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Austria is best-known for the classical music of Mozart, the psychotherapies of Freud, and the voice of Arnie Schwarzenegger.
It’s often overlooked by travellers in favour of more affordable Central and Eastern European countries, or the glamour of France, Italy or Spain, but it shouldn’t be. With wonderful Baroque-era architecture, breathtaking Alpine countryside, and some of the most underrated wine in Europe, the country is well worth a visit.
If you’re looking to stay connected while visiting Austria, it’s not difficult. Buying a local SIM card is an easy process, and for now at least, you can stay anonymous while doing it — there’s currently no need to register or show ID when you purchase.
Note: Austria is part of the European Union, which introduced new roaming regulations in June 2017. These “roam like at home” rules effectively ended roaming charges across much of Europe, meaning you’ll usually pay no more for calls, texts, and data in other EU countries than you would in the country of purchase.
There are some exceptions and limits, however, especially in Austria. Be sure double-check the details at time of purchase if you’re planning to use your SIM elsewhere in the region.
There are three cell networks in Austria: A1, T-Mobile, and 3. Choosing one of these companies is the easiest way to buy a SIM card, with their shops easy to find no matter where you are in Austria.
Several companies also resell service from one of the above operators, but you’ll typically be left on your own to set up your SIM. That should be an easy process, but can be a little frustrating if you don’t speak German.
A1 is the biggest operator in Austria, with the best 4G/LTE service. The starter pack for A1 is called B.free Welcome, and you can either buy a calls, SMS, and data package, or opt for Internet-only.
I chose to go with A1 due to its superior coverage and deals on EU roaming.
You can buy a prepaid card from most supermarkets and post offices, or an official shop. I visited a store to buy my SIM card, since my German isn’t perfect by any means. Luckily, the vast majority of people in Austria speak English.
As a result, setting my new SIM card up took just a few minutes, and meant I didn’t have to read any German instructions. Within ten minutes of entering the shop, I was on my way.
Checking the website before visiting meant I knew exactly what I wanted and made the process easier, as I could avoid being talked into a more expensive package.
Until 2019, you won’t be subject to any identification requirements, and can easily pick up a SIM without needing to provide documentation or have your photo snapped.
If you need an Austrian SIM card as soon as you land in Vienna, you’ll have more-limited options. The Hallo Hallo stand at the airport sells 1GB of data for €15 (~$18.) Prices are cheaper elsewhere, however, and since it takes 20 minutes or less to get to the city by bus or train, it’s worth waiting if you can.
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As mentioned, one of the reasons I preferred A1 as it was easy to buy an EU roaming package. Unfortunately, even though EU international roaming rules changed in 2017 to allow most EU residents to “roam like at home,” Austrian companies somehow manage to get around this with many of their plans.
As a result, I paid €20 for 6GB, 1000 minutes, & 1,000 SMS and 100 minutes calls to the EU abroad. That’s relatively expensive, but was worth it for the occasional trip to nearby cities such as Budapest, Prague, and Bratislava!
However, if you know you’ll be spending all of your time within the country’s borders, you can get away with a cheaper package.
The B.free Welcome Package costs €9.90, with €5 worth of credit included. Valid for a month, you get 4GB of LTE data, 1000 minutes, and 1000 SMS. For €15 you get the same number of calls and texts, but 15GB of data.
Topping up is painless, with top-up vouchers available everywhere in the country. You can choose to visit an A1 shop, or buy a coupon code from its “retail partners” like convenience stores, post offices, tobacco shops, and supermarkets.
This is a great option while on the go. Once you’ve bought the voucher, just dial 102, plus the voucher code and number. It should be as simple as that.
If your German is good or you’re handy with a translation app, you can also top up by visiting the website and finding the credit card section.
To check your remaining balance, dial *101#. Don’t worry, you won’t have to speak to anyone — you’ll just get a message with the details a few seconds later.
It’s a good idea to be mindful of how much data you’re using, as overuse and roaming fees are very high, at €0.40 per MB.
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Coverage and Data Speeds
I never struggled with coverage in Austria, even while out beside gorgeous lakes in the middle of nowhere. Internet connection would occasionally become a little patchy while taking a bus across the country, but it wouldn’t last for long.
Overall, cell service with A1 is excellent. There’s a coverage map here if you need to check a specific location.