, homes, houses, plots of land) throughout the country
- Knight Frank: an international letting agent with a presence in Austria
- TempoFLAT: specialized in furnished apartments and temporary accommodations
Vienna’s eastern location on the European map makes it a close neighbour to Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital. With more than twenty daily train departures, an hour-long journey and €12, could allow you to rent in Bratislava, where a flat might be 20% cheaper, and working in Vienna, provided you can cover the transportation expenses (and don’t mind getting your mind snarled up by the daily language switch).
Getting a SIM card upon arrival is the cheapest option for anyone staying longer than three months. Plus, it’ll be essential when applying for jobs.
To get a SIM card, you’ll need to show proof of your identity (passport or driving licence). There are three main Austrian operators, each with their network: A1, 3 (Drei), and Magenta (formerly T-Mobile). The initial expenses for a SIM card in Austria include: a one-time activation fee (ranging from €49.90 to €69.99), and an annual cost (€27 to €34.90).
However, if you're going to be in Austria for more than a year, looking into monthly plans is always a good idea. All the previously mentioned telecom businesses offer plans that range in price and bonuses. Let’s break them down:
- A1: Despite being a bit more expensive than the rest (€18.90 per month), most of the Austrian SIM cards operate on the A1 network, making it the leader in Austria’s telecom industry. Its monthly package provides data and 5G across Austria and in other EU countries.
- 3 (Drei): This is the most affordable option, as expats monthly plans cost €12.90 and include unlimited calls and messages, 40GB in Austria, and 10GB within the EU. Those under the age of 27 can access the MyLife SIM plan for only €9.90 per month
- Magenta: At €15 per month their Mobile SIM Only S plan is also a good alternative, considering that it is the second largest network provider in Austria. However, some expats note that its 4G connection is somewhat flaky in some parts of the country,
Whether you want to open a current account, a savings account, a joint account, or get a credit card, these are the documents you’ll need:
- Proof of identity (for example, your passport)
- Proof of residency (such as a Residency Registration Form or utility bills)
- Proof of employment (an official job contract)
The most common online banking options in Austria are N26, Raiffeisen Landesbank, and Revolut.
Setting up an Austrian bank account will help you sort out your money and start enjoying your new place. If you are an EU/EEA citizen, opening a bank account will be much easier as some banks allow non-residents to open accounts and manage funds in all currencies, check the most up-to-date exchange rates, and send money in foreign currencies. But note, that you'll have to visit the bank in person to do this. If they require an appointment, don’t be late.
Having a Wise account is always a good idea as it has a dual option of receiving and transferring money worldwide without commissions. It’s not a bank, so use it as a backup or transfer option once you got your bank account set up.
*Note that all costs can vary depending on the city or trip length.
Austrian has a great public network of trains, trams, and buses — all options are relatively cheap. Trains are the main way to get around the country. ÖBB (which has a punctuality rate of 97%) and Westbahn are the two main companies to book trains and move around. Postbus operates bus services to smaller towns and regional areas. Booking platforms, such as Omio, work well for long-distance trips. Another pro is that most transport services in Austria work a 24/7 clock. Biking is also really popular in bigger cities like Vienna, Graz, and Salzburg.
Food & Drink
Austrian cuisine is known for its hearty and flavourful dishes, which some visitors commit the heresy of calling “German” dishes (Belgians who stand by their French fries can relate). Some popular Austrian foods include Wiener Schnitzel (a breaded and fried veal or pork cutlet), Sachertorte (a famous chocolate cake), Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) — yes, as in that legendary Inglourious Basterds scene — and various types of sausages. In addition, Austria has a strong coffee culture, with coffee houses (or Kaffeehäuser) serving a wide range of specialities. The Turks introduced coffee to Vienna in the XVII century and the Austrians, for their part, introduced it to Europe. So it’s no wonder the Starbucks proliferation in the Austrian capital is still considered a sacrilege.
Food prices in Austria can differ depending on where you eat and your location. Eating out at restaurants is generally more expensive compared to some other countries, particularly in larger cities like Vienna and Salzburg. However, there are also affordable options available, such as local cafés and casual eateries, which can be found in smaller towns. Innsbruck, for example, is renowned for its bakeries and cake shops.
Grocery shopping is typically reasonably priced, especially if you prefer cooking at home. The cost of dining out in Austria depends on the type of cuisine and the level of luxury. To save money, you can enjoy a budget meal at a local restaurant for around €10 to €15 per person, while a mid-range meal might cost between €20 to €40 per person.
Wages and Cost of Living
Austria’s strong economy and stability are definitely reflected in its average salary, which is around €31,407, annually. The country has a high monthly cost of living of €1,500, making it one of the highest in the EU. Nonetheless, it’s manageable with the high-income salaries the country and industries provide.
For a single person, having a monthly income ranging from €2,500 to €3,500 can provide a comfortable standard of living in Austria. If you have a family of three, a monthly income between €4,000 and €5,000 is needed for a comfortable life.
Summing it up, living in Austria isn't budget-friendly. The cost of living here is above the global average, mainly because things like housing and utilities are pricier. However, Austria offers an exceptional quality of life, with great healthcare, education, safety, and cultural experiences, which often make the higher costs worth it.
Austria is clearly a prosperous country in many aspects, and it would make it an even place to be at if Austrians were warm and sociable. Unfortunately, some expats may experience a sense of loneliness, as Austrians tend to be more reserved compared to people in other nations, which is reflected in Austria's low ranking for Local Friendliness in the Expat Insider 2023 survey.
Yet, there are ways to connect with Austrians and enjoy your time here. If you're an outdoor enthusiast, you can bond with locals through activities like hiking, skiing, and cycling in the stunning Alpine surroundings. Austrian culture also shines in its celebration of local traditions, with no less than 13 public holidays to enjoy. Predictably, due to its ties to Bavaria, Austria has its very own version of Oktoberfest, the Wiener WIESN-Fest.
Austrians value politeness and punctuality, and you'll find that being respectful and on time is highly regarded in their society. The DACH region can agree on this one: being called into a job interview and not showing up early is considered rude. So better iron your shirts the day before your meeting!
How safe is Austria?
According to the Global Peace Index 2021, Austria ranks as the ninth-safest country in the world. It has a low crime rate, high-quality health care, and a stable political environment. Crime levels are generally low. However, petty crime does happen, particularly pickpocketing, in touristic centres and city parks after dark. It’s just a matter of being conscious of your belongings and overall surroundings. Some Reddit users have commented that the most harassed they’ve ever been was being shouted at in a park, at night. Not bad.
It is also safe for women living or travelling alone, as many expats note that Austrians, mainly, tend to be polite, calm, and well-mannered people who don’t force their way into your personal space or behave inappropriately. But, like anywhere in the world, the following tips apply: don’t leave bars or nightclubs with people you do not know. Don’t take hard-won euros out of ATMs while standing on the side walk late at night. Moreover, don’t get drunk like the Before Sunrise tourists do.
For expats relocating to Austria, the country’s healthcare is excellent, affordable, and accessible to everyone within its borders, meaning for all legal residents, no matter their age or income bracket. Tourists and temporary visitors can access Austria's healthcare; however, they may pay total price. In fact, healthcare in Austria is renowned throughout Europe and the world for its high quality and universality. Your biggest (but unlikely) concern will be making sure someone at your doctor’s office speaks English.
Austria has three main health insurance companies: ÖGK (Austrian Health Insurance), SVS (Social Insurance for the Self-Employed), and BVAEB (Insurance Institution for Public Employees, Railways, and Mining). So it's highly possible that most doctors and practitioners have contracts with more than one health insurance. When this happens, you’ll need to present your social insurance e-card, which allows the doctor to bill their services directly to your provider. Plus, the Austrian e-card system allows doctors to upload their prescriptions electronically.
In the event you suffer a medical emergency without having health insurance, some hospitals, such as Brothers of Mercy in Vienna, treat people who are not insured. And you can always contact the telephone hotline at 1450 which will tell you what to do and where it is best to go. Lastly, select drug stores are open 24/7 across Austria, you would just need to check which Nachtapotheke is open and operating closer to you.
Right now, Austria doesn't have a special visa for digital nomads. But if you're from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, you have a good deal. You can stay and work in Austria as a digital nomad for three months without any issues. If you are a non-European Union, EEA, or Swiss citizen looking to work remotely in Austria for more than three months, the Red-White-Red Card for Start-Up Founders can be a suitable alternative. With the option of an extra three-year extension, this long-term visa permits these people to live and work in Austria for up to two years. You must meet the following requirements:
- Non-EU, EEA, or Swiss citizenship
- A concrete business plan that is innovative and has the potential to create jobs and boost the Austrian economy
- Necessary qualifications and experience to run a business
- Proof of health insurance coverage for the duration of their stay in Austria
- Establish a minimum capital requirement of €50.000 for the startup firm, along with a minimum ownership stake of 50%
- Can achieve a minimum score of 50 points based on the application criteria.
Austria's weather varies and has four distinct seasons. Winters, from December to February, are cold with lots of snow, great for skiing. Temperatures get as low as -7 °C during the month of January, and the average maximum temperature stays around 5 °C. Spring (April-May) brings milder weather and flowers, with temperatures averaging 14˚C. Summers (June-August) are warm and the rainiest time of the year. The average high is 24˚C, but it can get as hot as 35˚C.
In autumn (September-November) the weather cools, perfect for hiking and sightseeing with the weather ranging between 10 °C and 15 °C. You’ll notice by checking our best co-working spaces in Vienna list that some users praise Austrian co-working spaces for offering havens for both the chilly and incredibly warm seasons of the country’s capital.
Finding Work in Austria
At WeAreDevelopers, we help match tech professionals with German, Austrian, and Swiss companies. Open an online account in just minutes and browse through job opportunities from some of the best companies in Germany. If you’re still not sold on living in Austria, check out some of the other tech hubs in Europe, or you can read more about in Germany, Switzerland and France. Good luck!