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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. Coverage is very good throughout the country with all major providers, and despite the recent introduction of registration requirements, the purchase process is still fairly straightforward.
Here’s what you need to know.
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.
Austrian carriers don’t appear to be fully complying with these rules, however, as detailed below. Check the details closely 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. Prices are often somewhat lower, but the purchase and registration process may be more difficult. Some outlets charge anything up to €10 to register the SIM to you, or simply won’t accept a foreign ID.
You’ll typically be left on your own to set up your SIM as well, which isn’t all that difficult, 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. Its starter pack is called B.free, and you can either buy a call, SMS, and data package, or opt for Internet-only. I chose to go with A1 due to its superior coverage, fast data speeds, and ease of setup.
In 2019 the company stopped offering prepaid packages that included EU roaming. If you’re planning to use your Austrian SIM card elsewhere in the EU, consider buying from a carrier like 3 instead.
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. 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.
As of the start of 2019, prepaid SIM cards are required to be registered. You’ll need to show your passport or identity card as part of this process.
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.
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.
Until last year, A1 sold “EU” packages for its prepaid SIMs, which enabled EU roaming for a somewhat higher price. Those packs no longer exist, and EU roaming now isn’t included with any of the company’s prepaid packages. If you’re planning to head elsewhere in the region, it may be worth considering a different operator.
Assuming you’re staying within Austria, however, the B.free “Small” Package costs €12, valid for four weeks. It includes 4GB of LTE data, 1000 minutes, and 1000 SMS.
For €16 you get the “Medium” package, with the same number of calls and texts, but 10GB of data. There’s also a “Large” package, with 2000 minutes, 2000 texts, and 20GB of data for €22.
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 connections occasionally became a little patchy while taking a bus across the country, but it wouldn’t last long.
Overall, cell service with A1 is excellent. There’s a coverage map here if you need to check a specific location.
Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.
Main image via Julius_Silver