Austria or in German Österreich means literally "the Eastern Realm" or "Eastern Empire". Is a landlocked alpine German speaking country in Central Europe bordering Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Germany and Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east and Slovenia and Italy to the south. Austria, along with neighboring Switzerland, is the winter sports capital of Europe. However, it is just as popular for summer tourists who visit its historic cities and villages and hike in the magnificent scenery of the Alps.
English is widely spoken, and the only area most tourists have linguistic problems with is in translating menus. Even competent German-speakers may find that they are replied to in English, and it is not uncommon to hear Austrians addressing each other in English! In rural places, however, people older than 50 often don't speak English, so it can help to learn a few basic German phrases if travelling to such places.
Italian is widespread in the parts of Austria bordering Italy like the Tyrol, even though the majority language on the Italian side (except in Bolzano, the region's capital) is still German (again, an Austro-Bavarian dialect in practice).
In general, when speaking Standard German, Austrians tend to pronounce the vowels longer and use a pronunciation which is regional, yet genuine, elegant and melodic; it is agruably the most beautiful form of German. Also, the "ch", "h" and "r" are not as harshly pronounced as in Germany, making the accent much more mild in nature.
The prices are comparable with Western European countries, and a bit higher than the USA. The general sales taxs of 20 % is included in prices but lower sales taxes applies to certain services and mainly food. A can of Coke will cost you about 55 cents, a good meal €15. Prices in tourist areas (Tyrol, Vienna, Salzburg, Zell am See) are a lot higher than the averages. B&B accommodation and restaurants in towns and rural areas are quite cheap.
Bargaining is not common throughout Austria except at flea markets. It may be okay to ask for a discount, but accept No as an answer.
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Austria is one of the safest countries in the world. According to the OECD Factbook of 2006, levels of robbery, assault, and car crime are among the lowest in the developed world, and a study by Mercer ranks Vienna as the 6th safest city in the world out of 215 cities. Violent crimes are extremely rare and should not concern the average tourist. Small towns and uninhabited areas such as forests are very safe at any time of the day.