You can live like a king in a real castle in Austria or get by on a modest budget. Starting at the lower end, you can find a room in a private house or on a farm, or dormitory space in a youth hostel. Next up the line come the simpler pensions, many of them identified as Frühstückspensionen (bed-and-breakfasts). Then come Gasthäuser, the simpler country inns. Fancier pensions in cities can often cost as much as hotels; the difference lies in the services they offer. Most pensions, for example, do not staff the front desk around the clock. Among the hotels, you can find accommodations ranging from the most modest, with a shower and toilet down the hall, to the most elegant, with every possible amenity. Increasingly, more and more hotels in the lower to middle price range are including breakfast with the basic room charge, but check when booking. Room rates for hotels in the rural countryside can often include breakfast and one other meal (in rare cases, all three meals are included). It’s worth remembering that in Austria the cheaper option will usually still bring high standards. Most village gasthofs take great pride in providing sparkling cleanliness and a warm welcome—and you’ll often find they have spacious rooms of great character.
Lodgings in Austria are generally rated from one to five stars, depending mainly on the facilities offered and the price of accommodations rather than on more subjective attributes like charm and location. In general, five-star properties are top of the line, with every conceivable amenity and priced accordingly. The distinctions get blurrier the farther down the rating chain you go. There may be little difference between two- and three-star properties except perhaps the price. In practice, don't rely heavily on the star system, and always try to see the hotel and room before you book. That said, lodging standards are generally very good, and even in one- and two-star properties you can usually be guaranteed a clean room and a private bath.
These German words might come in handy when booking a room: air-conditioning (Klimaanlage); private bath (Privatbad); bathtub (Badewanne); shower (Dusche); double bed (Doppelbett); twin beds (Einzelbetten).
All hotels listed have private bath unless otherwise noted.
Most hotels and other lodgings require you to give your credit-card details before they will confirm your reservation. If you don't feel comfortable emailing this information, ask if you can fax it (some places even prefer faxes). Get confirmation by email or in writing and have a copy of it handy when you check in.
Be sure you understand the hotel's cancellation policy. Some places allow you to cancel without any kind of penalty—even if you prepaid to secure a discounted rate—if you cancel at least 24 hours in advance. Others require you to cancel a week in advance or penalize you the cost of one night. Small inns and B&Bs are most likely to require you to cancel far in advance. Most hotels allow children under a certain age to stay in their parents' room at no extra charge, but others charge for them as extra adults; find out the cut-off age for discounts.
The Vienna Tourism Board has a hotel assistance service.
Vienna Tourist Information. 01/24555; www.wien.info.
Apartment and House Rentals
Rentals are an important part of the accommodations mix in Austria, with one-, two- or four-week rentals becoming increasingly popular. Most of the rental properties are owned privately by individuals, and often the main rental organizers are simply the local tourist offices. For rental apartments in Vienna, check out www.apartment.at or www.netland.at/wien.
Schlosshotels und Herrenhäuser in Österreich, or "Castle Hotels and Mansions in Austria," is an association of castles and palaces that have been converted into hotels. The quality of the accommodations varies with the property, but many have been beautifully restored and can be a memorable alternative to standard hotels. The website is in English and has plenty of photos. The association also lists a smattering of castles in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Italy.
Schlosshotels und Herrenhäuser in Österreich. 062/459–0123; www.schlosshotels.co.at.
With a direct home exchange you stay in someone else's home while they stay in yours. Some outfits also deal with vacation homes, so you're not actually staying in someone's full-time residence, just their vacant weekend place.
Home Exchange.com. 800/877–8723; www.homeexchange.com. $118 for a 1-year membership.
HomeLink International. 800/638–3841; www.homelink.org. From $89 for a 1-year membership.
Intervac U.S.. 866/884–7567; www.intervac-homeexchange.com. $99 for 1-year membership.
Austria has more than 100 government-sponsored youth hostels, for which you need an HI membership card. Inexpensively priced, these hostels are run by the Österreichischer Jugendherbergsverband and are popular with the backpack crowd, so be sure to reserve in advance.
Hostelling International—USA. 0240/650–2100; www.hiusa.org.
Österreichischer Jugendherbergsverband. 01/533–5353; www.oejhv.at.