As we start to get ready to leave this city that we love so much, we thought we should try and remember what practical tips we can share for those who may be visiting in the future.
Here we go:
- Following up on our earlier description of computer technicalities: if you are going to be staying for any length of time and need WiFi set up, head straight for A3, on Mariahilfestrasse or at many other locations, buy the WebCube under whatever plan is practical for you. AVOID all of the online cards, e.g., GeORG!!! We had the WebCube in the apartment until Nora needed it back, so we tried the card arrangements (since the A3 WebCube requires a plan, and it’s usually a contract for a longer period, but they do have shorter plans, too.). The cards were a nightmare, because they required constant reloading, and you had to go get another coupon each time you needed to reload–you couldn’t just set it up to be topped up when it was down to a certain amount. If you are only going to be here for a short period, and need a SIM card for your phone, then we would recommend HoT, which DOES allow a setup with a top-up/reload possibility when your account gets below a certain amount. Otherwise, I would check out what your home phone company can provide for you. WiFi is available at most hotels and restaurants and cafes.
2. Doctors: if you need to go to a doctor, there are several open clinics where you just show up and wait (and usually the wait isn’t long). Most of these clinics will speak English. You will be seen as a private patient, and it will cost anywhere between 50 and 150 Euros, and if you have any kind of decent travel insurance, the visit will be reimbursed. I just had to visit a gynecologist–a friend took me to her doctor, who was extremely professional, modern, and spoke excellent English. In this case, the doctor was able to do an ultrasound exam right there in the office. This exam cost 130 Euros, but will be reimbursed by my insurance. We have also been able to get prescriptions for the equivalents of our prescriptions from home, and for much, much lower prices. (Be sure to bring along your U.S. prescriptions when you visit the doctor’s, because many of the medications are available but under different names.) Also ask at the Apotheke–the pharmacy–for any smaller ailments. The pharmacists here are very well-trained, and will offer professional advice and recommendations for treatment. They are just as likely to recommend ”natural” or naturopathic remedies as stronger drugs, which I really appreciate. Lots of things that require a prescription in the U.S. can be bought over the counter here.
Have I already explained the differences between Apotheke, Drogerie, and Parfumerie? An Apotheke is where you go for medications, a Drogerie is for cosmetics and hair color and those kind of things, although the big chain BIPA has household cleaning stuff and photo machines, just like a Walgreen’s.
3. Public bathrooms are everywhere, but will almost always have an attendant to whom you will have to pay 50 Eurocent.
4. Organic products are everywhere and are excellent quality. We simply cannot believe how fresh and how superior to U.S. vegetables and fruit the produce is here.
5. For my AA friends: AA is alive and well here, with many English-speaking meetings. Attendance varies from very small to about 50. They are always so happy to have new speakers! For more information, check out http://www.anonyme-alkoholiker.at/oesterreich/wien.
6. Cooking in Vienna: baking powder is very good and perhaps better than American–George’s biscuits have turned out better than they ever do at home. Baking soda, however, is much stronger–you will notice the flavor if you use it often. Flour is, of course, also different: there are several kinds. The best one to get is Weizen Mehl Universal–which is the same as our All-Purpose flour. If you’re going to be here for long and will be wanting to make American recipes, be sure to bring your cup measures and teaspoons/tablespoons. Measurements here are done by scales.
7. Vienna’s transit system cannot be beat–really, trains and subways (the U-Bahn) and busses take you everywhere and come frequently at almost all times of the day and night. For whatever amount of time you will be staying, there will be a discounted ticket for you. Go to the Wienerlinien offices in the underground station at Stephansplatz, and buy an 8-day card, or a Monatskarte (a monthly card), or whatever length of time you need. This will save you LOTS of money, and the convenience is so worthwhile. And a tip for long-term visitors: buying a Jahreskarte (a yearly card) will allow you to get a seniors discount, and you can get a reimbursement if you don’t stay for the full term.
In three months of being here, we have never once been asked for our tickets, but controls do come through, we are told, and they give very stiff fines for riding black.
You can also buy tickets from the machines for all these different levels, but we never figured out how to do it! And remember that as of now, the Viennese mass transit systems are NOT integrated into Google Maps! You have to search connections through the Wiener Linien website, which is not always as user-friendly as it should be.
Regional and international train service is the Oesterreichische Bundesbahn, always written as above. These connections are also extremely regular, frequent, and punctual. There is also a way to get a senior discount on these runs, but it requires an application and forms, etc. In any case, remember: ALWAYS BOOK TICKETS AHEAD OF TIME!!! They will cost far less in advance than if you wait until the day to buy them.
I will put this up now, as just a preliminary list. If any of you have specific questions, or things you would like to know about, just let us know!